The Good Press — Issue #23: Fervent

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Fervent

Just as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year celebration, was about to begin last Friday night, many of us learned the news that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away from cancer complications at age 87.

Standing just a bit over five feet tall, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cast a long shadow and was a giant of a jurist. The first Jewish woman on the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg spent a life and a legal career successfully fighting for the rights of millions of people. She personally endured discrimination and she dedicated her life and career to fighting against discrimination in all forms.

Known by many by her initials, RBG, there’s so much to be said about Justice Ginsburg’s importance to this country that I can’t fit it all in this space.

Justice Ginsburg’s sharp dissents on the Court garnered plenty of attention. One, in particular, was in 2013, when Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion on the Shelby County v. Holder case that undermined voting rights. Referring to the Court’s decision to overturn a critical aspect of the 1965 Voting Rights Act called “preclearance” in the pivotal ruling, Justice Ginsburg wrote in her opinion that, “throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

With cascading crises hitting from all angles, I think it’s fair to say that 2020 on the Gregorian calendar has been a rough year. We can only hope that the year 5781 on the Jewish calendar can be the fresh start that we all need right now. I do take some solace in the knowledge that in Judaism, it’s considered an honor reserved for only the most righteous for a person to pass away on Rosh Hashanah, as NPR journalist Nina Totenberg noted, among others.

Totenberg also wrote some reflections on her longtime friendship with RBG.

In a statement that she dictated to her granddaughter before she passed, Justice Ginsburg stated that her “most fervent wish” was that she “not be replaced [on the U.S. Supreme Court] until a new president is installed.”

Fervent

fer·vent /ˈfərvənt / adjective

  • exhibiting particular enthusiasm, zeal, conviction, persistence, or belief
  • having or displaying a passionate intensity

Synonyms include: impassioned, intense, profound, spirited, enthusiastic, avid

No matter how fervent RBG’s wishes, or how entitled to them anyone believes she is, there is already plenty of evidence that the sudden seat vacancy on the Supreme Court at one of the most critical junctures in U.S. history has ignited a fervent response from politicians and activists alike.

In a perfect world, the Supreme Court is made of nonpartisan, apolitical, appointees who thoughtfully debate and discuss important legal precedents. We don’t live in that world right now, and the ramifications of that mean that these interesting times we live in are about to get even more interesting.

The impact of Supreme Court appointments can have lasting effects for generations, and they have, throughout history. And depending on how quickly the newly-vacated seat gets filled, there could be immediate impact.

For one, a legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act is scheduled to be heard by the Court in the near future, which could put protections from discrimination for people with pre-existing conditions at risk. If RGB’s fervent wishes are deliberately ignored, it could be the end of affordable health care for tens of millions. Contracting COVID-19 could conceivably mean being denied health care if the ACA were to be struck down. And that is not a pie-in-the-sky scenario. Justice Ginsburg was surely aware of that.

It’s probably not a strong indicator of a healthy, functioning republic if a single death can potentially shape the lives of millions of people for decades to come. It’s hard to imagine with much certainty what the future will bring, but I imagine that when it comes to the high-stakes chess match of filling that seat, “fervent” might be one of the words people use often to describe it.

It’s another reminder of just how much is at stake this fall, and how essential it is for every American to be able to safely and securely make their voice heard at the ballot box. That representation is a vital part of democracy. It’s why, beyond 2020, we must always hold our elected officials accountable.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg deserves to be remembered for more than being the historical trivia answer of the person whose Supreme Court seat potentially set off the fiercest political battle of the 21st century. But in this political climate where nothing seems to be out-of-bounds or off-limits, the battle for the Supreme Court was being waged even before the Mourner’s Kaddish.

May peace be upon you, Justice Ginsburg. Thank you for representing the best of us and fighting for representation for all of those who needed an ally.

In Other Words

Well, in other words, if you’re someone who prefers to not hear political bickering, I’m afraid it will be even more unavoidable over the coming months.

Among other words, you may hear words like “hypocritical” to describe those in power who will spend the coming months trying to fill the seat as soon as possible. Many of those same people in power who swore back in 2016 that they could never fill a vacant Court seat just before a presidential election.

On Monday, the New York Times wrote about the political maneuverings that have shaped Supreme Court seat fillings over the last few decades.

It’s worth the read, a brief but thorough history lesson on how the Court became what it is today. The bottom line, as the Times writes, is this:

“The political battles of the next few months — both the court fight and the election — are about as consequential as American politics get.”

Do not let possibilities of worst-case scenarios prevent you from expressing yourself with your vote and your fervent energy to make your voice heard. Keep in mind that the same people that want you to forget their hypocrisy and scorched-earth strategies are the people who want you to stay silent and not vote.

Things that haven’t been ripe for politics are becoming radically politicized: pandemic response strategies, federal funding for schools, even federal funding for the very elections that keep our democracy safe and strong.

With many in Congress twiddling their thumbs, seemingly more eager to subvert democracy than protect it, the Associated Press wrote about how charity organizations have stepped up to try to help ensure election security.

All of this to say: buckle up, folks. We are in the thick of it now. Check your voter registration status. Make your plan to vote. Make your voice heard.

Parting Thoughts

My partner and I have been spending time with her parents out in their Pennsylvania country home, and last weekend, the four of us had the pleasure of hosting my parents and the family dog for a couple of days.

The aforementioned family dog, pondering vacation life (photo courtesy of my partner)

Everyone had a wonderful time. It was the first time we’ve all been together in person since January and we were able to celebrate multiple birthdays and Rosh Hashanah together, with beautiful fall weather and plenty of good eats.

There is truly nothing like family time. For those of us who haven’t gotten to see our loved ones nearly as often as we’d like to, it is such a priceless thing. I’m so grateful to have the people that I have in my life. Now, more than ever.

That goes for the community of readers here at The Good Press, too. Thank you to everyone who sent me birthday wishes. A year older, a year wiser, hopefully. The world is certainly a more interesting place year after year.

Remember the people you care about in these fervent times. Reach out to them when you can. Talk to them and listen to them and remember that no one is alone out there. When you think about the people you care about who see the world much differently than you, remember why you care about them. Remember that we are all human, trying to do our best, hopefully. Remember the bonds we share, remember what makes us alike. Choose love.

Take a moment to unclench your jaw. Take a nice, long, deep breath. Drink a tall glass of water. Repeat as necessary. And remember to wash your hands.

Head high, feet on the ground, ready to move forward to a better tomorrow.

-Jon

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