Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral is over and he is resting in peace. I’ve had loss in my life, so I know the pain brought on by the sudden death of a loved one. So, let me extend my sympathy to Scalia’s family and friends who are no doubt in the midst of grief. This too shall pass, trust me. Now that that’s out of the way, let me say… unfortunately, the damage Scalia inflicted on this nation will be with us for longer than many lifetimes put together.
While I feel for anyone who’s grieving, let’s get real. The loss is his family’s burden alone. As for the rest of us? The United States – and the world – breathed a little easier the day Scalia stepped off this mortal coil.
If there’s mourning to be done, let it be for the tragedy that Antonin Scalia spent the bulk of his limited lifespan using his powerful position to kick down on the vulnerable and politically unconnected, undermine the very foundation of democracy, push to execute people later found innocent and block other human beings who happened to share the same moment in time in which Scalia wielded power from rightfully enjoying a seat at the table – that Scalia, of course, considered a birthright for himself.
Just as Ronald Reagan made some Americans “comfortable with their prejudices,” Scalia wrapped these prejudices, along with his antidemocratic right-wing ideology, in the lofty veneer of legal legitimacy. A self-declared “originalist,” he supposedly came from the point of view that the Constitution was “dead,” (or as he put it, “dead, dead, dead”), rather than a framework for a functioning, evolving, civilization.
Yet, Scalia’s consistently inconsistent rulings illustrate a tactic right-wingers have elevated to an art form – namely, using any means at their disposal to rationalize their ideology. Like George W. Bush, “fixing the facts around the policy” to justify an illegal invasion neocons wanted before some of the servicemembers they sent to die were even born, Scalia made the Constitution as malleable as conservative Christians make the Bible – another so-called “sacred text” they cherry-pick and twist until it conforms to any offense on their wish list.
As “The People for the American Way” blog states,
“The view of the Constitution that Scalia champions—where corporations have rights that the Constitution’s authors never imagined, but women, minorities, and working people don’t—has become a popular political bludgeon for many on the Right. GOP senators pilloried now-Justice Elena Kagan during her confirmation hearings for offenses such as thinking Congress has the right to spend money, arguing the case against giving corporations the same free speech rights as human beings, refusing to judge according to a subjective view of “natural rights,” and admiring the man who convinced the Supreme Court that school segregation was unconstitutional.
An avowed allegiance to the original intent of the Constitution has become a must-have for every right-wing candidate. The talking point sounds great, but it hides the real priorities behind it. Anyone who needs reminding of what the fidelity to the Constitution means to the Right needs just to look to Scalia.”
Pantomime of democracy includes honoring Scalia’s “life of service” to powerful interests
We look in amazed disbelief at the North Koreans wailing un masse in the streets upon the death of the “Dear Leader,” but ours is a more subtle hysteria where we pretend to salute any life of “service.” But whom did Scalia serve? He served his wealthy pals in the elite, not those whose voice and economic vibrancy are the beating heart of a functioning democracy – working people. In fact, Scalia had so much disdain for the working class majority, he didn’t even try to hide his blatant conflicts of interest.
The chorus of right-wing whining that liberals supposedly didn’t show Scalia proper deference is to be expected. It’s the fawning editorials and the wall-to-wall coverage of his funeral stands as a shining example to me how the pantomime of democracy depends on maintaining illusions. That so many right-wingers are more upset that President Obama didn’t attend Scalia’s funeral than they are that Scalia spent his life on the bench helping to undermine democracy is illustrative of just how much work we need to do to resuscitate a true “representative government.”
According to Jeffrey Rosen of the Atlantic, “The U.S. Supreme Court justice was distinguished by the clarity of his constitutional vision—and his willingness to fight for it.”
If willingness to “fight for a vision” – no matter how archaic and divisive – is what “distinguishes” a life, then I suppose Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church should be remembered with sweeping praise rather than the scorn he rightfully deserves. Standing for many of the same views as the Phelps clan, Scalia actually earned their respect.
“Sam Phelps-Roper said they objected to the fact that Justice Scalia had been part of a court that had helped legalize abortion and same-sex marriage.
‘He bears some responsibility there,’” he said.
But Mr. Phelps-Roper conceded that Justice Scalia had been a better standard-bearer for such conservative social values than many.
‘The fact of the matter is practically he’s about as good as this nation’s had in a long while as far as righteous judgments,’ he said.
Let’s Get Real. In a True Democracy, Scalia Would Have Been Impeached
The way I look at it, if this were truly a functioning democracy and a nation of laws, Scalia would have been impeached decades ago. Not only did he help unleash unlimited money into the political system with the Citizen’s United vs. FEC ruling and help overturn democracy by installing a President, in direct defiance of the will of the people in Bush v. Gore – he attended secret and not-so-secret events with oligarchs like the Koch Brothers, and headlined right wing political fundraising events – in direct violation of judicial ethics.
As the Judicial Code states, “Canon 5: A Judge Should Refrain from Political Activity… (A) General Prohibitions. A judge should not: (2) make speeches for a political organization or candidate, or publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office; or (3) solicit funds for, pay an assessment to, or make a contribution to a political organization or candidate, or attend or purchase a ticket for a dinner or other event sponsored by a political organization or candidate.
Oh well! Ethics only count when we’re NOT “playing” at democracy, right?
National Conspiracy of Denial – A Brief Historical Example
I’m certainly not alone in my disgust over the national denial that’s surrounding Scalia, but we’ve been here before. In 1870, when the traitor Robert E. Lee met his Maker, while the pantomime of public grief and honor commenced, Fredrick Douglass gave the nation a reality-check.
“Are these gleeful reactions to Justice Scalia’s death morally defensible? Are those reacting this way failing to treat the man with the level of dignity he deserves?
As I thought about these questions, my mind drifted – as it often does – to the ideas of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who I have spent the last decade or so studying. More specifically, I thought about an editorial Douglass published in October 1870 called ‘Death of a Perjured Traitor.’ The occasion for the editorial was the death of Robert E. Lee, who was ‘one of the chief rebel generals’ in the Civil War. Many political and cultural elites reacted to Lee’s death, Douglass wrote, with ‘ostentatious and noisy exhibitions of sympathy and grief.’ Some of these elites praised Lee’s ‘great public virtues’ and others said whatever one thought of Lee politically, he ought to be remembered for his ‘rare private virtues.’
Douglass, as you may have guessed from the title of his piece, was having none of this. When someone of Lee’s public stature dies, what matters is not how he performed in the world as a husband, father, brother, or friend. What matters, Douglass wrote, is what Lee stood for as a public man. Considered in this light, Douglass had ‘no sympathy to waste’ and ‘not a regret to express over the death of this arch apostate.’ Lee’s words and deeds during and after the Civil War revealed that his primary devotion was to undermining the dignity of African Americans and he had therefore earned the disrespect of those who care about ‘liberty, justice, and humanity.’
Antonin Scalia was the Robert E. Lee of the American culture war. He devoted the words and deeds of his public life to championing a set of ideas that placed him firmly on the conservative side of the many battles of that war. Like Lee, Scalia often found himself on the losing side and, like Lee, he ‘never ceased to mourn over the lost cause.’ Read Buccola’s entire article at Counterpunch.
The Illusion of Democracy and a “Great Man of Service.”
Governments that don’t truly represent the people depend on maintaining illusions. While the corporate media were busy pretending that Scalia wasn’t another kiss up/kick down elitist determined to inflict his divisive, archaic bigotries on us, not surprisingly the eulogies left out the damaging consequences of an ideology best left in the Dark Ages – not in a functioning, modern, diverse, democracy.
The universe sure does have a sense of humor, though. How fitting it was for Scalia to expire at the resort of a benefactor who had business before the Supreme Court! Hopefully, we’ll one day live in a nation with a democracy functioning enough to report it.
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