A decent person who transformed the world has died. She was a lawyer, a scholar and a judge who sought equality for all, someone who aimed to transform the society she lived in and was driven by steely, inspiring determination. As a judge, she looked flimsy simply because she was short and slight. A light frame with a vigorous mind, radically determined to uphold justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to have ever been appointed to the US Supreme Court, has passed away. The transformational power of her struggle for equal rights between men and women has transformed not only the USA, but has also inspired people beyond the boundaries of her rulings. She was a source of inspiration for judges, politicians and many men and women across the world.
When the bombastic noise of the many transformations we have lived through finally fades away and the passing of time separates it from the foam of the days, it will become apparent which changes were historical. Among them there will be one that will definitely remain as the greatest —or perhaps one of the greatest— revolutions in history. It won’t be complete, it won’t have spread across the world, but the emancipation of women will have changed the world and the lives of our generations and the generations to come. The change will have many heroes, many leaders, many struggles and many men and women who will have managed to see the justice of the cause and its revolutionary potential.
One of those key figures will be Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG), who has passed away aged 87 after becoming an American pop icon for the younger generations of women who live without having to think of themselves as women, but as people with merits and skills beyond their gender. In fact, Justice Bader Ginsburg, who experienced discrimination herself as a student and during her career, decided to study discrimination in order to fight it in court and she tore down legislation that claimed to protect women when, in fact, it turned “their pedestals into cages”, to quote her own words. As she wrote in the judgement that opened the doors of the Virginia Military Institute to women, for a long time women weren’t part of America’s founding phrase “We, the people”.
We must pay tribute to the women who knew to roll up their sleeves, be firmly present in every decision-making, power-wielding circle, who have earned the right to be heard and the respect of the majority who wants the world to progress. That includes the men who have chosen to help out rather than hide behind prejudice and the easy rights granted by comfort and fear of change and, instead, have embraced the uncertainty of an evolving male role. Nowadays this fear of change that means losing privileges is a sore point that is being exploited especially by the far right, call it Trump or Vox. In meritocratic societies where force is no longer a dominant factor, those who hold the more conservative views about social roles find themselves disoriented in the best of cases.
RBG’s passing will have an impact on the US election campaign, which this time is not merely an ideological confrontation between conservatives and progressives, but a fight for the survival of the country. It is not only about human survival, in light of the poor management of the coronavirus crisis, but also about the survival of the values that made America a prosperous society permanently struggling for peaceful coexistence in diversity. Donald Trump’s power is extraordinary and consolidating the Supreme Court’s conservative majority (6 to 3) for many years to come is within his reach today. Trump being Trump, his might is destructive and we cannot rule out a truly reactionary appointment, as was the case with Brett Kavanaugh. While prudence would advise waiting for the election result before picking RBG’s replacement, with Trump you can almost assume that a proposal will be submitted to the Senate —with a GOP majority— before Trump steps down or —worst-case scenario— ahead of his reelection.
The RBG phenomenon and her appreciation among the young is a reminder that radical fight against injustice can be gentle and firm, small, skinny, constant and quiet. A reminder that societies progress when people do a good job and perform to a high standard, with an unrelenting, peaceful struggle. A reminder that dissidence is revolutionary and revolution prevails when it inspires society.