Where is Statesmanship today? Classic examples from the past include- Thomas Jefferson’s admiration and respect for John Adams; Ronald Reagan’s congeniality with Tip O’Niell. The recent loss of the Honorable Supreme Court Justice Scalia adds to this historical list. His friendship with Honorable Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg might be the final blow to the lost virtue of statesmanship in America. What was the mystical ingredient for these esteemed historical relationships? – Friendship and Civility.
Aristotle described Friendship as the highest virtue – even above justice. Psychologists include the following traits in describing a good friendship– congeniality, caring and respect. It is respect, moral good and how we view others that develops our own virtue and character. How did Honorable Justice Scalia see himself through the friendship eyes of Justice Ginsburg? "What only her colleagues know is that her suggestions improve the opinions the rest of us write, and that she is a source of collegiality and good judgment in all our work." And how did Justice Ginsburg reflect her view of Justice Scalia? “It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.” Both of these Justices deserve the title Honorable.
Today’s Statesmanship is a sad state of affairs when I read editorial after editorial by guest columnists who use vitriolic demagoguery to describe their opponents political views. The use of “Shock Jock” journalism to persuade or defend ones views is the new form of “intelligent” and acceptable political discussion. Add to this style, the ability to distort or change facts under the guise of opinions – A Reader Beware clause – and you get a world of mass misinformation. The media under the pressure of free internet publishing and mass technology distribution, cave to the temptation of publication. After all, these guest columnists do provide a view of the world and entertainment. So the media hides under the veil of consumer ratings thereby justifying the editorial value of publishing any opinion.
What suffers? Society sees this reflection clearly – and the embarrassment of this reflection diminishes with each generation. Respect for differences of opinion has been lost inside the media and technology veil of face to face intimacy - Tweet anything, Facebook bully pulpit, editorial comments of hate. Even television has become a debate of rude interruptions, shouting matches and finger pointing. The root of Civility is the word civis – or citizen. As Civility declines so do American citizens.
Where is Statesmanship today? Where is it acceptable to denigrate, ridicule, and exaggerate (to the point of dishonesty) others point of views? Statesmanship suffers as friendship declines. I am glad that our Supreme Court Justices have (and had) the highest virtue – Friendship. Maybe the next selection of Justice Scalia’s replacement should be based on the highest virtues of Friendship and Civility.