Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman delivered a wonderful speech for the 8th annual Nelson Mandela lecture – Whose memory ? Whose justice ? A meditation on how and when and if to reconcile :
“This is how we managed to become human, by creating the conditions for a social network where the suffering of others is intolerable, where we need to pity and comfort the afflicted. It is certainly not the only thing that defines us as humans: we are also characterized by cruelty and selfishness, indifference and avarice, but each of us can decide what defines our primordial humanity, and I choose the pre-eminence of empathy with others as our most important trait, the base for our evolution, what lay the groundwork for our search for language – language is what makes us who we are – whose very core is the articulation and belief that someone else will accompany us through life, compassion is at the origin of our species-quest for the imagination with which we can smuggle ourselves into and under alien skin.”
– empathy is definitely missing from those who want to change the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the US. As a Brit I found this discussion on the amendment’s history by Harvard professor Randall Kennedy fascinating:
“The citizenship provision in Section 1 was introduced because of the Dred Scott decision. In Dred Scott, the Supreme Court ruled that people of African descent were not eligible for citizenship, whether they were free or not.
And so in 1866, the Congress passed a statute providing citizenship by birth. And then in 1868, the Congress decided to put a constitutional footing beneath that legislation.”
I love living in New York because of its diversity and tolerance and it’s a real shame that some people are trying to force the US to give up these strengths.
– Slate points out that tolerance is also valued in the the First Amendment of the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The article contains a great quote from Thomas Jefferson:
“It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg.”
Have a great weekend.