Last week I was reminiscing about my legacy with one of my writing heroes, David Foster Wallace. Last night we lost another great.
These days, when you lose a brilliant legal mind who came from a now-past era, it scares you. How many of those do we have left? you think. Where are the other ones? How can I stem the tide of loss with my own work? Are new hardworking legal geniuses being born right now?
Unlike DFW, RBG wasn’t one of my young heroes. I remember her nomination but she didn’t come to my attention until she became the Notorious RBG. My hero was Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice. When I was 8, I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice just like her. And an astronaut. I didn’t know anything about life, higher education, or careers. Or making choices.
I gave up on my Supreme Court dreams twenty years later when I started the law school application process. Law school teaches you how to think a certain way, they say, and the closer I got to admittance, the more concerned I got with standardizing my own thought processes. Standardizing your thought processes might help you practice law, but I didn’t think it would be great for writing. And, unlike being a Supreme Court Justice, or an astronaut, writing was something I was already doing. I didn’t want to get my thoughts standardized. It didn’t sound good.
When RBG went to become a law clerk, she got denied due to her gender, and she went on to spend most of her law career remedying that kind of inequity for others. Unlike for RBG, by the time I decided to become a published author, there were almost no barriers. You could even publish yourself, so I did. This year. Having a barrier to entry can be very galvanizing, and not having one can make you very lazy. I’m not making excuses for that novel taking me 24 years to write. I’m just write-thinking here, about greatness.
As for doing my part, as a writer and not a lawyer, I do have a new fiction series in production designed to teach young and new adults about critical thinking, civic education, and public administration. (And coffee varietals. It’s gonna be good!) I hope her ghost will haunt me as I write it.
I hope it helps young people think about governance and social justice.
But it’s no RBG. She’s notorious. May she haunt us all.