Scalias and Arpeggios

My friends on all sides of the political divide in this country seem to have weighed in already on the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Some of the responses have been expected. For those on the left, Scalia represented a form of ultimate bogeyman — a monstrous villain who held the rights and freedom of various interest groups in check with an almost playful (and endlessly erudite) glee. It was not surprising to see “Ding, Dong, the witch is dead!” statements all over Facebook and Twitter, the social media equivalent of burning someone in effigy, I suppose.

On the right, the responses I have seen have been more measured, less coated in emotional release and more (on what seems to my eyes) to be a concentrated effort to make themselves look like the better person for not reveling in the death of someone on the other side of the political tug of war that this country has become.

If you don’t like how I just worded that, keep in mind that before I am (politically) a liberal, I am a cynic. It takes a lot for me to trust even a little of what I read on Facebook, unless the people that are saying those things are my actual friends. And not just “friends” in Facebook parlance, which often means mere acquaintances, the acquaintances of your actual friends, or relatives that you haven’t seen in years and that you have barely made the effort to know at all. But I know that some of these responses are driven purely by the character of certain friends, such as my dear pal Shane's response (below), which is in keeping with how I know the man and his open and good heart. Politically, theologically, artistically, and philosophically, Shane and I may not agree on very much at all. But we both love monster movies and a cold Dr. Pepper, so why should all this other junk matter?

I will admit, when I received the news by text that Scalia had died yesterday, my immediate reaction was “Wow!” I thought of the open spot on the Supreme Court, and how hard it is going to be to fill that seat — not just by Obama, but possibly by his replacement, should the very obviously prolonged battle to fill it take that long. I also thought, “Scalia was a fucking asshole,” but I refrained (until now, I guess) from posting it on social media. Of course, I didn’t know actually know the guy. I was mainly basing my opinion on years of what I saw online, on television, and in newspapers and magazines. Oh yeah, and on his court record. I can’t tell you if he was actually a jerk in real life, or just a highly educated, highly experienced guy who held different opinions than me generally. Besides, many people consider me a fucking asshole too. So, pot… kettle… black. Who am I to judge?

Please bear in mind, just a few short weeks ago, a huge cross-section of humanity seemed to have forgotten all this political folderol and joined hands (figuratively) in lamenting the death of David Bowie. We cried, we played his videos and his music, we posted pictures of him in drag or in movie roles, and we commiserated as fans of an undeniably enormous talent over his loss to our world. The refrain that I saw many times over the course of a few days was (in various configurations, but summarized here): “Why did David Bowie have to die? Why didn’t God take one of the world’s biggest assholes instead, like Trump or Manson?”

The problem in a statement like this is two-fold. One, assholes have fans too. For reasons absolutely unclear to me, a lot of people love Trump, as we have been discovering (sadly). Manson was a murderous charismatic who wanted to start a race war and he still holds a strange ability to mesmerize people. Two, not everybody liked David Bowie. A lot of people thought he was weird, didn’t like his music, and didn’t like his flaunted sexuality (whatever it happened to be at that point in time). I know rock critics who savaged him for years, and like any celebrity, the man has his detractors. There are probably people who will still tell you what a jerk he was for, say, not tipping properly at a restaurant in 1977 when he was all coked out one time. There are people who tell stories like that about every celebrity, artist, or politician, no matter how revered.

No one is beloved 100% of the time and no one is hated that way either. As Shane mentioned, Scalia had family and friends who are most likely greatly saddened by his loss. (Again, it’s a case where we don’t know them personally, so we can’t know for sure.) Yes, it is highly probable that none of his family members follow you on Facebook or Twitter, so the chances that they are ever going to happen upon your joyful ranting about “the world losing a rotten human being” is pretty slim.

But the thing about social media is that it is “social”. Things get retweeted and passed around. Eventually, the media picks up on them, and often reports items along the lines of “Twitter is ablaze with people cheering on the death of Antonin Scalia!” The guy had nine children and 36 grandchildren, a considerably extended immediate family. Is it fair to them if news like this reaches their ears? Sure, you may not like how he voted on abortion rights, but it’s not his family’s fault that he was who he was. They didn’t sit on that court.

So, I might be happy that there is an open spot on the Supreme Court, but am I happy that Scalia is dead? No. I don’t like it when anybody dies, unless it is someone that I really, really hate on a personal level. You see, I know that jerk and when he goes, I am going to dig an extra hole by his grave so I can kick him in the side from time to time. But I didn’t know Scalia, so I shouldn’t have a care except to say I am sorry for his loved ones. It’s what we would wish others to say for us should we go. It’s the least we can do in return.

And for an interesting 2014 take on Scalia, read this article…


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