He said it as an off-handed comment. “I’m sure you heard about RBG.”
I hadn’t. But I knew what my boyfriend must be about to tell me. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was dead. A day that I had been fearing for awhile now had finally arrived. Tears fell down my face before I had even processed his words. All I could think was “2020 can officially suck it.” In the moments that I spent processing that RBG was gone, all I could think was – this is the last straw. The world is headed into an abyss that we will never be able to crawl out of.
As a tribute, I wanted to watch the documentary “RBG” streaming on Hulu. It’s an amazing portrait of an incredible woman and to top it off it’s even the perfect movie length – 90 minutes. Trying to review the movie would be like reviewing the woman herself, I find myself constantly thinking of an abundance of positive and powerful adjectives (see what I did there?) but I didn’t open my laptop after watching it to write the things that have already been written. To review the documentary would be to write a biographical piece on RBG that has been done many times by writers more eloquent and well published than myself. It’s a brilliant movie about a brilliant woman, and I highly recommend that anyone mourning her loss to watch it. It’s well done, inspiring, and will give you permission to cry in the same way that The Notebook will help you grieve for a lost love.
What drove me to write this was the perspective I gained from watching a 90 minute snapshot of the accomplishments of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, how the climate of the country was for women when she was in law school. How she couldn’t find a law firm in New York that would hire a woman to be a lawyer so she taught, creating an environment that allowed her to teach a class on gender law so she could work for the ACLU and slowly but surely take on cases that changed this country and opened multitudes of doors for women. She was smart. She bided her time but she never wasted it.
Things are really bad right now. If you spend any amount of time on facebook, you may feel like the world is falling apart, and rightly so. These apocalyptic signals just won’t stop flashing this year. I live in California, and 2020 has come to a head in a showing of red sunrises and sunsets and a constant yellow tinge as smoke from our largest fire on record pours over the mountains and threatens to choke anyone that steps outside. A pandemic is ravaging our country, riots are breaking out, black people are losing their lives, white people are losing their minds. Everything is a fight, everyone is screaming to be heard. One side is too sensitive and the other side is racist. That’s where we are.
But we are not in the same place we were before the Notorious RBG. When I stop and look back at where we as a country have gone, the strides that we have made while she held our hands, I am grateful for progress. Things aren’t in a good place right now, there’s no denying that. I’ve felt a lot of fear in the last twenty-four hours about where we may end up without her at our helm. In order for me to honor her legacy, I don’t want to post a quote of hers on my Instagram story or write a biographical article, I want to internalize the skills that she used in order to bring so much progress to our nation.
- Don’t respond in anger. There are times you’ll have to argue, but do it in a way that will lead others to your side rather than alienate them.
- Make friends across the aisle. Ginsburg and Scalia had an enduring friendship even though ideologically they could not be more different, together they showed us that we need each other in order to have a well rounded society.
These are the thoughts I will cling to as we head into more uncertain times. Ruth did so many things for us, and I’m terrified that we’ll slide backwards. But if we can all honor her memory by holding true to her ideals, mirroring her behavior and following in her footsteps, we will eventually reach the better place that she has been leading us to.
Perspective changes everything. A mountain looks different when you are standing at the base than it does when you summit the peak, and your view of the world constantly changes while you are walking the trail. Hold on to perspective now, in these times when everything is falling apart. Remember that we are not in the same place that we were when we started, when she started, fighting. Remember that there is a big hill to climb. But never lose hope, never stop climbing. Appreciate the view of where we are now. I can live with my boyfriend without being married. I can get birth control so I don’t have to have a baby when I’m not ready. While abortion may still be up for debate and “choice” is becoming a dirty word, there are enough women out there who are speaking up and there are safe places to use our voices. Women are a community now, as diverse as we have ever been. We are, as a whole, entitled to our own voices and we are much harder to silence than we were before RBG went to bat for us.
Hold on to your grief right now, let yourself mourn because if not for her, our country would look very different. Acknowledge your fear, because these are uncertain and unprecedented times and fear is inevitable. But do not drown, do not become obsolete in the face of these seemingly insurmountable challenges. Remember that even though you may feel lost, RBG didn’t give up when she was in the top of her law class and couldn’t find a job as a lawyer, she didn’t give up when no one wanted to hire her even as a teacher. Never the less, she persisted. In her absence, we must also persist. Do not lose hope.