Susan B. Anthony went to my church.
I went to the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY when I was growing up. Susan B. Anthony went there, too. Not at the same time, of course. Not even the same building, which was constructed long after her death. But the same congregation. I grew up seeing her noble profile in the portrait that hung in the church lobby.
Susan B. Anthony organized women to fight for their right to full participation in American democracy. She was beaten. She was belittled. She was jailed.
She prevailed. She didn’t live to see it but she prevailed.
I wonder if she ever thought about giving up. If she ever considered cashing in her privilege as a white northerner of some means and walking away from it all to live a life of ease. Just give up fighting for the rights that so many people didn’t seem to care about acquiring.
The thought of surrendering crossed my mind last night when I learned that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died and the Republican-led Senate is prepared to rush a replacement into her seat on the Supreme Court. The battle is all but lost and I should just stop fighting for the rights so many people seem prepared to relinquish.
See, I’m fine. My family is fine. I’m not lacking for rights or privileges. My kids aren’t underserved. My husband is a successful white man. We have resources and options. We won’t suffer in the corporate oligarchy our country is on track to become. I could walk away from any fight I want and not lose a damn thing in the process. I don’t have to care about other people.
But here’s what Susan B. Anthony and I both learned at at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester: the first principle of our religion is respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. She never forgot that and neither can I. I am called by faith to care about other people.
I don’t know what exactly to do next but I do know which two groups have blazed the trail we must follow in this next phase of the American experiment: those who fought for all kinds of civil rights and labor organizers. They were all beaten, belittled, and jailed like Susan B. Anthony was but they all prevailed eventually. Their history is our guidebook for the future.