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We lost a great woman yesterday. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was all the things she ever accomplished for civil rights and justice, but she was more than that, too— she was more than all the good she did, as plentiful as it was. Her power was synergistic, momentous. She saw insurmountable odds and was unphased; she moved mountains an inch at a time.

During my first law class at American University, I found love in her dissenting opinions. It was the beauty of her writing and ideas that allowed me to find a love of the subject she wrote about; it was her courage and determination that ensured that when I do practice law, I will be able to do so from a place of equality. I am, we are, indebted to Justice Ginsburg for the extraordinary feats she accomplished, but also because she did it all with the hope that the world can be better.

[bf_image id="q8qlsn-9tu7m8-1fwo2q"] And maybe it can be—but not with Donald Trump in charge, and not with a Senate led by Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump watch this country burn, literally – and they’d rather allow it to burn to the ground while throwing the blame onto others, than take any kind of steps towards building back what was lost or addressing the spark that ignited the flames in the first place. Whether that be in the case of the systemic racial injustice that they refuse to acknowledge the existence of, or in the case of climate change which, coincidentally, they also refuse to acknowledge; it is abundantly clear that the root of this party’s agenda today is about deflecting blame and avoiding responsibility.

Democrats are still playing this game as if they are on an even playing field—they’re not. All Donald Trump has to say to discredit a piece of fact in the eyes of his base is “fake news,” and that’s the end of it. There is no fact checking, because the facts simply don’t exist—they can be written off with just two words. No amount of fact checking will matter, and no amount of hypocrisy matters either. When Justice Antonin Scalia passed in February of 2016, McConnell, Cruz, and the rest of the Republican party leadership was up in arms about the fact that it was “too close to an election” to hold hearings for an Obama appointee to the Court. Not even hours after her death on Friday, September 18th, both McConnell and Cruz made statements about how they want to replace Justice Ginsburg—it was 46 days until election day on November 3rd. Before the ink is dry on her death certificate, they are working to ignore her last wish; in her final moments, she said, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”


Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not an angry woman. She was everything generous and graceful. I wish I could display even half of the grace she held in one of her fingers—but I can’t seem to find it in me. I am resentful of the structures that put us in this situation to begin with (in what democracy do people fear for their rights after the death of one leader?). I am angry at the hypocrisy on full and shameful display in the political arena right now. I am fearful for the state of this country, especially for the marginalized and minority populations, as their rights will be the first up for grabs in an imbalanced Court. The overturning of Roe v. Wade (1972) has been a talking point of conservatives for a long time now, and I am terrified that it is a more viable reality than I would’ve ever believed possible.

In his Republic, Plato calls what I’m feeling “spiritedness,” or righteousness. He classifies this at a lower point in the soul than rationality, which he says we should value above all else—but if the rest of the world has moved past rationality, how can I be expected to stand by it alone? My immediate thoughts: Stop telling me to be rational, when the world is literally on fire around me.

[bf_image id="q57fss-2u484w-1rbcz8"] “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” – RBG

I have to remember that in a world full of people that will do anything they can to discredit what I say, I cannot give them a reason to think less of my argument. If I want my argument to be considered on its own merits, to the best of my ability I must allow it to stand alone— much easier said than done. At the end of the day, as much as I wish I could allow rationality to reign, I am full of righteous anger that burns from the inside out. In the memory of my heroine and in acknowledgment of her contributions, I should take the lessons she fought to bring to us like seeds and allow them to take root in me— but not today. Today, I want to mourn. I want to feel sad, and angry, and resentful—tomorrow we can get to work in her name, but today is for her.

[bf_image id="q7t4xv-96ydfs-6kigxb"] I want to be able to mourn my personal hero, our hero, in peace. I want to remember my awe while reading her dissenting opinions, my excitement while watching her speak during my first week living in DC— I want to remember my journey of learning that she is the reason I can hope to one day practice law in the first place.

Instead, I am burdened by the knowledge that in her final moments, her thoughts were on the sanctity of our highest court, and of our democracy. Let this great woman rest in peace; I want to be able to mourn her legacy with hope, not fear. It is not too much to ask. Decency is on the ballot.

Emma Semaan

American '22

Emma (she/her) is a student at American University studying Public Policy and Economics. A member of the Politics, Policy and Law Scholars program, she is very interested in a lot of boring subjects; currently her not-boring focus is effective political discourse on college campuses. When she's not in class, she's likely typing away at her latest big project or paper, and on the weekends she is most likely to be spotted at any of the numerous coffee shops in DC. Her interests include too-hot coffee and too-long books and dogs that she doesn't own but wishes she did.
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