Many people have very strong feelings about Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Saturday, but I was most struck by what his fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in the wake of his passing: "We were best buddies."
I made sure to have my daughter read her tribute to her friend and colleague because I very much want her to understand that it is possible to enjoy a wonderful friendship with someone even if you disagree. Scalia and Ginsburg differed sharply on many topics, and seemed to be opposites in many ways at the outset.
"Call us the odd couple," Scalia said last year. "She likes opera, and she's a very nice person. What's not to like?" he said dryly. "Except her views on the law."
Scalia and Ginsburg spent a lot of time together. With their families, they traveled, attended the opera, and celebrated New Year's Eve.
I want my teen to recognize that being friends with someone does not mean that they have to share all of your beliefs. To the contrary, Ginsburg stressed that Scalia's disagreements with her made her arguments stronger. I think they offer a wonderful lesson on the fact that how you disagree is important. It wasn't personal, and while they sometimes used colorful language (especially from Scalia) to explain their differences, it was done respectfully and civilly.
Ginsburg illustrated that it's possible to appreciate someone's passion and enthusiasm. "I disagreed with most of what he said, but I loved the way he said it," Ginsburg said of the first time she heard Scalia speak.
Scalia and Ginsburg seemed to accept that they weren't going to change each other and that was not only acceptable, they even laughed at their dramatic differences. It seems that you can feel strongly about your political beliefs and still enjoy a strong friendship with one who feels otherwise.
Their friendship was certainly unique, but it still serves as a lovely example for our kids.
It feels like the divisions in our country are deep, and I don't expect that the coming debate over how to fill Scalia's seat at the Supreme Court or the election later this year will lessen that, but I hope that my teen can learn that ideological differences do not automatically sound the death knell of a friendship.
She will be making new friends in high school, college, and beyond, and it's a safe bet that they will disagree with her. And I hope they do. That will mean that she is meeting people who can help broaden her view of the world, encourage her to think, and give her new considerations to ponder.
If there has to be a litmus test for friendship, I think Scalia offered a good one: "Is she a very nice person?"
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Filed under: Parenting