If we are to survive as a nation, there’s an important principle to remember
In the midst of such a polarizing time in our nation, I keep coming back to the most unlikely of friendships: that of Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. Polar opposites of the political spectrum, they were each known for their razor-sharp wit, powerful prose, and an unshakeable certainty in their own rightness. Their families vacationed together, celebrated one another’s triumphs, and mourned one another’s losses. They even spent many holidays together.
When asked about their friendship, they each admitted that part of it was their mutual appreciation for a good sparring partner, a worthy opponent with whom to debate ideas. But it was based on other things as well, things such as shared interests, common personal (if not public) values, and a respect for the law.
During an era in which the political spectrum is clouded by the smoke of cannon fodder inflicted from each side, we would do well to remember the peculiar bond between these two jurists. Scalia put it this way: “I attack ideas, I don’t attack people—and some very good people have some very bad ideas.”
Hate is the greatest corrupting, destructive influence known to mankind. And at one time or another, all of us are guilty of harboring it.
Hate prompted Cain to kill Abel. Hate causes one person to enslave another. If mankind has an original sin, it’s hate.
Hate reaches its zenith when we find ourselves incapable of separating the inherent worth of an individual from our perception that their beliefs and behaviors are foolish. Further, hating the person provides a convenient excuse to avoid the marketplace of ideas altogether, dismissing ideas based on who holds them rather than debating them on their own merits.
Among their contemporaries, there are no two greater political figures than Ginsburg and Scalia. In some ways, they are practically patron saints of their respective ideological camps.
So to the left, I say, “While fighting for your perception of justice and equality and carrying the banner of the Notorious RBG, do not forget that your ideological enemies revere a man whom Justice Ginsburg thought the world of. They, like their beloved Scalia, may have bad ideas worthy of your hatred. But the people themselves are the intellectual offspring of your patron saint’s best friend.”
And to the right, I say, “As you fight for your perception of individual liberty and the rule of law, boldly citing the endlessly quotable Saint Antonin’s witticisms, do not lose sight of the fact that it’s his best friend’s acolytes standing in opposition to you. Hate their ideas if you must. But never the holders of those ideas.”
Hate ideas. Not people.
Dr. Matthew B. Pandel is a behavioral psychologist, theologian, and educator. He resides in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife of 17 years, Carolyn.
Image: Justices Scalia and Ginsburg. YouTube screen grab.
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