Can we be friends?

I remember last election cycle when someone I am friends with said, “Well, I guess we’ll be friends again after the election, right?” That statement surprised me, because while we disagreed politically on a number of issues, I didn’t see that (and still don’t) as a reason for not being friends.

I was reminded of that again these last couple of days with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. While I disagreed with many of his decisions and feel that his political legacy has been harmful in many ways, I have felt sorrow for his family. The loss of someone is never easy–and even less so when it happens so unexpectedly…and away from loved ones.

But what really struck me was an article I saw about the relationship between Justices Scalia and Ginsburg. They were political opposites and had significant disagreements in their Supreme Court decisions–but despite that, they were good friends, and they appreciated what each other brought to the relationship:

Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: ‘We are different, we are one,’ different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the ‘applesauce’ and ‘argle bargle’—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his ‘energetic fervor,’ ‘astringent intellect,’ ‘peppery prose,’ ‘acumen,’ and ‘affability,’ all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp.

Justice Scalia once described as the peak of his days on the bench an evening at the Opera Ball when he joined two Washington National Opera tenors at the piano for a medley of songs. He called it the famous Three Tenors performance. He was, indeed, a magnificent performer. It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.

At this time, when there is so much name-calling, so much vitriol, so much apparent hatred between individuals on differing sides of the political spectrum, Justice Ginsburg’s loving memorial to her friend and political opposite challenges us in many ways to be better than we currently seem to be. It is possible–and Justices Scalia and Ginsburg showed us it is.

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