It is an established fact of American political discourse that we “don’t speak ill of the dead.” Memorable exceptions notwithstanding, Western journalists have traditionally dredged up lukewarm niceties about every monstrous political figure who once graced our wretched sphere of influence, from Nixon to Thatcher all the way down to Breitbart—but only after they’re in the ground. It may not surprise you to learn that I don’t agree with this performative hand-wringing. I don’t think any public figure whose entire career is based on hurting others deserves some sort of journalistic mercy (which they’d never have been granted while alive) just because said public figure had a family, or had a job, or was alive once. Fuck them, and fuck the craven slugs who prop them up after their timely demises. Which brings me to my main point: Fuck Antonin Scalia.
Properly expressing my total distaste for a contemptible fascist like Scalia would take far more bandwidth than I’m willing to pay for. A quick rundown, though: he spent his entire professional career attempting to take rights away from me and the people I care about (that is to say, people of color, LGBT people, and anyone who might end up on the wrong side of a courtroom’s dock). Conservatives and liberals alike have regardless lauded him as “witty,” “sharp,” “well-educated,” and so forth. To which I say: so the hell what? Woody Allen is considered one of the most accomplished wits of the past century. He’s still a pedophile. Winston Churchill is remembered as “quick-witted” yet his actions directly caused the starvation deaths of millions of Bengalis. Bobby Jindal is a goddamn Rhodes scholar. It boggles my mind that these words even need to be typed, but: inexcusable acts aren’t mitigated by longevity, education, humor or personal pleasantries.
And make no mistake, Scalia’s acts were inexcusable. He helped put a brutally backwards creature of the war-and-oil industry at the helm of the world’s most powerful military without batting an eye. He spent years battling against the smallest legal concessions towards LGBTQ rights, going so far as to compare gay people to murderers, rapists, and animal abusers. He was vehemently opposed to reproductive rights, repeatedly supporting the overturn of Roe v. Wade. He was unabashedly racist, advocating that black students should attend “slower-track schools,” that the Voting Rights Act was a “racial entitlement,” and that in death penalty cases (which disproportionately affect black and developmentally disabled inmates) “mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached.” (In other words, even if a defendant is incontrovertibly proven not guilty by DNA evidence or other means, they still ought to be executed because the original trial “properly reached” a verdict of guilty.) The man wore his bigotry on his blood-spattered sleeve, and never showed an inkling of regret, railing against gay Americans as equivalent to murderers as recently as two months before he passed into the great execution chamber in the sky.
All this leaves “good liberals” with a bad taste in their mouths. They’ve staked their political claims in nonsensical, “play-nice” platitudes, quoting Gandhi and King out of context as they place hands over the mouths of radicals and progressives. But—for all I abhor the wishy-washy drivel that informs the average American liberal’s rhetoric—they’ve always been bold enough to despise Scalia publicly, to their credit. So they’re left at a crossroads: no respect for right-wingers, but always respect the dead. The man was an enemy to all their purported beliefs, but they don’t wish to muddy the waters of Civil Political Discussion.
Understand, though, that Scalia and his ilk—the conservative bulwark he did his best to muscle into every subsector of legal and political society—had no respect for you. He didn’t respect black people, or Latinos, or East Asians, or South Asians, or Middle Easterners, or indigenous people. He didn’t respect gay people, or lesbians, or bisexuals, or trans people of any orientation. He didn’t respect the mentally ill, or the cognitively disabled, or the poor, or immigrants, or women as a whole. He would have happily spit in your face if his precious Constitution had allowed him legal recourse to hide behind. And we ought to do the same to his memory.
Perhaps the most entertaining fallout of this week’s discovery of Scalia’s bloated corpse has been the right-wing conspiracy theorists. Twitter, ever the refuge of the irrational and governmentally-persecuted, has absolutely exploded with posts which are “just asking questions” about Scalia’s mysterious death. Because, of course, there’s no way a man with doctor-affirmed health issues who was a month shy of 80 years old could just drop dead without the help of one of Obama’s ISIS-trained snipers, or whatever. This terror seeps into mainstream politics as well: see McConnell, Cruz, et al. proudly proclaiming their opposition to President Obama’s nominee—whoever it might end up being. As if it matters.
To these accusations, to this oh-so-typically conservative fear and paranoia, I say this: if only. If only there was a force out there striking down the powerful who use their positions to harm the most marginalized and oppressed among us. If only someone in a ski mask or a black bandana or an ushanka was getting rid of prominent fascists in American government. Thus always to tyrants, you pieces of shit.
But that’s not happening, and it’s not likely to happen any time soon—so don’t fault yourself for smiling when you hear that people like Scalia, people who wield the hammer of hatred against those least deserving of its strikes, are no longer here. His only decency was in dying after thirty years on the bench instead of forty.
No one will miss the bastard, except maybe Clarence Thomas.
Art by Rilo Harris.