the politics of oh no, they better not, and I would never

When first hearing the news of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my immediate response was a muted “oh, no.”

Being humbly transparent, my response wasn’t prompted by empathy for the Ginsburg family nor any potential shifts in the make up of the high court. My muffled exclamation resulted from the immediate awareness that the timing is one more thing for our country to fight about. And let’s face it. In the bifurcated culture we live in — let me change that — in the encouraged-by-many-and-media, bifurcated culture we live in, we are ready to fight.

But they better not…

Notice the subject of my sentence: “they.” It’s always about they… them… somebody other than me… Oh, how I wish as a people we realized there is no them; there is only us! But we don’t typically get that…

They wouldn’t dare play politics! They wouldn’t dare play that card! They wouldn’t dare resort to such shady, hypocritical efforts when we’re talking about the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America!

Right. We focus on “they.”

And then I think back to the nomination of Merrick Garland, who even though legitimately nominated for the Supreme Court 4 years ago, never received a hearing or vote because Senate leadership declared it wasn’t appropriate to fill the vacancy in an election year. Note: that was in March of 2016 — 8 months before the election.

I think, too, of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who even though legitimately nominated for the Supreme Court 2 years ago, faced an uncorroborated sexual assault accusation from high school amid 3 other claims, which were also uncorroborated or proved false. Note: there is more substantiation for the accusation against Joe Biden than there was for Kavanaugh.

Please don’t hear me suggest one or the other is right, wrong, ok, whatever. I’m simply making the point that we are lured into pointing at “they,” forgetting the justification of our own potential inconsistencies. Allow me to also point out that upon their nomination, both Garland and Kavanaugh received the highest, unanimous rating of “well-qualified” by the American Bar Association.

But I would never…

… I would never be inconsistent. I would never be so political. I would never focus on them… 

Yes, I’d like say that about me, too. But sometimes there are undoubtedly, probable places where each of us is at the very least, unknowingly inconsistent.

Perhaps we would best learn from the example of the honorable Justices Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. While each are respectively revered as ideological heroes of the political left and right, the two were fast friends.

They had served together on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prior to becoming colleagues on the Supreme Court. Scalia would refer to Ginsburg as “the best of colleagues, as she is the best of friends.”

When Scalia passed in 2016, Ginsburg said, “It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend… We were best buddies.”

Perhaps their example is best articulated, no less, through the story of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Justice Jeffrey Sutton:

“During one of my last visits with Justice Scalia, I saw striking evidence of the Scalia-Ginsburg relationship. As I got up to leave his chambers, he pointed to two dozen roses on his table and noted that he needed to take them down to ‘Ruth’ for her birthday. ‘Wow,’ I said, ‘I doubt I have given a total of twenty-four roses to my wife in almost thirty years of marriage.’ ‘You ought to try it sometime,’ he retorted. Unwilling to give him the last word, I pushed back: ‘So what good have all these roses done for you? Name one five-four case of any significance where you got Justice Ginsburg’s vote.’ ‘Some things,’ he answered, ‘are more important than votes.’

I let him have the last word.”

God be with the family of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Rest in peace, RBG. You, too, Antonin Gregory Scalia. You have served us well.