Now, we must all find a way to be notorious

Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 1:23pm

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At 87 years old, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lost her battle to cancer. As I type the word “battle,” it could not feel more appropriate, as Ginsburg truly was a warrior who fought far beyond the physical obstacles of cancer. We must now all find this warrior within us, for R.B.G. and everything she represented. I personally plan to wear an invisible collar, bun and glasses as my sword, shield and compass for the rest of my life. 

For millions of people across the world, Ginsburg’s death provoked many tears, anxieties and a collective call to action. The moment my phone vibrated and I read the headline: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dead at 87,” I was overwhelmed with emotion. First and foremost, I felt a deep sadness. As for many women, R.B.G. has been a lifelong role model for me. As a Jewish woman myself, Ginsburg has shown me how to shatter the glass ceiling I’ve been reminded of far too many times. Separate from any political ideology, Ginsburg should be remembered as a trailblazing force of nature. 

Whether you are politically aligned with R.B.G. or not holds no relevance; she was and is a true embodiment of what the Supreme Court should be, representative of the trust and passion we all yearn to see from our government officials. Ginsburg fought for and represented equality. Candid about the challenges she faced, Ginsburg provides encouragement to women everywhere: “I struck out on three grounds — I was Jewish, a woman and a mother.” Nonetheless, her accomplishments extend beyond the word limits of my column. To detail 87 years of her dedication, determination and dissent on one page would be impossible in trying to fully encapsulate the unbelievable contribution she has made to our country. 

Having said that, a few highlights should still be recognized. Ginsburg was a Jewish woman from Brooklyn, N.Y. Beyond graduating first in her mostly-male Columbia Law School class, she was the second female law professor at Rutgers University, a co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project, the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, the first Supreme Court justice to officiate a same-sex marriage and a champion of equality for all: women, Black Americans, the Jewish community, the LGBTQ+ community, working mothers and, genuinely, so many more. 

Though I would argue that we would have never been ready for Ginsburg to leave us, it goes without saying that her passing comes at a scary time in history. As the pandemic continues on and the election looms closer, I couldn’t help but wonder just a few moments after the tears had stopped: What does this mean for the United States? Depending on your perspective, the world is either upside down or just starting to turn right side up. Regardless, it is essential that the memory, legacy and work of Ginsburg is not undone by her replacement on the Supreme Court.   

Before her death, Justice Ginsburg relayed her final demand to her granddaughter, Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” On Sept. 22, just four days after R.B.G’s passing, President Donald Trump said he will announce his nomination for the Supreme Court Justice on Saturday, Sept. 26. It goes without saying that this announcement has incited a lot of backlash; like seemingly everything in this day and age, there has been a divisive split between those who believe the president should  nominate a lame-duck replacement in what could be the final months of his presidency and those who do not.  

When a woman who did so much for our country and asked for nothing in return has a final wish, you obey that wish. Think past the politics of a judicial majority — dig down to the most human, empathetic part of yourself. The justice that replaces Ginsburg must be one equipped to carry her torch. R.B.G. is indisputably one-of-a-kind and nobody will ever be as “notorious.” However, this replacement should be similar to Ginsburg in more ways than just her gender

Feeling hopeless and helpless is natural in the wake of this monumental loss. I encourage every woman to do the following, no matter who you’re voting for this November. Think of Ginsburg as you sign your own mortgage or open your own bank account. Feel her with you every day you work as a woman, and even more so if you are pregnant or a mother. Support local women running for elections. Volunteer in mentorship programs for young girls, or get involved in your community through whatever avenue you are passionate about. 

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be gone, but it is now our responsibility to continue the ferocious, unrelenting spirit of the Notorious R.B.G. 

Jess D’Agostino can be reached at jessdag@umich.edu.


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