RBG (2018)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on September 7, 2018 @ tonymacklin.net.

The documentary RBG is a compelling clarion call.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a symbol of an icon whose accomplishments are being chipped away by lesser beings. Her world is under assault. Religion is beating the hell out of the state. And males are striking a dominating pose.

America was not "great" for women when Ruth was growing up and facing a society which denied women basic rights and mobility.

Perhaps the most vivid element in RBG is that it brings back to life a world that was often oblivious to the lives and dreams of females. Women mostly existed as the objects of men's wet dreams.

It is hard in 2018 to even fathom the world of 60 years ago. It seems like an alien, ignorant place. But the documentary makes it and its attitudes real. And we hear some reverberations of it today.

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School in 1957, she couldn't get a position in a law firm in New York because she was a woman. She graduated first in her class at an Ivy League university law school in New York, and she couldn't get a job with a law firm in the city.

RBG captures Ruth's contribution to an evolving world and her crucial place in it. She eventually progressed to arguing and winning several significant cases in the Supreme Court. Then 25 years ago in 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated her for the Supreme Court. She was confirmed by a 96-3 vote. Of course, Jesse Helms was one of the three who voted against her.

RBG shows a woman with spunk and will. She and her husband Martin had a fascinatingly symbiotic marriage. They gave each other tremendous support. He was outgoing, and she was quieter, but skilled in acquiring knowledge, and utilizing it with masterly ability.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg tried to reach some sense of equanimity. In one speech she gave before the Supreme Court, the nine men seemed to be hearing truths they had never imagined before. They listened with rapt attention.

Hers was a voice that is essential. It's a voice that is being dismissed today.

In her 25 years on the Court, she has quietly provided wisdom. And she is a perfectionist, often working tirelessly to find the right word in her writings.

One remarkable relationship was the one the arch conservative justice Antonin Scalia and Ruth developed together. As he says, they were "an odd couple." Although diametrically opposed, they were great friends - even appearing in an opera together. They liked each other, even respected one another.

What a concept. It's find to find anyone who even cares about an opposing position today, much less listens to it. Ignorance breeds certainty.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a political statement before the election in 2016. It was out of character, but in it she presaged the future.

Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen show an arc in their documentary. But the arc may not end in a rainbow.

I have some skin in the game. [Women have influenced my life at a rate of 2-1 over males.] My mother was a victim of a past time and values. She was a merchandise manager at a major department store in Philadelphia. She took the train to New York daily in the dining car - she was successful.

My father was Roman Catholic; my mother wasn't. So when she had her third child, she was let go from her job. She spent the rest of her life in bed as a miserable alcoholic. That was how I knew her. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been there, it might have been different.

Brett Kavanaugh may take us back to the faulty rhythm method.

The Supreme Court is on the verge of becoming the ark of white males again. Young and staunch

Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it's now probable that women will be writing minority reports for years.

We can only hope that RBG is not just an asterisk in the future.

© 2000-2019 Tony Macklin