Sunday, May 3, 2009

Leaving the admiring bog behind

We will miss Justice Souter.

Most justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are articulate people with keen, well-educated minds, but some just sound better than others.

Justice Souter wrote the dissent in Bush v Gore. It’s so simple.

Not very much has been written about the man. He’s very private. What a google search will tell you about him is this: His parents’ names and his birth date and place (but not whether he had brothers or sisters). His grandparents’ farm in Weare, NH, to which his parents moved the household when he was 11 and where he still lives, when not in Washington in an undecorated apartment (but no photographs of the house or the apartment). He drives between Weare and Washington in his own car, rarely flying. He hikes in the New Hampshire mountains and reads history as recreation (no long interviews in which he expounds on history). He has yogurt and an apple (which he eats completely, including the core) every day for lunch. He was once engaged (no further info ... in any direction). He went to Harvard undergrad and Harvard law, was a Rhodes Scholar and has two degrees from Oxford. He’s an Episcopalian. He was a trustee of Dartmouth Med School. [Subsequent edit: today's Times has an actual article about Justice Souter -- but except for the photograph, there's only one additional piece of data about him. All the rest is embroidery.]

Now think about any random celebrity — think of Bill Clinton! — and recall the mass of data about any of them that you cannot escape. What an extraordinary amount of grace and dignity lie in not inviting the world into your underwear drawer.

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