(A Menorah; The Virgin Mary; Eve; An Ancient Egyptian Fertility Figure; Ruth Bader Ginsburg; and, The Buddhist Goddess of Compassion)
These figures sit on a two-hundred-year-old piece of furniture that belonged to my Aunt Margaret. It is a biscuit bin, covered with drawers of various sizes and shapes. The top of the bin is heavy, but it can be lifted all the way back to reveal a cutting board and a large sifter. My biscuit bin is a magic cupboard holding secrets. I often wonder what was stored in all those drawers. I can assume that it belonged to a woman who, in the nineteenth-century, would have considered it something practical, a place to make the bread that was the basic substance of life. A place of fertility.
In the desert, the seven branched menorah kept the light of God alive for the legendary Moses as he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. In first century Palestine, Christian mythology tells us that a young girl, a virgin, gave birth to a man who promised eternal life. After she had disobeyed God and eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam named his wife, Eve, the mother of all living. Excavations over many centuries have turned up many hundreds of these small fertility figures, their breasts exposed. Kwan Yin is a Buddhist goddess of compassion, of love that makes no demands.
The Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure was a Christmas gift. Justice Ginsburg had just undergone her third surgery for cancer. The box in which the figure came was inscribed on the side, “I DISSENT.” It is a reference to the vote she cast, from her hospital bed, that decided the fate of Donald Trump’s most recent effort to further restrict the entry into this country of men, women, and children seeking asylum.
Donald Trump has appointed two justices to the Supreme Court–Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Both are white men. Both are to the right of conservative, although I am not sure what exactly they are conserving. Judging from his testimony during his confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh is an especially loathsome human being, but his position on the issues so far seems to be a little less extreme than those of Gorsuch. The difference, however, is not sharp enough to save us.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She is eighty-five years old and has just undergone her third operation for cancer, this time a malignancy in her lungs. She has served on the Supreme Court for a quarter of a century, and says she plans to continue. She works out with a personal trainer. There is a wonderful video on YouTube of Stephen Colbert interviewing her during one of her work-outs. She agreed to the interview, but insisted it happen at her gym. Colbert is having trouble keeping up with her.
Today I read this in the NYTimes:
“Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. announced his colleague’s absence at the start of Monday’s session, saying that “Justice Ginsburg is unable to be present today.” He added that she would take part in the court’s consideration of the day’s two cases based on the briefs submitted by the parties and transcripts of the arguments.”
In other words, as on the day of her surgery, Justice Ginsburg, too sick to come to the Court, participated from her bed. She intends to go on doing that for as long as she can.
As I have watched all this unfold, it occurs to me that I cannot imagine being eighty-five years old, with cancer, and carrying the burden of the implications that my death will have on the country for many decades ahead.
How would it be possible to bear that burden as gracefully as this woman is doing?