This post is the finalization of draft I put together MONTHS and MONTHS ago. I really dislike taking so long to complete a post – I rarely have the the same thoughts as when I began the post and dragging these things out so long can make it tough to look back and see where I was with something once upon a time or to decide where I want to go with it now.
The picture in this post was something I saw on the Progressive America page on Facebook ages ago, and it struck me as kinda profound and somewhat “high level” or a little vague. I’m not very familiar with any of the Justices, but I’m willing to allow that they are all intelligent people with varying versions of what they think is best for the American population. Sotomayor, if this quote is legit, seems to have a really good head on her shoulders. I’m sure that, as an American woman, she also has a different perspective that allows her to present different ways of viewing life.
Still, these words seem awfully strong. No? You’re not entitled to disagree until you understand. I asked a number of people across my friend spectrum what they thought this actually means and I received different answers – as I would expect.
Most Americans, I’ll say, feel awfully entitled to a lot. We have rights, damn it! What’s more, we often ignorantly assume that my “rights” are allowed to overstep into yours. Example: You’re not allowed to get married because I have the right to religious expression. Additionally, we have lots of really important documents from the formation of our country to document the fact that we have rights – things we’re absolutely and undeniably entitled to. It can’t be argued or debated. Right? And surely, as the general population would agree, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But are they really?
I think yes. After all, we’re all allowed to hold any view we prefer. And what’s more, we can hold these views for any reason we want. No one should be able to dictate what another person thinks about something. And I think the truth is also that a person can’t really determine that for another. Sure, we can influence each other. But I could dance and sing all day in an attempt to get you to think something – or to think something in a certain manner – and there’s still no guarantee that my efforts will be fruitful. And that’s how it should be.
I think all of that, though, isn’t what Sotomayor might have meant. I’m certain someone of her life condition and personal evolution understands that mind control is poop – not good and often bogus. So, that can’t be what she was getting at. If I can be so brave as to wager a guess on what she meant, my guess would be that her words might should be interpreted as something along the lines of, “Unless you possess an understanding founded on a precisely parallel experience, then your opinion only carries the value of an opinion.” Yeah we afford more weight to some opinions, but be reminded that opinions are more common than cell phones.
It’s probably really tough and maybe not the truest thing for one person to tell another that he / she “understands” what their friend is going through unless he / she has actually been through that specific experience or else one very VERY much like it. Otherwise, this is probably some form of lie. (An obvious gray area with this is that we’ve all felt much of the same emotions / thoughts in our individual existences, and to some small degree can honestly tell another “I know how you feel” because your anger or sadness is felt probably somewhat similarly to my own anger or sadness, etc…)
But really what is involved to understand – to truly understand? Almost certainly more than most of us ever think to consider and Sotomayor’s words probably initially strike people as pretty biased or not true because of that. I mean, if I’m entitled to my own opinion, and our respective experiences have produced thoughts or emotions that are similar, then how could my opinion (wherein I disagree) not be valid?
Because understanding takes more than just an opinion added to “similar” experiences. What’s that old saying… something about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, right? There’s no slack given for having watched someone walk a mile, or for having walked a mile in your own shoes – that’s still in YOUR shoes with YOUR feet. If you haven’t walked the same mile in the same shoes, it’s simply not the same – regardless of how close your experience might otherwise come. It’s probably a pretty smart thing to keep in mind that if you haven’t lived what another person has lived, then your opinion of disagreement is possibly not super valid. Sure you might be able to commiserate on some levels, but her words are talking about disagreement.
This is really challenging for Americans, I’d say. We’re often know-it-alls, and everyone seems to know exactly what their neighbor should and shouldn’t be allowed to do (have the right to do) never mind the fact that we may not even actually know our neighbor. Most of us have never actually read documents like the Constitution, and half of us who have aren’t educated sufficiently to properly interpret them – and yet we’re all pros on these matters. And those of us who carry the realization that we’re not pros seem to trust any and every damned fool who claims to be, which is likely worse than just staying completely blind. And as icing on this crappy tasting cake, we’re really hit-n-miss when it comes to humility, which is often the very first roadblock to overcome when trying to rectify any of this.
So here we are. Be careful what you think you’re entitled to and be mindful of why. If you’ve never conceived a child from having been raped, maybe your not entitled to tell women abortions are wrong and should be illegal. If you’ve never been a victim of someone else’s religious dictates and thrown to your death from a building top as a result, then maybe you’re in no place to cry about religious persecution.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti