Saturday, February 20, 2016

Justice Scalia...If You're Gonna "Play" in Texas, Please Pack Your Glass Slippers, 'Cause Cinderela is on Speed Dial

In an unbelievable stroke of something, Justice Antonin Scalia, died in his sleep a week ago.  Was it divine intervention, with some fortuitous timing thrown in?  Was it his heart? Did he choke on the mint left on his pillow by his Billionaire homies at a luxurious ranch? Was the unbelievable stroke of something literally a stroke?  

Just like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop, the world will never know his cause of death because another type of Justice, of the peace, chose to not have an autopsy.  No autopsy done on the body of a Supreme Court Justice that dies unexpectedly. Seems kind of nuts, right?  Well apparently Scalia enjoyed his cigarettes and suffered from many chronic health concerns, so logically it was assumed he died of nature causes.  So I get it, but still, this is a big deal that went down in Texas while he was being hosted at a luxurious ranch, owned by a Billionaire, whose case was conveniently denied a hearing by the Supreme Court.  You are thinking, surely this case was from years ago. Nope, this case was denied a hearing in 2015!  As they say, the devil is in the details but damn don't you think those details tell us something!

So back to the scene of the lack of the crime (okay, not the crime you are thinking of anyway) in Texas....

If you pay any attention to the ridiculous shenanigans that go on in most state legislatures, you know that in Texas they have some pretty crazy laws and "goings on" in their legislative chambers.  (Don't get me started on the concealed tampon restrictions of 2013...truth is stranger than fiction!  Did you miss this? Click -----> Texas Tampongate)  

One of those crazy Texas laws allows for a Justice of the Peace, to declare someone dead, over the phone, without actually laying eyes on the body.  In this case our Justice of the Peace lead roll is played by Judge Cinderela Guavera (truth is stranger than fiction...AGAIN!  And as if having a name like Cinderela isn't strange enough, apparently her parents made up a new spelling of the name Cinderella!) Maybe I am an old fashion kind of girl, but actually checking for a pulse seems like a logical requirement to declare someone dead.  Okay, so obviously Texas has some challenges related to geography, and on an average day this law probably makes sense, but seriously?!  A Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States passes away unexpectedly and no one (including and especially Cinderela) thinks, hmmmm....these circumstances are a little extraordinary, so perhaps A. Burning some gas, seeing the body in person, & checking for a pulse, and B. ordering an autopsy is in order here?  This kind of lack of judgement is not one you want to come back and bite you in the ass, you know like something that could get you denied a promotion to the Court of Appeals or something.

Not surprisingly, two other Justices of the Peace were called before the local authorities "dropped a dime" to Judge Cinderela.  Conveniently, those other two justices of the peace were "out of town" and unavailable to declare the death.  Well, as we all now know from the paragraph above, whether you are out of town in Texas, does not diminish your ability to declare a death. In fact, a Justice of the Peace in Texas could be scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef with their IPhone secured in a waterproof case and declare somebody dead from a diving boat on the other side of the world. 

I think, which is merely speculation on my part, finding a Justice of the Peace to declare Justice Scalia dead last Saturday, went something more like this....

BFE Texas dispatcher (For my readers who are unfamiliar with internet slang translations, here is a tip: BFE is "Bum F#$% Egypt" meaning in the middle of nowhere): "Hey Justice of the Peace Judge Walker Texas Ranger, this is Billy Joe Jim Bob at Presidio County 911 Dispatch.  You are never gonna believe this but... I just heard from Jack from EMT rig #666 that we got a very cold Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, out at Poindexter's ranch out there on Highway Contract Route 67.  Yeah, you know the place...where all those rich, famous, & politically connected people who could easily afford to pay for their own stay, are hosted for free in exchange for political favors.  Anywho... could you head on out there, or better yet, just save yourself a trip, and give 'em a ring-a-ding-ding, and declare Scalia dead?  If you could, I would really owe you one 'cause the first Justice of the Peace I called just came down with a spontaneous case of laryngitis and I'm in a pickle here."

Justice of the Peace Judge Walker Texas Ranger: (throat clearing heard over the headset) "Sorry Billy Joe Jim Bob, you know I am normally up for declaring people dead over the phone, like we do here in Texas, but unfortunately, I am out of town."

BFE Texas dispatcher: "Well I hear ya Judge, but seeing as how you can declare him dead over the phone, couldn't ya..."

Justice of the Peace Judge Walker Texas Ranger: (vocally fabricated static sounds heard through the dispatcher's head set) "Can you hear me now, Billy Joe Jim Bob?! I think I'm losing my cell signal (more vocally fabricated static sounds that gradually fade heard through the dispatcher's headset)....." Click.

BFE Texas dispatcher thinking to himself: Hmmm, well that was my second unsuccessful attempt to get somebody, guess I better call Justice of the Peace, Judge Cinderela.  But for the life of me I can't figure out why her parents didn't use the typical Disney princess spelling of her name....

If you haven't been following the news is the spoiler.  Judge Cinderela declares him dead over the phone, does not order an autopsy and goes on about her weekend with her Prince Charming (I would suggest a Princess Charming, but ya know this is rural Texas, Scalia's version of "God's Country" we are talking about, so statistically unlikely).  The rest, as they say, is now history.

Speaking of history, Antonin Scalia was the only child of an Italian Catholic immigrant father and 1st generation American Italian mother who was a school teacher. He was a product of the New York public school #13 through 8th grade and obtained a scholarship to attend a Jesuit military high school.  Given his father's immigrant status and his attendance to New York public schools in Queens, NY in the 40s, it is hard for me to understand what I perceive to be a 30 year track record of a lack of empathy for Americans that do not share his race, ethnicity, gender, religion & political ideology. Did he never leave his block in Queens?!  Come on now, he grew up in a burough of the immigration melting pot of America for our God's sake! Well, in fact he did leave his block in Queens, and he never looked back. 

From what has been written about him, he was an extremely intelligent, charismatic, and gregarious guy.  In my mind, those are God given attributes and how you put those talents to work for those who you took an oath to serve, is where the devil is in the details.  The oath he took was this: 
"I, Antonin Scalia, do solemnly swear or affirm that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Supreme Court Justice, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the constitution and laws of the United States.  So help me God."

He will need the help of his God, my God, and everyone else's at this point, but speaking of the devil....

In 2013, Jennifer Senior with New York Magazine interviewed Justice Scalia.  The transcript of this interview is very enlightening indeed.  You can read the entire interview here: In Conversation: Antonin Scalia

There were two telling exchanges that I find pretty staggering in terms of his impact of administering justice on the Supreme Court and the repercussions for all of God's Children, believers and non-believers.  One is his unapologetic refusal to consider the fact that hundreds of millions of Americans that look different, worship Gods of different faiths or perhaps none at all, loving whomever their heart desires, and living relatively peaceably in one country, might actually be what the Founding Fathers intended all along. That is my brand of "Originalism". Instead of hiding behind a veil that our government of 50 United, yet politically divided State, has a perfect system of passing Constitutional amendments, why don't we try and see legislation for how it was intended and then do no harm.  Many of those founding fathers were Presbyterian and they fled the same religious persecution that Justice Scalia felt compelled to uphold, through his own religious beliefs, dissents from the majority, and his opposition to civil rights.  

But back to the devil.....

Justice Scalia: I even believe in the Devil. 
 Jennifer Senior: You do? 
Justice Scalia: Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that. 
Jennifer Senior: Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there…
Justice Scalia: If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Jennifer Senior: Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
Justice Scalia: You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.

Jennifer Senior: Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil? 
Justice Scalia: You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil. 
Oh, and on how he will be perceived by history.....

Jennifer Senior: "Fifty years from now, which decisions in your tenure do you think will be heroic?"  
Justice Scalia: "Heroic?" 
Jennifer Senior: "Heroic." 
Justice Scalia: "Oh, my goodness. I have no idea. You know, for all I know, 50 years from now I may be the Justice Sutherland of the late-twentieth and early-21st century, who’s regarded as: “He was on the losing side of everything, an old fogey, the old view.” And I don’t care."
Speaking of the Gospels.....
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

Justice Scalia, the gospels do speak of the devil but they also speak of how we are to live our lives as Christians and how we are to treat all of God's children. When you read this gospel in the book of Mark, were you confused that The King it was referring to was Elvis? Nope, The King is Jesus, The Prince of Peace.  But that's how our King works, pushing us to try and understand each imperfect human as such, meet each and every one where they are, and love them anyway.  

 They say the road to hell is paved with "good intentions", but I think that road is paved with old views that become judicial and legislative platforms when used to withhold action, or when put into action, harm "the least of these" in our society.  What "good intentions" would those be...Well you know like some historic "originalist" old views would protect things like slavery ownership, overt or covert discrimination, population segregation, and disenfranchisement of minorities through the lack of suffrage, just to name a few. 

Justice Sutherland that he refers to in the interview is another Justice that is viewed on the "losing side of everything", including Roosevelt's New Deal legislation. Sutherland holds the record of having the most decisions overturned of any Justice in the history of the United States. Let's hope we can break that record overturning Justice Scalia's decisions.  Change is painful but nothing truly trans-formative happens without pain.

Make no mistake, The Affordable Care Act is not exactly the New Deal but it is Scalia's equivalent of such.  And repealing it, as Scalia would have done, would have caused considerable pain, especially for the "least of these".  Ironically, as our society continues to evolve into a world were the acceptance of diversity and doing for the "least of these" is legislatively mandated, the old view looks a lot like the devil's work, and not What Jesus Would do at all, or I guess that's just how I see it.  

But again, there is that Presbyterian USA coming out in me again; truth be told, unlike Scalia, I don't really believe in the devil or hell, per se.  I believe that humans are imperfect children of God that are tempted by our weaknesses and faults. How we respond to those temptations, like I don't know... consuming free vacations at ranches with billionaires who conveniently avoided an appeal against them before the Supreme Court, defines our moral character.  

How we treat "the least of these", those who can never repay us, but from which we never expect anything other than paying it forward, is my benchmark.  But perhaps when you spend the vast majority of your life among the most of these, you fail to recognize the least of these, and the necessity of protecting those who cannot protect themselves as they are too busy trying to feed their kids and keep their lights on.  

Justice Scalia, it seems this luxury resort trip, which if you hadn't died we would know nothing about, will be the cherry on top of your legacy. A legacy of failing to recuse yourself when a conflict of interest arose, or accepting gifts, hunting trips and benefits from people who would come before your court, when your impartiality might be in question. Fortunately for you, as you have said, you don't care.  But there are many of us in this life, including the leader of your own church, Pope Francis who care immensely about our legacy in this life. 

Speaking of Pope Francis.... now he is a guy I can get behind!  Kudos to the Cardinals for picking this Pope; he is such a phenomenal living example of exactly what Jesus would do!  

Regardless of the fact that our politics and interpretation of the teachings of Christ could not be more diametrically opposed to each other, I believe that he is in a better place.  And I believe he is there not because he was a Supreme Court Justice, not because he was a protector of, what he perceived to be, Christian (Catholic) values, and I am sure he felt like his old views made him a good Catholic. (Justice Scalia, I hate to break it to ya, but when Pope Francis stops washing poor people's feet long enough, he may have an issue with your definition of a good Catholic, but you will have a long wait as this Pope just keeps washing feet & making Christ's love known in this broken world). No, I believe he is there simply because he is a child of God, nothing more, nothing less. 

I don't believe in a faith that preaches that one "earns" their way into heaven or conversely to hell.  I pray to a God that hates the sin but loves the sinner, rewards love not vitriol, and motivates me by faith instead of paralyzing me by fear. It isn't his God that he should be concerned about judging him, but the lens of history and the respect of his grandchildren. 

My fellow Americans, I hope that when he metaphorically "turned into a pumpkin" last Saturday, after Cinderela herself declared him dead via her mobile phone, that the "glass slipper" he left behind was shattered into a million pieces so no one can fill his shoes.

And for the record Justice Scalia, as I am sure you recognize by now, the Prince of Peace looks nothing like Cinderella's Price Charming but a whole lot like a Middle Eastern Jew. So, help you God.