Sentinel Lost

Sentinel Lost

Exactly two months ago, when America lost John Lewis, I wrote that any attempt to encapsulate the late civil rights icon’s contribution to democracy would fall woefully short.

His passing was met with an outpouring of grief and there were no shortage of valiant efforts to pay tribute, many of them profoundly moving.

But even when wielded by the most eloquent speakers, language fails when tasked with honoring some legacies. Some men and women leave such an indelible mark that efforts to “summarize” what they meant to the world are rendered wholly inadequate by the sheer size of the void they leave upon passing.

It’s with that in mind that America now faces the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

It is impossible to overstate the gravity of this loss to a country that was already mourning 200,000 dead to an epidemic.

No adjectives suffice to describe Justice Ginsburg. No superlative is up to this task.

You’ll see “icon” in the headlines quite a bit over the next few days. She was most assuredly that. You’ll also see “hero”. That’s closer, but still leaves much to be desired.

America is at a crossroads. In the midst of the worst public health crisis in a century, the country is fighting for its identity. Millions have taken to the streets to demand equality — to make “good trouble”, as John Lewis put it — for the sake of helping the nation realize the ideals espoused by founders who didn’t always exemplify the virtues they championed.

At the same time, America faces nothing less than the gravest threat to the rule of law in the nation’s history. The foundational principle that no one is above the law, is under siege.

With Justice Ginsburg’s passing, the country must now fight that battle without its most trusted sentinel.


22 thoughts on “Sentinel Lost

  1. Tremendous post. Thank you for this.

    Indeed, we are at that moment in our nation’s history.

    Too soon, this will turn to an incendiary and insensitive topic for our nation. Let us now see how many days it takes before we read on Twitter who is being nominated to replace, and how few days thereafter, the Senate votes to confirm. Howls of “Wait til after the election like you did for 44!” will fail to reach the executive function, in the prefrontal cortex, the area regulating self control, of the majority party in the Senate. Obvious to observers since the early 1980s that hypocrisy is one noun that accurately describes the ethical and moral character of said representatives.

    1. It took only hours for the Senate majority leader to pledge to “keep our promise” that the nominee will receive a vote (per published report in NYT). They couldn’t wait til Monday, couldn’t hold back long enough for esteemed jurist’s body to get cold.

  2. This may have a profound impact on the 2020 presidential election. Assuming the most likely outcome is realized, and chaos reigns on election night resulting in a protracted legal battle over what ballots should be counted, this will now ultimately be decided by a Supreme Court with 8 Justices – with 3 liberals, 4 conservatives, and John Roberts.

  3. A vert touching post, H.

    Enter Roy Bean (from Wikipedia):

    Bean was known for his unusual rulings. In one case, an Irishman named Paddy O’Rourke shot a Chinese laborer. During the trial, a mob of 200 angry Irishmen surrounded the courtroom and saloon, threatening to lynch Bean if O’Rourke was not freed. After looking through his law book, Bean ruled that “homicide was the killing of a human being; however, he could find no law against killing a Chinaman” and subsequently dismissed the case.

  4. Yes, this is very important.
    If new justice will be approved before the election, Scotus may lose its legitimity for 1/2 of the population. No legitimity – no rule of law and no obligation to follow that law

      1. I know my sisters are deeply saddened. I am at a loss.
        McConnell may hold off till after election because an appointment now could lose some evangelical votes and Senate seats. All show. He will throw Trump under bus to keep Senate majority.
        He does not want to give a Nation time to mourn because that is unifying.

  5. RIP RBG. Certainly this is not a good situation. However, McConnell and Republicans are at risk of overplaying their hand. A confirmation vote before the election puts Susan Collins and other at-risk GOP senators in a bad position, and could contribute to Republicans losing control of the senate. Democrats have already threatened to pack the court in the event that they take control of the white house and both houses of congress, and they would be perfectly justified in doing so. The Republicans have no argument against it, because they will have clearly violated all pretense of respecting tradition and not playing absolute power politics.

    In reference to another comment above, very clearly there will not be a final result on election night, and nobody will concede on election night. We should just stop wringing our hands over this, accept it as the normal course of a close election under difficult conditions, and stop giving the rhetorical advantage to those who claim that a delayed outcome implies fraud. We should also not wring our hands over whether Trump will leave office if he loses the election. He will have to leave. There is no choice. We all have to act with the expectation that he will leave, and make sure Trump has the understanding that his entire family risks losing all that they have if he attempts a coup. With Trump’s terrrible leadership and planning skills, he has no chance of pulling it off.

  6. such a painful loss, … 1 of the 3 branches of a government in a so called democracy now controlled by a person and party who fell 3,000,000 votes short in the last presidential election … lifetime appointments need to go as they have outlived their relevance, a single 15-18 year fixed term should be sufficient for a Supreme Court Justice, the Electoral College has also lost any relevance in today’s technologically advance world … sadly no progress is expected as it would involve power relinquishing and sharing. … such a painful loss … RIP RBG

    1. Not only did “it” fall 3,000,000 votes short of a majority but it “won” based on just over 60% of eligible voters voting. A third of population and five people in the court will soon have given us back a wanna-be king in just a bit over 200 years. All those who died to make us free are spinning in their graves.

  7. She was a pioneer, an extraordinary jurist who devoted her life to advancing the causes of equality and justice for YOU, me, everyone under equal justice under the law. She was a champion of fair justice and equal rights, and will be remembered as one of the greatest justices in American history.

    I am concerned now about what I see. A person dies, no matter their stature or contribution to the advancement of the human condition. That woman made our world so much better for everyone. She died with so much pressure on her shoulders, but it appears not even 24 hours have passed and she is not even being mourned as a human being, but viewed as nothing more than a defense wall that crumbled.

    If one person’s death can essentially ruin the future for women, minorities and all other disenfranchised communities in this country then we should stop being so proud of this country. If the nation believes 9 people in black robes determine everyone’s fate then apparently we have been living in a constitutional Monarchy all along.

    Another concern: What might happen should the national perception of these 9 people in black robes are no longer viewed as having any credibility whatsoever, but only lowly pawns used as political weapons?

  8. A. Remember that this is the same Trump who thought cleaning fluid would be a miracle cure. A guy who had to have someone else write his SAT for college. This guy isn’t smart enough to be making all the changes taking place to bring American democracy to it’s knees. Some one else is pulling the strings. If Trump is attempting a coup, he is getting help from someone. And isn’t this somewhat close to treason??

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