The Worst Person in America: Antonin Scalia


ANTONIN SCALIA is like the villain in a John Waters movie. After the most recent SCOTUS decisions on Obamacare and marriage equality, I imagine him being dragged off, screaming, red in the face, maybe in an iron lung, gnawing on his judicial robes howling “No anal! No anal!” as Waters cries into a megaphone, “More! More!”

Melodramatic, illogical, condescending, self-serving, ignorant, hysterical, and a big, fat balding, foot-stomping sore-loser in judicial robes, Antonin Scalia is my Worst American. Searching for justification for my unremitting animus, I went on overload. When it comes to Scalia, where does one begin? There’s just… so much…

I could start with the juvenile paranoia of his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges in which he compares a victory for love to the downfall of America.

I could cite his picayune dissent in King v. Burwell in which he would rather nitpick about wording than clarify the intent of the law.

We could discuss his self-important dismissal of the Ninth Amendment, which he justifies because he didn’t understand its meaning at one point in his career.

We could also look at Scalia’s autocratic belief that the government should be able to ticket you for masturbating.

Hyperbole? Nope. Antonin Scalia’s small-minded, big-government view of your self-abuse is a real thing. In his dissent of the landmark 2003 Lawrence V. Texas ruling which struck down anti-sodomy laws in Texas, Scalia expressed his displeasure by referencing Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) which had previously upheld anti-sodomy legislation. Illogical rant: go.

State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision…

Masturbation and adultery? Aren’t those private, consenting-adult-type shames? Nope! Scalia thinks they’re immoral and the state has a right to legislate them. I’m not making this up. You just read it. Oh, but there’s more:

Even if the Texas [anti-sodomy] law does deny equal protection to “homosexuals as a class,” that denial still does not need to be justified by anything more than a rational basis, which our cases show is satisfied by the enforcement of traditional notions of sexual morality. [Emphasis mine.]

“Morality,” in Scalia’s America, is enough of a state interest to deny a class of people equal protection under the law.

You have to give Scalia this: he’s entertaining. His opinions are so outlandish that they’d be amusing if he didn’t have so much influence. His working-class, no-nonsense attitude is frequently funny, cutting and sharp – making him a sort of portly, Italian Noel Coward. He has just enough natural timing to make him quotable. He’s smarter than Sarah Palin and less duplicitous than Clarence Thomas but, like them, he’s still a clown. The difference is that Palin is a numbskull, accidentally thrown into the limelight by John McCain (she is his ignominious legacy) while Scalia has a brain he refuses to use. When he dismisses the Ninth Amendment, I wonder how he got a seat on the bench.

Interviewed in New York Magazine in 2013, Scalia said of the Ninth Amendment: “You know, in the early years, the Bill of Rights referred to the first eight Amendments. They didn’t even count the Ninth. The Court didn’t use it for 200 years… in the early years of my practice … I couldn’t tell you what the Ninth Amendment was.” So, you know, because Uncle Nino didn’t know what it meant at some point, I guess the Ninth is irrelevant.

There is some controversy around interpretation of the Ninth Amendment, but it is largely accepted to mean that there are rights beyond those listed in the first eight Amendments. It is used as the basis for the decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case which declared that the government cannot restrict a person’s right to contraception because of an implied right to privacy. But Scalia says there is no right to privacy, and the decision in Griswold was “wrong.” Because, that’s why.

Scalia “supports” his Lawrence v. Texas dissent with the following “evidence:”

  • the lack of mainstream support for gays
  • the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy
  • the fact that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has never passed into law
  • the existence of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (now defunct.)

I’m not sure we should be looking to the Boy Scouts of America for interpretation of Constitutional law. I’m also curious about “Because no one likes you” as an argument for discrimination.

I didn’t have to go far to find evidence of his inconsistency. Roberts, in the majority opinion on King, cites that Scalia and the dissenting judges (only three in total, a variation from the now-familiar 5-4 battles which have branded The Court) contradict the dissent in the previous 2012 “Obamacare” ruling. At that time Scalia and the dissenters said, “Without the federal subsidies… the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and might not operate at all.” In this latest battle against the Affordable Care Act, Scalia says the drafters of the law intended that subsidies would only be available on State exchanges but NOT through Federal ones. To Scalia, it doesn’t matter what the intent of the lawmakers was: four words are more important than the policy itself. Because: exact words. Huffington Post says, “Now that [Scalia] is only going after the subsidies, it’s clear as day to him that Congress didn’t intend what he said they intended last time.”

Most recently, Scalia’s arm-crossing, hold-my-breath-till-I-go-blue-in-the-face, harrumphing opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges is a display of alarmist brattiness that makes him sound like the offspring of Chicken Little and Veruca Salt. Scalia thinks same-sex marriage is going to destroy the planet. And if we are going to have same-sex marriage, and gay buttsex, and masturbation, he’s going to take his everlasting gobstopper and go somewhere else. Because the next logical step is dogs and cats living together and gays will push their real agenda: interspecies marriage.

I’m so sick of conservative hyperbole. We’re victims! America is dying because anal! Stop stomping on our freedom to discriminate! The sky is falling! Liberals are trying to destroy America with their inclusion! And their self-abuse!

Scalia is a cranky old sourpuss. I guess I can’t blame him – watching straight, white America evolve is hard for cranky old sourpusses. He’s that old guy down the street who chased you away from his property. He’s that teacher in high school who shut down the drama club over some Tennessee Williams monologues. He’s the grouch who cried “You whippersnappers” in every cartoon short from the 30’s. He’s the guy who makes you want to say, “F*ck that guy.” He’s also in a position of power and until he retires or his head explodes from the pressure of his fermenting disquietude, we’re stuck with him.

Scalia said of the Nixon years, “It was very depressing. Every day, The Washington Post would come out with something new… You thought, ‘It couldn’t be,’ but it obviously was. As a young man, you’re dazzled by the power of the White House and all that. But power tends to corrupt…”

Power tends to corrupt.

The worst judges are those who ignore the evidence before them. The worst Americans are those who don’t learn from history.

About Tom Gualtieri

Tom Gualtieri (@TomGGualtieri)is a theatre artist with his hand in many disciplines: lyricist, playwright, performer, director, knitter. He maintains an ongoing collaboration with composer David Sisco. His solo play, That Play: A Solo Macbeth, was nominated for a 2013 Drama Desk Award.
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