RBG: A Summon for Her Handmaidens

Patty reflects on the lessons of Padmé Amidala, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and what comes next when we lose a role model.

“So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.” 

– Senator Padmé Amidala of Naboo

Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Official Supreme Court Portrait, 2016. Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Photographer: Steve Petteway. Public Domain.

The horror on Padmé’s face as the Empire is declared and established, tearing her beloved Republic apart, haunts me. This is a horror that I have felt myself. The way your mouth pulls tight. The way your lungs seem to crawl up through your throat. The chill that runs just under your skin. And it is all brought on by the realization that something has gone terribly wrong. It is compounded by the fact that this wrong is bigger than you, and the task of rectifying this wrong is bigger than you could ever possibly manage on your own. 

In Star Wars, this horror is bookended by the funeral of Senator Amidala as this beacon of democracy and liberty is presented in death. This woman who fought injustice to save her planet and then stepped forward to try and do the same for her galaxy is laid out like Ophelia, surrounded by flowers and adrift. In this moment, she becomes another woman lost to the rivers of power greater than herself. Padmé leaves behind a legacy that so many in power  immediately race to tear apart, gleeful at the opportunity to erase her and her legacy from history.  

The beauty of a funeral cannot distract from the reality of tragedy. This reality is that a politically great woman has been lost, a beacon of liberty snuffed out, and the powerful are going to do whatever they can to take advantage of the vacuum. 

In the aftermath of losing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a giant in the American legal system, I am reminded of the loss of Padmé Amidala.  Justice Ginsburg led a lifelong fight for equality and civil rights, becoming a force to be reckoned with long before she was appointed to her position on the United States Supreme Court. She was the second woman to reach these seemingly insurmountable heights, following in the footsteps of Sandra Day O’Connor, and  her legacy has been continued through  the appointments of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Justice Ginsburg’s life’s work was to make sure that no one would be judged solely on the basis of their sex.   

The Notorious RBG was and shall always be a titan of law. She was known for her fierce questions, insightful and critical dissents. She quickly became recognized as one of the pillars of the Supreme Court. As biting as her words could be, Justice Ginsburg was also known to establish friendships with those she disagreed with, unafraid to point out the flaws in their thinking.  Throughout her life, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero. While she never let herself be defined by her sex, she was also a woman, a womanwho knew she had and would make mistakes, a woman who was brave and determined and painfully, painfully human.  Like Padmé Amidala, death came to her despite her battles. In her last words for us, she thought only of her Republic, not of herself. 

Last night, contemplating the loss of Justice Ginsburg, I felt like I could see those flowers and blue butterflies surrounding her. I felt the despair and rage of a heart breaking, and I am sure that same overwhelming confusion, the need to act and to fall apart, was shared by many of us. Many of us joked in the past few years that, like one of Padmé’s handmaidens, we would give our lives, our health, our spirits, to help keep Justice Ginsburg with us. And, while we rallied around her, while we gave our appreciation for her hard work, in those moments, we could not take her place. Just as Sabé could not protect Padmé, we could not keep Justice Ginsburg tethered to our world.  

“We are brave, your highness.” 

– Padmé Amidala

In reflection, both Padmé and Justice Ginsburg knew that they could not do their work alone. They knew that their acts of bravery were not isolated events, but moments that ultimately drove them and others forward toward a better, brighter world.   

Although she is not with us any longer, we can still be Justice Ginsburg’s handmaidens.   We can still stand in the same place as Mon Mothma and Bail Organa, following in the steps of those no longer with us and working to right what we’ve watched go wrong. We have been charged with the duty of putting in the time and making the necessary sacrifices to bring back the light of the republic. It will take time. There will be failures. But we can build our own rebellion, an Alliance to protect and grow for the future of our own Leia’s and Luke’s. We can inspire the Jyn’s and Bodhi’s among us. We must protect the Enfys Nest’s that are already doing work and making the essential sacrifices that do not always get recognized.  

While Justice Ginsburg and Padmé Amidala may be gone, their light is not. We hold their light. We are the hope that they strove and fought for. We are the spark. We are the handmaidens who now take up the fight.  

To those handmaidens who live in the US: call your senators. Protest. Vote. Watch out for one another in our anger and grief. Be brave. Don’t give up. Uphold and uplift one another, especially those who need it most. Be present. Be ready. 

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” 

– Ruth Bader Ginsburg 

Project Stardust Team Note for US Handmaidens: If you wish to take action as described above, here are some key links to resources for you! For information on calling Senators, go here. You can also use Resistbot. To Get Involved in local events, check out this website! To Find a protest, either virtual or in-person, look at the crowdsourced ideas here. For information on voting, including vote registration and state guides, visit Vote411. For further information on what is on the ballot in your state, have a look at Vote Like A Beast!