Point of View Columns

Sorting Through the Rubble

As you are reading this, if you are 49 years old or younger, you are about to enter into a new reality here in these United States. If you are 49 years old or younger there has never been a time when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not in effect and enforced. There has never been a time in your life when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was not in effect or enforced. There has never been a time in your life when a woman’s right to an abortion was not a Constitutional right.

What we have learned from the right wing of the right-wing Supreme Court is that whether you are 49 or 89 or 19, America has now changed – and not for the better. Because this Supreme Court is just getting warmed up and we should all prepare for the wreckage that will ensue in the coming years.

Justice Clarence Thomas may not be an admirable character in modern American history, but no one can say that he has been dishonest. Consider that in his separate opinion supporting the demolition of Roe v. Wade and the attendant rights that it had articulated for almost half a century he clearly stated that there were other rights and entitlements that are on his hit list.

Among them, the rights to the use of contraception, consensual sex, same sex marriage and gender equity are all on the Thomas Chopping Block. The federal power to protect the environment, affirmative action and generally accepted civil rights in hotels, restaurants and any other private setting are also going to be in serious jeopardy as there are now six Supreme Court justices hell-bent on returning this country where rights are limited and those limited rights do not belong to all of us.

And so now we sort through the rubble that was once an infrastructure of rights that, while imperfectly protected and advanced, provided this country with a roadmap that led towards something that was starting to look like justice for all. That roadmap has been trashed by Thomas & Company with the knowing and active support of the minority of right-wing ideologues in this country who believe that liberty and justice for all actually means liberty and justice only for themselves.

And so now we sort through the rubble and wonder what next?

The answer is not an easy set of 1-2-3 steps. The future has never been guaranteed and the present is rarely perfect. But there are lessons to be learned from the past that will provide us with the strength and fortitude to persevere and overcome – just not right away.

It is important to remember a few lessons from history:

  1. Great change rarely comes about in an instant. The sun may rise quickly but we forget that it has traveled around the earth to greet us in the morning. We will need to persevere if we are to overcome.
  2. The opposition will not change and will never be converted. Persuasion is not only futile it be self-defeating if the goal is to change the minds of those who believe that stripping men, women and children of their rights and expectations is a just result.
  3. The opposition has used the last half century to its advantage using the tools of government and communication to gerrymander its minority status into minority rule.
  4. Unless there is a realization that long term strategy and collective strength is key – constructive collaboration may be imperfect but it is far preferable to failure in search of perfection. The opposition learned this years ago, culminating in people holding their noses just so long as they could get someone in the White House who would accelerate the dismantling of the framework of rights and expectations that too many of us saw as sacrosanct while the opposition saw it as sacrilegious.

There have been many lessons learned during the past few weeks. Now it is time to put all that has been learned into action.

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