Musings: Dumb Justice, Gun-friendly Phrases and Overuse of 'Amazing!'

Even in modern times, there are things that seem mysterious—not in a holy way, but in a way that makes you dumbfounded. We’d like to throw in a few of these mysterious happenings on the off chance that someone would solve the mystery.

The Case of the Silent Justice

Recently, for instance, news came that Justice Clarence Thomas was heard during a court proceedings which still remains obscure. Apparently the justice had not spoken from the court in seven years, or asked a question from the court. The comment he made recently was understood to be some kind of joke regarding Harvard.

Let’s look at this a minute. I know justices write opinions or lend their names to them, and I know they deliberate in private, at which point even Justice Thomas is reported to take part. But here’s my mystery—it hardly seems possible that a judge in such a high place could not ask a single question of attorneys representing plaintiffs or the government in a case in seven years or make a comment. It’s as if he’s a ghost in robes. There are some justices, we hear, that have made an art form out of questioning attorneys to the point of badgering, while others take great delight in the whole process. Is it actually legal to keep silent for seven years, and does this man get invited to cocktail parties for his volubility? Does Justice Thomas have so little curiosity or interest in cases, or does he already know everything there is to know that not a single question comes to his mind during the course of the proceedings?

Just think if all sorts of people in other professions displayed as little curiosity as Justice Thomas: why, if he had been Lou Costello, there would be no one to ask who’s on first? And Jean Valjean wouldn’t have asked, albeit in song, who am I?, both a rhetorical question and a highlight of “Les Miserables.” Sam Spade, Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie would never make us ask “who done it” or give title to a genre of literature. To be or not to be, that is the question—but perhaps not if Justice Thomas had anything to say about it. The fact that the justice said something was news—sad news, if you think about it. The fact that what he said could not be heard properly enough to be recorded is only ironic.

Good Guys with Guns

The National Rifle Association, in its now complete nuclear warfare—can nukes be guns?—over gun control once held title to the worst slogan to stand behind by way of “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my dead cold hands," which was uttered with particular conviction by NRA spokesman, the late and great actor Charlton Heston, who said it to great effect while holding up rifle. “If you outlaw guns only outlaws will haves guns” is an example of the kind of syllogistic turn of phrase the NRA seems particularly adept at, witness the NRA’s belated response to the horrific shootings at Newton with “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” following that up with a proposal to arm teachers in the classroom and a full-court press ad campaign that has offended many people with its referencing of the President Obama’s daughters.

Amazing!

Isn’t it amazing how often “amazing” is used these days in conversation, especially on television, but also at fashion shows, red carpets, wine tastings, by news people, people writing about Lindsay Lohan or British royalty, shoppers, and bloggers? It threatens to usurp all the known words in the dictionary for something excellent, outstanding, unusual or out of the ordinary, if not extraordinary. I have to say it: that’s amazing.

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Wed, 30 Jul 2014 09:07:35 -0400

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