I did not expect it to happen, watching the flag-draped casket carrying the husk of Justice Antonin Scalia up the long marble steps of the Supreme Court this morning, but I wept.
I did not know Justice Scalia except slightly, and I do not cry easily or often.
Something inside me was stirred by the simple things. How ponderous the casket was, carried by those eight strong men slowly up the steps — the simple, heavy physicality of death we too often cover up and elide.
Then there was the sudden access to the ceremonious, to the symbolic — how rare that is in contemporary life: “How but in custom and in ceremony / Are innocence and beauty born?” Yeats asked.
Hearing the news anchors fall silent for once, out of respect to the moment, was part of it: We in the chattering class chatter and fight and bicker incessantly. How seldom we rise above it in postmodern American life. I am so hungry, like so many others, for what I can still remember as the norm in American life: the time when we recognized, together, that there are things bigger than politics, bigger than the things that divide us, and at moments like this.
Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.