“And Lord, we lifted over the delta, feelin’ alright,
carried together on the broad, unbroken back of the blues.”
A couple of weeks ago, I was on a planet called Earth, a citizen of the United States, and a prisoner of sorry judgments levied by fools whose political existence is funded through the extravagant largesse of those who sup on hate and greed.
That was my Earth, and my country, and if I despised the manner in which the pieces of what passes for “culture” and “justice” and “government” came together like a jigsaw puzzle left out in the rain, at least I recognized it. It was familiar.
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…and then something like last week happens, and all of a sudden, I don’t know what planet I’m on anymore. In a small space of days, this nation’s highest court confirmed that everyone can keep their health insurance for a fee, tore a large chunk out of the federal “three strikes” criminal sentencing law, saved the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and gifted all the people of this nation, which prides itself on freedom, the actual freedom to marry as they wish. This particular portion of a long-enduring prohibition that finds its justification in Bronze-Age Biblical morality, and presumes upon that dusty premise to dictate the letter of the law, was ended before noon on Friday.
It didn’t go over easy. After the ACA ruling, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, both of whom are GOP presidential candidates, each erupted with spittle-flecked rants about the “tyranny” of “un-elected judges” making decisions on cases brought through due process of law to the bench. Justice Antonin Scalia was so despondent over the ruling that he declared words no longer have meaning, and the governor of Mississippi accused the whole thing of being a “socialist takeover” of the United States.
The “un-elected judges” bit deserves some attention, because we’re all going to be hearing more of it. When the Supreme Court decreed that comprehensive political bribery and corruption by way of unfettered campaign contributions was the law of the land, via their Citizens United decision, no one puled about “un-elected judges.” When minority voting rights were eviscerated, there was nary a peep about “un-elected judges.” Now that gay people can legally bind in love and commitment, however, those “un-elected judges” are suddenly intolerable.
“In order to provide the people themselves with a constitutional remedy to the problem of judicial activism and the means for throwing off judicial tyrants,” wrote Ted Cruz in the National Review, “I am proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would subject the justices of the Supreme Court to periodic judicial-retention elections.” Bobby Jindal, for his part, actually managed to out-fail Mr Cruz. “If we want to save some money,” he said, “let’s just get rid of the court.”
Talk about temper tantrums.
This mealy-mouthed duplicity even reaches the heady atmosphere of that high bench, evidenced by none other than Chief Justice Roberts, hero to ACA advocates and scourge of those who wanted that law struck down. Roberts voted against legalizing gay marriage, and in his dissent, he went Full Frontal Scalia: “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”
Or in other words, “Those damned un-elected judges … oh, wait a minute … where am I again?”
You’re an “un-elected judge” wearing a black robe in an august chamber you reached after being nominated, thoroughly vetted, grilled by a committee on national television, and ultimately approved for the gig by a majority vote. You have astonishing responsibilities to perform.
Pro tip: Don’t poop where you eat. The Supreme Court is not only vital, it is embedded in the DNA of our national structure. If you think the whole shop is unjust, Mr. Chief Justice, feel free to quit. Your vacant chair will be filled at speed.
Make no mistake whatsoever: All that ails us as a nation has hardly been cured. The oppression endured by the LGBTQ community has not been undone by this ruling. Also, the president is still pushing the ruinous Trans-Pacific Partnership with full vigor, and will likely get his way, even as “assistance” for workers who will be “trade adjusted” out of their jobs has yet to come to a vote, and thanks to Mitch McConnell could be permanently shelved.
The filthy bomb-in-waiting Keystone XL pipeline looms, even as fracking pollutes the aquifers. The business of making war still dominates a federal budget that would be better spent on infrastructure and education. The Wall Street and banker brigands who robbed us blind walk free, as do the torturers from the previous administration. People – men, women and especially children – die before the barrels of guns every single day.
The Supreme Court, on Monday morning, veered back into the right lane by limiting the EPA’s ability to restrict the spewing of mercury and other deadly pollutants into the environment. “Writing for the court,” reported the Associated Press, “Justice Antonin Scalia said it is not appropriate to impose billions of dollars of economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits.” Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself.
In another Monday morning decision, the Court ruled that midazolam – part of the cocktail that delivered several death-condemned prisoners to a tortured, horrifying end in three states – is just fine and dandy. Not everyone agreed. “Under the court’s new rule,” wrote Justice Sotomayor in dissent, “it would not matter whether the state intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake.”
The screamers will scream, and the stompers will stomp, and it will all be unrepentantly ugly. For whatever reasons, there has always existed a certain permutation of human who must have theirs, and take yours, and deprive more even as they scorn those others for that deprivation. Living that way is lucrative, clearly, but certainly not moral in any sense I have ever been given to understand.
… but despite it all, it feels as if the Earth I thought I knew tilted a tiny bit on its axis last week, just a wee bit closer to the healing light of the sun. Case in point: A woman named Bree Newsome climbed the 30-foot steel pole that flies the Confederate flag on the grounds outside the South Carolina capitol building. When she was halfway up, police ordered her to stop, but she refused, and kept climbing. She pulled down that flag, returned to Earth, and was arrested. The flag was eventually restored, for now.
Even so, that happened.
Heroes exist. You may even be one of them.