Just last week I saw a tweet saying Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wouldn’t live through the next presidential term and I scoffed. Call it naivety or hope or desperation, but I kind of thought she was invincible.
I didn’t expect her to live forever, but it didn’t seem possible that she would die any time soon. For the past few years, so many conversations about women’s rights and abortion access included something along the lines of, “We need to protect RBG at all costs.” The collective fear of losing her – and our rights – seemed like enough to keep her alive and on the bench.
Upon learning of her death on Friday, my boyfriend and I sat in silence for about half an hour. I’m already terrified of President Trump getting re-elected and now with an open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, all I can think about is how our country is going to become an even worse place to live for women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ people.
Whatever happens next, whoever is appointed to the court has the potential to either take away the rights that were so hardwon or move our country forward and make things better for all people. Whatever happens next will affect our children and grandchildren. It’s scary knowing that our futures depend so much on this one decision.
It’s hard to imagine things getting worse when we already have police getting away with murder and ICE performing forced hysterectomies on women. I know it can get worse, though. My mind blurs with horror at the idea of what the evil people making decisions for us could do.
I know RBG alone couldn’t have prevented horrific things from happening. She was just one person and so many bad things have been happening despite her having been on the Supreme Court. It’s sad that so many of us attached so much hope to one person, believing she was the only thing that could save us. As I’ve heard many people say, that’s not the sign of a healthy country.
I imagined RBG wouldn’t die until everything was OK. I imagined a future in which Trump is defeated, a woman is president, police are defunded, abortion is safe and easy to access in all states, and racial discrimination is nonexistent. Then, and only then, would she die. She would go peacefully, knowing we would all be OK.
I recently saw an interview clip of RBG where she was asked if she had any regrets about her life or career. She answered by telling the story of her rise to the top. Despite degrees from Ivy League universities and top grades, no one would hire her because she was a woman. Determined to have a career in law, she forged her own path, which as we all know led to her becoming the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court.
In the interview, she said if she hadn’t been denied jobs based on her gender, she probably would have eventually made partner at a law firm and then retired comfortably. The RBG we all came to admire wouldn’t be known and the cases she took part in may have gone differently if someone else had been on the bench.
RBG showed us that if things don’t go as planned or if people stand in our way, we need to find another way. We need to stand strong and stay determined. We need to keep our heads down and do the work, and when necessary, make our voices heard and refuse to be quiet.
We already know the way our country operates doesn’t work. There is so much wrong with our government, criminal justice system, education system, health-care system, and pretty much everything else. Like RBG, we can’t work within these systems; we need to subvert them and make our own.
We owe so much to RBG and her unwavering commitment to fighting for equality and protecting our rights. The thing we owe her most, though, is to keep fighting. We can’t give up or lose hope because we lost her. Because honestly, I don’t think we could ever actually lose her. Her grit lives in all of us who have looked up to her. We need to use it to elect new leaders, nationally and here in Maine, and continue the work RBG dedicated her life to.
I dissent to doing anything less.
Kate Gardner is a Portland-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, SELF, and Bustle. You can follow her on Twitter @katevgardner.