When Ruth Bader Ginsburg succumbed to cancer, #RestInPower immediately trended. The ACLU, New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, actress Reese Witherspoon and the ostensibly Jewish uber-left activists of Bend the Arc all used the woke neologism in their tributes.
The play on words likely originated in the 1990s rap. It entered mainstream usage after the 2016 election when the left lost its mind. Even in a culture that’s increasingly — pathetically — obsessed with politics, politicizing death feels like a new low. Ginsburg’s final rite of passage signals a rejection of Jewish and Christian customs along with democratic norms, and a return to paganism and violence. To rest in power is to fulfill a pagan rite in which the dead, instead of being given their final rest, are used to attain political ends.
Paganism is nothing new when it comes to Ginsburg. She’s long been a designated golden calf for her progressive admirers. The cult of RBG — her likeness adorning everything from socks to the book covers in the Baby Feminist genre — emerged around the time of Barack Obama’s retirement. The progressive faithful needed another prominent political idol, even though technically SCOTUS is supposed to be above politics.
And then it became apparent that Ginsburg might not make it through Trump presidency.
The cult’s spiritual drive focused on willing the woman to stay alive — not for her own sake, of course, but long enough for a Democrat to name her replacement. The feverish praise of the RBG workout videos merged with good old consumerism, but the good vibes willed toward the notorious lace collar failed to ward off cancer.
Funeral rites inspire participants to carry on the legacy of the departed. In Judeo-Christian traditions, the bereaved are encouraged to find solace in the thought that God is in control. Pagan ideologies like communism promise paradise in this world — if only the followers cling to the righteous cause. When the woke wish that their icons ‘rest in power’, they reject the democratic notion that we are all equal in the eyes of our Creator.
Only those who advance progressive causes receive that honor. Nobody on the left wished that John McCain, who spent years at the Hanoi Hilton, or Antonin Scalia, who was Ginsburg’s friend, would rest in power.
The idea that the funeral rite expresses equality before God has a long history in the West. In RBG’s Jewish tradition, everyone gets the same funeral, and the funeral has to be speedy. Although rabbis make exemptions for logistical reasons, the body is supposed to be interred the following day, although not on Shabbat or Rosh Hashanah. Ginsburg should have been laid to rest on Monday. Instead, her body is in repose at the Capitol where she is the first — and hopefully the last — Jew to be commemorated in this manner.
Although there is a corresponding Judaic expression, ‘rest in peace’ is originally a Christian adage that began appearing on gravestones in Europe in the 8th century. It was simply a wish for the departed to attain eternal peace in Heaven. Over time, it entered secular observances, even becoming the standard obituary in the militantly atheist Soviet Union. It appeals to those who, like me, do not believe in an afterlife by evoking a romantic notion of solace after the tumult of earthly existence. Mourners remind each other that the departed is now released from the temporal passions.
To rest in power is an impossible proposition because those who crave power can never truly be at peace. Only an unhealthy society is so preoccupied with politics that it is unable to let go of the dead. Think, for instance, of Vladimir Lenin’s shriveling body, forever restless and on display at the Red Square Mausoleum.
‘Even now, Lenin is more alive than all the living,’ the Russian revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky explained in a poem written on the occasion of the Bolshevik’s passing. No longer, but nearly a century after his passing, the Marxist faithful still cherish Lenin’s mummified remains. Likewise, the Notorious RBG’s faithful are reluctant to let go.
Reports of Ginsburg’s final ‘fervent’ wish for her replacement to be selected by a new (and therefore Democratic) president were understood by the flock as a call to action. Caricaturing the traditional Jewish saying ‘May her memory be a blessing’, they took to the streets with printed placards reading ‘May her memory be a revolution’. Grieving progressives threatened to burn down the country if Trump nominated RBG’s replacement. In DC, crowds surrounded Mitch McConnell’s house. Meanwhile Ginsburg’s body is denied a proper Jewish burial.
We should not surprised by these menacing gestures from the RBG cult. Paganism in politics tends toward violence. And it is unfair to Ginsburg. Even if RBG was the reigning princess of ‘the personal is the political’, and even though she didn’t mind being objectified in her lifetime, she did not deserve this posthumous degradation. A decent society remembers its dead as human beings.