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  • Reverend James Squire

The Importance of a Duet

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died yesterday. My heart sank when the news flashed across my TV screen. She is one of the truly great members in the history of Supreme Court. She was brilliant and is known as one of the key people in American life for advancing the rights of women. She has been enormously popular among Americans for her courageous stands, for her keen interpretations of the law, and for her grit! But there is one trait that I hope doesn’t get lost in the celebration of her life which is sure to come. She loved the law and she didn’t let ideology get in the way of her relationships with others. This characteristic is the vaccine for the dis-ease of the divisive partisan politics that exists across our “land of free and the home of the brave.”

When I invited Joe Biden and Arlen Specter to have a dialogue in our school chapel about different issues, there were those who thought that the “cheese had slipped off the cracker of my mind” for they differed on so many issues. I had a different hidden agenda than talking about issues. I wanted our students to see how these two political giants “respected one another” and understood the importance of civil discourse. They did just that. The key line in their remarks was “nobody from either party goes out to dinner together. Issues are important not the relationships that we have as law makers.”

This attitude of respect for others was true for two other people who had polar opposite views but also a commitment to honor one another. These two were Speaker of the House Tip O”Neill and President Ronald Reagan. They made a point to call one another after the close of Congressional business for the day to just talk about anything other than politics. They had strong feelings about their points of view and equally strong feelings about the importance of honor and respect in their relationship with one another.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a staunch liberal and Antonin Scalia, a staunch conservative were best friends. They would actually help one another in making each of their “opinions” stronger. They loved opera. In 2013 a law school graduate from Maryland set their arguments to music. Justice Ginsburg wrote the following in her tribute to Justice Scalia upon his death: Toward the end of the opera, Scalia and Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: “We are different, we are one, different in their interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution that we serve.”

As important as ideology is, things will not change for the better in our nation unless the importance of relationships and compromise become more present in deliberations. Nothing gets done in a partisan way. Right now it is tribalism and ideology that count. Congress has set the tone of uncivil discourse for students and the people in the street. The current model is demean and deceive to win at any cost. That is what our children are learning. I hope that enough of the relationship between Supreme Court justices Ginsburg and Scalia is celebrated in our honoring of her in the days that follow. It is certainly why I had Biden and Spector speak before our community at EA. To contrast, can you imagine in your wildest dreams seeing Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi break out in a duet together? That needs to be the new model for American politics for the “man and woman in the street to follow"! That is the legacy that our children deserve to see!

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