I am not sure that there has ever been a figure on the U.S. political scene who has both embodied a cause and exemplified it at the same time more than Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If there is someone else, it is Thurgood Marshall. This may be one of those times worth going back to Hollywood to grasp exactly what the people who stood for the cause actually went through to accomplish what they did. In both the films Marshall and On the Basis of Sex, Hollywoodization allows some degree of comprehension of what it must have been like to be a symbol of a cause and a human being as well. The late Chadwick Boseman gives a powerful performance as a young Thurgood Marshall as does Felicity Jones as a young Ruth Ginsburg. Through there stories we see what fighting for the cause of African-Americans and women must have been like in the years following the Second World War and up into the 1960’s.
What is clear is how both of these great Americans who eventually served on the Supreme Court challenged the thinking of an American establishment where Black people and women were less than white men.
Justice Ginsburg took it to the next level as she became a cultural icon, the Notorious RBG, (named after the rapper the Notorious BIG). Was it her small stature and clarion voice? Was it her clarity and wile in selecting cases to argue before the Supreme Court that tried to uphold the rights of men as well as women? Was it her unequaled work ethic well into her eighties despite her many serious illnesses? Was it the unique marriage she had with Marty Ginsburg, also a brilliant attorney? Was it her friendships with men, especially Antonin Scalia, who clearly judicially disagreed with her? Was it the collars? It was all those things. She was the full package. She even had a personal trainer putting her through vigorous exercise routines as recently as a year ago. The CNN documentary about her is a great place to start any appreciation.
It may come down to the fact that just as every young African-American who gained access to an integrated classroom after 1954 owes a vote of thanks to Thurgood Marshall, every woman who makes her own decisions about her life, her career, and her body owes a debt to RBG.
Finally, as Rahm Emmanuel noted on ABC on Sunday morning, Justice Ginsburg was a devoted Jewish American as well. In every way she was the epitome of greatness. She led a glorious and triumphant life and has left a legacy that will be remembered for as long as there is an America and for as long as there needs to be a women’s movement.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be sorely missed and President Trump, while within his Constitutional rights to nominate a successor, should honor Justice Ginsburg’s final wish and await the results of the November 3 election prior to naming her successor. Alas, that is not going to happen, Washington politics being what they are. But we can mourn no matter what the Philistines in the Nation’s Capital choose to do. I shall.