Dissent, Good Trouble, and Forging Ahead

Some thoughts on the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and forging ahead in a Nation without the civil rights icons of old.

Dear America,

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about progress and the ebb and flow it takes in our history. Not just yours mind you, but all of human history. We make advancements and then regress. We fight in revolutions only to give power over to dictators, from Ancient Rome to the French Revolution. Two steps forward, one GIANT step back.

But I find it is often in these trying times when we find our true voices of hope and truth that echo in the pages and hearts of history.

Side note: why is it we as human beings only seem to shine best through conflict. It seems in history our greatest virtues and acts of courage and kindness emerge in severe times of war and strife and never in peace, the few times we can actually enjoy such a gift.

Anyway, back to history.

Right now, in 2020, it is a pivotal time in history. Climate change nearing a do or die apex, a global pandemic ravaging through communities worldwide, totalitarianism and strong arm tactics taking foot at the highest seats of power, division being sewn between races and genders, and the leaders of old who were our connection to the heroes who led us through such times in the past are dying. John Lewis in July and now Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September.

Without getting into the weeds of the current asshole, white-nationalist-in-chief and his evil turtle crony in the Senate, it is a scary time now that RBG is gone. Not only was she a stalwart judge to law and justice but she was an icon to women, feminists, and generally anyone in favor of equal rights and protection under the law. Now that she is gone, many fear who might take her place.

But this isn’t about that. Sure, we could talk the politics of the living document approach versus the originalist approach to the constitution, but frankly America I do not have the stamina, nor the insight for such a discussion.

No. Instead I want to talk about legacy. Right now as I write this in my living room, my daughter safely sleeping at her Lolo and Lola’s house and my wife playing Animal Crossing to the sounds of my dog barking, millions of people are flooding the void of the internet with tributes and depressed confessions the likes of which I have not seen since the day after the presidential election of 2016.

Yes, people feel sad. But more than that they feel not only have they lost a leader but also they lost a barrier between them and the totalitarian Trumpers who have seemly taken over the country’s major seats of power. It is a feeling not like when a baseball team, red hot in the playoff race, loses their best hitter to injury right as the World Series starts. It’s a feeling of “we chad a fighting chance” that is quickly destroyed by vampiric thoughts of “now we got no shot”.

Such catastrophizing thoughts are common when an iconic leader or inspirational voice is lost too soon or in a time of strife. And I can not help but feel that same way from time to time.

But a few months ago we lost another icon of justice and love in the late, great John Lewis. I recently and finally watched the documentary Good Trouble about Senator Lewis. It was inspiring and reminded me that the greats we hold up as leaders today, started as leaders when they were young.

Simple, I know. Just hear me out.

As I grow older I can’t help but feel a sense that, even though I was told when I was young that one day my generation would run the world, that, here we are in our 30s and yet the world and the seats of change are not ours. Perhaps it is partly our fault. We are apathetic, distracted, and at times focused on the wrong issues. But at times it does feel that our parents generation is unwilling to pass the baton they so fiercely fought for from their parents’ generation.

Regardless of the reason, the reality is – John Lewis is gone. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is also gone. We are without our metaphorical parents and it is time we did things for ourselves. There is another John Lewis out there and there is certainly another Ruth Bader Ginsburg out there as well, and now is the time they grow. When the fire is hot and the iron is ready, we need to strike. There will be a day when we marvel at the legacy of another RBG, at another John Lewis, but that will never be if we don’t start standing up and fighting.

It is time. We can’t rely on the heroes of old to lead the way. We are out on the wide open ocean and we have the helm. We have learned from the best and it is time to swallow our courage and forge ahead on our own. Yes we are young, but they were once too. Do not be afraid to be you, to be young and idealistic. Cynicism is not the marker of wisdom and experience, it is a sign of the truly childish.

We must have hope. We must believe there are hundreds, if not thousands of women and men ready to take up the captain’s helm and steer the ship. Those wiling to take a chance need to take it and those seeking it need to stop asking and actively take it. There will be mistakes along the way. Setbacks and half steps when there should be full ones, but it is all a part of the messy experiment of democracy.

Perhaps I am rambling on and on America, but I guess I am just trying to explain that we need to look to hope right now. We are without our legends of the past and if we want a future that is truly a more perfect union, then we must all get in good trouble and say to the hectic, backwards year that is 2020: “I Dissent!”

If we don’t America, then what else do we have but chaos and despair.

Thanks for listening. Excelsior!

-Kevin

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