In the early days of the Trump administration, someone at a protest march carried a sign saying “if Hillary had won we’d all be at brunch now.”
The sign and the sign carrier have been ridiculed ever since.
I’ve done it myself. In September 2020 I wrote “Joe Biden will make a good President but he is not a savior – we don’t get to go to brunch on January 21.”
I’ll be honest. Right now I very much want to go to brunch. I’m tired. I can only imagine how tired people are who are more vulnerable than I am.
And why shouldn’t we go to brunch? Why, in what is supposed to be “the land of the free” shouldn’t we be able to count on basic freedoms remaining in place? Why isn’t it a given that people can control their own bodies, marry who they want, and have sex with any consenting adult they want? Why can’t they send their children to public schools and be confident they’ll be taught science and not religion, real history and not whitewashed history, real human sexuality and not puritanical ideology, and that their kids’ sexuality and gender identity will be affirmed and not forced to conform to something that isn’t them?
Why do some of the most learned judges in the country think that fundamental freedoms should be subject to a vote? How can they say that unspecified rights aren’t rights unless they’re “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions” knowing full well that this nation’s history is one of domination by straight white Protestant men who own property?
This is much more than abortion
If you think this is only about abortion, you’re badly mistaken. Dangerously mistaken.
Once Roe falls, they’re coming for Obergefell, arguing that state legislatures should be able to decide who can and can’t get married. And that it’s OK if an adult man marries a 12 year old girl, but not OK if two adult men marry each other (in case you’re confused – deliberately or otherwise – the difference is “consenting adults”). Then they’re coming for Lawrence, arguing that state legislatures should be able to criminalize gay sex. Then they’re coming for Griswold, arguing that state legislatures should be able to outlaw birth control.
Roe isn’t even overturned yet, and Republicans in Louisiana are trying to pass a law to charge people who have abortions with murder – and Louisiana is a death penalty state. Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, is using Alito’s legal logic to try to overturn the 40-year-old court order requiring states to educate all children, including those who are undocumented.
As Jonathan Korman often says, cruelty isn’t a by-product. Cruelty is the point.
At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, a number of right-wingers denied that there even was a pandemic. They said that lockdowns, mask requirements, social distancing, and such were because “they just want to control people.”
They were telling on themselves – attributing to others what they would do if they could. What they’re trying to do now.
They want to force pregnancy and birth, force conformity with gender norms, and force LGBTQ people into closets and celibacy. They want to force their form of Christianity on the entire country.
Hey Catholics: they may tolerate you because you’re anti-abortion, but as soon as that’s no longer on the table, they’re coming for you too.
Along with many of my generation, I believed the arc of the moral universe would continue bending toward justice. We saw the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the gay rights movement. We knew that justice had not yet been perfected, but we were making progress, and we assumed that progress would continue. We saw industrial pollution cleaned up and the ozone hole shrink, and we assumed we would continue to doing the right things to care for the Earth.
But we forgot something very important: progress is neither inevitable nor irreversible. The arc of the moral universe can be bent backwards. And it is being bent backwards more strongly than I’ve seen in my lifetime.
There’s a very real possibility that the Obergefell decision in 2015 will be the high point of justice and freedom in the United States.
Fighting an enemy that demands absolute victory
They’re winning because they show up every single minute of every single day for their causes. They are willing to turn out to vote, every single time. They are willing and able to play the game by gutter fight rules. As they showed on January 6, they are quite willing to employ actual terrorism to further their goals. We on the other hand have to beg people to show and vote, some of the time.
He’s right. And there’s a historical correspondence that’s very relevant to most readers of this blog.
In his book Pagan Britain, historian Ronald Hutton lists three reasons why England converted to Christianity. First, they were surrounded – all their neighbors were Christian, putting subtle pressure on the English to convert. Secondly, the rise of kings made conversion easier for missionaries – convert the king and you convert the population, at least officially. But third and most importantly:
Unlike Christianity, native English forms of religion were not missionary and militant faiths … the more aggressive, determined and monopolistic religion had the edge over its rivals, simply because it cared more about winning, and demanded absolute victory.
I have no need to convert people who think abortion is a terrible sin, who think homosexuality is wrong, or who believe gender is binary and determined by biological sex. They’re free to believe what they want, and to order their lives around those beliefs. I don’t need absolute victory, any more than I need to convert Christians to Paganism.
I just want to live my life, let others live theirs, and be free to go to brunch.
And I can’t.
Another referendum on the soul of America
Last week I came across a rant from someone I’m not going to link to. The ranter – who is clearly a woman of childbearing years – was admonishing those of us who are upset over the pending demise of Roe v. Wade. Her first argument was “don’t get pregnant.” Well, that’s certainly sound advice, and advice that many people are taking. The abortion rate in the U.S. is now lower than it was before Roe, not because of restrictive laws but because fewer people are getting pregnant. But still, no birth control is 100% effective, accidents happen, and rape is a reality. For that, the ranter’s advice was to take care of it the way people who don’t want to remain pregnant have done for centuries.
That’s the back-up plan.
But it shouldn’t come down to this.
The poor shouldn’t have to have children they don’t want because they can’t afford to travel to a free state. They shouldn’t die in back alley abortions.
And all of us shouldn’t have to wage a constant fight for fundamental rights.
But we do.
Because we’re up against a group of religious and political zealots who won’t be satisfied until they control the private lives of every single person in this country.
We have another referendum coming up this November. We have a chance for liberals and moderates to turn out and vote for candidates who will support reproductive rights and individual freedoms.
And remember: all our current problems are originating with state legislatures. Yes, electing a Democratic congress is important, but putting Democrats in state houses, state senates, and governorships is even more important.
Of course, even if the election goes well, Democratic representatives still have to find the backbone to do the right thing and codify Roe v. Wade into federal law. It’s good that Joe Biden told transgender Americans “your President has your back” but it’s well past time he did something to show he means it. And we need court reform, to undo the damage McConnell and Trump caused.
Tired, angry, and fighting
Yes, I’m still angry. I’m angry because I believe in America. I believe in liberty and justice for all. I believe the fact we haven’t done a very good job of embodying these ideals means we should redouble our efforts to promote them, not abandon them.
I’m willing to postpone going to brunch for another year, another two years, another four years.
But I’m getting tired of fighting for what should never be up for a vote in the first place.