The Supreme Court never seems to see its own reflection in the law. I wonder if any of the current justices participated in a popular 1970s self-awareness training exercise, Johari’s window.
The exercise, whose roots go back to Karl Jung and his archetypes and reflects the later influence of the popular Myers-Briggs assessment, replied on four windows that were intersections between self-knowledge and society, and the known and unknown. The facade window was unknown to society and known to you. The internet has turned the facade into a negative space; it is now the space in which you are known to others by dark secrets or ignorance, by insulting absurdities, vitriol and hatred, masked by a cute avatar and narcissistic screen name. Flaming in chat rooms has given way to trolls who are relentless in replacing logic with personal attacks, stereotypes, and repeated failures of common sense flaunted as searing insights, protected by their rights. It is closer to what Johari’s window labeled the arena, a place of shared exposure.
The exercise assumed certain psychological and personality customs that the internet has stripped away as it tossed the old facade aside. The exercise did not see this future.
Johari’s window also had a blind spot. It was a frame where others knew things about us that were oblivious to our own self-awareness. In the internet media today, its equivalent is a place of spin and denial. Denial not as a psychological defense, but as a social strategy of deceit and misdirection, positive or negative, that conceals real intent.
My favorite blind spot was Herman Cain’s. Framing opportunity and merit as entitlements, he shouted out in the last campaign about African-Americans being on Democratic plantations. He subverted the history of the institution from the horrific tragedy of enslavement to a place where its room and board was a poison pill that killed motivation and freedom! In the logic of Cain’s world, sleeping and eating—rest and community—broke the spirit and chained the enslaved in a way that the exploitation and supposed ownership of their labor did not!
That ownership, and the involuntary extraction of labor by force and law, was approved unequivocally by the institution of the American Supreme Court, then lead by Maryland-born Roger B. Taney, considered one of its greatest Chief Justices and the first Roman Catholic Chief Justice. In the 1857 Dred Scott decision, Taney and six other justices saw no contradiction in a creed of freedom that permitted the ownership of human families, or between human liberty and human property—and said so, from the highest court of the land.
In fact, in his dissent, Justice Benjamin R. Curtis, the Massachusetts-born son of a merchant vessel captain, painstakingly points out that the Dred Scott decision denies the court decisions that Africans and persons of African descent were given legal citizenship in the several states, and this legal grant of citizenship gave them standing before the Court—a standing that Taney, in his majority decision, denies, calling it “unagreeable.” Curtis then points out how ludicrous it is to declare Scott is without standing before the Court, and then to have ruled anyway!
If it looks at its own reflection, the Supreme Court would see how it avoids the institutional evidence of its own magnanimous failures, going back to Dred Scott. Perhaps we, too, forget that the Court was not intended to be an institution of democracy, or rather of democratic interests: the expansion of individual liberties and rights, the ending of discrimination, the leveling of the ever-expanding playing field. The Court did not rule in support of equal protection prior to an inclusion in the Constitution by amendment, nor for women’s voting rights prior to its inclusion, nor for civil rights prior to a Congressional act, or for ending slavery before a Constitutional amendment. Continue reading Gay Marriage and Deliberate Speed