VB The Wise: Kagan The Wise

Kagan the Wise

So normally it is I, VB the Wise, who dispenses the wisdom around here. But in this column it will be SCOTUS Justice Elena Kagan with the honors. Lost in all the Brett Kavanaugh hoopla of the last several weeks was a Q+A Justice Kagan did at Harvard last month. She was asked a fairly ‘softball’ question about discourse, and how it has gotten so ugly in the country. Her answer fell in to three parts. The first part was the predictable part:

“On the one hand, people when they express ideas should always try to be civil to one another and try not to demean other people.”


That was what the audience expected to hear from Kagan. BUT, note that she began her answer with the phrase “on the one hand.” So what is the “on the other hand” the Harvard audience wondered. That lead to the second part of her answer, which was not what the Crimson audience was expecting to hear:

“On the other hand, I think people should lose their thin skins. I mean, I think people should just be a little less, it actually helps in life to be a little bit less sensitive.”

And in case the crowd didn’t fully get the message, Kagan put a blunt cherry on top of the ‘toughen up’ sundae she was making in the third part of her answer:

“I do think it helps to go through life with a little bit of, uh, your sensitivity worn down.”

That is 100% pure uncut wisdom from Elena Kagan.

And note the way Kagan phrased the last part of her answer – “it helps to go through life with a little bit of your sensitivity WORN DOWN.” What she said is particularly unusual in this era of safe spaces and therapy bears in this way; what she is talking about can’t be self-taught, it can be learned from a book, and it can be gleaned from hugs. The lesson she is talking about has to be inflicted ON yo, in most cases against your intellectual wishes. How’s that for a SCOTUS microaggression!

And she said, “I do think it helps.” If I may SCOTUS Kagan, you don’t “think” it helps, you KNOW it helps. And you are 100% right. Thank you for saying it out loud.

More wisdom next week.


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