If you haven’t already heard, United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia peacefully died in his sleep on February 13, 2016 at the age of 79. Appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986, Justice Scalia was a longstanding opponent of virtually every old school value that seeks to discriminate, deny freedoms, or otherwise oppress. He was anti-marriage equality, anti-choice, and pro-death penalty; a position in direct conflict with his ‘pro-life’ views. He consistently disagreed with progressive decisions on gender and racial equality, as well as protections based on sexual orientation. He was a massive hypocrite, having no problem when rulings went his way, but claiming the Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds when they ruled against him. In the 2004 Elk Grove Unified School District v Newdow case, as well as in a later 2013 interview, he demonstrated a belief that Christian values should be allowed to influence certain policy decisions. In short, and contrary to what some have written already, Justice Scalia conducted himself in the legal arena in accordance with his personal religious beliefs – and effectively against the U.S. Constitution that he is said to have loved.
Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, upon hearing of Scalia’s death, tweeted “The totally unexpected loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a massive setback for the Conservative movement and our COUNTRY.” This says a lot.
Now, many have written that Scalia will be remembered as a brilliant legal mind, a man to be admired. I respectfully disagree, but before I continue let me be clear that I am in no way celebrating the man’s death. I am merely having one of the many discussions that Antonin Scalia’s judicial legacy demands. That being said, I am a firm believer that although we need not dwell on the deeds of the departed, if a person acted despicably in life, that does not change after their passing; and should not necessarily be kept silent. The passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, a man who left a reprehensible legacy from my point of view, demands discussion. His death carries with it huge implications for the future of America, which brings us back to Donald Trump’s tweet.
“The totally unexpected loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a massive setback for the Conservative movement …” It’s amazing how so much can be said in so few words. At the time this is being written, President Obama has not yet announced whether he will appoint a successor or hold the decision over for the next president, but if I have been reading the cultural and political tide in America correctly, two things are almost certain. (1) the next President of the United States will likely be a Democrat, and possibly one who is not beholden to the traditional establishment (let’s hope), and (2) that will result in the appointing of liberal justices to the Supreme Court. In other words, far-right conservative Justice Scalia will likely be succeeded by someone who holds progressive views. This will bring a breath of fresh air to a seat that has been held by a hateful anti-equality blowhard since 1986. As long as the Supreme Court is responsible for ruling on social issues, a new liberal face will better ensure positive outcomes; and a more solid base in support of the views held by the liberal SCOTUS contingent. Granted, the Republican Senate will do whatever they can to keep this from happening, but even a more grounded conservative would be an improvement.
So let’s discuss the root issue with the ‘Conservative movement.’ To be absolutely blunt, the Conservative movement is one that seeks to deny equal rights and protections to all who are not cis white male. For those who aren’t familiar with this term, a cis white male is a person who is caucasian, has a penis, and identifies as a man (cisgender). I realize that your knee-jerk reaction may be to dismiss this statement as a conspiracy theory, but this is all well documented and researched. As a matter of fact, modern Feminism and the LGBTQ+ rights movement is about this very thing – our patriarchal system run primarily by white men – and if you want a current reference point, I encourage you to start following the U.S. Republican primaries. The comments being made about social issues and policy by Trump and company show us exactly what the Conservative movement is … and it’s not pretty. Justice Scalia was a part of that movement, and every time one of their members passes away, our potential for good grows just a little bit more.
Society is becoming increasingly secular. Humanist values continue to permeate our social consciousness, and as that happens, we reject and push back against outdated ideas that hold us down and deny us our full humanity. The politicians who are already liberal-minded begin to come around and follow suit. As the cis white male Conservative movement ages and loses members, those voices are not being replaced. Instead, liberal progressive voices are rising to fill the void. The time will come that the patriarchy will have lost all relevance, and that time is closer than many of us think. This is why Justice Scalia’s death is so significant. One of the most influential voices in the American patriarchy, a voice that held a position of great power, has been lost. That voice will not be replaced. Instead the position will be filled by a progressive, and those who enjoy cis white male privilege … people like Donald Trump … are right to view this as a big loss for them. It is, and that’s exactly what equality looks like. You see, contrary to what many claim, this isn’t about the proletariat overthrowing the bourgeoisie. It’s about equal footing, equal opportunity, equal dignity, respect, and freedom. Equality requires privilege be lost. Cis white males need not be cast asunder as inferior to anyone else, at least I don’t want to see that, but the privilege they enjoy by virtue of an uncontrollable condition of birth has to disappear.
I am not cisgender, but I am white, and I do have male genitalia. Although I don’t identify entirely as male, I look the part. As a result I have cis white male privilege, and that has kept me from experiencing many terrifying things that are everyday concerns for members of other minorities. Since coming out as gender variant, I have struggled with fears that were foreign to me, and that has given me a small sense of just how powerful cis privilege is. White privilege is more powerful still, and it is so vital that we tear down those walls. It’s too easy for those of us with white privilege, for those with cis privilege, to condemn and marginalize without even realizing it. We have to keep ourselves, and each other, in check. Privilege has to be done away with. Each and every loss for the Conservative movement is a step closer to that goal. The loss of Justice Antonin Scalia is a potentially huge win for progressivism, liberalism, and equality.