I drove for a long time on Friday.
It’s the second time I rented a car and left the city since March 2020. When I parked and checked my phone at 8:30 PM, I saw I had a series of unread text messages about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Since then, I have read Facebook posts, tweets, articles, Instagram stories about her life; her work and accomplishments; her monumental impact on expanding the legal rights of women in the U.S.; her dissenting opinions; and her contradictions and problematic positions on the dissent and protest of others like Colin Kaepernick.
I have also been reading about your grief and anger and frustration. I have been reading about fears regarding who will fill her seat.
Of all that has been shared so far, what touched me the most have been the spiritual reflections from Jewish women about what it means to live a good life and what it means to die, especially during the high holidays.
I can’t help but feel that the suffering people are now facing, the suffering people are now more aware of, and the suffering we are preparing for has led to expressions of spiritual depth in different corners that I have not witnessed before. The digital funeral procession made my heart stand up. I’d like to think I was fulfilling the sunnah of the prophet.
I believe death and mortality is the great equalizer—so I don’t care much for the title of this essay—but I do care for the subject, her striving, her dissenting, her imperfection, her context. We will always be imperfect in striving toward justice which is why it’s imperative we work and strive continuously, collectively. It’s also why protest and dissent, when the collective agrees on an oppressive status quo, is necessary.
May Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rest in peace; may her memory be a blessing; may her memory be a revolution.
And when it’s our turn, may we leave behind more good than evil.
“Ginsburg’s dissents carried a particular power, not only rhetorically but politically. On the Roberts Court, she became the leader of the liberal wing, and, in 2007, in a case involving Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor for Goodyear Tires, she wrote a dissent objecting to the majority’s denial of an argument about sex discrimination in employment. That opinion was so compelling that it led to the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed by Barack Obama in 2009. And perhaps Ginsburg’s most resonant dissent, in light of this year’s election, is the one she wrote in Shelby County v. Holder, in 2013, in which the majority all but struck down the 1965 Voting Rights Act, on the basis of the bizarre argument that it (and one of its features, known as ‘preclearance’) had effectively solved voter suppression for posterity. ‘Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes,’ Ginsburg wrote, ‘is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.’ When she read the dissent aloud in Court, as Jane Sherron De Hart observed in a recent biography, she added a conclusion that was not in the written version. ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’ she said, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. But it only bends that way, she went on, ‘if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.’ Much that Ginsburg predicted about the stripping away of voting rights has come to pass.”