Try to forget, at least for a moment, the heated debate regarding the U.S. Supreme Court and whether President Donald Trump or the duly elected president of the United States of America from the November General Election — which could very well be Trump again — should appoint a successor to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
We realize this is hard to ignore, especially if you’re on social media. Facebook, Twitter and other platforms are filled to the brim with facts, misinformation and opinions about Ginsburg and filling her former seat.
Is this a good idea or a bad idea? Apparently, you can only answer in hyperbole. Online commenters, depending on their political persuasion, believe that Ginsburg is either the patron saint of jurisprudence or not a very nice person. Republicans looking for a new conservative justice, despite what they may have said four years ago, are either patriots or not very nice people, depending on your background and so forth.
(Also, this might be a good time to remind our readers that we have an auto-ban policy on death trolls. For those unaware of this unfortunate trend, congratulations. Death trolls are people who make jokes about the recently deceased. But we digress.)
Instead of discussing this supercharged “fill the seat” topic, we’d like to ramble on about civility, decorum and friendship.
Specifically, we’d like you to consider Ginsburg’s strong friendship with a man who seemed her ideological opposite, Justice Antonin Scalia. Their odd couple affinity isn’t a surprise, of course, as it was written about at length by journalists during their lives and after Scalia’s death in 2016.
Ginsburg, a staunch liberal, and Scalia, a staunch conservative, often disagreed, sometimes playfully mocking each other.
The Associated Press wrote that Ginsburg took Scalia’s dissenting opinions as a challenge to be met. “How am I going to answer this in a way that’s a real putdown?” she said.
But the native New Yorkers also often noted they had more similarities than differences, including their love of opera and wine and their reverence for the Constitution and the Supreme Court. They simply were longtime colleagues whose shared workplaces required them to voice their differing legal views.
The two argued, but they weren’t enemies. They were “best buddies,” according to Ginsburg. They even went on vacation together.
So it seems like in 2020, this bitterly partisan and fractured time, a resurgence of news about Ginsburg and Scalia’s unlikely friendship feels somehow inspirational. The two disagreed about nearly every topic of import, but they still admired and even loved one another.
Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned here at the local level.
This year, we’re facing a global pandemic, raging wildfires, protests over social injustice and other problems that would have seemed almost inconceivable seven months ago. And these are issues that residents, regardless of their parties, need to work together to solve.
We need elected officials in Oregon who can form bonds with their colleagues across the aisle, to cooperate and find solutions to protect the public and taxpayer dollars.
What we don’t need is a continued era of finger pointing about every perceived slight or issue, however minor.
In the aftermath of Ginsburg’s death — which, to be sure, is a big deal — this corrosive spirit is again what we’ve found for the most part.
Thankfully, there also were a few moments of grace that we discovered.
Scalia’s son, Christopher Scalia, wrote a touching series of posts on Twitter, sharing how his father got two dozen roses for Ginsburg for her birthday shortly before he died in 2016.
He asked another judge to deliver the flowers, and that puzzled judge asked why Scalia would send such a gift to a justice who never helped him win a 5-4 decision in a significant case.
“Some things,” Scalia answered, “are more important than votes.”