09/24/2020 On the Shoulders of Giants, Part 1 – By Pastor Katie

Our stories don’t happen in a vacuum. Our lives are not solely our own, but rather they are shaped by those who have come and gone before us. From ancestors who traveled from foreign homelands in search of new hopes and dreams, to people we have never met whose lives and legacy allow us to live as we do today.

As I began writing for this week, I began making a list of the giants upon whose shoulders I find myself, and the list grew long, too long for one post. So, over the next few weeks, I will spend time honoring those to whom I owe so much. 

Friday night I was with family when the breaking news popped up on my phone, “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87.” It wasn’t the time to feel all of the feelings that her death sparked in me. 

The moment came while watching her memorial at the Supreme Court. Then her casket was moved outside to lie in repose, accompanied by dozens and dozens of the over 100 clerks who worked with her during her 27-year tenure on the Supreme Court. The tears flowed. 

Grief. So much grief – for RBG and her legacy, for all of the losses this year, for the 200,000+ Americans who have died from Covid-19…so much grief. 

I’ve long admired Justice Ginsburg for her tenacity, her infamous dissents, and her tireless work for civil rights and equality. 

As Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, who presided over the memorial, said, “This was Justice Ginsburg’s life’s work. To insist that the Constitution deliver on its promise, that we the people would include all the people. She carried out that work in every chapter of her life.”

Even if you didn’t admire ‘Notorious RBG,’ you are impacted by her work. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a leading force in securing women’s rights to:

  • Lease an apartment or obtain a mortgage without a male co-signer
  • Open a checking account without a male co-signer
  • Start a business without a male co-signer
  • Get a credit card in their own name without a male co-signer
  • Obtain a business loan without a mal co-signer
  • Obtain/retain employment while pregnant
  • Obtain birth control without having to obtain husband’s permission
  • Consent to their own medical treatment
  • Not be forced to provide proof of sterilization to obtain/retain employment
  • Pension benefits equal to male coworkers
  • Equal consideration to be executors of their children’s estates
  • Their own credit history
  • Play a sport in school 

All thanks to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her determined work for equality, though much of this work for equality was done prior to her appointment on the Highest Court in our land. 

Either you are woman or you have women in your life: Mothers, sisters, daughters, cousins, friends, colleagues, the list goes on…all of us are better off when ‘we the people’ includes all people. 

Looking at the list above, it strikes me that these actions, in reality, seem so small and most of them are things I’ve never imagined not doing or being able to do. These rights were granted before I was born, I cannot remember a time when these things were prohibited for me as a woman. 

And yet, without the work by Justice Ginsburg and countless others who worked to gain these equalities step by step, I wouldn’t enjoy these rights and privileges today. I am able to take things for granted precisely because others devoted their lives to fighting for these rights. 

I stand on the shoulders of giants, incredible women and men who have protested, worked, and legislated for my rights that I take for granted today. I give thanks to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for championing civil rights and equality.  

As our Jewish siblings say, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, may her memory be for a blessing.  

Pastor Katie

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