In the ongoing utter clusterfuck of a year that 2020 has turned out to be in some regards, while also simultaneously being a complete blessing in others, U.S. Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on the first day of Rosh Hashanah this past Friday. Her transition was met with a surprising amount of vitriol on both sides of the political spectrum. Admittedly I was shocked at some of the responses I saw, particularly from women and some Black women at that. There was one distinctive comment made by a Black U.S. Congresswoman that was especially callous and lacking any sort of real empathy and awareness. It was a complete projection of her political and religious views that insinuated that unborn babies would have a chance to live now that RBG was deceased. The thread was littered with comments that agreed. While there were a few of us that called the comment complete trash and inappropriate, because it was, we were far and few in between. It made me realize not just how polarized we are, because I already knew that, clearly; but more so that we have allowed our political and religious differences to dictate our level of empathy and compassion towards one another.
This to me is very scary. You do not have to agree with someone politically or religiously in order to like them, have compassion towards them or be kind to them. No better example of this was the relationship between Antonin Scalia, the revered Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Judge who passed away in 2016 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justices Scalia and Bader Ginsburg couldn’t have been more opposite in religious or political values. He was a stout Christian Conservative. She was a Democratic Jew. She believed in abortion rights and a woman’s right to choice over her own body and its care. He was a devout man who believed in the right to life and that unborn children had rights separate from their parents and that those rights should not be violated. He believed all children should be given a fair shot at this life as it was what God had planned. She believed that if you had been hurt by someone and didn’t want to carry the product of that trauma if you chose not to, that you had the right to a choice to terminate that pregnancy in a safe and sterilized environment. She believed if you knew you couldn’t take care of your child or maybe simply just didn’t want to have children, that that was your right to make that choice. Because children deserve to be wanted and wanted to be taken care of. We should be intentional about the children we bring into this world, especially these days.
As a lot of people now know about their history and have watched her documentary, the two justices were great and life long friends. They shared funny anecdotes about each other that let you know they were true comrades. While they almost always never agreed on anything politically, they had a deep and mutual respect for each other not just as Supreme Court justices but as human beings. What an incredible honour and privilege it is to say you know someone who you may not politically or religiously agree with in anyway; yet you both see the deep humanity in each other. That you can share a meal, or go out on a date or do something together and enjoy each others company as two humans who recognize the light in each other. This seems to be completely eroded in our society these days. Cancel culture has become the rule of law; the way the mob takes back their power after feeling so powerless for so long. To a degree, rightfully so. When you oppress a people no matter what the demographic, you cannot expect that there will not be some sort of rebellion or retaliation. Anger and rage needs to be expressed and justice needs to be had. But I also believe there are lessons in grace and compassion for many of us marginalized folks as well. It seems like my generation of millennial's are taking this moment to express our rage and hurt in any way possible. We don’t as a collective really seem to care about who we hurt or how our words can impact people, because many of us, primarily people of colour, women, Indigenous People’s and any other marginalized group of people have been hurting for so long that we are beyond fed up and tired. There is the sense of “I just don’t give a fuck who I hurt. This world is harsh and I’m just trying to live and survive and protect myself like everyone else. I’m doing me while I’m here and while I can.”
The problem this attitude presents is that it leaves no room for empathy, kindness, compassion, mercy, grace or Love. And that is truly what is needed now more than ever. Justices Scalia and Bader Ginsburg showed me personally that Love conquers all. Love trumps all. Love always wins. Because when you approach things with an attitude of Love, you can see past all the trappings and false illusions of the titles we call ourselves (Republican, Democrat, Christian, Jew, etc.) and we can meet each other as equals; as two humans who want the best for everyone. Who want people to have choices but to measure and understand the weight of their choices.
There will never be a time when we all agree on everything. Nor would I ever want that, personally. I love this crazy messed up planet with all of its contrasts and beauties. As much as humans at times frustrate me to no end, I’m grateful for the variety of us and that we are not the same. We still haven't all quite learned how to live and let live yet, but I truly think we are on our way there. We do not need to tear another person down, disrespect their name on the day of their passing and ensure we expound on our supposed virtues in order to be or feel validated. If you are secure in yourself and your beliefs, you don’t need to denigrate another person to prove your point. Because when we do that, all it shows is that we are emotionally unhealthy individuals projecting our hurts and skewed perspectives out on the world in an unhealthy manner that can in some ways truly affect people’s lives. Words matter. They leave lasting impressions on our societies. When we wield our words without thought or care to the dignity and humanity of others, we abuse the power that has been granted to us by the Universe. We are made in the image and likeness of our Creator and that is Love. It does not make one holy or righteous as a religious person to disparage another from a different religion simply because fundamentally you disagree. I’ve never heard of any religious book that says that we as humans have the right to judge one another for anything, outside of the judicial system. No one has the right to practice hate when so much Love and grace has been given to every single one of us. We are all deserving of respect and Love; but we must first give it to ourselves before we can give or recognize it in others.
The way people talk to and about others is very revealing; oftentimes it is how people talk to themselves internally. I’ve learned to be kind to people who appear mean-spirited and bad-minded. They are fighting battles within themselves those of us who have self-awareness may never know. So I’ve learned to be kind; to be compassionate. Self-loathing is a very real thing and we often project our own onto others. We can choose not to say anything to things that we do not care about, so when someone goes out of their way to take time to write a mean comment, I understand now that is not self-love or finding their voice. It is projection. Hurt people hurt people. Which is why I come back to my point about this being an opportunity for healing. Sometimes, it feels very heavy, hard and unfair to have to be the one who forgives and shows mercy to others, especially when we don’t feel like it has been reciprocated to us. But giving grace and compassion is not about what’s in it for us or what we can get for giving it. It is the single most selfless thing you can do. We give grace and compassion because we know we’ve needed it ourselves at times. We’ve all made errors in judgement that have had real affects on others. We’ve all had strong opinions that may have hurt other people inadvertently. We are human and this is a part of the human condition and experience. But the lesson isn’t to be ashamed or allow others to shame us for our lessons and choices. It is to recognize we are all human and we all have stuff. When we can hold space for one another, regardless of preconceived notions of who we think each other are, then we can live as Justices Scalia and Bader Ginsburg did; as true equals.