The Notorious RBG's Rules of Civility

Farewell to a lady who remembered how to agree to disagree.

As our regular readers no doubt have heard, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away, and is now standing before the Ultimate Judge.

It is no secret that we rarely agreed with her political views or judicial opinions.  To but scratch the surface, we loathed her opinions on abortion, homosexuality, women in the military, religious liberty, use of laws in foreign countries when deciding issues of US law, and federal control over states.  In some circles, she had been dubbed "The Notorious R.B.G.," a play on the name of the late rapper known as "The Notorious B.I.G.," because of her notable dissents against SCOTUS rulings which we support.

In fairness, she was occasionally on the side of liberty, ruling in favor of habeas corpus against the Bush administration in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush.  In Kentucky v. King, she was the only justice to argue that police saying they smelled marijuana smoke wafting around a door did not justify smashing into an apartment without a warrant - something that to us seems self-evident, since the apartment isn't going anywhere, a warrant can readily be obtained by phone, and having a dispassionate judge involved ought to at least somewhat decrease the chance of civil rights abuses.  Very relevantly, she opposed any efforts to pack the Supreme Court.

We also respect and admire her rags-to-riches climb, as well as her personal probity exemplified by her 56-year marriage to a man she met as a college freshman. Her writings reveal a woman of intelligence, strong opinions, and learning.

We'll leave it to others to discuss her anti-Constitutional rulings and the consequent damage to societal norms.  We'll also ignore lefty threats to burn the country down if Mr. Trump appoints a successor before the election - we can only imagine the damage if the election ends up before a Supreme Court which divides 4-4.  Instead, we wish to extol her outstanding personal civility, which is all the more remarkable for its contrast with the way our various political entities talk past each other, cancel each other, and occasionally inspire their followers to shoot each other.

It's hard to imagine two people whose political views were more diametrically opposed than Justice Ginsburg, perhaps the strongest proponent of the "living constitution" in our history; and Justice Antonin Scalia, who believed that the Constitution isn't alive - it's a legal document with a fixed meaning defined by the words written on the page for anyone to read.  He even called his colleagues who believed that it was OK to depart from the plain meaning of the Constitution in order to support rulings that agreed with their personal philosophies "idiots," and he meant it.

Yet even though Justice Ginsburg would have been chief among those who Justice Scalia collectively called "idiots", as individuals, he neither believed this about her, nor did she believe that he did.

Their mutual statements of admiration and affection and the testimony of their colleagues show that instead they were close friends who overcame their vehemently different views to the point of exchanging intimacies.  Even though she disagreed profoundly with fellow Justice Antonin Scalia, the two shared a friendship for the ages.  Justice Ginsburg's example of personal civility shines as a bright beacon showing the way our entire society ought to operate.

No lefty however fervid can possibly fault Justice Ginsburg's commitment to feminism, antiracism, environmentalism, abortion, homosexual privilege, or any other far-left trend of the day - yet she was able not merely to coexist with Justice Scalia without punching him in the face, but to actually seek him out time after time for nonpolitical conviviality.  No less a leftist luminary than deep-blue Democrat Rahm "Never let a crisis go to waste" Emanuel deeply admired Justice Ginsberg, her putatively traitorous friendship notwithstanding.  Similarly, no conservative no matter how retrograde and hidebound could question the Constitutional fidelity of Justice Scalia, yet he too was able to both offer and return the same odd-couple friendship with his ideological enemy.

Why are Americans no longer able to coexist peaceably, to resolve their differences by calm negotiation, logical court arguments, and orderly voting?  Why must we assault each other with personal insults and physical brickbats?  Surely nobody thinks America is more bigoted and racist than it was in the early 60s when Justice Ginsburg was starting her career, yet she kept a cool head for lo these many decades... and only a fool would dare to suggest that her life resulted in no benefit for her favored causes.

Are you listening, Ms. Pelosi?  Mr. Schiff?  Mr. Trump?  Antifa?  BLM?  Civil, these people are not. Is their oft-expressed contempt and hatred for each other helping them?  Is it truly helping their causes?  Is it helping us?  Can we find our way back to the civil path that the notorious RBG showed us?

We Try

Justice Ginsburg sets a high bar for civility; we can but hope to follow her example.  As accusations of racism were being weaponized into general-purpose insults to throw at anyone who disagreed with a lefty, we published the "Scragged racism test" to help people who wondered whether they were or were not racists.  You can find comfort in showing that you are not at all racist, based on weighty academic research from the United Kingdom.  As "critical race theory" becomes more and more mainstream, our racism test has become more and more relevant to assure anyone who isn't sure what a microaggression is that they're free of racism.

We've also addressed reparations, another topic which has gained mainstream following since Mr. Obama's "beer summit" of 2009.  You can skip all the complexities of determining just which of the people living in America should be compensated for having been enslaved and which people should pay for it by adopting our "Beer Summit" proposal.  It's simple, won't cost much, and should lay the matter to rest.

We've tried to imitate Justice Ginsburg's efforts to see the virtues of people whose policies we generally abhor.  We agree with far-left Rep. Dennis Kucinich, for example, that the President ought not to order our military to target an American citizen for death without presenting evidence to a court and obtaining a conviction as required by the Constitution.  We concur with Candidate Joe Biden that many businesses have become far too large and that our anti-trust mechanisms ought to be reinvigorated.  We sympathize with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' well-meant though profoundly ill-informed musings, and would wish for her obvious intelligence to have been better fed with truth.  We've even shown due respect for the fundamental political honesty of card-carrying Communist Bernie Sanders.

Never have we ever called for any of them to be subjected to physical assault, nor would we.  In fact, we'd welcome opportunities to freely and soberly converse with any of them, to the extent that they'd be willing to reciprocate.

For all our partisan passion, we've done our best to be factual and to recognize liberals' valid points - and, yes, first and foremost, we do regularly recognize that valid liberal points in fact exist.  We just wish that they'd stop canceling conservatives, stealing their beer, and shooting them.

Even BLM partisans who think that conservatives deserve to be shot should at least be able to agree that bloodshed is uncivil, and that they'd rather not be shot themselves.  Can't we join hands in honor of Justice Ginsburg and agree on that much?  Or must we be collectively so bound to incivility that we'd rather not agree even on that?

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Law.
Reader Comments

She was a far left crank with no respect or use for our Constitution. Let's not get carried away praising her like she was the second coming. She did irreparable damage to our country and never should have been put on the Court

September 22, 2020 2:13 AM
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