Regardless of party affiliation, there was lots to love and admire in Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She fought for the rights of all people, regardless of ethnicity or sex or political affiliation. Throughout her career, she advocated for gender equality.
She was the daughter of immigrants. And I learned recently that she was required to work even before completing high school because money was needed to put her brother through college. That fact alone set her course for self-sufficiency.
Justice Ginsburg was my hero. I felt a gut punch at her recent passing, when she wasn’t able to hang on through her recurring cancer illness to see the outcome of the next Presidential election coming in just six short weeks. While the election itself is in six weeks, the outcome of that race may not be decided for quite a while after the early November date.
Ginsburg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009, and, earlier this year, she announced a recurrence of the cancer after doctors discovered lesions on her liver. At this point, pancreatic cancer has now taken two of America’s political icons, including the late US Democratic Representative John Lewis, in the last three months, and thousands more Americans as one of the deadlier cancers in the country.
What I liked about her
Justice Ginsburg was mighty yet soft-spoken and tiny in stature. She didn’t yell or use trickery to gain support for her positions and legal arguments. Ruth was smart and dedicated and capable of holding her own among the loudmouths and infamous political pundits around her.
She was a staunch advocate for the fair treatment of all women. This calling defined her career in spite of skepticism and harsh criticism by some of her male cohorts, both in law school and in her law practice. During law school she became the first female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.
What we gained from RBG
Justice Ginsburg experienced gender discrimination throughout her educational years and during a significant portion of her employment. She pushed back against that discrimination to become only one of eight females in her law class of 500 and only the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court. She believed that the law was gender-blind and all groups were entitled to equal rights. She also worked tirelessly for the rights of workers, the separation of church and state, and same-sex marriage.
One of the defining qualities about Ruth was her relationship with Justice Scalia. Herself a moderate, Justice Ginsburg had a long-term close friendship with Antonin Scalia, one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative judges. It was widely regarded that they never let strongly held differing opinions deter their unlikely but special friendship. Scalia was quoted as saying about his friendship with Ruth, “We find ways to love people who don’t believe the same things.” This is striking considering these days it feels as though if even one thing about a person or their beliefs differs from our own, we must toss out the whole relationship and disparage them as not an okay person.
RBG was a feminist icon, standing as a role model not only for little girls but for all people who embrace the sincerity of compassion, cooperation, and the rights of all peoples. Even if you disagreed with her on some issues, you’ve got to acknowledge her dedication to the job of Supreme Court Justice, working right up to the bitter end. She never complained about the job being tiring or difficult.
Her passing has left an unprecedented vacuum in the management of our country at the judicial level. And the histrionics of the coming weeks will play out relative to that void.
As her biggest fan, I will miss Justice Ginsburg. I will honor her legacy as a senior citizen of consequence and will celebrate the good work she did on behalf of women and all of us.