Point/Counterpoint: How should we react to the deaths of politicians?



Pallbearers carry the body of Justice Antonin Scalia into the Supreme Court where he will lie in repose on Feb. 19, 2016, ahead of his burial tomorrow in Washington, D.C. (Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom/Zuma Press/TNS)

By Jason Schwartz

Point: Political discourse should not begin with death

By Hayley Nagelberg

Do you remember where you were when you found out that Cory Monteith died? What about Michael Jackson? Alan Rickman? Do you remember how the people around you responded? I remember vividly. I remember the shock and sadness people felt.

I can still remember the moving tributes written online to these individuals and so many others like them. So when Justice Antonin Scalia died, I expected a similar reaction. But that is not what happened.

Justice Scalia certainly was famous for his controversial viewpoints on contemporary issues. However, I was shocked and disappointed by how many people posted awful comments making fun of his death and using the news as a platform for political debate. Memes captioned, “Claims to be pro-life. Then dies anyway,” and other similarly disrespectful comments were posted all over social media. http://bipartisanreport.com/2016/02/15/need-a-laugh-here-are-five-of-the-most-hilarious-internet-responses-to-antonin-scalias-death/

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    Other individuals instantly pointed to the future wondering who will be appointed in his place. Presidential candidates and conservative leaders in Congress rashly declared they would not support any suggested nomination Obama could make. This jump shows how polarized the current election cycle has made our country. When looking to fill Scalia’s place, no one is mentioning someone moderate. People want the next justice to be of one extreme or another, not a compromise.

    Jason writes in his column that replacing Justice Scalia with a liberal in the Supreme Court will be more aligned with the views of this country today. While Jason would be correct in saying that more Americans register Democratic than Republican, he fails to mention that since 2008, the Pew Research Center has found that the majority of Americans are Independent voters, not Democratic or Republican. The Pew Center has also found that while the Millennial generation votes more liberal, older generations continue to maintain more traditional, conservative views. http://www.people-press.org/interactives/party-id-trend/ http://www.people-press.org/2015/04/30/a-different-look-at-generations-and-partisanship/

    Interestingly, the Pew Center also compiled data about the American public’s knowledge of the Supreme Court. As of last July, only a third of the public knew how many women were on the Supreme Court, or had even heard of Justice Scalia. Many of the people making negative comments about Scalia may not have even known who he was before his death.


    Our country is supposed to operate with compromise and bipartisanship and I’m afraid, judging by the reaction to Scalia’s death, we will no longer be able to function like this. The reaction to his death should show people we need to take a step back and remember this man contributed immensely to this country and should be remembered for that. We should not wait until someone’s death to take interest in their political views, but rather stay informed about current debates and discussions. And, while a politician is not the same as a celebrity, if we can respect the people who entertain us for a living, I believe we should have the same care for those that pass legislation that can impact each of our lives.

    We are all different. We all have different political views and different views on life in general. But we have so much unifying us, and I encourage you to remember that we can still work with, befriend, and respect people with opposing viewpoints. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/02/14/read_justice_ruth_bader_ginsburg_s_touching_statement_on_scalia.html

    Hayley is a freshman in ACES.

    [email protected]

    Counterpoint: Death brings us a chance to move forward

    By Jason Schwartz 

    When Justice Antonin Scalia, who had served on the U.S. Supreme Court since being appointed in 1986 by Ronald Reagan, died last week at the age of 79, there was quite a lot of negative reaction online.

    Justice Scalia was arguably the most conservative voice on the Supreme Court, and his passing left a huge void to be filled by either President Barack Obama or a president to be named later, if the Republicans have it their way. Many Republicans fear that that the balance of power in the Supreme Court will be shifted if Justice Scalia is replaced by a liberal justice.

    My counterpart Hayley argues that we as a society should honor the lives of those that pass rather than seek change as a result of their passing. She also mentions those that made fun of Justice Scalia’s death. These reactions are completely uncalled for and unnecessary. You may disagree with his views, but it is never ok to trounce on a man’s grave.

    The deaths of Cory Monteith, Michael Jackson, and Alan Rickman are very different from that of a Supreme Court Justice. The three former names are entertainers, who, while enjoyable, do not have the same impact on America as Justice Scalia. As a result, it is hard to compare apples to oranges, and Justice Scalia’s death brings up several political issues that Monteith, Jackson, and Rickman did not.

    I believe deaths of political figures, such as Justice Scalia, are the perfect opportunity to enact change in our society, or at the very least engage in a political discussion.

    That is not to say that we shouldn’t reflect on Justice Scalia’s life, but rather that it is important to move forward and comprehend the opportunity to adapt to more modern times. Scalia was the longest-tenured justice on the Supreme Court and often times the most stubborn. Scalia was outspoken, self-confident and extremely intelligent.

    But Scalia represented a very traditional view on several important issues such as abortion, same sex marriage and religion. With society shifting more towards liberal views than ever, it is not surprising that four out of the past six Supreme Court appointments have been democrats. Replacing Justice Scalia with a liberal will give the democrats a majority in the supreme court for the first time in generations. This would align more with America’s views today.

    A death is never worth celebrating, a loss is a loss is a loss; however, we should not let that loss undermine our ability to move forward as a nation. There is an opportunity in front of President Obama to create a more conversational Supreme Court that is willing to listen to opposing views.

    Justice Scalia was a bright man who lived for the law. His views were controversial and his methods were at times questionable, but no one can accuse the man of not caring about America.

    His efforts will be forever remembered, but the time to grieve and move forward are not mutually exclusive.

    America, you have the right to discuss political change, even if it involves the tragic death of a former Supreme Court justice.

    Jason is a senior in LAS.

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