The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg comes at a time where our hearts already weigh heavy with loss. Our country has now lost a feminist icon, a woman whose dissenting opinions and presence made her a role model for a youth thirsting for change. The loss of Justice Ginsburg has left the government with a decision that could alter the United States’ history: who will pick the next Supreme Court nominee? As our country heads toward another speed bump on an already turbulent ride, there is something we must remember as we engage in new debates. And for these lessons, let us look toward our beloved RBG again; specifically, let us look to Justice Ginsburg and Justice Antonin Scalia and their “disputatious friendship”.
The friendship between Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg was hard to miss; it was beautifully captured in a photo of the two riding on the back of an elephant in India. It was something memorialized in Ginsburg’s own words: “We were best buddies”. However, theirs was not a traditional friendship. They did not finish each other’s sentences, or back each other up against adversaries or rage about people who had pissed them off. Indeed, it was quite the opposite.
They were each other’s adversaries, and often, each was aggravating the other. The justices stood for radically different ideas, and their contrasting opinions would often weave their way into the discussion and often warp discussions into arguments. One was a dedicated conservative who believed strongly in the concept of “natural law,” a view that dictated that the law should be interpreted as those who created it would have understood it. The other was a staunch liberal whose opinions and pointed remarks drew the attention of many. Admittedly, their views were incredibly misaligned, which should point to a relationship similar to that between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. And yet, the opposite was true.
Despite their raging differences, they held each other to high esteem. They each respected the other at a level we all hope to achieve one day. And they set a legacy that we all should look to, not a legacy of working in harmony, but a legacy of respect and friendship despite differences. A legacy in which dissent was not used to fuel a fire within but was instead employed as a tool to make one’s opinions stronger. In an NPR article, a reporter states that Ginsburg herself affirmed that Scalia made her better.
It is easy to hold beliefs when we are surrounded by those who agree with them. However, when those who disagree poke holes in our ideas, that is when we grow. The strongest arguments are formed when those who disagree find flaws. Justice Ginsburg and Justice Scalia dissented greatly, but they agreed that this disagreement made them smarter. They decided that debate “was essential to the national good”. And they were undoubtedly correct; for as distance makes the heart grow fonder, dissent makes the opinion stronger. So before we allow the fire of disagreement to cloud our minds, let us absorb their spicy dissent and let it help us strengthen our arguments.
There will always be those who disagree. There will be those whose words anger us, whose opinions we oppose strongly. And those people will sometimes try to demolish the beliefs we hold dear to our hearts. And when that happens, we can look towards Justice Ginsburg and Justice Scalia and their example. But it also vital to note that their views as Justices had real consequences. And though their friendship provided us a note on working with those whose opinions are dramatically different from our own, they were not perfect. We must remember both the perfect and the imperfect.
Justice Ginsburg was an incredible person. She was a woman who fought for equality—a woman whose intelligence and bravery changed the world for the better. And although RBG has left this realm, she leaves behind lessons that we and generations after us can utilize. She leaves behind blueprints on how we can all, as she did, become astounding.
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