Leftovers: What a difference a year makes

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The one-year anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death came and went with little fanfare. 

There’s not much room for her remembrance in a 1-square-inch calendar space, since Sept. 18 is also the birthdate of the U.S. Air Force, National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, National Dance Day, National Gymnastics Day, National Cleanup Day, National Puppy Mill Awareness Day, and of course, National Cheeseburger Day, honoring America’s all-time favorite sandwich.

Natalie LaddMaybe because we’ve been saddled with so much baggage over the past few years, only fun and light-hearted (figuratively) National Cheeseburger Day garnered much attention. Brands like Wendys, McDonald’s, Red Robin, and Burger King participated with prime-time ads offering free burgers, BOGO’s, and future deals. USA Today and “Fox and Friends” also found it newsworthy, with no mention of AIDS, the Air Force, or Ginsburg. 

The whole National This-or-That Day thing can be found at nationaldaycalendar.com, where an individual can register a group or product. Filling out the registration application is free, but there are “business opportunities” and the site claims National Calendar Days are the “No. 1 trending topic of all time on social media.” 

Apparently, Sept. 18 was a banner day. A smaller than anticipated crowd gathered at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to support those jailed after the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6, while here in Portland, dozens of people dressed in black and stood across from Mathew’s Pub on Free Steet silently protesting the bar for hosting Proud Boys meetings.

No one at Mathew’s wanted to talk to me about it, but I ran into two protesters at Tommy’s Park later that day.

“We protested there last time we heard the Proud Boys were getting together here in Portland,” said a young woman in her early 20s who asked not to be identified. “We live in Portland with our two children and my parents. I don’t want those guys coming anywhere near us. Those Proud Boy guys really are dangerous. They’re crazy. They pretend to be military special services guys on a mission to protect everything white people stand for, but they also have illegal weapons and homemade bombs. They’re fools but I’ve got to take them seriously.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2016. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Steve Petteway)

Still holding his handmade sign – ”Stay Away From Portland. You have no reason to be proud” – the woman’s boyfriend was even more forthcoming.

“Yeah, we have two kids together and as you can tell, they’re not the same race,” he said. “But she shouldn’t have to be afraid to tell you where she lives, or at least what neighborhood. The Proud Boys have no respect for a family like ours.”

When RBG died I was consumed with a feeling of loss over my longtime personal hero. Others were too, and unlike National Anything Day, it didn’t seem disingenuous. Not to say she was more important than HIV/AIDS or Aging Awareness, but this year there were no tributes, no words uttered, nor many mentions at all (at least not that I heard, and I honestly hope I’m wrong). Her accomplishments, actions, beliefs, and social impact changed America forever. I’m still grateful she wasn’t here to see the presidential election poop-show and the subsequent horror that took place on Jan. 6.

In the year since RBG’s passing, we’ve seen things that would have her turning in her grave (my grandmother, may she rest in peace, used that expression all the time, so it must be OK). The voting rights issues, the safe and legal abortion access issues, increasing anti-vax and anti-masking issues, all in this one short year. I can almost hear RBG say, “Have we learned nothing?”

We all give special meaning and importance to the days, dates, and memories that directly impact us. For example, Sept. 18 is also BFF’s birthday, and in 1851, The New York Times started publishing for two cents a copy. For me, both of those events are reasons to celebrate.

As for the silent protest across from Mathew’s Bar, and the young couple who rose to the challenge of opposing the Proud Boys meeting there, RBG would have been proud of you. Maybe it isn’t the loudly commercialized happenings that matter here, but the quiet actions that matter most.

Those actions could fill 1-inch squares for days.

Natalie Ladd is a Portland restaurant veteran, freelance writer, and connoisseur of all things Bruce Springsteen. She loves Boston sports, chewy red wine, and has never sampled a cheese she didn’t like. She can be reached at [email protected].

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