Ginsburg’s teaching moment to the United States

Yes, she penned her tribute to her fellow Justice, Antonin Scalia, but I hope that every citizen of the United States reads and really ponders what she wrote; doing so would go a long way in healing this nation. I have been amazed how, over the years, the public rhetoric has diverged, many words on harmony, cooperation, and inclusiveness accompanied by many words and actions of scorn, vindictiveness, and down right hate.

Justice Ginsburg starts her tribute with, “Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: ‘We are different, we are one,’ different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. To bad our current politicians cannot emulate this. This is respect; this is true friendship, to disagree so vehemently at times, but always with deference.

Ginsburg continued, “…when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the ‘applesauce’ and ‘argle bargle’—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion.” Wow, what a concept, reverential, dutiful, and civil disagreement in which we support and even assist while diverging. Yet we live in a culture that revels in name calling, put downs, and libelous and fallacious accusations.

Several years ago I read the transcript of the Kennedy-Nixon debate and was amazed. I remember Nixon as brilliant and an astonishing forward thinking (although I disagreed with many of his policies), but also as mean spirited and vindictive. Imagine my wonder to see him praise JFK, calling him “my esteemed colleague,” “my friend.” That is not what I hear from our representatives and senators today. Many people were shocked to hear then vice president Chaney tell Senator Leahy to “F-off” when Leahy tried to exchange pleasantries with him. Now, I do not condone what Cheney did, but considering what Leahy had said about Chaney, his former fellow Senator, on the Senate floor no less, I can understand why Chaney reacted this way.

We cannot live a double standard and, as I always teach, words have meanings and consequences. For many years, I have read and heard that the Republicans are the party of hate. And yet, when I read the postings of my many Democrat and Republican friends on Facebook, they see to be the flip side of the same hate coin; I am saddened that we as a nation no longer embrace what Justices Ginsburg and Scalia practiced daily; and for over thirty years!

I read several years ago how many young people would never even date someone from the other political party, how narrow-minded and intolerant. Kudos to Mary Matalin and James Carville who are showing how spouses can both love and disagree and to even Dick and Mary Cheney, a parent loving and respecting his daughter although they are so politically divided.

Bravo Justices Ginsburg and Scalia! Thank you for showing us how we can live with one another, even those with whom we disagree. One of my all-time favorite, sorely missed, opinion writers (although I disagree with her many times) was Molly Ivins; I am somewhat relieved she did not live to see the extent to which this nation has devolved. In 1995 she presaged our current condition when she stated: “When politicians start talking about large groups of their fellow Americans as ‘enemies,’ it’s time for a quiet stir of alertness. Polarizing people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country.”

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