Opinion: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death shouldn’t feel this dire

Ann Vettikkal | Managing Editor

 Donning a bejeweled, strikingly armor-like collar, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, she did it with grace, style, and conviction. 

Wearing embellished jadots that differed depending on whether she ruled with the majority or dissented was one of many practices that bolstered Ginsburg’s stardom status. Her existence became a strange crossover of ensuring the tedious but essential gears of the judicial system worked while also managing an obsessed fanbase that was The American Public. These two things rarely occur in tandem with each other but when I watched the documentary that depicted her life and service, I understood why.

In fact, in true celebrity nature, that documentary years ago made me fantasize of becoming a Supreme Court Justice myself. Of course, it was mainly the enthusiasm of the moment. I watched RBG change the course of a nation over two condensed hours, backed by a soundtrack which included “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G. (the rapper responsible for her namesake) and I felt inspired. 

But there’s more to it, if you look beyond the perhaps excessive lionization that spiraled from sincere beginnings. 

The film detailed the monumental challenges RBG faced, including raising a child during her rigorous studies, caring for a husband ridden with early age cancer, and just fending off general unabashed, cruelly routine sexism.

And yet, she made hard work look cool. She made the good fight look promising. RBG had a way with words, not because she charmed or manipulated people, but because she conveyed precisely what she wanted. She spoke in exact terms and thought with incredible, steadfast faculty. And because of her life term as a Justice, she did so basically until she died. 

With this news, I feel immediate pain. She was a giant in the fight for gender equality and without her on the Supreme Court, I am prepared for the worst. Bureaucratic chaos has already unfolded: Republicans make ridiculously speedy and brazen moves to nominate a new Justice just 38 days from the election while Democrats call them out on their hypocrisy for blocking Obama’s nominee 342 days before his own term finished. And this eruption of “what are the rules” and “can they technically do that?” signal a larger alarm about the state of this nation’s democracy. 

Frankly, it reveals a broken system. It’s discouraging to know that the weight of America’s future was on her shoulders, as an 87 year old woman, battling pancreatic cancer for more than a decade. If the death of one person can jeopardize the lives of millions, then something far more sinister is going on. Her last wish was political, her absence is being weaponized, and people are scared. But if there’s anything to learn from her, from the fruits of her entire life, it’s that putting up a fight is consistently difficult and often a losing battle. But ultimately, it is worth it. 

To the Notorious RBG, while your death has sounded off immediate panic and political viscousness, your legacy will transcend lifetimes and inspire generations. Thank you.