Yesterday and today I’ve been working on a story about Occupy Wall Street, which began nine years ago Thursday. It’s a tangled story, and I was too exhausted yesterday to think through whether Part I stood on its own. I’ll come back to Occupy.
Tonight, just as I was settling in for a Little Salon / D.C. Design Week event on Zoom, a news alert about Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared popped up on my phone. And then another. And another. This was not one of her many health scares that have popped up as news alerts over the past few years. Her age is present in the alert, I see the opening phrases of an obituary that was put in the can long ago:
dies at 87 was a legal pioneer for gender equality the demure firebrand feminist icon second woman to serve on the supreme court cultural icon she was 87
We all hoped she could hang on another 124 days until the inauguration. I can’t bear to turn on the news and see how the political machines is spinning into motion. Can’t bear to see Trump tweet about it, to see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempt to justify ramming a replacement through before the election, contrary to the blockade he put placed against Obama’s nominee in 2016 because that was an election year. Antonin Scalia died six months earlier in the year. Why would McConnell suddenly do something honorable and reasonable now?
A few blocks from my apartment on 14th Street, a shop and event space called The Outrage sprung up after the 2017 women’s march. Its windows have featured an unending variation of Ginsburg merchandise alongside other feminist slogans: Ginsburg t-shirts, water bottles, hoodies. Every gift shop and bookstore I’ve been in over the past few years has featured some of the same. Ginsburg action figures, greeting cards, scarves and hats.
Is it crass to focus on merchandise sales before her legal opinions? Her trailblazing career? Merch is how we express affection — for musicians, brands, attitudes. Friends who never wear text or logos on their bodies will proudly wear “Notorious RBG” t-shirts. The army that has been buying that avalanche of merch is formidable. They will vote in November. They will be energized to win this one for RBG.
But already — an hour or so after starting this post — news alerts are coming through that confirm my assumptions about McConnell. If Trump gets another nominee on the Supreme Court, his influence will cast an even longer shadow on history than it sure to already. Would Biden expand the court to eleven? For that matter, why haven’t Trump and McConnell packed the court already given how court obsessed, and unconcerned they’ve been with the traditions that have historically keep their power in check. Not to give them any ideas.
There are too many issues at stake in the Supreme Court. Issues concerning Trump’s personal, corporate, and Presidential abuses of power. Issues that might decide the election. Issues that might enshrine Trump’s corruption as a permanent regime.
I imagine there are already stacks of flowers on the Supreme Court steps. I imagine I’ll wake up to photos of growing memorials to her around the country, to moving remembrances and stories of her life. But the only fitting memorial will be to fight for justice in November.