Despite her eternal love for scrunchies, impeccable fashion sense, and killer workout plan, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seemed to be an unlikely candidate to become a pop culture icon. But her fiery dissents and tireless advocacy have earned her the affection moniker the 'Notorious R.B.G'. And it is precisely for her selflessness, leadership, bravery, and sheer perseverance that her unexpected death has sent a deeply divided nation spiraling into mourning.
She all represented something different to us. For some, she was a feminist: a trailblazing pioneer who, despite being only one of nine women in a class of hundreds at Harward Law and getting rejected by multiple law firms, went on to become the first Jewish woman on America's highest judicial court - a stark departure from a Supreme Court ruling decades earlier that claimed women were always dependent upon men. To others, she was a supportive wife and mother that cared for her husband while he battled cancer and raised a family. But to me, she represented a facet of the American Dream that my family, like the immigrants before us, believed in. She too was the daughter of an immigrant who faced rampant discrimination and xenophobia in her childhood. She too had a loving mother that encouraged her to pursue her interests and education. The journey of a girl living in Brooklyn to one of the nine people who decided how the most sacred document in our nation is interpreted has been an endless source of inspiration for me and others that have always felt inadequate because of their personal background.
A giant in the law, Justice Ginsburg gave a voice to people on all ends of the spectrum and all colors of the rainbow. She dissented and fought for the sake of our republic, but with her death, I feel as if democracy is crumbling beneath my feet. The problem lies not within the unbalanced Court, but within our legislatures and public. We are no longer a nation - we are two parties: Democrat and Republican. Abraham Lincoln once said that a house divided upon itself cannot stand, and that is sadly what we have become. Technology has accelerated the rapid diffusion of ideas and now, one word defines your position on immigration, gun reform, climate change, healthcare, and the economy, even though we all know one word alone cannot solve any of these problems. It seems that we are so focused on the politics surrounding Ginsburg's death, that we forget her legacy: one of love, not hate, one of equality, not prejudice, and one of opportunity, not belittlement.
America has stuck together for over 200 years, through Presidents good and bad, through wars international and internal, through innovation beneficial and detrimental. But with a pandemic that has already claimed 200,000 lives, an economy that has disappointed millions, and massive civil rights movements, our Government has never failed us more. Congress cannot set aside their differences to pass a much-needed stimulus bill. Our President continues to mishandle the biggest modern-day health crisis while state governments are tripping over each other to patch up the holes in their plans to re-open. Even though a Pandora's box worth of sins and unknowable evils has been unleashed yet again on an unsuspecting world, our leaders refuse to cooperate.
And this is why we must now, more than ever, follow the example of Justice Ginsburg and how she used justice as a tool in service of liberty. More than an icon (with a following some pop stars might envy), her fearless actions transcended boundaries - and it shows. After her death shattered millions of hearts from all ends of the political spectrum, America was briefly been united in grief. Republican officials from legislators to our President praised Ginsburg for her towering career in law. And with this rare display of solitary, we can learn to correct the course of our actions to prevent us from becoming more polarized: by defining ourselves by our moments of unity and embrace our differences.
President Abraham Lincoln once said, "a house divided amongst itself cannot stand." Centuries later and millions of miles larger, America is still learning his lesson, just as we continue to learn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Unlike a Court decision, her legacy of equality and moral justice has just as much potential to be as permanent as her death, and we must remember that the man in the White House who constantly seeks to divide us isn't our true leader, but that we are, since at the core of democracy lies the principle of rule by the people.
We must shatter the labels that unfairly define us and ideologies that unnecessarily fill us with hate. We must come together to fight for meaningful change that goes beyond a term. We must band together to find the highs in months of lows. We must learn to empathize with one and other and settle for the cold, uncomfortable truth. We must continue Justice Ginsburg's story, together, as a house united.
We will keep the flames of hope for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness alive in Pandora's box.