07/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

ReThinking 12 Angry Men : On Sotomayor and Empathy in Our Justice System

Did you know that empathy, the ability to understand the hardships of others, is completely incompatible with the American justice system?

Barack Obama obviously didn't, otherwise he wouldn't have dropped the E-bomb when he told Planned Parenthood in 2007 that he would nominate a Supreme Court justice with "the empathy to recognize what it's like to be a young, teenaged mom; the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old." And the Republicans obviously did, perhaps expressed best by Michael Steele, head of the RNC, when he said, "Crazy nonsense empathetic. I'll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind! Craziness!"

And clearly no one told Sidney Lumet, director of the 1957 classic 12 Angry Men, a film I recently revisited, that plays out in real time as 12 jurors (all white men) decide the fate of a young thug facing the death penalty for allegedly stabbing his father to death. It had been several years since I'd seen the movie, so I had forgotten that, in many ways, the need for empathy in our justice system is 12 Angry Men's central theme. And not just empathy in the "I feel your pain" sense. Because it's empathy, the ability to imagine yourself in someone else's shoes, that protects us from the kind of simplistic, closed-minded caricaturing that leads to racism, classism and sexism. RIGHT ON YOUR BEHIND!

Watch my ReThink Review of 12 Angry Men here:

To see me discuss 12 Angry Men on Cenk Uygur's XM/Air America show, The Young Turks, click here.

For more ReThink Reviews -- the only (and, therefore, best) political movie reviews on the web -- go here.