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A letter to Judge

A letter to Judge


Dear John, When I first met you in August 1970, I could never have imagined that you would become George W. Bush's nominee to the highest court in the land. I'm frightened. Should I be?

You were a sophomore at the La Lumiere School for Boys (as it was called then) and I was a freshman. Along with my brother and one other student, I was a grand experiment. We were the first African-American students at what had been an all-white, all-Catholic, all-boarding school in northern Indiana. On the football team, I remember you as a fierce competitor of limited ability--just like me. I remember the same sideways grin that has now graced the front pages of newspapers and magazines across the country. I do not remember a trace of prejudice. Still, I'm worried. Should I be?

You were the smartest kid in that sophomore class by far, but with a modesty that set you apart from many of your arrogant (and occasionally racist) classmates. With only 100 students in all four high school classes, you were close enough for me to study you. You didn't have the best clothes, which made me comfortable with you--I thought you weren't a genuine "preppy," just a brainiac blessed (or cursed) with an inner, unstoppable drive. I didn't think much about what you thought of me. I didn't identify as gay yet, so that wasn't even an issue.

In three years, we spent a good deal of time together--on the football team (which you eventually cocaptained), on the newspaper (which you coedited), in the now-infamous all-male drama club (where you were quite a good Patty in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, though no match for my Snoopy.) I went on to become a virtual mirror image of you: first in my class, cocaptain of the football team, wrestler(!), editor of student publications.

But now I'm concerned. Do I have reason?

I even followed you to Harvard, where we separated into worlds that rarely connected. The last time I recall seeing you on campus was when I came to visit before I was accepted, and you hosted me in your dorm room. You stayed in to study. I went out drinking with your roommates.

Flash-forward to today. Inundated by calls to comment on your character and our school days together, I've spoken to precious few. Even when our yearbook pictures were splattered around national headlines, I've stayed pretty cagey. Here's why: None of us has any idea who you are today, John, and what the crucible of the Supreme Court will make of you. We have reporters and advocates scouring everything you've touched--discouraged by your antichoice arguments and encouraged by your pro bono work on a Supreme Court ruling that to this day helps protect gay people from discrimination.

Will you be as conservative as the Bushes and the Roves and the Dobsons hope (the most likely scenario, as we've seen in the past six years that they rarely make mistakes where it counts)? Or will the modest, fiercely intelligent, apparently unprejudiced young man in you turn his back on political pressure, embrace the true freedom of a lifetime appointment, and decide the cases before you with a deep sense of the equality of all people that our Constitution uses as its touchstone?

I'm hoping and praying that will be the case, John.

Best, Paris Barclay

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Paris Barclay