Living in the Washington D.C. bubble, I have heard a lot of rumors that never make the national news.
It has always fascinated me. It was one of the reasons why I started writing my first book. The realization that you are not six degrees away from the White House, but two or three steps away, simply boggles the brain (at least for this Midwest bumpkin).
However, the outcome is still the same. The same as that game you played in grade school. You know the one. The game where the teacher whispers a secret to the first student of each row. You passed it on with such flare. You repeated every word with clarity and confidence. Then you heard that jumbled mess coming out of the mouth of the last student.
Well, Washington is no different.
They’re like any family, office or PTA meeting filled with updates and polite chit-chat. (And don’t forget listening to someone else’s conversation.) The only difference is the location; it’s the nation’s capital.
OK, you ask, what is your point?
It is more of an introduction than a point. I would like to talk about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not the media icon but the everyday legend that people saw around Washington, D.C. daily.
Justice Ginsburg served on the Supreme Court from 1993 until 2020. She was the second female justice, joining Sandra Day O’Connor Aug. 10, 1993. She even served on the Supreme Court as the only female justice for about three years when Justice O’Connor retired and before Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan joined.
That is some of the official information related to Justice Ginsburg.
I wanted to tell you a little about the hometown (Washington, D.C.) chit-chat that may or may not appear in the newspaper. There are probably a lot of people who know her better and have a more direct, one degree or no separation from her. I just know people who have that two or three degrees of separation and have seen her around town at different functions.
She was enormously respected in this extremely political arena. (Something that is hard to do in this town.) Her body was fragile, but her mind and personality were sharp and polite.
She loved the opera and had even dressed in costume with her dear friend and associate Justice Antonin Scalia. (They were even known to have participated with the background actors in an opera presentation.)
She was often seen in the Russian Lounge at the Kennedy Center before an opera, where she might sit with someone she did not know (“excuse me, but is this seat taken?’).
She declined “selfies”/pictures. (“I’m sorry I do not take pictures.”) Many times when she arrived everyone would raise, clap and cheer.
She was like all of us. She had duties, family, and friends. The Scalia and Ginsburg families were friends. The spouses were gourmet chefs and traded recipes. (I would have loved to have sampled some of those dinners).
She loved tea. Was the first woman justice to wear a feminine collar with her black robe. She was considered to belong to the liberal wing of the court while Scalia was the conservative wing, yet they respected each other, something all of us should try to do.
I admired her determination and her focus. I didn’t agree with her 50 percent of the time but understood her reasoning for the stands she took. She was for peaceful, forceful discussion and mostly stayed away from political bias, but like all of us she had an opinion.
She was a real person with poise and grace. We will miss her, but we will forever be grateful for her tenacity and strength as she forged ahead into the male-dominated world of the court system, encouraging all of us to seek our dreams, passion and live a good life. That would be the greatest tribute we could give her.
So, in this time of political upheaval, let us follow her example and listen, respect and peacefully discuss our differences. Let us take a deep breath and remember who we are and how we all can honor the rules of law to bring about justice.
Peace be with you, Justice Ginsburg — and with our nation.
J. Ackerman Werner is the self-published author of The Cellomaker series and a Rantoul native who now resides in Washington, D.C.