“We need each other now more than ever, and it’s certainly what Justice Ginsburg would have urged us to do”
A new column by Erica Barz
Des Moines area activist
GoGuideMagazine.com Sept./October 2020
I found out about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in the middle of a Rosh Hashanah seder with my fiancé. My fiancé’ is Jewish, and she’s graciously introduced me to many of her traditions and holidays, including this Jewish new year celebration.
Rosh Hashanah is supposed to be a joyful time of year, dedicated to celebrating the creation of the world and the beginning of the High Holidays. I’m heartsick for Justice Ginsburg’s family that they lost her during this holiday. For them, the shadow of their loved one’s death will forever be cast over this bright celebration.
Ruth Franklin, a Jewish author, pointed out on Twitter after Justice Ginsburg’s death that someone who dies on Rosh Hashanah is considered a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness. Nothing could be truer about Justice Ginsburg, an incredible woman whose legacy of working for gender equality was unmatched.
After Justice Ginsburg’s death, I saw a swell of panic rise on social media from the online LGBTQ community, in addition to the online progressive community in general. Wishing for Justice Ginsburg to stay alive until we no longer had an orange president had become such a central tenant of online progressivism that it was made into a meme dozens of times over. Every time I saw one of these posts, the way they disregarded her humanity concerned me, but I also intrinsically understood them as a coping mechanism. When a political system is so fragile that the death of one octogenarian woman opens the door to decades of judicial precedent opposed to the fundamental rights of multiple marginalized communities, making something to laugh at so you don’t cry makes a lot of sense.
LGBTQ people in the United States have relied on the judicial system, and the Supreme Court most prominently, to uphold our rights and strike down discriminatory statutes. Just a few months ago, the Supreme Court held that Title VII protects our community from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The weakening of this institutional giant’s defense is scary, but we can’t let that paralyze us in the face of what may come.
A central component of Rosh Hashanah is reflecting on your actions over the past year, acknowledging the times you’ve done wrong (or times you’ve done nothing when you should have acted), and recommitting to be better this time around. Even those of us who aren’t Jewish should take the time to evaluate our actions and dedicate ourselves to doing more for our community and pursuing justice. We need each other now more than ever, and it’s certainly what Justice Ginsburg would have urged us to do. GG
This piece represents the viewpoint of the columnist, not any employer or group affiliation.