Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx-born New York City native, is a federal Appeals court judge, a 54-year-old Hispanic woman, a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton who received her law degree from Yale, and a potential Supreme Court nominee. The name “Sotomayor” has been much seen in the news since Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s retirement plans became public. 

She’s got a lot going for her. An American Bar Association Journal article refers to her  “attractive life narrative and an even more attractive resumé.” And there’s one other thing that makes news about her so very attractive.

She is apparently Catholic. She went to Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx and she’s of Puerto Rican heritage. Everybody feels it’s safe to assume she’s Catholic. Catholic; female; Supreme Court: the legality of abortion in these United States. We all know where this is headed, and why her potential nomination is such a very juicy story.

What’s interesting about this story from a buddhist perspective? To me, it’s the fixation, the way the human mind — or, certainly, the public mind as shown in the media — solidifies around one topic, one view, one projection. In the fluid and ever-changing continuum of life, the universe, and everything, when the media looks at the Supreme Court, the focus seems to be dead-solid locked on abortion. Unwavering.

Nothing is dead-solid locked in the real world. Impermanence is a truth, one of the basic truths of life that Buddhism urges us to recognize. So obvious it seems trite. And so very hard to integrate into our world view. 

Throughout history, abortion was legal, then it wasn’t, then it was. There were no black judges on the Supreme Court, then there were. There were no women there and then there were. We think we know how it’s gonna be, and it isn’t.

Sonia Sotomayor’s “attractive life narrative” is a fine example. A young Puerto Rican woman born in a Bronx housing project, whose father died before she was ten, raised with her brother by a working single mother. Well, everyone knows how that is gonna turn out.

With that background, everyone would think she’d become . . . a summa cum laude Princeton graduate with a Yale Law School diploma, an accomplished lawyer, a barrier-breaking Latina who became the first Hispanic federal judge in New York State. And the decider of the outcome of the Major League Baseball strike in the 1990s.

Whether Sonia Sotomayor is Supreme Court-bound or not, is all Supreme Court discussion going to be bound up forever on one question? Of course not. And no one really knows how that is gonna turn out. Especially if we can unbind ourselves from some of our most binding thought patterns.

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