Framing or Taming Fears

A frightening site. A post coitus demon sitting in a blown out building overlooking the East Side. For those of you who don't know, this is from Ghostbusters.

Why did she do it? Why did she step outside her frilly cravat and black robes for poli-talk. Inappropriate for a sitting Supreme Court Justice. Inappropriate.

First, I know that plenty disagree with me on that last word. But for those of you of the leftward lean, imagine if Justice Scalia had said the same about candidate Obama. There were calls for Justice Alito’s head when he publicly reacted to the President’s State of the Union by reflexively shaking his head no and mouthing, “Not true.” That’s nothing like calling a major party candidate a faker and saying he’ll bring America to ruin. Let’s be intellectually honest here and call the game fairly.

Back to the why. Why did she step so far out? She hasn’t crossed the line this directly into politics before.

Some say it’s because in her eighth decade, she will just say whatever she likes. Others wonder if she is feeling her moniker as The Notorious R.G.B. and was lost in her own importance. Was she careless? It’s hard to think that her remarks were casual, especially because she repeated them before she walked them back and apologized.

I think she was deliberate in her statements. She was in a sit down with the New York Times. It’s as if she sought an opportunity to be on the record. I think it’s because she is afraid. She as much as said so.

I imagine a scenario where she’s feeling that this cycle is very different. That established rules of behavior and decorum of the presidential election process are being flaunted. That even as personal and ugly as elections have become, that there is a new level of debasement. And it is frightening.

I have a hunch that she thinks this is the worst, and most dangerous, election in modern American history. That our democracy, that America, is seriously at risk. I imagine that she felt compelled to do something. She felt remaining silent was an abdication of her oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That, if she could, she must use her influence.

I bet she didn’t map out about the true political ramifications of her comments. She played directly into the narrative that scares her. She immediately became the lighting rod for judicial overreach, for confusing the roles in our Constitution, for the out of touch establishment and as the worst of liberals trying to protect their liberalness. By taking the unprecedented steps of directly commenting on an active election, she likely expected to have an impact. But she wasn’t going to have much impact on her own choir, and she riled up the other team.

Justice Ginsburg is a brave person both on the bench and personally. But she blew this because she played outside of her strength. It’s recklessness borne of a growing alarm.

Writing a note to self: Do not act out of fear. Act from the strength of convictions. Yours, not someone else’s.

Friends Like That

Night at the opera, Ginsberg and Scalia

I  was shocked to hear that Justice Scalia passed away. I think we were all shocked.

Although I have not been a fan of his work from the bench of our highest court, my first reaction was a sense of loss.

I knew that he and the Notorious RBG were notoriously friends. In reading people’s memories of him, I learned that he and another ideological foe, Justice Elena Kagan, were hunting buddies. Scalia even recommended her to an Obama confidant–saying, “I hope he sends us someone smart,” before naming Kagan as one who met that criteria. I guess he wanted a worthy opponent.

Witty, gregarious, and fun are words that are most associated with him by colleagues and friends or various leanings–left and right, D and R.

I learned about Justice Scalia’s death on Twitter which almost immediately brought me the second shock. The Senate Majority Leader ran breathlessly to a mic within an hour to let the world know that our sitting President should not even THINK about nominating someone to fill that seat on the bench.

Oh, just stop.

Then there was the line of people disagreeing with McConnell from the Senate chambers bringing politics to the fore before anyone had a chance to pay their respects. Turning the Justice into a political football.

Please. Please just stop.

Others started piling on saying mean things–really mean. And I all could think about was that I could NOT agree with any of them. At all. Because no matter how much I disagreed with Scalia, no matter how wrong I believed his skewed intellectual gymnastics on more than one decision or dissent, he always seemed to me to be very much human.

They say he changed the Court, that he was the first to really take control of the arguments and ask challenging questions. He was a New Yorker. He was a first generation Italian-American. He was smart. He was confident. He was brash. He pushed his ideas but could obviously listen to others and agree to disagree. Without being disagreeable. I love this.

I’m not saying he’s a saint or that he should be revered. I’m just saying he might have been wrong, but he wasn’t bad. Just look close around him.

RIP, Justice Nino. Peace to your family and friends.