Somehow, in the course of drinking my first cup of coffee of the day, I ran across a discussion in the Jewish newspaper The Forward discussing the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was going to ‘lie in state’ for two days – i.e., her body would be available for public viewing in the Capitol.
Apparently, lying in state doesn’t accord with Jewish tradition, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasn’t an Orthodox Jew but…
And so on. However, it’s all really between Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s family and the rest of the Jewish community, isn’t it? Nothing to do with me.
I was more interested in the novelty that Ginsburg was going to lie in state at all. After all, let’s face it: until the prospect of her impending death and the implications of that came up, how prominent was she? In, say, 2010, how many of us were aware of her specific existence at all? Compared to your average Supreme Court Justice, how often was she mentioned in articles in The Washington Post that year? I mean, perhaps some of us were aware that she was a Supreme Court Justice, but beyond that?
Wasn’t she just one of the nine? Did she particularly stand out?
I don’t think so. So how often are deceased Supreme Court Justices treated in this fashion? After all, there are nine of them, and they’re usually quite old. They must die fairly regularly.
They’re not treated this way very often, it turns out. The last time this happened was in 1930, when William Howard Taft died. Taft had been a President as well as a Supreme Court Justice, so he was prominent, a household name.
…unlike Ruth Bader Ginsburg — whose fame dates back approximately to the onset of her health problems.
So why is she ‘lying in state’?