Deprecating, mocking humour which despairs at the current state of affairs is widespread and rife, as anyone with access to social media will confirm. 2020 jokes are varied in form, but universal in their message: that this has not been the best of years. The global pandemic, our unpredictable and self-absorbed political leaders, the racial pandemic and police brutality, as well as the impending doom of our economies collapsing into the abyss is enough to make anyone climb back into bed. I’m sure that as you toasted to the new year back in January, not even the most notorious cynic could have foreseen quite the 2020 that has played out. While not all bad, I’m sure if you push yourself you can think of a few positives (we’ve got to keep that part of the brain going), this really has been a gleaming turd of a year.
Just as I began to adjust to the ‘new normal’ (one of my most detested new turns of phrase, a close second to ‘stay alert’), I woke up to devastating news this morning. That my hero, my real life hero, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (known to her fans as the Notorious RBG) died yesterday, aged 87. To say I’m heartbroken would be a pretty accurate statement. For anyone who is unfamiliar with RBG let me run through her list of superpowers.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg finished top of her class, working for both the Harvard and Colombia law reviews, but could not get a job after graduating. She turned to teaching and became the first woman to hold a full professorship at Colombia. Dedicating her life to overturning gender discrimination, RBG’s work on Reed v Reed overturned centuries of precedent, favouring men over women in US law. She reinforced equal voting rights, gave women rights in the workplace, allowed equal opportunity to join the military and was part of the majority in legalising same sex marriage in all 50 states.
the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is another nail in the coffin for 2020
Her relationship with her husband, Marty Ginsburg, was an equal supportive partnership and they often worked together on cases. RBG also began her career as a mother to two children, demonstrating ‘the working mother’ to women everywhere. Whenever she was asked about female representation on the supreme court, she quipped that there would be enough women ‘when there are nine.’ On top of this, RBG fought cancer five times, as well as other health complications, but has seldom been absent from the Supreme Court – a vivid lesson for our current government’s attendance. Serving as Supreme Court Justice for 27 years, RBG really did see it all and even managed to turn being a Justice into celebrity status.
So heartbreak and personal despair aside, the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is another nail in the coffin for 2020. Ruth’s dying wish was that Trump did not nominate her replacement. Firstly, this would increase the conservative factions slim upper hand to a damning right-wing majority. With the current state of things in the US, the progress of the rights of women, LGBTQ+, minorities and many others would be under threat. We’ve already seen huge rewinds in access to birth control and abortion under Trump, as well as access to healthcare and other fundamental rights. Never mind the result in November’s election, Trump could guarantee his backwards and unjust legacy simply through a nomination.
Trump isn’t the kind of president to honour a dying wish
However, as always with RBG, this request is not just her own preference. It’s backed up by precedent in the law, as Obama points out: ‘Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in.’ As votes are already being cast in the election, RBG asks we honour this, I’m sure hopeful that the tyranny of Trump will be extinguished by a Biden victory. Yet Trump isn’t the kind of president, or man for that matter, to honour a dying wish, or even the law. Don’t hold your breath, it’s 2020 after all.