Last Thursday night, in a theater near my neighborhood I watched the film ‘RBG’ on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life. It lifted my spirits. The decisions from the US Supreme Court in the past few days have held riveted attention of the nation. As a US citizen who was once an immigrant, I have been following since January, with concern, the actions by the US government about banning groups from certain countries. The chaos that ensued, the protests, back and forth, the pushback from lower courts, the amendments – it’s been a roller coaster the last few months. The proceedings had reached the Supreme Court and to surprise/shock of many, the Court voted 5-4 in favor of the Travel Ban in its most recent version.
I heard in the news a mention of a ‘scathing’ dissent by Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg and was intrigued. Watching the film, I thought, would help me learn more about the ‘Notorious RBG’ and get some insights into her thinking on the bench. It certainly did. The inspiring account tells about her life and times, her representation of women’s rights using her formidable talents and deep knowledge of the law and more.
It offers insight into the fact that when not many women were practicing law, RBG went on against the odds and the rampant sexism in her field to become a top lawyer fighting for women’s rights. There are so many good vignettes and stories in the film that offer a wonderful portrait of RBG, her incredible discipline and hard work (at work and in her exercise regimen), her being the rock star/phenomenon that she is and perhaps the one detail that both surprised and delighted me most was to see what a tremendous following RBG has among millennials.
I went back after the film and read the Sotomayor/Ginsburg dissent on the recent Supreme Court judgment on the Travel Ban. The ‘legalese’ was new to me but through it all a sharp, incisive argument and an upholding of truth and justice was clear. It begins:
“The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty. Our Founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment. The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly andunequivocally as a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” because the policy now masquerades behind a façade of national-security concerns.”
Twenty-seven precisely written pages later it ends with: “Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments. Because the Court’s decision today has failed in that respect, with profound regret, I dissent.”
At the Sundance Festival 2018 where the film ‘RBG’ was premiered, co=directors of the film Julie Cohen and Betsy West were asked in an interview:“How a single woman, if she’s smart enough and tough enough, can change the world. Aside from what they’re thinking, we also want people to walk out of the theater feeling energized.” The film had me thinking, inspired and energized – thanks, Cohen and West!
The film was impactful but even more was RBG herself. What a shining example she is, in her life and in this her 85th year, for people everywhere, including women, to do the work necessary and to use our talents and our voices in service of the truth and justice. Thank you, RGB!
In 2017, in a quick sketch challenge to sketch 30 portraits in 30 days I had chosen RBG as one of the people I sketched and it is included here. Drawing, reading,watching a film and writing, each continue to layer on my learning about RGB – I hope to learn more in the months to come.