Keywords: RBG, after life, Judaism. Christian privilege
This is a letter I had published in the Eugene Register Guard Sep. 27, 2020, p. 8A. On the 22nd, the Another View editorial cartoon showed Ruth Bader Ginsburg in judge’s ropes walking through the pearly gates on a floor of clouds. Interestingly, this was the first time I ever got an email back from the editor; mostly in response to the parenthetical question (which was removed from print with my permission.) They pointed out that the current environment for newspapers does not leave time to consider “nuances” (their word) and that they had very quickly grabbed something out of the choices they had. (Unfortunately, this is an indication of the sad state of affairs of newspapers.) To a secular activist, this is not very nuanced. From what I saw, the RG was not alone in “honoring” RBG using Christian iconography. I even saw one article asking whether people should use RIP relating to RBG – probably not.
I assume that the Another View on Sept. 22nd was intended to show respect for RBG and to unite those that mourn her death. It does neither. The gates and clouds are classic iconography for the Christian heaven. Although I couldn’t find anything specifically about her belief in an afterlife, since she was a non-observing Jew, there is reason to doubt. The Old Testament does not discuss an afterlife and one of the biggest schisms in Judaism was, and is, over its existence. Depicting her as a judge in a religious setting disrespects her support of church/state separation. Using Christian iconography disenfranchises the roughly 30% of the U.S. population that are non-Christian. Implying an afterlife alienates the more than 25% of the U.S. population who do not believe in one.
The assumption that everyone believes in an afterlife and uses religious observance as part of mourning is an example of Christian and religious privilege. (Did anyone involved in publishing this even consider these issues, let alone research them?) I find it disingenuous to use the death of such an honorable person to promote Christianity and religion.