Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Empathy is a Facet of Understanding

Fred Clark:

And let’s be clear, if he meant what he said, then Antonin Scalia is an idiot — a bad justice, a bad lawyer and a bad human being. If he really meant what he said, then Antonin Scalia is a very, very stupid man.

This is not the kind of stupidity that has to do with innate intellectual capacity or the lack thereof. It is not a level of stupidity that can be achieved through simple ignorance. This is a depth of stupidity that can only be achieved through the deliberate rejection of empathy. This astonishing variety of stupidity has to be willfully, voluntarily chosen.

The point being that this is not a good thing.

Nor is it necessary, for Scalia or for anyone else.

I am assured, despite this recent display of apparent imbecility, that Antonin Scalia is possessed of a sharp intellect. I don’t doubt that this is true, but that doesn’t do him any good if he is determined to pretend otherwise by choosing to reject the intellectual, rational and moral necessity of empathy.

But let’s not focus on the negative here. There’s a positive aspect to Scalia’s unfortunate object lesson in achieved stupidity. It reminds us that every one of us has the capacity for a formidable intelligence. Intelligence can be chosen just as easily as stupidity can be. Even more easily, actually, since choosing intelligence doesn’t require you to smother the protests of your own conscience.

Here, then, is how to choose to be smart. Just ask yourself this: What if the shoe were on the other foot? What if I were in that person’s situation?

Those questions are not complicated. You understand them. You grasp how they can be applied. You’re capable of empathy.

And that’s why you — whoever you are who may be reading this — you are more qualified than Antonin Scalia to wear the robes of a justice of the Supreme Court. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a lawyer, not an American citizen, not a high-school graduate, not an adult. If you can understand and ask that question of the shoe being on the other foot, then you are smarter and more qualified than Scalia to serve as a justice and to serve justice.

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