Scalia – Thoughts about First Reactions!

February 14, 2016

Josh Marshall, the founder / publisher of shared Thoughts on Justice Scalia’s Passing on Saturday afternoon. Here’s his opening paragraph:

Let us first recognize the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a 79 year old man with a large family and almost countless admirers, friends and protégés. I think he had precious few supporters or ideological admirers among our core readers. But this is a man who served on the High Court for almost thirty years and unquestionably, for better or worse, will go down as one of the most influential Justices of the last half century. … Our ideological and partisan commitments should never be so all-encompassing that we cannot step aside from them to recognize realities that transcend them: in this case, that this was a genuinely brilliant man and a patriot.

I commented on the TPM Facebook thusly:

Thanks for a very decent, informative post. Justice Scalia was a man with a family and many friends. There will be plenty of time to focus on his record. For now, I’m focused on the fact that man died.

I got some likes and some positive comments, and a mix of negativity. The first comment, however, stuck with me. Here it is, from a stranger (to me) whose name I will not share:

Ohhh u r such a good person. You would probably say that if hitler died today, right? Poor eva braun, you would say. It effing DOES matter if a person was harmful to others and your (and others) fake piety is barf inducing! And FAKE!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the comment and others like it, many of which were better written and lacking in ad hominem attacks. History will judge Justice Antonin Scalia. I have plenty of opinions, few of which are positive. Still, the vitriol—on the very day on which a man died—hit me hard. But …

Look, I truly believe Martin Luther King was right when he said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I also think the “repair crews” will be working for a long time to fix the damage caused by a bunch of 5-4 Court decisions in which Justice Scalia was a member of the majority. That said, I have not been directly affected by much of what that 5-4 majority has done. I’m not poor or gay. I’ve never needed an abortion. Chief Justice John Roberts protected my ability to have health insurance. And about the abomination which is Citizens United v. FEC? It affects me too indirectly to gin up lots of emotional energy.

Now, if I was poor, gay, or in need of an abortion, or if I’d been otherwise directly, adversely, and substantially affected by a Supreme Court decision, maybe I could not step back. I would never play the Hitler card—it’s too disrespectful to the millions he systematically murdered—but I guess I can imagine seeing Justice Scalia as a villain not worthy of even a few hours’ worth of my empathy.

And about the other negative comments? There was at least one that referenced how the Far Right might react if Notorious RBG aka Justice Ruth Ginsburg—and, by the way, Justice Scalia’s best friend on the bench—had died, and others like it. My reaction to those comments? What the f*ck do I care how others do or might react in any situation? Why should someone else’s actions justify my conduct?

In the end, this exercise focused my thoughts on empathy. We suffer from a shortage of this essential part of the recipe for successful relationships and communities. Clearly, whether it’s on matters of policy or death, we’re lacking. Just as clear for me is the fact that bad behavior, actually or presumed, justifies nothing.

Sadly, the passing of a public man whose body of work too often evidenced a lack of regard for those who struggle has brought out a surfeit of the very lack of empathy he too often showed us. And more is the pity, for everyone!

[More thoughts soon.]


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