“Isn’t it ironic?” English students and language nerds have long debated the question: Exactly how many of the anecdotes in Alanis Morissette’s 2008 song qualify as irony? “Rain on your wedding day”? Probably not. “A free ride when you’ve already paid”? Debatable.
We could parse the song for hours; don’t worry, we won’t. But Morissette’s refrain “Isn’t it ironic?” echoed through my mind after watching snatches of last week’s Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing. When Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn asked Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson if she would define the word “woman,” the experienced judge with two Harvard degrees–poised to become the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court bench–said she could not. She was not a biologist. It might just qualify as C-SPAN’s situational irony moment of the year (if that were a thing.)
That moment is significant. But, first, let’s put the moment in context. Jackson’s nomination hearing–like most in our modern era–fluctuated between the theatrical and the theoretical. By now, attentive Americans will have caught a headline, soundbite, or viral photo. Given the political makeup of the U.S. Senate, most everyone expects Jackson to be confirmed. But what should readers–especially Christians who find themselves politically ambivalent–know about the woman poised to receive a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land? Why should they care?
I had the privilege of sitting inside the Senate Judiciary committee room and witnessing fragments of the Roberts and Gorsuch Supreme Court confirmation hearings. I watched bits of this particular hearing as a mom and private citizen–skimming C-SPAN from my home. Here are a few things I noticed from the Judge Jackson hearings:
Her lovely family and inviting temperament:
Throughout the hearing, Jackson carried herself with poise and grace. She seemed sobered by the especially historic nature of her nomination–grateful to God, quick to celebrate the family and appreciate the country that made her career growth possible, and willing to encourage others through the challenges of balancing family and career.
While there’s always a choreographed element to these hearings, her family beamed proudly; her husband of 25 years wiped tears from his eyes as she thanked him for his dedication and support. I don’t expect to ever attract such a spotlight. But if I did, I’d like my demeanor, marriage, and family to hold up like hers. Decency, patriotism, and gratitude aren’t enough to qualify someone to a position on the Supreme Court, but they’re virtues that the American people can certainly celebrate in their leaders.