“That’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.”
Immortal words from a woman we prayed would be immortal.
Like millions, I was devastated beyond measure by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It feels like the end of everything. It feels like the end of hope and light, the end of decency and equality, the end of democracy and liberty. The end of the environment, of women’s rights, of America itself.
One woman made us feel this way. Please, stop for a moment to consider that. One woman made us feel this way.
Imagine how great this nation could be, then, if we all had the ability to inspire those around us? To be the person upon whom their hopes hinged?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg dedicated her life to fighting for equality and justice. She fought tirelessly, bravely; even in the face of great opposition, she did not swerve or flinch. She knew her life’s work was greater than herself. She knew her life’s work was to help others, to serve others. Her life had meaning and purpose. Her death inspired an outpouring of grief – and donations – around the world.
Her story is one that should be familiar to us all. She went to law school – was one of only a handful of women admitted to Harvard – was told she didn’t belong there because of her sex – hid the fact that she was pregnant until her contract was renewed at her first teaching job – in short, she fought for the things she believed in, simply by going out and doing them.
The philosopher Albert Camus wrote about this. To Camus, the world was an absurdity, devoid of purpose and meaning. It was up to each of us, he believed, to not give in to despair, but instead to find meaning within ourselves. To do that, we had to adopt an attitude of defiance. We had to do the very things we were told not to do, in order to give our lives meaning. We had to revolt, we had to have passion, and we had to create our own freedom.
I can’t think of a better example of those virtues that The Notorious RBG.
I know we’re grief-stricken, blindsided. I also know many of us find politics distasteful; we think it doesn’t matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Politics, especially this year, matters more than ever. But it doesn’t mean taking to the streets. It might not even mean working as an election worker. No. While those things are important, and I’m going to include a list of ways you can get involved in a bit, I think the larger lesson we need to take from Justice Ginsburg is this: do what you want to do, and never let anyone tell you you can’t. In other words: dissent.
Dissent. Dissent because you believe. Dissent because it’s the right thing to do. Dissent because dissent = revolution. Dissent, because dissent = passion and freedom.
Dissent. It seems impossible sometimes. The second I saw the news on my phone, I lost it. I called my friend. He – a lifelong Republican – was heartbroken. But as I cried and we talked and I felt so hopeless . . . I watched the people gather at the steps of the Supreme Court. Watched them place flowers and candles, console each other. And I knew that to honor her, we all have to fight.
But dissent doesn’t just mean politically. I urge you now, if there’s ANYTHING you’ve ever wanted to do with your life, go do it.
If you’re a woman who has always wanted to go to college, who wants to change careers, who wants a career, NOW IS THE TIME. It doesn’t matter if everyone tells you you’re too old. It doesn’t matter if your family whines about how you’re never home. NOW IS THE TIME. If your children are at home now, schooling online? Join them! Most colleges offer online classes. Community colleges offer lower tuition and more financial aid opportunities (and probably more support) than universities. NOW IS THE TIME.
If you’ve ever wanted to volunteer for something – reading in schools, walking dogs at the humane society, delivering meals to senior citizens, moving to Costa Rica to raise orphaned sloths, whatever – NOW IS THE TIME. Don’t waste another second. Go do it.
NOW IS THE TIME to inspire those around you. To stand up for your beliefs, to find your passion, to revolt, to create your own life, on your terms. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was able to do it by fighting against unjust laws, by fighting for equality. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote and spoke and marched for equality and equal rights, and inspired hundreds of thousands to join him. We certainly can’t all be them – God knows, I’d love to be – but that doesn’t mean that we can’t step up and in our own ways, be like them. It doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference. Because we can.
It’s time for us to dissent.
Dissent, dissent, dissent. Dissent against the status quo, dissent against the naysayers, dissent against those who would hold you back, dissent against society’s limits.
Dissent. For the love of all that’s holy, for the love of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissent.
If you want to get involved politically, but don’t know how, there are dozens of small ways you can make a difference:
VOTE. That’s by the far the one thing we can almost ALL do. You can register online in most states, and many states are encouraging vote by mail. All states offer ‘absentee ballots,’ but you must request one. Check with your state’s voting office or Secretary of State’s website. Early voting is also an option.
WORK THE POLLS. If you can get the day off, be a poll worker. Larger cities sometimes have to close or limit the number of polling places they can offer due to a lack of poll workers. In some cases, you can even be paid for this. States that offer early voting also need poll workers, so ask about that.
DONATE. If you can, make campaign contributions. As little as $5 can help, and this is especially true in states where the Senate races are tight.
DON’T FOCUS ON THE WHITE HOUSE. The Senate and the House are where we need to focus time and energy. Flip them blue, and the White House doesn’t matter.
VOLUNTEER. Call your local party’s office. They always need volunteers to work on mailers, to drive people to the polls, and a number of other things. This is a hands-on way to make a difference!
EDUCATE. Have friends, neighbors, or relatives that aren’t sure about the voting process? Walk them through it. If they’re not registered, help them get registered. If they’re not sure about going to the polls on Election Day, help them with alternatives.