Tuesday, February 16, 2016

45. A Difficult Enemy

There’s something about the death of Antonin Scalia that’s still bothering me. It’s that we as a society seem to have our set narrative about him when a majority of our information comes from sound bites and listicles of out-of-context quotes from his decisions. I’m sure 99% of the people making opinions of him have never read a Supreme Court opinion of his or know what the term “Constitutional Originalist” means.

I don’t agree with Scalia on really anything, and I think his decisions on Obergafell and Lawrence will be seen to be out of touch. But do we know that his decisions came from a place of hatred? Or were they the byproduct of a bullheaded interpretation of the Constitution? (One I find completely ridiculous, but then again, I hated Constitutional Law.) We can cherry pick quotes from his decisions all we want, but do they really prove he was a hateful, discriminatory human being? Don’t just give me a quote, I need evidence. I don’t think the average human being (meaning non-legal scholar) has the patience to digest long, difficult arguments and give an even-handed analysis of his career.

If we want to label Scalia a bigot and leave that his legacy, we’re going to have to do some housekeeping with other historical figures. JFK was probably the worst womanizer to ever step foot in the White House. FDR carried out the worst civil liberties atrocities in this country’s history. Lincoln was nearly as bad. Regan had a ridiculous White House scandal that no one cared about.

It goes the other way too. Noted crack-user Marion Berry was re-elected to public office in Washington D.C. after serving jail time for drug use. Yet, he was beloved in DC by black citizens for helping create jobs and being a champion of the poor.

We find comfort in the narratives we concoct in our head, but we writhe in agony when forced to confront long and challenging facts.. People are difficult and they rarely fit in the metaphorical boxes that are presented to us.

It’s difficult for me to argue politics. I hate conflict. But I find that the most satisfying conversations are the ones I have with people who have different opinions than me. When I talk with them, I don’t try to change minds. I just like to listen and discuss. More often than not, I find more common ground than I thought I would. I believe we all want the same thing: safety, dignity, opportunity, happiness. People just disagree how to achieve those things. And that’s a good thing.

I’ll admit that, as a liberal, we can be an arrogant and condescending group. We like to think that we know best and that anybody who disagrees with us is backwards and out of touch. (Google Bernie-Splaining.) Do I think the Democratic party is ahead on more issues than the Republicans? Yes. But that doesn’t mean we know everything.

A former teacher of mine told me a while back that when you stop viewing the world as full of people who hate you and everything you stand for, life becomes a lot easier. Well that’s pretty easy for me to do because I’m a heterosexual, white male, but I think our society could do well to take a long drink from that well in this election season.

I think most of dog-eat-dog narrative is put out by the media, politicians, and advertising companies because it’s easier to get your money when you’re scared.

Not everyone who disagrees with you hates you. Not everyone is out to get you. Life is complicated. Life is difficult. We shouldn’t expect our heroes or our enemies to be any different.
You too can find humor where there is disagreement, just turn to Stephen Colbert.

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