Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing has left me feeling both. Very deeply.
I am gutted that we will never again be gifted in real-time by her analytic ability and singular intellect. I’m gutted that our world is no longer graced and guided by this exquisite human, who could absorb the same white light as the rest of us, but tease from it the full spectrum of color, the innumerable hues of every perspective.
The fact that I feel so shaken by her passing is a testament to how millions of us attached ourselves to her. We were moved by the clarity of her vision, the conviction and precision of her expression, and the fierce compassion of her spirit.
I can only imagine the immense void felt by her children, grandchildren and loved ones. Although time will serve as a salve, surely the loss of their precious “Mom/Bubbe/Kiki” will remain a void to the end of their days. To them, I offer my deepest condolences and wishes that her memory be a blessing of continuous inspiration and comfort. I wish them an all-enveloping gratitude that far outweighs their grief.
My own gratitude springs from the enormity of her legacy. As a law student and a young Jewish woman, I looked to her as a guiding light on my own journey for pursuing justice. The bar she set for us is one many will try and fail to meet alone, but together I know we can reach.
By championing women’s rights and gender equality, the Notorious RBG lifted all Americans, regardless of their gender or gender identity. Men and women alike were released from the confines of stereotypical expectations, limitations and gender-based discrimination. Not only were we finally free of artificial barriers to livelihood, pay and economic equality but love itself was freed of form and melted into its purest expression and energy. Love is love.
Justice Ginsberg had the sublime clarity to realize that the seeds of universal truth are to be found in the day-to-day details of ordinary life and that each of us holds within us the key to our collective dignity and the fulfillment of human ideals.
I thought about that this weekend as I stared into the flame of the Rosh Hashana candle. While Washington revs up for a gargantuan battle to replace RBG, I allowed my soul to flicker with hope for an end to the chaos and darkness of these past four years. I heard her voice: “Don’t be distracted by emotions … [that] just zap energy and waste time.” ”Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” And, “Fight for the things that you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
President [Donald] Trump has vowed to appoint a woman to take RBGs seat on the bench. Although women bring a desperately needed perspective to the Supreme Court, they are by no means a monolithic formation marching in lockstep. Indeed, the Justice herself argued for a “legal system in which each person will be judged on individual merit and not on the basis of an unalterable trait of birth,” and promoted her own approach to equal rights as “neither liberal nor conservative.” Women, and women jurists, are not interchangeable — and we must sit up straight and pay close attention to this process. Each of us should contact our representatives and make our voice heard. And each of us must vote.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be the first to remind us of the grave difference between our presidential candidates’ attitudes, history — and, in the case of Joe Biden, legislative record — on women and women’s issues. A visit to https://joebiden.com/womens-agenda/ details Vice President Biden’s comprehensive plan for ensuring the rights, welfare and advancement of women. He authored the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and the Lilly Ledbetter Act Fair Pay Act was the first piece of legislation enacted by the Obama-Biden Administration. Biden’s past accomplishments and current agenda leave no doubt of his commitment to every woman of every background, circumstance color and ZIP code. It mirrors RBG’s vision and values.
I began this piece by admitting that I never wanted to believe anything could be mightier than the Justice’s inner flame. But upon reflection, I realize nothing is. Millions of us have leaned into her flame and now carry her light forward. Our nation is ablaze with hope for our future. Together, in her name, we will burn a path forward to the freedom and equality our nation has long promised. With our votes, we too can become Notorious.
Nikki Fried serves as Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner.