I have a new favorite person! Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the CNN documentary “RBG”, the wonderful life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is fleshed out in marvelous detail and beauty. She exemplifies wisdom, strength, courage, and the best of liberalism.
Ginsburg’s life story is truly remarkable. She herself noted that her experience “could only happen in America.” She faced sex discrimination in a big way. She studied very hard – while as a mother and during a time when her husband fell quite ill. Blocked from entering a law firm in New York because she was a female, she started teaching the law at Rutgers University. Fast-forward to 1993, she made a case for herself that would make John Kavanaugh look like a privileged, temperamental, deceitful, Machiavellian Neanderthal.
What do I mean by liberalism? Ginsburg demonstrated repeatedly throughout her career that first one determines right principles, and then tries to see to it that they are upheld no matter who is in question. For example, in one of her first important cases brought before the Supreme Court, she applied her principle of fairness to defend a man’s right. That is, she was advocating for a man who was discriminated against! (source)
She became a tireless defender of philosophical and political liberalism (not classical liberalism, as in, fiscal libertarianism, e.g., Milton Friedman) in her extremely long career. She battled cancer twice and didn’t miss a day of sessions! Even now, she is still going strong. I pray for her endurance and her will to survive!! Please, Justice Ginsburg, eat your vegetables and keep going to the gym!!
Let me put a fine point on this. Liberalism, at its best, is about fairness. Fairness for everyone, as a general rule. This is one area where the beauty, strength, and gravitas of liberalism outshines conservatism. Conservatism has a few strengths, but what it cannot say is that it values equality and fairness and justice for all. Take one look at conservatism throughout the ages and you will see, it is a philosophy that touts the individual, privilege, status quo, and entitlement. There are some strengths to libertarianism, I will admit. But libertarianism is one small step away from an austere, Ayn-Randian view of the world, which Ginsburg would be inclined to criticize harshly.
In this clip, Last Week Tonight skewers this dubious hyper-conservatism.
Related Blog: The Case of African-Americans
No, conservatives talk a good game when it comes to fairness and equality, but really the political version of conservatism is dominated by two main constituencies: those whose interest in “freedom” borders on greed and entitlement (the fiscal conservatives) and those who think that Jesus ought to be the King of America (the social conservatives).
Liberalism, though, is best when it rolls up its sleeves and goes to work. You’re probably familiar with the American Civil Liberties Union? Do you also remember George H. W. Bush making a big deal out of the fact that then-presidential candidate Michael Dukakis was a “card-carrying member of the ACLU.” What was the point of that? To indicate to the conservative voter that Dukakis was supportive to the point of extremism when it comes to legal matters such as abortion rights, the right to free speech, and the right to decline not to fight in some of America’s most ill-conceived wars. In fact, one of the most notable quotes about liberty and justice on record came from the firebrand conservative, Barry Goldwater: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
Think of history’s most famous defenders of righteous causes – King, Gandhi, Garrison, Paine, Zinn, Trumbo, Goldman – and ask yourself if they seem anything like Reince Priebus, Donald Trump, or Orrin Hatch. Democrats, too, give liberalism a bad name, with the likes of Debbie Wassarman-Schultz, Hillary Clinton, and yes, I’m afraid, most of what Obama did (and failed to do) in office. Whenever there is a fight for women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, religious freedom, or equality before the law, a liberal is usually out in front. Indeed, it is usually liberals who die on the battlefield carrying the flag liberty, justice, or equality. I am a proud, card-carrying member of the ACLU.
LINK: History of the ACLU, on whose behalf Ginsburg argued many cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Ginsburg “fought the good fight” and has an almost cult following for being like 5’1″, 110 lbs, and a fighter the likes of which America ought to be downright proud of! She is a heroine for values such as social justice, legal justice, fairness, egalitarianism, liberty, and generosity – what is known as egalitarian liberalism at its best. Her virtue, wisdom, industriousness, and character are legendary – and she still lives! Ω
Here is the story of how Ginsburg became known as “Notorious RBG” and it’s really neat. Go, Ruth!