You may have heard about the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
These days it is rare to hear a public figure spoken of with such reverence by politicians from both sides of the aisle. We observed that with the passing of Ginsburg, the praise of a life well lived and her legacy of conviction and intellectual courage.
It is worth recalling the friendship she held with her rival on the court — titan of the bench Antonin Scalia. It was a deep friendship that went back before their years on the Supreme Court, back to when they served alongside each other in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. At a roast in her honor back then, Scalia said, “I have missed Ruth very much since I left the court of appeals. She was the best of colleagues, as she is the best of friends. I wish her a hundred years…”
Many of us over recent years in particular have found it impossible to maintain friendship across political difference even though the weight of our opinions are not likely to turn the course of our nation’s history on their own. Ginsburg and Scalia did indeed find themselves in that rarified position. They held the tension between their disagreements and cared for each other.
It is said that democracy is what happens *after* the vote, when the vote doesn’t make the problems go away, and when we still need to walk together while disagreeing. This is not a call to inaction or passivity. It’s a call to active engagement. Let’s fight for our lives and for our principles, if we must, with respect for the other side’s humanity. Let’s let the other side know where we stand, why, and why it’s personally important to us. Let’s protest. Let’s pray. Let’s pray for people who protest, and not protest people who pray. Let’s build bridges and not abet anyone who sets them aflame.
It’s worth remembering that there is no precedent (that I’m aware of) of a democracy surviving a tectonic majority-minority power transition. How we work together, or not, in each moment of conflict will determine the fate of the country, perhap more than anything else. This means that our actions and intentions are more important than we may realize…even, or especially, when they occur in the privacy of our own families or chambers of our own hearts. Our hearts know that there is a more beautiful world than the one we’re being offered. This is good news.