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Just Another Point of View: The most important lesson we could learn from Antonin Scalia

As I report this week from my Unabomber-style shack on the back side of a Portland hill, I’m listening to the folks on “The View” argue about whether there is some sort of conspiracy/cover-up surrounding the recent death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

In response to comments from her fellow panelists that there was some sort of evidence that the justice’s body was found with a pillow over his face (apparently it wasn’t really) — and that there may not have been an official medical release (to the general public) on the cause of death — Whoopi Goldberg effectively brought the whole line of jabber to a halt.

“He just died!” she shouted, adding with righteous passion that there is no reason to believe Scalia’s family would have any reason to cover up anything and that they should drop it — for a while, at least. If nothing else, she seemed to be saying, let the body get cold before repeating somebody’s idiotic conspiracy theories.

So, this is not about that. I’ve never been big on conspiracies anyway, mostly because I happen to believe that people are not all that clever in the first place.

This also is not going to be about some of the other things I’ve had on my mind lately. I was considering weighing in on the occupation of the wildlife refuge in Malheur County, but I never went to Burns myself to check it out (too many guns on the premises AND I knew my wife wouldn’t let me go anyway), so all I know is what I’ve heard and read in the liberal media.

I was also tempted to talk this week about the utter silliness of contrived holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day. But, as unimportant as they seemed when they were here (mostly reasons to sell flowers and mattresses), they are even less significant now that they’re gone.

There is, however, a huge lesson for us all in the life and legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia. And that’s what I’d like to dwell on for a moment.

Of course, it has nothing to do with the political views of the man nominated for the high court many years ago by Ronald Reagan. Personally, I vehemently disagreed with pretty much every opinion and every argument put forward by the extremely articulate and witty Supreme Court justice — just like I never understood why anyone still considers Reagan to have been a great president. But there was a key aspect to Scalia’s personality that I truly, dearly and sincerely loved.

Even if he disagreed with your point of view, he did not need to hate you personally, or (if the stories I’ve read are accurate at all) even dislike you. And perhaps the best evidence of that is the fact that he and liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were very good friends who liked to hang out together, even in their personal lives away from the business of the court.

As someone who spent many years covering news, making policy decisions, writing editorials and then writing whatever you call these things I’m doing now, I really, really, really came to appreciate it when people (news sources, readers, officials, whoever) showed they could separate the words on paper and opinions expressed from personal feelings.

It’s true that we’ve strained, in these modern times, the civility, sportsmanship and sense of fair play that used to be a valued American trait. In the digital age of website comments, snarky emails, tweets and posts that can rip someone to shreds without leaving so much as a name, we sometimes pretend that we show each other respect, but we usually don’t.

Honestly, it could make me downright giddy to get a phone call or email from someone disagreeing with something I wrote (or something we published in the paper) and then finishing the conversation on a pleasant note.

Scalia, I’m told, loved to argue, but he also appreciated a good argument in return. And somehow, when the arguing was done, he could enjoy his opponent’s company.

I’ve had that feeling myself. Whether it was discussing a political endorsement with Lake Oswego Republican Randy Miller that didn’t go his way, shooting the breeze with Vic Atiyeh during a visit to Woodburn or arguing with childhood friend Chuck Lott about religion, it always thrilled me when we could engage in heated disagreement and not end with anything resembling hate.

Hate the message (maybe) — but not the person.

We could stand to have a lot more of that.

Mikel Kelly has been retired from the newspaper business for almost half a year now, and he insists he doesn’t hate anybody.