Ruth Bader Ginsburg: in the wake of her death, we must act

Her legacy will not soon be forgotten, but I refuse to say that she is irreplaceable.


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo from the New Yorker.

Madison Poshkus, Staff Writer

What do you do when you can hear your own heartbeat moments after your hero’s has stopped beating? What if, in that same moment, you hear the wheels of democracy grinding to an instant halt? I’m still struggling to know. While to some, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was merely a judge, she was my North Star. She was my very first political and legal role model, and made ripples around the world, opening doors of opportunity for women everywhere. Her legacy will not soon be forgotten, but I refuse to say that she is irreplaceable. 

A university like Simmons is full of the best and brightest of the incredible generation of folks that Justice Ginsburg inspired to make change. Not only is the next RBG on their way, but I think they’ll be even more notorious. Justice Ginsburg did her best within the systems and governmental institutions that she was given, and more often than not, her jurisprudence made them better, more equitable spaces for women and nonbinary folks. She lived a superlative life. It’s hard to imagine another life with such profound and glass-ceiling shattering impact. However, I believe that the next progressive legal prodigy will demand a better, more democratic system of jurisprudence––perhaps one that doesn’t hinge so entirely on the mortality of one individual. 

Weeks later, this still feels like a bad dream. I braced for her death so many times over the years, but nothing could have truly prepared me for the tidal waves of emotions I felt at her passing. We all know what her death means. She knew it too. Part of me thinks she deserved to be free of pain, to die without the crushing weight of democratic preservation following her to the grave. Another part of me thinks it’s important to remember that she was well-aware of the political crisis her death would create. She was a signatory to it. By “dying on the bench” as they say, instead of retiring under President Obama, she helped create this context. 

Justice Ginsburg wasn’t perfect, and I would be remiss to pretend that she was. Outside of the court, she condemned Black Lives Matter protesters such as Colin Kaepernick, and in the court, she had a less-than-stellar judicial record on indigenous rights. These are inexcusable breaches of the progressive ideology she became renowned for. Still, I think it is possible to condemn her indiscretions while appreciating her life and legacy, which are worth so much more than whatever Senator Mitch McConnell wants to reduce them to.

While I think someday her seat will be filled by someone even more progressive, it should be done fairly and in accordance with the process the Constitution provides. You cannot rush, or sneak, or steal to replace a razor-sharp legal mind, like Justice Ginsburg. But Senator McConnell has never been a proponent of the moral high road. So like I asked earlier, what do those who are grieving do? 

Well, we organize. We work hard to make this a landslide election for Democrats, not just in the White House. 

This may look like calling your representatives, making donations, working at the polls, or donating your money or time to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and/or your favorite Senate campaign. I’d most like to emphasize that you should make sure your friends and family know where they can access safe reproductive, sexual, and abortive care. This is more important now than ever before. The only way we can help liberals and progressives to eventually win back the courts is to vote President Trump out, and flip the Senate this November. While we may not be able to block a judicial nomination ourselves, these are actions of value that we can do now. Most importantly of all, vote if you’re able. If you’re unable to, encourage those in your life who can to do so. 

It feels like we are living in an especially heinous timeline. Take care of yourself and your people. We cannot pour from empty cups. When it feels challenging to continue, think about Justice Ginsburg, if that empowers you. She gave us the tools and equal legal footing to win this fight, and it’s our job to take it from here. 

May her memory be for a blessing. L’shana Tovah and G’mar chatima tova, to members of the Simmons community who have recently celebrated Jewish high holy days. May Justice Ginsburg’s memory be a revolution. And when I think of our Simmons community, I know that the rallying cries for an insurgency of love, equity, and opportunity have already begun.