Letter from the Editor 09.19.2020: For Ruth
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” —RBG
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday, following complications of pancreatic cancer. My mother called me to tell me. I don’t remember what she said, because she opened with, first, Justice Ginsburg’s name, and then my brain turned to static, and I don’t remember the rest of the phone call. It was short.
I was going to write this letter about something else. I wanted to write this letter about something else. But Justice Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn in 1933, to a family of Russian Jews. My grandmother was born in Brooklyn a few years earlier, to a family of Russian Jews; my mother was born there as well, and I am her daughter, and I may have a daughter one day, and she may have a daughter, too. I am writing this for her, and for every daughter that has ever been.
My mother used to take me to learn about Justice Ginsburg in small, indie movie theaters. Her struggle weighed down my heart and my gut as I watched her or her likeness battle for justice in a world that didn’t want her to succeed. I knew it was okay to cry, in that chilled darkness, because the documentaries and the films ended happily. The credits were always preceded by shots of her thriving, pumping iron while wearing a t–shirt with the words “Super Diva!” on it, giggling about falling asleep during the State of the Union, or showing off her collection of lace collars.
Less than a week before her death, Justice Ginsburg told her granddaughter, Clara Spera, the following: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” But this was not a woman who minced her words: “I ask no favor for my sex,” she once said. “All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
She didn’t say “until after the election”. She wanted a new leader to replace her.
She has also said that there will be enough women on the Supreme Court when there are nine. She dared us not be at ease until every nation will meet together in good faith. She believed there is no greater defeat to be suffered than coming to resemble the forces we oppose that disrespect human dignity. She knew that time is on the side of change.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, petite and reticent, loud in her dissents and consistently dedicated in her fight against discrimination, was a superhero that I and many others are so lucky to have. Her fight wasn’t personal, it was universal. I grew up with the Notorious RBG, powerful and venerable, accessible and human, wise and fair, a revolutionary and a grandmother, who proved I (or anyone) could do anything, especially what others said we couldn’t.
Thank you, Ruth. May your memory be a revolution. We will make you proud.
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