The Strength of Your Convictions

This week, two news stories dominated the headlines. Seven LEOs were murdered in the line of duty and United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed. For many, the news coverage of the deaths of the LEOs was not widespread enough. We did not see large candlelight vigils or protests over the loss of their lives. In response to the death of Justice Scalia, we saw vitriolic words and hateful expressions.

Saturday February 20, 2016, Justice Scalia and City of Riverdale Police Major Greg Barney were laid to rest. Both men were surrounded by his family, friends, politicians, colleagues, and others showing respect for the jobs they performed and the position they held. Both men would have been successful in other more lucrative lines of work but chose public service.

Justice Scalia was true to his beliefs, as was Major Barney. Both were committed to the principles that made them the men they were. For both, holding those beliefs was not always easy.

The criticism of Justice Scalia perplexes me in a way as an outsider who never met the man but read a lot of his opinions, the commentary about his opinions, and one of his books. He believed different things from many others and he applied those beliefs for more than thirty years on the federal bench. The attacks are focused on his legal opinions which are in essence an application of the law to a set of facts. Judges often make decisions that do not comport with their personal beliefs, but that is their sworn task. People may criticize Justice Scalia’s rulings, but they cannot deny that he stood up for his beliefs, a trait that is often praised in our society. Justice Ginsburg shared a close friendship with Justice Scalia even though their religious beliefs, political convictions, and interpretations of the law were far apart. Perhaps she admired her friend’s strength in his convictions even though she vehemently disagreed with perhaps every one of them.

As I reflected on this, I thought of Black Lives Matter. Recently praised by the President of the United States as successfully bringing to the forefront of the media the death of black men and women in the United States, I reflected on the death of Major Barney. At the visitation, I saw a black man in a casket who leaves behind a grieving black wife and two black children. Those in attendance included many black friends and black colleagues. Where was the outrage from Black Lives Matter about his death? His death was senseless, untimely, and he was in every way an innocent victim of violence. Yet, those who proclaim their advocacy for the loss of innocent lives remain quiet.

A set of core beliefs should guide your efforts when life is simple and when you are forced to make tough decisions. Sometimes those decisions are politically charged and adherence to your beliefs may expose you to ridicule or attack. However, there is a measure of solace found in the refusal to abandon one’s beliefs. It is the foundation of a fortress in which one may reside during the hard times. The failure to have the strength of your convictions demonstrates that your stated core beliefs are nothing more than illusory-a house of cards that will crumble at the slightest challenge.

Justice Scalia and Major Barney deserved respect for their service. Both made difficult decisions under pressure; Justice Scalia under the pressure of politics and Major Barney under the pressure of time and danger. Perhaps those who vehemently disagreed with their politics, their positions, and their decisions would benefit from an examination of their own core beliefs. If intolerance is the foremost arrow in your quiver, you should reconsider the wars you are fighting. Stay safe.

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