The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Death isn’t a pardon for deceased justice

“If not now, when?”

That is a question women, members of the LGBT community, people of color and their allies have been asking yet again.

It is now a question concerning the resurgence of liberal criticism directed at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away on Feb. 13.

Put into power by Ronald Reagan in 1986, Scalia had a reputation for voicing divisive worldviews. These ranged from his outspoken support of the death penalty to his restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. He was a towering monolithic figure in the world of conservative politics.

He was not, however, a saint. His regressive and often absurd policies should not be excused simply because he’s no longer present to defend them. Despite arguments to the contrary, death is not a get out of jail free card.

Now some may argue that it displays a lack of decorum to insult the recently deceased. I actually agree with that. Digging up old rumors, making cheap potshots – those are childish and disrespectful things. Still, it’s something most have done with the passing of certain major figures. Despite how funny some shock humor like that can be, there’s no denying that it’s not exactly a nice thing to do.

However, honest criticism of a legacy that hurt so many is not disrespect, plain and simple. Disrespecting the dead looks something like installing a cross in a cemetery for Jewish war veterans or insisting that “actual innocence” isn’t a good enough excuse to not execute a person. Those are two instances of actually disrespecting the dead, and both are things that Antonin Scalia said and supported.

The list goes on, of course, but far too long for the limited space I have here.

Scalia and other people like him are not exempt from criticism simply because they have shuffled off this mortal coil. Margaret Thatcher’s classist and nationalist policies still loom large over the United Kingdom. Ronald Reagan’s caustic idea of American exceptionalism continues to haunt the United States’ foreign policies.

Likewise, Antonin Scalia’s caustic ideologies still permeate our society.

And if we want to strive towards a more egalitarian world, it requires open and honest criticism of old guards who want to keep everything the same. This is true regardless of whether they’re still in power or six feet under.

If we take a few weeks off from listening to the oppressed just because an oppressor has died, we’re going to remain a rote and inactive collection of pushovers. True change requires a steadfast commitment to justice.

When the mother of a wrongfully-executed prisoner rails against Scalia, it is our moral obligation to listen to her, to validate her hurt, to try and change the system through our votes, to rail against a House that would rather remain inert than allow a presidentially-appointed replacement into power.

Because if we don’t do it now, when will we?

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Elias Blondeau, Staff Writer

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