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.