Letter: Late Supreme Court justices have something to teach us

Globe Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor

Every day we bear witness to people's lives that change the world — philanthropists, heads of state, cultural influencers. Every once in a while, we have the privilege of bearing witness to lives that change the world for good.

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were both such people. They both loved this country. They both held the Constitution in the highest regard. They were both justices of conviction, integrity and resolve. They were committed public servants. They were ideological opponents, and they were best friends.

There was a time in my life when I championed Scalia's conservative political opinions. In this present time, RBG was one whose liberal political and judicial perspectives gave public voice to my own, personal beliefs. I believe she is an icon of both the American dream and the best ideals of what and who we can be as a society. I mourn her passing.

In this time of bitter polarization and deepening divisions that threaten the very foundations of democracy, I believe these two late giants of the judicial branch have something to teach us. They showed us how to bridge the aisle of difference. They were polar opposites in their politics, but they found common ground in their humanity. They cultivated and nurtured a deep and abiding friendship. They liked one another. They respected one another. They found worth in one another. They were kind to one another. They believed that they had something to learn from one another.

As people, we are never all going to agree on everything. In fact, differences of opinion are necessary to enrich the common good. A different perspective helps us see our own blind spots. When we value a difference of opinion, together we can create a community, a country, that isn't "my way" or "your way." We can create a country that is a better way — our way.


When I worked in campus ministry, I helped students learn how to have dialogues that built understanding and respect for those with whom they disagreed. In those conversations, we used the metaphor of playing in the same sandbox. It is really quite simple. How do you play in the same sandbox? You recognize that the sandbox belongs to all of you. You take turns. You play by the same rules. And most importantly, never throw sand at one another. That is how you bridge the aisle of difference.

That's what justices Ginsburg and Scalia showed us how to do. Let's honor both of their memories by electing leaders who desire this kind of society, and by their words and deeds, empower us to make progress toward it.

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