On Friday – OK, a couple of Fridays ago now – 9/18/20 – first one post, then another, until eventually almost my entire feed was filled with the news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. There was of course sorrow over the loss of a great human being, who made innumerable contributions to women’s rights and gender equality over the course of her legal career, but there was additional lamentation about the resulting potential for a replacement who will most likely not have the same commitment to progressing these issues. In fact, the hopes of many conservatives would be that many things, such as a woman’s right to choose, would be reversed. Le sigh.
I don’t have anything to add to the tributes that have been written to Justice Ginsburg, but here are some of the pieces I thought worth reading, and some of her words.
“When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” – RBG
I particularly enjoyed this about writing, “Most of what I know about writing I learned from her. The rules are actually pretty simple: Every word matters. Don’t make the simple complicated, make the complicated as simple as it can be (but not simpler!). You’re not finished when you can’t think of anything more to add to your document; you’re finished when you can’t think of anything more that you can remove from it. She enforced these principles with a combination of a ferocious—almost a terrifying—editorial pen, and enough judicious praise sprinkled about to let you know that she was appreciating your efforts, if not always your end-product. And one more rule: While you’re at it, make it sing. At least a little; legal prose is not epic poetry or the stuff of operatic librettos, but a well-crafted paragraph can help carry the reader along, and is always a thing of real beauty.”
“Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.” – RBG
Which, there was so much wonderful in this piece it was hard to pick just part, but here goes: “It is said that a person who passes on Rosh Hashanah is a Tzadik/Tzaddeket, a good and righteous person. When we speak of tzedakah, the word is often translated as “charity,” but it is more accurate to say righteousness. Tzedakah can take many forms (including monetary donation) but it’s important to note that tzedakah is not a benevolent contribution given to be kind or nice to those who need it, it is to be viewed as a balancing of the scales, an active working towards justice. To use a simple example, one should donate to the local food bank not to gain favor with God, or to be nice to those with less than ourselves, but because it is unjust for anyone to be without food, especially while others have plenty. Correcting injustice, balancing the scales, evaluating the distribution of power and creating equity is tzedakah, the work of righteousness.”
“What we’re saying is that she was a thoughtful person who worked tirelessly to create a more just world. One that would perpetuate equality and access, one that wasn’t reliant on charity, one that was better for people she did not know, without the expectation of praise or fame.”
“I tell law students… if you are going to be a lawyer and just practice your profession, you have a skill—very much like a plumber. But if you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself… something that makes life a little better for people less fortunate than you.” – RBG
“A single person cannot hold the hopes of millions, though we asked Ruth to do this for us. She worked hard, and she held our hopes for as long as she could! And she died. Who can hold our hopes now?”
The piece speaks to grief, and also to looking forward, and each of us taking up some of the work.
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” – RBG