The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Left me shaken, numb, gasping for air.
I thought she was indomitable.
She had beaten cancer four times.
She was an icon, a hero, a legend.
Her brilliance was staggering,
Her compassion endless.
In her tiny fragile frame lay all of our hopes and dreams.
Yet I, with misplaced confidence in all that is good,
Ridiculously believed her fierce desire to live
And to make our country a land of equality and justice for all
Somehow had the power to conquer death itself
For at least for a few more months.I was sadly, terribly wrong.
The Notorious RBG is gone.She took her last breaths
At the very last moments
Of the Jewish Year 5780,
A truly dreadful year.
That year, thank God, is over.
And her legacy remains with us
As we enter 5781.Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught men at the highest levels of power – and they were all men in the days she began her crusade – that gender, like race, is a construct. That the differences between men and women had been magnified by culture and centuries of unquestioned belief into ridiculous stereotypes. That gender roles confined women and men into prisons of conformity and put hurdles in the way of our individual pursuits of happiness. That women could be the best lawyers and have the finest legal minds. That men could be the kindest parents and caregivers. That the government had no business forcibly assigning us into designated slots. That we are all human. That those who would forcibly delineate male or female roles for us were as damaging to human freedom as the radical authoritarian states that would choose our professions for us.RBG gave us freedom, the power to be ourselves. It is impossible to imagine the world we now live in without her. A world where women are taken seriously. Where we have a female Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates. Where I – as an openly gay man – am regularly criticized (as I should be!) for my thoughts, my words, and my deeds but virtually never any longer for my sexual orientation. Where my colleague Delegate Danica Roem serves well and ably and with the gender of her birth an afterthought. Where people with different physical and mental abilities are valued for their humanity; not their differences. Where the fact that I posted Hebrew at the top of this page, in knowing reverence to both Justice Ginsburg’s religious faith and my own, would not be seen as a barrier to our success but an honor to our connected affinity – a recognition that people of various religions, along with atheists and agnostics, have a lot more in common than the beliefs which divide us.I realize we are not quite there yet. We still face gender, racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic inequities. Under the current President, this inequality has been magnified. He openly attacks those who have been traditionally disparaged – women, minorities, immigrants, those with disabilities – with a passion and fervor not seen since Ruth Bader Ginsburg began her career in the 1950s, since she was first in her class but unemployable because no one wanted a “lady lawyer.”Our world is shaken.
But we must act with resolve and with confidence.
There is no time to despair.
There is work to be done.
Would the Notorious RBG have tolerated a bunch of us moping at her loss?
Not for a moment:
This Justice who issued a Supreme Court ruling from the bench
The very day after losing the love of her life, Marty Ginsburg,
A man who sincerely believed in gender equality long before it became a commonplace notion.Yes, she was indomitable.
Few of us have the mental or physical fortitude
Of this tiny giant.
I don’t call on us to mirror her brilliance, her strength, her greatness.
With few exceptions (Thurgood Marshall comes to mind), that’s impossible.
We can’t come close to matching that.Nevertheless, some ancient Talmudic wisdom comes to mind.
Our rabbis wrote thousands of years ago:It is not your responsibility
To complete the work
Of perfecting our world.
But you are required.
To do your part.(That’s worth rereading a few times.)
Let us all resolve
In her name,
In her honor,
In her legacy, and
In her blessed memory
To redouble our efforts
To finish the job she set out to do.
She gave us a fantastic head start.
But now she is gone.
The baton is at our feet.
Pick it up.
Written by Mark Levine.