Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died yesterday at the age of 79. As a public figure, his death immediately became a part of the national news and the social media. I confess that I was not a fan of Justice Scalia’s opinions and that upon hearing the news of his passing I initially was not as compassionate as I should have been. I deeply regret that this morning. I allowed myself to focus on his court decisions and opinions (and my own opinions) rather than upon the fact that Justice Scalia was and is my brother, a fellow human being.
John Donne wrote in his 1624 “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away be the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
Every man, every woman, every child is my brother, my sister, my kin. Why? Because there is that of God in each one. Each man, woman and child’s death diminishes me. My initial reaction to Justice Scalia’s death was a monstrous thing and says something about how crude, unloving, and crass I/we have become in our politics. I cannot point my finger of judgment or condemnation at the speck of sawdust in my brother’s or sister’s eye, for I have a plank protruding from my own.
I am reminded and chastised by the words of Nicolas Berdyaev in The Destiny of Man, “We do not know the innermost depths of the human heart; it is revealed only to love. But those who condemn have generally little love, and therefore the mystery of the heart which they judge is closed to them….”