He walked behind me in the hall once. All the way down the underground hallway, from the Dirksen Senate Office Building to the Capitol, he – and his entourage of armed escorts and hangers-on – was behind me.
And when I turned around to see who it was, a police officer politely grabbed my shoulder and pushed me aside. This important man had to get through, and I couldn’t stand in the way gawking at him.
And that’s the closest I’ve ever been to the now Chief Justice John Roberts, walking in front of him in the hallway. I didn’t even recognize him.
I tried to place him in my imaginary Rolodex of people more important than me: “Tom DeLay?” I wondered. “Bill Frist? Mike, the salad-bar monitor?”
To me, an intern in Washington used to being pushed aside for numerous VIPs, he was just another self-important white male on Capitol Hill.
Turns out, he’s just a little bit more important than that. But, most of us don’t care about him. Most of us probably don’t even care if he walks or rides the tram.
But we should care. Maybe not about the tram thing, but about who he is, where he works, and what he can do.
What he, and the other eight justices of the Supreme Court, can do is this: They can decide our constitutional rights. They can say, if Hosty v. Carter makes it to the big show, to what extent students have First Amendment rights. They can say, were a case to come before the Court, if gay marriage is constitutional. They can say the legality of abortion should be decided by the states. They might even talk about privacy rights in the face of increased computer use, or the rising price of gas.
Man, if only the Supreme Court dealt with issues students are interested in.
Now, in terms of abortion, Roberts says he respects precedent.
I respected something like precedent when a friend left her cookies unattended. But then I ate every one of them.
And I’m sure the Court said it respected precedent when it overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and ended school segregation.
But, since Roberts is basically of the same thinking as the late William Rehnquist, his confirmation doesn’t really change the court that much. The nomination of Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O’Connor is really where the money is.
But try telling that to an average group of 20-somethings: It goes over about as well as a CAB-sponsored band. We’re just not that interested. It’s enough to make me want to become a recluse in my apartment – and that’s drastic.
Sure, there’s not much we can do in terms of deciding who gets confirmed.
But we could do something, for chrissakes. We could protest. We could send letters. We could join politically active groups. We could write punk-rock anthems.
We could think about how saying “Chief Justice Roberts” reminds us of the Dread Pirate Roberts from Princess Bride. Or is that just me?
Either way, we could let people know how we feel.
Anything would be better than total apathy.
So I won’t even bother to tell you if you should support a moderately conservative or a hard-line conservative nominee – unfortunately, those are really our only two choices. That won’t matter if no one is willing to do anything.
Me? What am I going to do? I’ll organize a Supreme Court Justice bingo. During the game, some political science majors can just hang out and talk with the players. You know, just get the word about the Supreme Court, let students get to know what it’s about.
Bingo seems like the only way to get anyone on this campus excited – about anything.