Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | October 7, 2009

New word: scaliar

In oral arguments before the Supreme Court today, Justice Antonin Scalia made it clear that he’s so steeped in his own culture, religion, or point-of-view that he cannot appreciate that other folks come from cultures, religions, or points-of-view that differ from his. That’s a downright frightening trait in a Supreme Court justice.

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This became clear during arguments in the case of Salazar v. Buono, which involves a dispute about a cross placed on public land to honor war dead. An attorney in the case was trying to point out that the cross — an overtly Christian symbol — doesn’t belong on public land because it excludes members of other religions, for example, Jews. Scalia’s response, as reported by the New York Times, makes me afraid, very afraid:

“What would you have us erect?” Justice Scalia asked. “Some conglomeration of a cross, a Star of David and, you know, a Muslim half moon and star?”

I’ll put aside the valley girl aspects of a Supreme Court justice who uses “you know” during oral arguments.

Instead, I’ll ask this: Gee, Justice Scalia, why didn’t it occur to you to consider a monument with no religious symbols at all?

After all, this is a secular nation and even if the public land in question sported a monument featuring symbols from the three religions you named, that monument would still omit all agnostics, all atheists, and all members of the hundreds or thousands of other religions represented in the United States. So, I’m forced to wonder: Did you flunk the parts of your constitutional law classes about the separation of church and state, which protects the most religious among us, or did you just decide that you know better than the Founding Fathers?

After I read the New York Times story, I searched for a word to describe this trait — so steeped in one’s own culture, religion, or point of view that one cannot begin to fathom differing cultures, religions, or points-of-view — but couldn’t come up with quite the right word. Parochial, insular, and close-minded all came up during my search, but don’t quite convey the precise meaning I need. So, I’d like to coin a new term: scaliar.

Stephen Colbert got truthiness added to the dictionary. How do I go about getting scaliar entered?


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