Point of View Columns

The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning

To paraphrase Winston Churchill’s speech at the end of the Battle of Britain, the current assault on democracy and constitutional rights in the United States represents either the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning.

If the upcoming reversal of Roe v. Wade marks the beginning of the end of rights that have been a settled part of American life for well over a century, it will also mark the beginning of the end of the experiment called the United States. Leaving the establishment and protection of rights to the various states will result in a patchwork of liberties and oppression that cannot help but cross state lines. And if that turns out to be the case it will not be possible for the United States to stay united for very long.

It should be understood that this is not alarmist thinking, this is clear thinking. During his four years in office, the human wrecking ball named Trump appointed over 200 ultra-right-wing men and women to federal judgeships, and most of these men and women are in their 30’s and 40’s and will be serving for life – most will be serving for at least twenty years. The average age of the neoconservative Supreme Court majority is 62 years, which means that this majority could easily rule for at least a decade if not more.

What all this means is that the progress with respect to civil rights, women’s rights, voting rights, environmental protection, academic freedom, affirmative action, workplace safety, gender rights, same sex marriage, even consensual sex will soon be on the Supreme Court docket (i.e. chopping block). What this also means is that this is the beginning of the end of the belief by progressives and rights activists that the battles had been won and victory had been achieved.

It will take an entirely new recalibration of what advocacy and strategic change will look like in this brave new world. And so, if we look at the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice, then it is clearly time for men and women of good will who believe in justice for all to understand that we are now at the end of the beginning of changing this country for the better.

We have seen glimpses of hope and possibility and have prematurely thought that the mission was accomplished. We collectively suffered from a failure of imagination in not realizing that the forces of regression and repression did not disband, indeed they regrouped and reconfigured and metastasized into something more powerful than Jim Crow or the Confederacy or even the epic inhumanity of race-based enslavement. We have not imagined that, in the 21st century this country could bring forth a collective movement that is worse than all of those horrors, worse because these forces are unapologetic and very eloquent in articulating their vision of America.

And so, if the draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade comes to pass, we can hope that our failure of imagination has also come to pass, as we witness the end of the beginning of a struggle for justice with the realization that we must continue to struggle against injustice and confront evil in whatever disguise it may choose.

We can hope that one day, this day which is marking the end of the beginning of our fight for a better country will also be remembered as the point at which true, meaningful and institutional change began to be the goal.

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