I’ve been thinking about Supreme Court justices

It’s an odd and rather endearing quality of humans that as soon as someone passes, if they were good at something, anything really, then we suddenly view them through rose-colored glasses and believe, even for a moment, that they were transcendent. They become other-worldly, almost god-like in our eyes. I kind of love this about us (though it’s sad much of our instinctive grace for someone kicks in after they are no longer here to receive it), but I think we need to be cautious about that impulse when we are in the judicial sphere.

RBG is a legend. She did so, so much for women and minorities during her time on the Supreme Court. There is no denying that, and I am deeply saddened she is no longer on the Court (and with us today). And yet I find the hero-worship of her to be unsettling. She said some pretty uncomfortable things back when Colin Kaepernick was kneeling in the NFL. As good and tough and principled as she was, she wasn’t perfect. She was not a saint. And we should not treat her now as a saint. (This is also making me realize a reason I think we shouldn’t even treat the saints as saints: they 100% were not and our rose-colored glasses only make them look rosier as the centuries pass.)

What troubles me perhaps the most is the people saying we need to honor RBG’s legacy and desire for her seat on the Supreme Court — to not be filled until after the election — as if her legacy and wishes are determining factors for how we fill her seat. Now, I agree robustly and whole-heartedly with her wish that the seat be filled by whomever is elected Nov. 3. Mitch McConnell apparently made that a thing in 2016 (though CONVENIENTLY that’s not his policy now — so so strange who could ever have seen that coming *rolls eyes and punches a pillow*). But it’s not up to RBG. That seat is not “hers.” It was never “hers.” It was a seat she was chosen to fill, and one she filled fantastically. But we should not consider her legacy when considering new nominees. The Constitution, democracy, the rights of all citizens, and JUSTICE, need to be the measuring sticks of a new Justice. Not the Justice who came before.

I am desperate for a new Justice that is like RBG, but you know what? I actually want someone better. Not because RBG was awful, but because we should always be looking for how we can improve upon the ways we determine and mete out justice in this country. That is a never-ending job, a never-ending effort of self-correction, and to do that would be an honor to the people of this country who are dependent on the rulings of the Supreme Court for the preservation of their lives, their well-being, and their part in our democracy.

SO, onto one of the Justices being tossed around as a potential. Amy Coney Barrett, a staunch Catholic. People are screaming up and down on the right that we shouldn’t base our evaluations of a SC Justice on her religion. On one hand, what a pathetically hypocritical stance for the right to take. As if they wouldn’t scream up and down about a Muslim being considered for the court. I disagree with the idea that religion isn’t relevant, but not because I have strong feelings about the fittingness of a Catholic to the Supreme Court.

A person’s religion reflects their values. Their politics reflect their values. And someone’s values are the lens through which they evaluate matters of law, politics, and what rights are good for and to be protected. Someone’s religion, as a reflection of their values, is of deep importance to their fittingness for any position of power. It tells us a lot about where they might be coming from, where they are likely coming from, and what values will most likely be guiding and shaping their decisions and mandates. I believe we have a duty to understand how Barrett’s religion shapes her views. We have a duty to do that for all candidates of any religion. All religions have a power structure they inherently aim to protect, and that power structure is what is of concern. All religions have the potential to be used to uplift or to oppress. This is not to say we should reject someone for a position of power because of their religion, but rather we have a duty to use their religion as a way to inquire into their values and the things they believe are good for this country.


  1. I wasn’t aware of RBG’s 2016 comments; thanks for resurfacing them. I wonder, in the intervening years, if she had occasion to re-evaluate her views on the matter. It would be in character, I think—but I can’t find any reporting one way or the other. It may be that she simply “declined to respond” to such opportunities. Either way, your point remains: she wasn’t perfect.

    But she was very good.

    Liked by 1 person

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