Greetings from the Chair 6.29.22
Greetings! What a week it has been. The January 6th committee hearings and the Supreme Court have been pelting us with all sorts of information, insights, and decisions. My head is spinning and I’m finding it difficult to put ideas into any coherent form. So, I did what I always do when I’m overwhelmed. I make a list:
- The recent rulings by the Supreme Court have been devastating. Most of the focus has been on the likely horrors that will emerge now that Roe v Wade has been struck down. It’s important to recognize that the court also ruled in ways that seriously weakened Miranda rights, essentially eliminated the wall between church and state, and expanded gun rights. As of this list-writing, decisions on immigration, climate change, Native American lands, and protections for veterans have yet to be handed down. I think we can anticipate dismal news on all these issues, which are all connected.
- Striking down Roe v Wade is just the start. "Justice" Thomas has already signaled the desire to go after contraception, gay marriage, and essentially any privacy that individuals seek. The goal is an authoritarian theocracy and this court, as well as many of the lower courts, will roll over hard won gains since the New Deal. I suspect there will be a complete shredding of the Constitution with only the 2nd Amendment being bolstered. No freedom of assembly, religion, or speech.
- It would be a mistake to think of Roe v Wade as strictly a "women’s issue." First, others who don’t identify as "women" can get pregnant, and they are likely to be in much more vulnerable positions than cisgender women. Second, the anti-abortion forces have long partnered with white supremacists under the "Great Replacement" umbrella. In one of the best Freudian slips ever, Republican Congressperson Mary Miller said that overturning Roe was a "historic victory for white life" (she says she meant to say right to life – ha ha). If white women weren’t seeking abortions, this wouldn’t be an issue for many on the right.
- The rightwing, especially the Christian right, has an excellent long-game. Catalyzed by the original Roe decision, desegregation efforts such as bussing, the emerging gay rights movement, and general upheaval of the anti-war, civil rights, and women’s movement, myriad initiatives appeared in the early 1970s, coalesced later that decade, and then went all in under the Reagan administration. For 50 years they have been moving toward this Supreme Court with these decisions.
- A key rightwing strategy has been the use, really manipulation, of emotions – especially fear. Fear of women. Fear of Black and Brown people. Fear of immigrants. Fear of science. Fear of difference. Fear of everything that might challenge a mythical version of America. Always blame someone more vulnerable than you instead of going after the structural Isms that keep so many down. While we might desire that facts and rational thought should guide our politics, this just isn’t the reality. We need to tap into our own emotional narrative that supplants the rightwing fear narrative.
- What do we do as a society when our key institutions are so corrupt that they have little or no legitimacy? Eugene Debs once noted (and I paraphrase) that he did not grant the Supreme Court any authority over his work because they lacked legitimacy in that they were tools of business. For me, the current SCOTUS is void of legitimacy given its extraordinary restrictions on rights, choice, and voice. The January 6th Committee is revealing the depths of corrosion in the Trump White House. Having gone through Watergate, I again wonder if the Office of the President has been delegitimated. And Congress is just a morass of non-action. It seems that legitimacy exited that entity a while ago. What might it take to rebuild these institutions – or do they go by the wayside?
- Voting matters. Mobilizing to get the vote out in local, state, and national elections is critical. So too does countering the voting repression efforts, especially those aimed at Black and Brown communities. Yet this work needs to be a building block for larger initiatives. Voting isn’t the end, it’s a beginning. We vote to create – what? What is our endgame?
- Everyone in my bubble is a mixture of rage and despair. But my bubble isn’t this country, and my greatest fear is that the average person won’t realize, or care, that a form of Christian-fascism is descending on us rapidly with Trump as its King (just typing this makes me wretch). So many many distractions combined with the lack of a collective will to act. It’s as if neoliberalism has numbed folks to this current reality. And that’s what terrifies me the most – the numbness and disengagement of too many. How do we generate hope and the desire to act in this current environment?
Would love to know what your thought lists are in these troubling times.