Much has already been said about the life of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, but I don’t think it has captured the true importance of the man. Scalia was much more than just another conservative vote on the Court. In a way, he was American democracy’s sole boast in this degenerate age. Here are a few short lessons that each of us can learn from his life.
Don’t compromise your principles
If there is one thing that characterizes the modern day “conservative” movement, it is a willingness to capitulate and compromise in return for a modicum of popularity. You can see this in GOP political candidates and pundits who strive so hard to offend no one that they come off as being utterly boring.
But capitulating does not endear these politicians to anyone. Their enemies view them as beneath contempt.
Scalia never compromised. Even though he moved in the most powerful elite circles where abortion and same-sex marriage advocacy is assumed, Scalia boldly and unapologetically held to his traditional views.
Yes, Scalia was hated. After his death, thousands of people expressed their joy at his death. But he was also greatly loved—something that the capitulators never achieve. And even his greatest enemies respected him.
In this life it is better to be loved and hated by many than to pass through this world without leaving any mark.
Commit to Excellence
It was not just Scalia’s unwillingness to compromise that won him acclaim. He combined it with excellence.
In law school I read scores of Supreme Court opinions. Whenever a Scalia written opinion was available, I always read that one first, even if it was a dissenting opinion. This is because Scalia’s opinions always do a better job at legal reasoning than those of his opponents.
Many of the most important Supreme Court cases of the modern era do not rely on law. Rather, those opinions amount to the majority trying to justify their own views using statistics, anecdotes, or by alluding to unwritten principles. Scalia, on the contrary, always hewed closely to the Constitution as written, not some ever-changing document that seems to live only in the imaginations of the other justices.
While liberals did not like the outcomes of Scalia’s reasoning, they could not assail that reasoning. Thus, even his enemies were forced to admit that he was an intellectual heavyweight. Liberals for years wished for a “liberal Scalia.”
If we are going leave a mark in this world, it is not sufficient just to hold bold views. Like Scalia, we have to live our lives with a dedication to excellence.
Lead a full life
Scalia was a one-man army against the onslaught of degeneracy in the US. Given his role, one would think that he was a dour, moralistic character. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Scalia was first and foremost a family man. He was married to the same woman for 56 years. He fathered nine children, and he was grandfather to 36. One of his sons became a Catholic priest. This alone is a tremendous legacy that any man would be proud of.
But he also enjoyed life to the fullest. He was an avid hunter—his death took place at a ranch where he was on a hunting vacation. Justice Scalia was a fan of the opera, and a world traveller.
He also got along well with people who were diametrically opposed to his opinions. His friendship with ultra liberal Justice Ginsburg is well known, and he taught Justice Kagan how to shoot.
Far from being a narrow individual, Scalia’s opinions reveal a man who had read broadly in law, literature, philosophy, theology, and science.
With the state of the world, it is easy to focus solely on battling the bad. It is good to do what you can to stop the decay and it is good to be prepared for the coming chaos, but don’t forget to enjoy life in the present. Make the most of the simple pleasures of life: a good woman, your children, good friends, good food, fun diversions, and interesting books.
Modernist Christianity is not fulfilling
Scalia was a Catholic, but during the last years of his life he attended the traditional Latin Mass that was sanctioned by the Archdiocese of Washington DC. He didn’t often comment on theological matters, but the one time he did he revealed that he was not a big fan of the mealy-mouthed teaching of the current magisterium.
Most of the changes in the Church since the Second Vatican Council were well-intentioned but they have only served to reduce the message of Christianity to encouragement to be a nice person. It no longer serves a viable core upon which to build a civilization. If we are to ever restore Western civilization, we are going to have to restore the Church first.
Democracy is dying
Italian philosopher Julius Evola posited that democracy can never produce a traditional government due to the principle that the greater cannot proceed from the lesser—the mediocre masses will not vote for a superior man so we will always get a mediocre government.
The fact that a man like Scalia was able to get appointed to one of the most powerful positions in the land demonstrates that sometimes democracy can sometimes produce an excellent result.
The problem is that Scalia is an aberration. For every Scalia in the government, there are hundreds of mediocrities that are willing to compromise everything to get elected or win an appointment.
At the founding of the republic, this wasn’t a big deal. The federal government was small so there was less opportunity for graft. The population was homogenous ethnically, economically, and religiously, and there was a strong sense of unity and patriotism that flowed from that.
Those conditions are no longer in place. The US is an ethnically and economically diverse country. The federal government is bloated and complicated with abundant opportunities for politicians and government officials to enrich themselves at the taxpayers’ expense. As the voting franchise has expanded, the elected officials are arguably getting more corrupt and mediocre, not less.
In a way, the death of Scalia is an ominous metaphor for the American republic. He stood as a guardian against the forces of chaos. Finding a man who is willing and able to take on his mantle will not be an easy task. That will leave Americans unprotected.
One thing is certain: barring some significant change (such as the election of a great leader) the current situation cannot go on for much longer. The fact that both Republicans and Democrats are rejecting establishment candidates is a sign of the large amount of dissatisfaction that Americans have with the status quo.
The next decade promises to be turbulent. This is the time to prepare for those changes.
Scalia was a great example of man who exhibited virtue in the Roman sense of the term—he put his talents at the service of his fellow citizens. His life teaches us how to enjoy life while serving God and our neighbor.