When the news broke Saturday that Justice Antonin Scalia had died at age 79, my Twitter feed began to fill with hate. Not disagreement or disrespect -- actual hate. He was an ignorant waste of flesh, wrote one young fool. His death was the best news in decades, cheered another. Then there was the woman who just had to tell the world that she felt safer now than she had at the death of Osama bin Laden. And several people expressed the hope -- the hope! -- that Clarence Thomas would die next.I do understand why this happens. Scalia was the most powerful conservative thinker on the Court and he had a penchant for the bon mot in his writing, especially in his often withering dissents on decisions. In my experience, many on the Left don't particularly enjoy being on the business end of ridicule. Carter speaks to that, but also to the larger, more important point of Scalia's legacy:
Thus we see the discursive toll of our depressing Supreme Court deathwatch. We’re actually rooting for people to die.
The late Christopher Hitchens once wrote: “One test of un homme sérieux is that it is possible to learn from him even when one radically disagrees with him.” He was right. Those with whom we disagree will often have things to teach us, if we’ll let them.If you think about what happened in Wisconsin with the John Doe abuse directed against Scott Walker and his supporters, you understand why Sixth Amendment protections are so crucial, especially the importance of knowing who your accusers are. The text seems straightforward enough:
Scalia was un homme sérieux in the classic sense -- a person of both seriousness and character, a man hard to bully. Did I disagree with his positions? Frequently, and often with passion. But he was a brilliant scholar and jurist, as well as a marvelous writer, and I never failed to learn from his wonderfully crafted opinions. The need to counter his arguments made mine better. And on some issues (the importance of robust protection of Sixth Amendment rights, for instance) Scalia’s opinions converted me to his cause.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.The calling card of the totalitarian state is the secret policeman's knock on the door; sometimes, they don't knock. We have all manner of agencies with police powers, and crucially, with the means to enforce said powers. We also have a plethora of politicians who are just fine with the use of force to get their desired results. Antonin Scalia understood that. I worry that his replacement won't, or more importantly is indifferent to the concern.