Salida, Scalia and the judge of us

edited February 2016 in Opinion

Op-Ed by Bill Donavan Many people have been posting the essay regarding the chummy relationship between Ruth Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. It got me thinking about a Kenyan dinner with a Chinese Elephant hunter.

Being a Constitutionalist like Justice Scalia requires us to consider making room for people with all kinds of ideas that may be different than our own. From Dominionism to climate change, our current elections present opportunities to elect people whose wars will be guided by their religious beliefs, or who wonder if scientific research and data are worth considering when making decisions that affect millions of children.

How much time do you give to someone who supports killing all the whales in the world? ...Or, maybe just a lot of them? Consider, this person may have a significantly superior intellect, a great argument for it, and they have stated their views will not change.

I don't know Justice Scalia's opinion on whales, or if he had one, but my hunch is that he could create a compelling argument supporting the slaughter if his book of choice said it was so, and that is the danger in our current election cycle, and perhaps in our wider society.

Maybe, as we teeter on the brink of the two-party system imploding under the weight of its own ideological and money-driven ridiculousness, people are simply not looking in their hearts and in their children's eyes for guidance? Can political candidates rise to the occasion and actually pause and deconstruct how they form their positions? Can we?

I don't need to be surrounded by people with the same politics, that's boring. I need people who believe the world is in a dire state, people who believe that on a very basic level; team work, creative thinking, technology and optimism will allow us to weather the storms that threaten us all. More and more I seek people who understand the issues in Flint could happen under an administration run by Democrats or Republicans.

This is not a plea for passivity and political tolerance, it is just the opposite. We must fight to elect people who are guided by their decision's impact on the next generation and beyond. No matter how righteous we feel, it is still a subjective reality, and with a passing glance at the world's population most people will acknowledge we'd better learn how to pull together. We must let other's crazy-ass positions roll off of us like water while we help the people around us. Dr. Seuss got it pretty much right in a dozen pages or less.

An agnostic friend recently reminded me of something he learned at Alcoholics Anonymous: God is in the pause. No matter our belief system or our political bend, hopefully this resonates with everyone. So, good for Ruth if she could convince Antonininin. He was probably too smart for me to debate, but I trust that my limited intellect still allows me to understand some folks are gay, the oceans aren't so healthy, and Citizen's United just might maybe not be so good for a representational democracy.

Is my unwillingness to break bread with that Elephant Hunter a sign of intolerance, or is he too far gone? Does his Constitution tell him it's okay to kill all the Elephants in the same way that Scalia's told him that Gay rights should be fought? Do we give Trump a chance? Some questions are easier to answer than others. Maybe the challenge is trusting ourselves.

At the supreme court level our children demand humanity and critical thinking that is not cloaked in intellectual objectivity that borders on the comedic. There is too much at stake.


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  • Well put, Bill. Antonin Scalia is an interesting case, because if you are indeed a thinker, as he was, then you can appreciate him even on the sole merit of his defense of an argument (even if it dealt with a subject that you have little interest) My dad , who is a devout Catholic defended Scalia in our phone discussions as if he were defending his own father. When I accused my dad of 'giving a free pass' to politicians and justices based on the fact that they shared his same beliefs/religion he didn't take it well. He'd point out the justice's absolute defense of life by his staunch defense of the unborn. Fair enough. But when the arguments turned to Scalia's support for other decisions that did indeed result in the death of many hundreds or thousands of people, he went silent. I think the bottom line is to realize (and admit) that we are all human, and that no party or religion holds all the cards of righteousness and that it's ok to challenge even the most high office on their decisions---even if they are your hero.

  • edited February 2016

    The death of Justice Scalia is a moment that brings to mind that it is possible to strongly disagree with someone while having deep respect and affection for them. Justice Scalia and Justice Bader-Ginsburg were polar opposites regarding their interpretation of the Constitution.

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg said of Justice Scalia, “I disagreed with most of what he said, but I loved the way he said it”. When asked if he liked Ms. Ginsburg, Antonio Scalia said “What is there not to like - except her views on the law”. They stand as examples of people who can like one another, while strongly disagreeing. Their example is an ideal we can all emulate.

    To be a member of the Supreme Court is to reach the pinnacle of our judicial system. The death of a member of such an august body is a loss for everybody. All of us can mourn Antonio Scalia’s death regardless of our political beliefs.
    Thank you,
    Chuck Rose

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