September 19, 2020
I was coming of age, and she was coming into her own. She fought battles for me well before I knew I'd need them. She was tenured at Columbia University in 1972; just about the time I informed my parents, when asked, that I wanted to be a litigating attorney. That this profession might not have been an option would have seemed ludicrous at the time.
I did not study law but the understanding that I could, should I choose, was my inalienable right. This wasn't a fact I ever questioned. In 1980, President Carter appointed Mrs. Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In 1980, I was that singular 16 year old girl jumping out of planes; also an inalienable right I never questioned. I could have defined U.S. Court of Appeals. I could have presented a 250 word summary on its purpose, but that information was on a virtual index card filed away in my own personal Warehouse 13. I didn't even know it was there.
When President Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, I had no idea who she was. I could identify two names on that bench; the first, because she was a woman, and the second because I wanted to tear his eyes out. I registered one fact about Mrs. Ginsburg: she was a woman. Good. Box checked, moving right along now.
She got my attention during that nasty little incident involving the strip search of a thirteen year old student at Safford Middle School in Safford, Arizona. That nasty little incident already had my attention. It was a batshit, off the rails, livid sort of attention. I frothed pretty continuously.
I learned a thing about Mrs Ginsburg during the Safford Unified School District v. Redding proceedings. I learned that she was gender neutral. All things must apply equally to all people. She was people neutral. While it may have been very difficult to put Savana Redding's age and gender aside, had she done otherwise would have kicked us back a few decades. If you're having trouble with that, rollback to the 1970s when we asked for equal rights but still wanted the damn door opened for us. That's pretty broad stroke but it shouldn't take much.
Nobody gets to do that to anybody. Period.
Footnote: Thomas concluded it "justified a search extending to any area where small pills could be concealed." Do I have it in for the man? Yes, I do. Does that invalidate my interpretation of Thomas's intent? Do the words 'any area' preclude a cavity search? I'm pretty sure cavity searches are a damn hard thing to pull off. Prison notwithstanding. Middle school is not prison. Right?
Think hard about that. Think really, really hard.
By 2008, Mrs. Ginsburg had my complete attention and I started reading backwards.
There is a reason I refer to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Mrs. Ginsburg. I hear 'chattel' when I hear the honorific, Mrs. I will not utter the word unless required out of respect and/or politeness. I'm not going to address you as Mx 'Your Own Personal Last Name', unless directed. But I'm probably going to be thinking it.
Now that we've cleared up Heather's Own Personal Feelings on the status of 'Mrs.'...
Ruth Bader was already a scholar when she met her husband. She married traditionally and raised two children. In the sixties and seventies, Mrs. was a state of being. I suppose it still is to some extent, but I do think it's changed a bit (not necessarily for the better).
Ruth Bader Ginsburg did a thing I don't think we've fully processed yet. It is difficult to process events that cross generational lines. One generation will comprehend to the best of its ability, what has occurred during the points in time that belong to it. I think of a long concrete tunnel. You sit at the end which applies to you. You cannot sit on the other end. It's like looking through a Kaleidoscope. Best possible case is you just don't get it. Worst case, you put it on trial, and eventually hang it.
It's useful when we talk to each other, but there's an awful lot of abusive conversation out there. From all sides. So this makes it hard to understand this thing that Ruth Bader Ginsburg accomplished. Whether you can see it or not, makes no difference. It was done for her, for him, for them, but we are the ultimate beneficiaries.
Mrs. Ginsburg had an identity when she met her husband. She assumed an additional identity called 'wife'. Professionally, her accomplishments, her legacy, won't be measurable for at least a hundred years, maybe more. Whatever we do continues on without us. We are all a living legacy of a great many people. I wish I could stand at that end of the tunnel and look back, just to see what happens.
Mrs. Ginsburg gave up nothing. The woman who was Ruth Bader, remained Ruth Bader with the addition of Mrs. Ginsburg. Some of us can do this. She had children and gave up nothing (show of hands, who can claim this?). She was a nose to the grindstone force of nature. She gave up nothing.
I have no idea what sort of price she paid, but it had to have been epic. Or egregious.
Mrs. Ginsburg earned the right to keep the honorific she accepted in 1956 (could have been 1954). She moved forward in her life without a sign of artifice.
That's for all of us. If you can see it, pick it up. If you can't, it's still there anyway.
I don't want to talk about politics today. Right now, our behavior is disgraceful.
Notorious RBG: Chum in shark infested waters.
Yeah. I'm talking to you. We lost a good chunk of our humanity last night. We lost it the moment we tossed her in the drink.
If I could say Kaddish, I would.
Mrs. Ginsburg - May you always be a reminder of strong, and true, and honorable.
Well Done, Woman, Well Done.