I have been struggling as I know many people around the country are struggling, especially women, girls, and trans and non-binary people with uteruses. I can’t promise that my language will be consistently inclusive in this writing. I can promise to try. Not mentioning trans/NB people doesn’t mean that they are not part of the discussion or part of my thoughts and fears, but right now, I have two strong emotions at play: first, my daughter and millions like her and second, the Constitution.
For those of us who grew up with constitutional norms and the sentimentality as well as the reality of the rule of law, who grew up with William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and for the people following now in the turmoil and unease of an activist court and are looking towards Ketanji Brown Jackson for similar inspiration, the death knell of the Constitution is heart-wrenching. Not as heart-wrenching as the forced birth of pubescent children or the forced trauma of losing a wanted pregnancy as well as the derailment of dreams, but it is still something to be mourned. I’m not sure we can come back. My eternal USA-USA optimism has been shaken to its core these last several years and this term of the Supreme Court has been the nail in the ever lowering coffin.
I studied law for half my college career and that came after a hobby of reading everything law related available, studying in my own way the law, knowing legal precedents and bathing in the light of the dreams of freedom. Re-reading that sentence now, it is so clear that I am speaking from a place of extreme privilege, my whiteness showing starker than the background of the screen I type on. Everything else, my Jewishness, my womanhood, my economic status – all of that is hidden under the whiteness that wrote that beloved Constitution. When I graduated from college, I got rid of most of my textbooks, but I kept ALL of my law books. Why? Well, they were historical. They set precedent with opinions from the greats, both before and during my lifetime. These books would continued to be studied for generations and while they would be added to, they would still be the basis for many rulings to come.
Little did I know.
The year I had jury duty was the year Justice William Brennan retired. I went to Brooklyn Federal Court, after driving over an hour and a half, parking underground, and walking across a public park to the courthouse, and I bought a Time magazine with his picture on the cover. I read it during my lunch before I was assigned to a case. I was excited. Until I listened to the case and discovered the weight of my civic duty. I was a hold-out for awhile, but we sorted it out and I was dismissed with the thanks of a grateful court. I couldn’t wait to do it again.
With one term, one swoop of Russian interference, Republican obstinance and recalcitrance, Senatorial and Presidential corruption, and let’s be honest, overt racism, and those books on my shelf have become obsolete.
Miranda – not required.
Engel v Vitale – coercive prayer
Roe v Wade – no bodily autonomy if you’re a woman, no privacy
MA v EPA – overturned – enjoy your brown air and water
Griswold, Casey, Oberfell – their futures in question
But Skokie? Skokie remains. Oh, unless you’re picketing the Supreme Court justices. In that case, no first amendment rights for you. Who cares about McCullen v Coakley?
This week in Akron, Ohio, a ten year old girl was forced to go to Indiana to obtain an abortion after her rape because a judge ruled that she was three days over the legal limit to get one in Ohio. Truly, the Lord’s work, amirite? During this same week and same town, a Black man (Jayland Walker) was shot in the back sixty times (ninety rounds fired) for running away from a traffic stop.
These two incidents, traumas on families and communities are only a microcosm of what is happening across this country.
It is only a matter of time before a rapist is granted joint custody with their victim for a forced birth baby. Who thinks that this is okay?
We (with SCOTUS leading the way) are dismantling the First Amendment. The most important amendment. So important it comes first, before anything else. I remind you that we are not a Christian nation. We are multicultural, interfaith, NO faith, multidimensional, and to stay free we must act free. All of us. Violating one person’s civil rights, their human rights is a stain for us all.
The First Amendment falls as fascism rises: little by little and then all at once. You are here in the timeline.
Yesterday morning, I attended my church online. I usually attend online. As the mass ended and the congregation was dismissed to relay the Good News, the priest and deacon processed from the altar to the music and singing of America the Beautiful. I can’t say what I would have done had I been there, but at home, online, I turned it off. I thought, and continue to think it’s inappropriate. I get that people want a patriotic song, and as far as patriotic songs go, this one isn’t bad, but as a recessional to mass?
No. No. No.
The song on its own wasn’t the problem. Play it after the mass is actually over, while people are still congregating, but not as part of the closing.
I have two distinct memories of my father’s patriotism. We were at a professional baseball game (The Mets, of course), and I didn’t stand for the National Anthem. It wasn’t a protest. It was a lazy elementary school child. The look he gave me. The same for a school assembly when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I had no problem with the Pledge, but my sitting wasn’t an option. This look was accompanied by a whispered admonition. And I remember those moments with my dad. He wasn’t a nationalist; he wasn’t our country can do no wrong, but he knew the importance of that respect and I do too. I don’t think he would appreciate how I feel today and how I don’t want to celebrate Independence Day. Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States took away what little freedom my daughter and I had, and I can’t celebrate that. I hear Black and brown people asking what we’re celebrating in the first place, and I hear them.
I have four books to recommend to everyone and then one more thing:
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story created by Nikole Hannah-Jones
Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy by Adam Jentleson
Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution by Elie Mystal, which I am currently reading.
About six or seven years ago, maybe a bit longer, I was driving in the car with my daughter and she suddenly said through a tight throat and tiny tears that she didn’t want to have a baby. She hadn’t even gotten her period yet. She was under ten or was ten, I don’t remember. What I do remember was trying not to cry because she was so appalled about the idea of having a baby, not the idea of being a mom even though that was kind of foreign to her, but physically being forced to have a baby when she didn’t want one. I said to that she didn’t need to worry about that. No one was going to force her to have a baby. She wanted to know how I knew that. I told her I knew that because I would never let that happen. Never.
And I never will.
Not my daughter, and not yours, and not trans men or non-binary folks. No one.
We won’t go back.