When I was young and stupid–literally 1986–one of the entitled young white men in my mostly white junior college had the bright idea that we should “protest something.” All of the great protests–civil rights, women’s rights, anti-war–all those happened in the sixties, he argued. We were missing out on the opportunity to protest something in the 80’s. So, we protested a fountain that needed to be refurbished. It could have been pretty–why didn’t they do something about it? (I cannot make up this level of entitlement and naivety. I was working 40 hours a week while taking 17 units so I could make it through college asap–did it not occur to me to protest student debt? The lack of health care? Carbon emissions? Dear Goddess, we were dumb.) Anyway– the president of the university came out and tenderly explained that the student council had to approve the funds, and we had to not be in a drought year (we’d just come out of a drought year to a flood year in 1986. Those were the days) and maybe we could talk about it then.
Hurray! We’d protested! Successfully, we thought.
Boy, was all that energy wasted. I’ve sat here with a RESIST sign on the front of my house for months, still expecting to get egged or vandalized because my neighborhood is 1/2 redneck and 1/2 Don’t-Give-a-Shit, and I YEARN for the days when I thought that was all that was wrong with the world.
Of course, I learned better and I was a much better focused raging liberal when I started teaching high school. 18 years of that had me convinced that crapping on education was a Republican conspiracy to dumb down our electorate–and all of my male counterparts thought I was delusional. Yeah. So glad I was right about that.
It’s funny–I THOUGHT I knew about politics before 2015–but boy, the last four, five years have aged and educated all of us, right?
I saw the Ruth Bader Ginsberg movie (so good! Also, Armie Hammer…mmmm…) and, like the rest of America, grew to hope Bader Ginsberg lived forever in the pernicious tumult following Dumpster Fire’s election. It was not to be–but it wasn’t fair of us to wish for it, either.
When you’re 17 you can put all your political faith in the guy who’s gonna run for Student Body President next semester and fix a fountain–maybe, if you’re lucky enough to have enough to eat, and a car (barely) and a job and the pale-skin pass to things like protests that doesn’t get you gassed or shot.
When you’re 50-something, even putting all your faith in the indomitable and amazing and stunningly brilliant and wise beyond even 87 years Ms. Ginsberg is something you know you can’t do.
You can mourn her passing though. You can mourn the loss of a soul who understood that law and justice was for everybody, not just for the white and entitled few. You can mourn the loss of someone who understood that denying women their rights over their own destinies hurt men too–and hurt society and the world as a whole. You can mourn a person who seems to have embodied the best of us, someone who fought when it mattered, and who never, ever, would have put all that passion into a silly fountain when their were real dragons to be slaughtered, and not just windmills at which to tilt.
But you cannot let all your hopes die with her. When someone uses their platform and their power to fight for all of us, the least we can do is continue to fight in their memory when they’re gone.
Goodbye, Ms. Bader Ginsberg. You have inspired us. May your warrior heart take its place at the hearth with your beloved husband, in the halls of Valhalla, where the brave and just may live forever.