Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Funeral of a Great Man: Antonin #Scalia and the possibility of greatness

When Ronald Reagan's funeral was held in 2004, I said that it was the last hero's funeral we would see in our lifetimes—and perhaps for a lot longer than that.

I was wrong.

I was right in thinking that our time is not conducive to heroes. Our modern society is not conducive to heroism at all. Heroism requires a sense of greatness that we seemingly lack. We hesitate to say that someone is "great" because we question the very idea of greatness.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in the fourth of his five arguments for the existence of God, argued that, when we that one thing is "better" than another, in other words (or "worse" for that matter), we assume the existence of the Best. Saying something has a degree of some perfection is to assume the existence of the perfect ideal of that perfection--as well as its complete absence. Unless we believe this, then the various degrees of these ideas we attribute to things makes no sense--words like "kinder," "happier," "nobler," are mere nonsense words.

But we do use these words. We can't seem to help using superlatives and comparatives that assume such a perfection despite our modern nominalist mindset that denies the existence of the perfection that makes the ideas behind such words possible at all.

We can't seem to shake greatness.

And every once in a while, someone comes along who we can't help but attribute to. Justice Scalia was one of these. 

If you watched today's funeral, you saw once again that heroism is still possible, and that when it appears in some high degree, even those who purport to reject the perfection of which the person is an approximation have to acknowledge it.
All such greatness requires is courage in the face of falsity and evil. Again and again, Scalia wrote in defense of truth and goodness. He did it intelligently, unapologetically—and joyously. Scalia was everything that a conservative should be.
Scalia's achievement as a great conservative stands in stark contrast to those who wilted in the face of political pressure on issues like marriage, afraid that someone might call them names. The abject abandonment of principle that has characterized the conservative movement in recent years on social issues underscores just how significant Scalia's achievement was.

Today's mass for Justice Antonin Scalia was a stirring and beautiful acknowledgment of this achievement.

There are still heroes. Greatness is still possible. All it takes is for one man--a man who knows the Perfection of which he is an approximation—to embody it.

Watch this video of Scalia's son Paul. A great eulogy for a great man.

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