SPEECH IS SACRED
A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
April 2, 2022
The Senate hearing on Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson invites us to pause and reflect. This fine judge and decent person was subjected to racist remarks, patriarchal put-downs, and outright disrespect. So, what did we learn?
First, I could not help but think of the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. They confronted one another with deep respect and a sincere desire to meet each other. Their exchange paved the way for other people to be blessed. Jesus met the Samaritan Woman as a person defined beyond prejudice and stereotype.
We would do well in our dialogue with others to transcend our preconceived notions and encounter the richness of another person’s wit, intelligence, and uniqueness. We must seize this opportunity to instruct our children not to behave or speak to or about others in such a disrespectful manner. As Judge Jackson said on the occasion of speaking about her children, “I teach my children to approach the world with a grateful Spirit. We don’t look down on or talk down to others and we show respect for all humankind.”
Second, I was personally embarrassed by the treatment the Judge received from those who know better or ought to know better. I understand politics is a “dirty” game, but there are times when civility must overcome political expediency. In his Encyclical on Social Friendship, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis powerfully teaches, “Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools. Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion.”
Third, Judge Jackson was remarkable in her ability to check her emotions maintaining some sense of decorum during the Senate inquiry. Unfortunately, she could not express her true feelings at such rude and harsh treatment. Women have long suffered from the stigma of being labeled “weak” because they might exert feelings or emotions. Her ability to stop and think before she spoke served her well. She expressed her emotions in such a way as to ridicule no one. The Golden Rule reminds us to treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated.
Politics aside, we must learn from this moment in our history. I am not suggesting her nomination to the Supreme Court is divinely inspired. People have a right and an obligation to dissent if they have just cause or a different legal philosophy. No one has the right to demean another person for any reason. I lament the racism and sexism that may have motivated much of the discourse. We need to do better.
Thank you, Holy Community, for all the times you seek to speak to one another with honesty, respect, and love. Thank you for all the times you confront the issues of racism and sexism by acting and speaking in humane and caring ways.