I had not thought to write anything about the late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For one thing, I have never seen any of the films about or interviews with her. By the time she became a feminist icon, I had long stopped going to the movies and I had never been a TV-watcher. Moreover, I’d never viewed women’s “equality” as the peg to hang my feminist hat on. It wasn’t until 2015, at the age of 64, that I discovered the gendered political roles in the Haudenosaunee League that led me to whittle my own peg—“women’s public authority”.
In truth, it was my interest in Native American governance that led me, two years ago, to take a personal interest in RBG and it wasn’t for a positive reason. It was because Native Americans had started publicizing Ginsburg’s vote in a 2005 tribal sovereignty case (City of Sherrill, NY vs. Oneida Nation) in which she wrote the majority opinion denying tribal sovereignty (8-1) and cited, as Footnote #1, the Doctrine of Discovery as a primary precedent.
I had not known much about the Doctrine of Discovery, but I knew enough to question Ginsburg’s vote and citation on two counts:
—The Doctrine of Discovery was a series of Catholic (papal) edicts that predated the creation of the U.S. by about 250 years.
— Ginsburg was a practicing Jew sitting on the Supreme Court of a country that defined itself, partly but foundationally, through the clear separation of church (religion) and state (government legal apparatus at all levels).
To this day, those are the two questions that I would pose to Justice Ginsburg if I were able to talk to her. Those remain the first questions I would ask her colleagues if I ever get the opportunity to talk to someone in whom she confided regret for that decision, as cited in the May 5, 2020 Buffalo Chronicle. Whether that article was the first public disclosure of her regret has yet to be confirmed. There are now many more questions to ask and I hope someone pursues them. In fact, it’s entirely possible that I may yet have a chance to do so since, as a result of RBG’s death, I now know that a distant cousin of mine (Ari Holtzblatt, the son of a second cousin) was a clerk for RBG in 2015 and is married to the rabbi (Lauren Holtzblatt) who officiated at both the public memorials (at the Supreme Court and in the U.S. capitol) and at the private burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
I do suspect that a November 2016 article may have first alerted Ginsburg to Indigenous people’s disappointment with the 2005 decision and first sensitized the American Jewish community to the case. That article, written by Steven Newcomb, a co-founder of the Indigenous Law Institute, was titled: “Jews & Doctrine of Discovery: On Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Book, My Own Words”.
In a separate blog, I will discuss the Doctrine of Discovery and new attempts to unburden both humans and the earth from its effects.
Meanwhile, as an American Jewish feminist, I am grateful for that article, which leads me to the purpose of this blog: to thank RBG for, in her death, being a flashpoint for some serious male misogyny expressed publicly by a candidate for U.S. president less than ten days after her death.
Mark Charles’s Second Cup of Coffee:
Sept. 27, 2020 video
On Sept. 27, 2020, Yom Kippur eve—the holiest of holy days to Jews everywhere—Mark Charles, an independent candidate for U.S. president and Christian preacher, posted a half-hour video of his thoughts on the legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a practicing Jew. RBG had died on Sept. 17, 2020, at the age of 87, in harness (as it were), despite multiple hospitalizations during 2020. By posting this video on Sept. 27, 2020, Charles “refused” to acknowledge Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Jewish faith and in her final illness and old age “refused” to acknowledge her humanity.
The word “refused” is in quotes because, in his video, Charles accuses Justice Ginsburg, in her last years and in one of her final cases, of “refusing” to do two things:
— She “refused to be a voice of dissent [in the McGirt decision], advocating for our own [Native] humanity.” (20:30 mins)
— “She refused to stand up for the humanity of indigenous women.” (26:00 mins)
It seems to me that in order to explicitly “refuse” something, something has to first be offered, explicitly. In neither circumstance cited by Charles, so far as I can tell, was anything offered for Ginsburg (or any other justice) to refuse:
— Dissenting from the majority opinion in McGirt would have meant to vote against the Native nations., in which case the McGirt case would have been lost. The vote was 5-4.
Even if Charles thinks that the SCOTUS decision outlines for Congress an easy path to take away Native American lands, the Constitution still says something about treaties being the supreme law of the land. Another Supreme Court panel might very well uphold this clause against a Congressional attempt to dissolve reservations.
— In what case was RBG’s Supreme Court asked to stand up for the humanity of indigenous women, specifically (per Charles’s video) MMIWG — missing and murdered indigenous women and girls?
It is too bad that the lawyers representing the Native American nations in the McGirt case did not have Charles on their team to connect the dots, as Charles is demanding of a recently deceased RBG. Charles could have articulated the exact arguments that might have caught RBG’s attention in her final months of life and in her final illness, in and out of the hospital. Isn’t that what good lawyers are for, to point out the arguments that might best get each justice’s attention in such a way that they might get each justice’s support?
Charles does RBG’s legacy a disservice by saying, over and over again, with increasing incredulity, that she “refused” to figure this out herself during the case. By this accusation, Charles shows himself ignorant of how legal arguments and real democracy works. It is an insult to Ginsburg’s memory and life’s work to accuse her of “refusing” to do the right thing, even “going against” her “own” issue (women) and her own regret about the 2005 Doctrine of Discovery decision.
Worse, Charles denies RBG’s own humanity by not recognizing the stress and pressure that she was under not to resign from the SCOTUS. In another historical moment, she might very much have liked to resign, for her own health and peace in her last few months or even years of life. Should she have resigned, rather than sign onto the McGirt opinion?
Most egregiously, the thing that demonstrates Charles’s unfitness for the office of U.S. president is the vitriolic tone with which he cited RBG’s “refusals” and with which he seems to accuse her of not deserving the accolades with which people have described her over the years —“a brilliant legal scholar, who pays attention to detail.” She was “afraid to topple the whole damn system of white supremacy and land titles” blah, blah blah. He says that Ginsburg “didn’t have the courage, the legal will” to do what he thinks she should have done in her final weeks of life.
At the beginning of his video, Charles says that these are not his final thoughts on RBG. I hope he will apologize to her memory for expecting her to be in her prime while battling cancer at the age of 87, while trying to stay alive and in her SCOTUS seat until the GOP was out of office, and for expecting her to address issues that the McGirt case lawyers did not bring up in a case that was heard just a few months before she died.
More to the point, I hope he will apologize for the vitriol that he spewed, weaponizing the word “refuse”, accusing Ginsburg of cowardice, and ratcheting up of his tone to fever pitch at the end of the 30-minute video. Such tonal vitriol seems to be the special variety bottled for misogynists when faced with a powerful and righteous woman whose standing among women—even Native American women who were quoted after RBG’s death—is large and untarnished. The cause of Charles’s misogyny against RBG is not clear, but the fact of it can’t be denied.
I have never seen any of the films or interviews that created the “mythology” or “stardom”of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (words also used pejoratively by Charles). But I have long recognized her importance to other women who found their voices and their power, partly or wholly through Ginsburg’s commitment to women’s equality. Seeing the outpouring of all kinds of expression by women at her death—in the U.S. and internationally—made me realize the extent of Ginsburg’s impact on real women’s lives. Thanks to the incoherent male discomfort displayed by Mark Charles in his 30-minute video on Sept. 27, 2020 (and elsewhere during his campaign to be U.S. president), count me as an official fan of RBG. I don’t relish seeing such discomfort in any human about anything, especially when it doesn’t seem to be conscious of itself. But in a man who says he wants to be president of ALL the people, it’s good to know ahead of time — before we vote — that he’s not yet ready to be that president.
WWW.MARKCHARLES2020.COM + THANKS, RBG
I have been following the independent candidacy of Mark Charles for U.S. president since about June 2019, soon after he announced his campaign. For many years, I have been informally studying indigenous governance, especially in North America. Mr. Charles is of Navajo and Dutch-American heritage and from the beginning of his campaign was clearly running as an Indigenous American. I had hoped that he might be sharing specific governance traditions from the Navajo and other U.S. Native nations.
Even though he never did, I have appreciated his clear and sometimes innovative thinking on many foundational problems facing the U.S. in the 2020 election and to his careful oratory. As he developed specific platforms, I have found some of them brilliant and many of them worth sharing. But, as we voters have been struggling to identify the candidate most worthy of our individual votes and as election day came closer, I was still uncertain about who to vote for on Nov. 3.
Today, I know, with clarity, that it won’t be Mark Charles. Although I will continue to promote some of his platforms and some of his insights into the U.S. political process (and give him full credit for articulating them), I will not be writing in Mark Charles on my Illinois ballot. Full credit to RBG for helping me make that decision.