The Young And The Stupid

imageState Supreme Court nominee Rebecca Bradley is getting a lot of negative press lately. She’s become an easy target for liberal commentators, journalists, and bloggers. It would be easy to jump on the band wagon here. And so I’m going to.

In case you don’t live in Wisconsin, I’ll mention that our current State Supreme Court nominee Rebecca Bradley, stated twenty years ago, in print, while she was in law school at Marquette University, while apparently taking correspondence courses from Bob Jones University at the same time, that if all the gay people in the world had been killed in Bergen-Belsen, she would have been okay with that. Now that a klieg light has been focused on her, and with her upcoming nomination to the Supreme Court, she’s kind of retracted this statement by saying that the cause of it was because she was “young at the time.” While, true, she did say she was sorry, I would have felt better if the “young” thing concluded with “and I was being held captive in a closet by the Symbionese Liberation Army at the time and they said if I didn’t say the thing about gay people they wouldn’t give me any pizza.”

This is a reason I’d be okay with. Or at least willing to take under consideration.

The “young defense” is very popular. Mitt Romney, someone who considers assault just another aspect of high school high jinx (and who was an actual governor right here in America) when asked why when he was in high school, he chased somebody down, held them to the floor, and cut off all their hair, defended himself by saying, “I was young. We all do crazy—maybe inappropriate things, when we’re in high school.” I’m not entirely sure that’s the precise quote but I’m pretty sure it’s close enough to avoid getting sued for libel by Mitt anytime in the future (I already previously referred to him as the Antichrist so one might say the horse has already left the barn in regard to any lawsuit concern on this comment). And while some people may not remember this, I certainly recall the Vanessa Williams scandal from many years ago. Her supporters said that the reason for her poor judgment was because “she was young.” Again, the “young defense.” In case you don’t remember, back in 1984 Vanessa Williams shocked and appalled millions of Penthouse magazine readers when it was discovered that she had once appeared in a Miss America Pageant.

My question is this: at what age are you expected to take responsibility for the things that come out of your mouth? Or the things you do? How long can you go saying the reason for your bad behavior was due to your youth? Where exactly is the cut off? Thirty? Twelve? I vote for twelve, because most twelve year olds have a basic understanding of right and wrong. Bradley seems under the impression that the “I was young” defense is valid based on the fact that she isn’t nearly as bad as Leopold and Loeb. Or Billy the Kid. Or Caligula. All frisky and highly motivated youngsters. She never actually killed anybody when she was young, she just thought it would be okay if somebody else did, including God.

If my mailman said, “You know, I used to hate gay people and believe that all Democrats were evil, but I don’t anymore,” my response would be, “Oh, great. Good for you.” But we’re not talking about the mailman here. We’re talking about somebody whose job it is to judge people. All day long.

It’s understood that had Bradley been born in a different time and place she would not be subjected to ridicule but, rather, would be embraced for supporting the vox populi. And in this different time and place she probably would have been really good friends with Leni Riefenstahl and Eva Braun and highly regarded by their boyfriends. And given a nice house. But the concern is her making legal decisions in this time and this country while having held the recent perspective that it’s okay that people who are minding their own business die, if the reason they’re minding their own business is unclear. This is a fundamental aspect of one’s personality and I’m not inclined to think it’s something one grows out of. And I think if we accept her defense, then the message sent to our youth is “You’re at liberty to say any foul thing that comes into your head, no matter how much damage it might do, because you will always have the opportunity to retract it later. Unless you get hit by a bus. In which case you’re screwed, but that probably won’t happen.”

Bradley now says that her comments years back were wrong. Fine, but I can’t help wondering what’s caused this extraordinary change of heart. Or insertion of a heart. Did somebody reprogram her? Is she now the kinder, helpful Terminator from Terminator 2: Judgment Day? Did she get knocked off her horse by a bolt of lightning on the road to Damascus? What? If not these explanations, then we’re left with only two other possibilities that explain her sudden transformation. These would be (a) major flakiness, and (b) lying.

During the recent debate with JoAnne Kloppenburg, Bradley stated that she would always base her judgments on what the law was, not what she wanted the law to be. Well, that’s good, since that’s her job (isn’t this sort of a given that you wouldn’t feel the need to point out? If she was applying for a job as an air traffic controller would she state her qualifications as being the fact that she would never intentionally crash the planes into each other?) Also during the debate, when Kloppenburg accused her of accepting assistance from the Republican party in her campaign and meeting with special interest groups with close ties to Governor Walker who happens to be the person who installed her in the vacant supreme court seat in the first place, Bradley quickly defended herself by saying she had always been clear that she would accept anything from anyone who would support her campaign. Well, there it is. She couldn’t have defended this accusation any better had she said, “Yeah, so? What of?”

If we, as a society, are going to accept the “I was young” defense, which perfumes any bile that came out of somebody’s mouth twenty years earlier, or minimizes any criminal act they were once party to, the foundation of our forgiveness has to be that we accept, as a fact, that all young people are stupid. I prefer not to. It’s insulting to the majority.

So, the primary is on Tuesday. And unlike a lot of states, we all get to vote. And on that ballot are the candidates for the State Supreme Court (this is a ten-year term, remember, and there are no do-overs. Let me repeat: Ten…years). A vote for JoAnne Kloppenburg is a vote for everyone being expected to take responsibility for what they do and say. And should you need further incentive, it will also really cheese off Governor Walker, who cancelled collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. And refused six billion dollars in Amtrak money. So now we have no trains. Enough said.

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