I Don't Know How to Feel About Antonin Scalia's Death, and That's Okay

The deaths of public figures have always been a time for fans to gather together in solidarity. It happened when David Bowie and Alan Rickman died in January. When a public figure dies, whether they're an actor, a musician or a politician, there is something inevitably very public about their death.

When news broke that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, it was no exception.

Unlike Bowie and Rickman, an overwhelming majority of reactions to Scalia's death were positive and were steeped in happiness that the justice, who historically opposed progressive causes through Constitutional originalism, would no longer be in a position of power. 

On the other hand, some called for mourning, and reminded the Internet that despite the fact that Scalia fought against basic human rights, he still has a family and friends out there who are sad about his death. In fact, Scalia was good friends with fellow Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg despite their ideological differences, and she wrote a touching tribute to him after his passing. If that's not proof how complicated it can be to care about someone with whom you strongly disagree on a fundamental level, I don't know what is. 

Many people have suffered as a result of Scalia's approaches and policies, so it makes sense that there would be an outcry of joy from the very groups that he fought against. Scalia was in a position of extreme power to make controversial decisions that affected countless lives, and I can't say I'm unhappy that he's no longer in that position. 

What does that mean? Am I happy that a man is dead? Am I allowed to be? These are the questions haunting many people who were against Scalia's stances, especially those directly affected human lives. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a woman, I feel entitled to be pleased that Scalia is no longer in a position to make executive decisions that affect me. Did I wish for his death? No. Do I wish there were another way to take him out of his position of power? Absolutely.

My feelings about Scalia's death are complicated, and if you're in the same boat that I am, yours probably are, too. And there's nothing wrong with that. If you're not sure how to treat his death because part of you wanted to cheer when you found out, another part felt sad thinking about what if he was your own father, and yet another part of you immediately began considering what this meant for the next Supreme Court appointment, then you aren't alone.

Most of us have to deal with a complicated death at some point—whether it's a family member, a person who wronged you or a public figure who stood for everything you're against. And what we're taught about death and honoring the dead further complicates these emotions: Don't speak ill of the dead. Respect the dead. Mourn the dead. We're not often taught that it's okay to be angry with someone who has died, and that their words and actions in life are not erased by the fact that they're no longer around.

I choose to respectfully end my personal feelings about Scalia's death with, "Rest in peace." He was a complicated man, and because of that, this is a complicated death. I'm allowed to be happy he's no longer a Supreme Court Justice without being happy that he died. I'm allowed to be happy that he won't make decisions that affect my life or the lives of those around me without being happy that he died. I'm allowed to be angry about some of the awful things he said while he was alive, without being happy that he died.

This is a complicated situation, and for that reason, I choose to look to the future. I'll spend my energy on thinking about who the next Supreme Court appointment will be, and the many powerful decisions this person will have a hand in making.