We join the nation in mourning the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her life of service to our country and its laws has rightly inspired millions who see this mighty woman as a representative of the best of America.
But even as we begin mourning her passing and the celebration of her life, it seems important to stop and note who Ruth Bader Ginsburg truly was to America and to the underlying concept of America as a nation ruled not by the whims of monarchs and tyrants but by the laws made for and by the people for the common good.
Ginsburg was not a “revolutionary” or “warrior” or any of the other adjectives of war the internet insists on assigning to her. That easy but mistaken language belies the deeper truth of what her life represents and why she has become a person of such great stature in our society.
Ginsburg was a person who relentlessly applied reason within the law to try to build a better society. She won plenty of times in votes on the court. But she lost plenty too.
Her spirit, in winning and losing, was unchanged. She was kind and thoughtful and generous of heart. Her odd-couple friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia is one of the enduring sweetnesses in a city of ever more bitter politics.
Her mind was her great power — not a weapon, but an instrument turned toward her understanding of how the law could be applied to the greater good. Her arguments were so precise, so considered, that they could not help but force the opposing argument into a stronger place. Her words were powerful because they considered the whole of the law and the record before her.
When she won, she won with grace. And when she lost, she never demanded to bring down the system that she lost in. She instead wrote eloquent dissents to create a record of her reason that those who read her now and in the many years to come can weigh against the whole record and use to shape the law and the union that depends upon it.
She understood the great importance of the rule of law and that change within the law is the way to build a greater society. She believed in American jurisprudence as she believed in America. She had faith in the possibility of justice and equality, even as she herself was denied that same said equality as a young woman. The nation answered that faith by placing her on its highest court. Justice, the title she earned, is what she sought. And she sought it through reason and thought and rule of law. This is the only path for true democracies.
What greater disservice could a nation pay to the memory of such a woman than to tear itself to pieces over her replacement. The partisan, factional monstrosity we have created in this country is ever eager for another fight.
Those who would honor Ginsburg, and the greater rule of law, would see a longer game and recognize that her name and her service deserve the honor of a reasoned and considerate process that follows law and precedent.
That is what she would do. That is the gift she gave to us.