Written By Zack Siegel
Every morning, I watch the news and listen to journalists describe the growing political divide in our country. The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG, as she was often referred, is a tragic loss to our country and has served to deepen this divide. However, there is so much that we can learn from RBG’s legacy to help us navigate our way through these difficult times. Specifically, the unlikely close friendship between RBG and the late Justice Antonin Scalia can teach us a valuable lesson. Although they had views on opposite sides of the legal and political spectrum, the two justices were great friends and had the utmost respect for one another. The more that I have learned and thought about the nature of their relationship, the clearer it has become that RBG and Scalia provided the ultimate model of respect while maintaining a difference of opinion in politics and interpretation of the law.
In today’s political climate, people with opposing views are often not tolerated and treated as the enemy. The media fosters an environment in which extreme political views leave no room for moderate ideas. RBG and Scalia’s relationship demonstrates that you can respect the opinions of others without necessarily agreeing with them. Although they disagreed on virtually every political issue, both justices respected the passion and work ethic of the other. When asked about why Scalia enjoyed RBG’s company, he teased, “What’s not to like? Except her views on the law.” Political polar opposites, the pair admired each other’s intellect and respected their dedication to the law. The relationship between RBG and Scalia can teach us that people of different political affiliation, race, and religion, must respect one another and tolerate their differences in order to work together and further the interests of our country.
Sometimes it is something as small as a common personal interest that brings us together. In the case of RBG and Scalia, they both shared a love for the opera. Despite their professional difference of opinions, the friends often attended the opera together, simply bonding over their common passion. Their interest led to Derrick Wang’s production of “Scalia/Ginsburg”, an opera about their friendship in a world divided by political views.
When attending their self titled opera, RBG and Scalia often sat on opposite sides of the aisle, reliving the moments that lead to them being such great friends. Their love of opera brought them closer together outside of the courthouse, reinforcing their personal respect for one another. RBG and Scalia’s relationship shows that a shared passion, whether it is for the arts, sports, or video games, can create a common bond in which people no longer focus on their differences, but instead their similarities.
RBG and Scalia had the amazing ability to put their political differences aside and allow their friendship to grow. The ability to look past one’s differences is a skill that seems to be lost in today’s divided society. Despite their opposite beliefs, the two turned their working relationship into a personal friendship. In fact, the two would not only spend every Thanksgiving together, but Scalia made a practice of sending two dozen roses to RBG on her birthday every year. RBG’s grandson, Paul Sepra, stated, “I never heard them talk about anything political or ideological, because there would be no point.” Knowing their difference in opinions did not stop the two justices from being the best of friends. They cherished the time they shared away from the courtroom. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all put aside our differences and enjoy each other’s company (even if it’s just once in a while)?
The relationship between RBG and Scalia was both fascinating and instructive. The key to their relationship was respect. Our society and culture need to prioritize respect for the beliefs of others. It is when we respect one another that we are able to accept differing opinions, and work together. As the late RBG said, “Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.” While RBG and Scalia may be remembered for their legal decisions, it is their deep friendship that may serve to be their greatest legacy.
Zack Siegel is a student at Schreiber High School