FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Stop Calling Him “Justice Roberts”

by

One of my favorite poems by Rumi is “Who says words with my mouth?” It can most obviously be read as a meditation on the self, the soul and free will.

But too often this question can be directly answered in our time: the major media, the political establishment they are intertwined with and all who thoughtlessly echo them — that is who puts words in people’s mouths that are endlessly parroted.

Case in point is how so many call John Roberts “Justice John Roberts.” Even discounting one’s views on Roberts, this is a particularly misguided use of title and convention since Roberts himself has said before and since getting on the court that “justice” is not the job of the “Chief Justice.”

I first heard Roberts say this just after Roberts was nominated to the court by George W. Bush in the summer of 2005. C-Span Radio broadcast a talk Roberts gave at Georgetown University in 1997. He tells a story of “Justice Holmes, when he was getting out of a carriage and going up to the court to do his work, a person yelled out after him ‘Do justice!’ Quite angry, he turned around and said ‘That’s not my job!’ And it very much is not the job of the Supreme Court.” [Clip; full video, (at about 10:30 mark)].

Still, in the Nation, Eric Alterman writes of “The Roberts Court’s Stealth Campaign Against a Free Press,” but the prefix “Justice” remains fixed to Roberts’ name — no matter how nefarious his actions. Similarly, David H. Gans in the New Republic asserts in “The Roberts Court Thinks Corporations Have More Rights Than You Do“ that “Chief Justice Roberts has opened new fronts in his First Amendment revolution.” And David McCabe in the Huffington Post writes a piece titled “Chamber Of Commerce Emerges As Big Supreme Court Winner” that states: “Under Chief Justice John Roberts … the Supreme Court has been far more likely to issue a ruling favorable to the chamber than the court was under his immediate predecessors, according to the [Constitutional Accountability Center’s] analysis.”

I wrote the piece “Why Is Everyone Still Calling Him ”Justice” Roberts?” shortly after the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling in which the Supreme Court struck down overall limits on campaign donations making this argument. As if to highlight how difficult it is to break out of calcified habits, an editor at the website that published the piece initially ran a caption calling him ”Justice John Roberts” — overlooking the basic premise of the piece (this was later dropped).

It becomes a world of dead-eyed, “Hollow Men” when words we say — including the most profound words like justice — are used as mere formalisms, with the meaning emptied out of them. In Robert’s entire talk he comes off more at times an expert clerk than as one aspiring to be in any way the Embodiment of Justice. What does it say about our society and major institutions that the man referred to as “Chief Justice” doesn’t think that’s his job?

We should add the honorific “justice” for those on the courts to the list of words like “defense” — as in “Department of Defense” — that are ridiculous Orwellianisms. Anyone thinking about what they are saying should scrutinize words if they are to have integrity and not to all join the ranks of the Hollow Men.

There’s some evidence that the U.S. public — despite numerous obstacles — is becoming more clear eyed. Gallup recently noted that confidence in the Supreme Court has dropped from 48 percent in 1991 to 30 percent today, following the same trend as the public’s confidence in the president and congress. Notes Gallup: “While the Supreme Court, with unelected justices serving indefinite terms, is immune to the same public pressures that elected members of Congress and the president must contend with, it is not immune to the drop in confidence in U.S. government institutions that threatens and complicates the U.S. system of government.”

Rumi aims in his poem to “Break out of this prison for drunks.” Indeed, we need to sober up in the language we use. Speaking of himself, Rumi says “This poetry, I never know what I’m going to say. I don’t plan it. When I’m outside the saying of it, I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.” In contrast, we see so many prepared with their talking points, pre-rehearsed and polished in their deformity. We must dispense with the conformity of many seemingly desperately seeking to be relieved of the burden of thinking about the words coming from their mouths.

Sam Husseini is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy. His personal writings are at husseini.posthaven.com. Thanks to Avram Reisman. 

 

 

 

Sam Husseini is founder of the website VotePact.org

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail