Articles

On the Passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

From the Leviathan editors. Illustrated by Mieka Stang.

On September 18th of 2020 the United States, and humanity at large, lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG was born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15th in the year 1933. The pseudonym assigned by her admirers became a household name, the Notorious RBG, in the appropriate age of social media. Her influence and iconic life was renowned by younger generations who venerated her as an idol of contemporary culture and civil rights movements of all forms. 

RBG held the position of Supreme Court Justice from August 10th of 1993 to the date of her death. She was many things and many firsts. Not only was she the first woman to hold a position on the student run Columbia and Harvard Law Review journals, she was the first person ever to hold a position on both.  She was the first tenured woman-identifying professor at Columbia Law School. She was the first Jewish woman to hold a seat on the Supreme Court. She was a champion of women’s rights, of disability rights, those of undocumented immigrants, of the LGBTQ community and of free and fair elections. 

RBG envisioned a progressive leadership that would dismantle the barriers to equal action hat she, and countless other women, encountered. In 1972 she founded the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project. In her time on the Supreme court she voted affirmatively for laws that would protect the Constitutional equality of the LGBTQ community, and for the legalization of gay marraige. Ginsburg saw momentous social change during her appointment in the Supreme Court.

Following her loss, it is important to understand that RBG, conscious of her last days, did not want a new Supreme Court Justice to be appointed until after the upcoming Presidential election. In spite of this, then-sitting President Trump disregarded this wish and the precedent of not enacting Supreme Court appointments so close to an election term. Not only this, Trump’s appointment of Amy Conan Barret was an offence to the legacy that RBG worked her whole life towards. The anger felt here at Leviathan was palpable. There was the fury surrounding the debacle of McConnell and Merrick Garland, the terrible hypocrisy of ramming through a nominee proposed by an impeached president on his way out of office, but most infuriating were the positions of the replacement selected. Ms. Barrett has given every indication that she aims to overturn the legacy of Ginsburg, and we owe it to her to fight as hard for her legacy as she fought for the rights of United States citizens and immigrants.

With her death, we mourn the loss of a maverick, of a champion, of arguably the most effective and prolific proponents of civil rights movements en masse in the United States. With her death, we mourn the potential loss of her legacy. It is time to stand up and fight for what Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought so hard and so long to give us. 

I will never forget the day my hero died. 

I can still remember where I was, and what I was feeling at that exact moment. 

I was sitting behind the piano, practicing some songs when I heard an alert for a text message on my computer. I looked up and read the text and it felt like my heart dropped on a roller coaster. 

“RBG is dead,” 

After the initial shock wore off I went to the news app to double check it was true. After reading the headline “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dead at 87” I burst into tears. I sat there behind my piano for hours just scrolling through twitter and other sites seeing the outpour of messages to RBG. I just couldn’t handle that the person who inspired me to get into social justice was dead, and that I would never get the chance to meet her, and thank her. 

After hearing of her passing many thoughts went through my head. First, the question of who will replace her, and second, that I will never get to thank her for everything she’s done for me and other women. Growing up as a Jewish girl, I didn’t have a lot of Jewish icons to look up to. So when I learned about RBG and all her groundbreaking work, I immediately became a fan of hers. Her groundbreaking cases helped advance women’s rights, and inspired me to pursue a politics major. I had always been a feminist throughout my life, but it wasn’t until I heard about RBG’s monumetal cases that I realized the power feminism could have. She was able to help this angry Jewish girl take her anger and turn it into ambition. For years I always had the plan to write her an email thanking her for everything she has done, but I would always put it off thinking “well I have time.” Little did I know that I would soon regret putting it off. Like many others, I never acknowledged that one day she would be gone, and because of this mistake I will never be able to tell her how much she meant to me. 

It was also hard grappling with the fact that some of my future goals had been dashed. I had always wanted to try and intern in her office. It may seem naive to assume I would get a job with her, especially because she was older, but I still held out hope that she would still be around. Once I realized my dreams of thanking her and working for her weren’t going to happen, I had to rework them. Now my goals are to continue to fight the good fight, and keep working to uphold everything she fought for. 

During those moments after I found out she was gone, I went through so many stages of grief;, for our country, for her family, and for myself, I was paralyzed in that moment and it felt like I was in a dream. As I finally felt myself coming back to reality I realized what day it was, and that she had passed on a very special holiday. In the Jewish religion, someone who dies on Rosh Hashanah is seen as a righteous person. I think that was a very fitting time for her to go. From her work with the ACLU with the Women’s Rights Project, to her time fighting for equal rights for all on the Supreme Court. She truly was a righteous person. “

  • Alex Sakin, Leviathan member and contributor. 

Nothing we can write here will do this woman justice. We could go on. So we’ll just say this: Thank you. Thank you for everything you have done for civil rights in this country. Thank you for fighting when none of your peers would do the same. We owe a great debt to your life’s work, and hope to repay it in small part by fighting for what you believe in.

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