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Headlines from the Brattleboro Reformer and the Burlington Free Press on Jan. 23, 1973, the day after the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade.

Voices / Column

Don’t mourn. Organize.

June’s rulings are just the next step in creating a minority government with a Supreme Court jury-rigged into place. That has always been the plan.

MacLean Gander is a poet and a professor of journalism and leadership at Landmark College. He is a former member and vice-chair of the board of directors of Vermont Independent Media, the nonprofit that publishes this newspaper. The views expressed here are his own.

Guilford

Although the ruling felt tragic, it came as no surprise that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, sending the country back to a time when women died from injuries suffered from wire hangers used to perform illegal abortions.

We already had the memo in early May, in the form of a leaked draft of the majority opinion. We knew what was coming.

So it’s 1972 again, and I’m thinking it’s only been since 1967 that a white man could marry a Black woman in Virginia, and that the rights of same-sex marriage are so fresh they could be overturned in a Clarence and Ginni Thomas heartbeat.

The rulings in Dobbs and other cases this week on gun laws, Miranda rights, and state legislative redistricting are just so sickening, so hypocritical, so wrong for anyone who hopes the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. Not this year, I guess.

In particular, the Dobbs ruling reminded me of how in my life I have loved women in long-term relationships who terminated a pregnancy because they were not ready to have a child. It was in certain ways very, very sad for each of us, but it would also have caused wreckage in their lives.

And it was their choice.

Women should have control of their own bodies. And on June 24, the court cast that right aside.

The litany of decisions the court released was everything I expected, although I have to say the bit in the Miranda ruling about letting a prisoner condemned to death choose a firing squad as his mode of exit from this mortal coil was like the WTF section in the New York Post, a little added treat from Satan.

The decision that women do not have a Constitutional right to control their own bodies is the most savage and disgusting dimension of the deep hypocrisy of the court. As a result, in the United States, there are be some places where women are free and other jurisdictions where they might be prosecuted for a miscarriage.

And the court’s gun ruling one day before, in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen, is even more terrifying for some folks — especially anyone who fears danger because of the color of their skin.

In the face of rampant gun violence, the court has now made it far easier to carry a gun. If overturning Roe v. Wade is going back to 1972, this ruling goes back to the 1800s, the Wild West.

I’ve thought of it, but I’m not going to buy a .357 Magnum and carry it. The idea that I would even think of that as a strategy to be safe seems insane to me.

Voting rights get lost in the shuffle of deeper injustices by the highest court in the land, but of course, that’s where the real action is, such as the court’s June 23 ruling in the Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP North Carolina.

At least interracial marriage will be safe. Given that Justice Clarence Thomas is married to a white chick named Ginni, it seems unlikely that the court will overturn the 1967 Loving decision that made interracial marriage legal.

Other human rights, not so much. In his opinion concurring with the Dobbs ruling, Thomas actually says the court is duty-bound to overturn landmark decisions protecting the right to use birth control, the right to consensual sexual intimacy, and the right to marriage equality.

“We have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents,” Thomas writes.

So June’s rulings are just the next step in rigging the vote to create a minority government with a Supreme Court jury-rigged into place.

That has always been the plan.

* * *

We know from polling that about 60 percent of the populace supports a woman’s right to choose, and about that many support reasonable forms of gun control. In fact, the divided Senate just passed gun legislation for the first time in more than a decade, paving the way for President Joe Biden to sign the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act on June 25. Some irony there.

Over his presidency, only about 45 percent of the country ever supported Donald Trump. As we head into the 2022 midterm elections, the Supreme Court has given us a stark hard stare into the reality of what governance by a minority means.

It is a renegade court, one with no pretense to legitimacy. In 2016, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s machinations prevented the Senate from hearing then-President Barack Obama nomination of Merrick Garland from being appointed to the court.

And then during Trump’s disastrous term, he pushed through three justices hand-picked by the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, all of whom lied under oath when they talked about the role of precedent in making decisions.

They all lied. Under oath.

And even if most people don’t want what is happening to happen, our system was designed in its founding to favor slave owners and the elite. It still does that.

A lot of what is happening in the U.S. is about how the broad scattering of information, with so much false information, has made people fundamentally unreasonable and politically illiterate.

In a similar environment in Germany, Hitler came to power in 1933 and gained the support of Germany’s military-industrial complex. It was a democratic republic at the time.

You know the rest of that story.

* * *

I had to study history a lot as a kid, so I know about the separation of powers. For now, we still have three branches of government, at least as long as Joe Biden is president.

But I am imagining an America in which all three branches of government are controlled by people who basically are evil or crazy, or just totally venal. If that happens in 2024, I am going into exile. I will leave the country.

I don’t want to. I love this country in so many ways — the beauty of the landscape, the melting pot, the blood-drenched soil that nourishes me as a writer.

I have studied all of our evil: the genocide of Native people, the slave trade, Jim Crow, all the wars we have kept fighting, the economic inequality that has ramped up continually since Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, the use of Puritan and racist thinking to marginalize people, the tragic ways in which as a country we have used our powers.

Yet we still could be a really cool country.

We are the greatest empire the world has ever known, and as our population grows and people mix up their skin colors, we could become a truly multicultural society. We could be a true force for good in the world — not like the lie they taught us in high school.

Still, I am packing my bags these days, getting ready for what may come next.

* * *

Unlike when I was a kid, I am too old to sleep under a thin blanket on hard ground or to be tear-gassed. I am glad for the experience, the same way I am glad I got the chance to cover the revolution in the Philippines in 1986.

So I think about how I can fight the oppression we face.

Obviously, we must keep control of the House and gain control of the Senate, but the way things are with voting rights and gerrymandering, that will be a heavy lift in 2022.

To some Democrats, the court actions have presented a legitimate reason to consider changing its composition, the same way President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to do in the 1930s. I’m not sure there is any pathway to that given the nature of Congress. Court expansion is more a fantasy than a plan.

The obvious peril is that if someone like Donald Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis becomes president in 2024 we might all be watching The Handmaid’s Tale in real time, along with a showing of The Birth of a Nation, and Gone with the Wind thrown in for the trifecta.

How to prevent that scenario? I always go to the iconic line “Don’t mourn. Organize!”

It’s easy for me to say, since I’m not going to the barricades again unless I can be the cook. I love, admire, and respect my friends who are genuinely on the front lines of the struggle.

But there is no fucking way that people can change anything by wearing pussy hats in Washington, D.C. or hanging Black Lives Matter signs or posting on Facebook. It just is virtue signaling, and it is not the real deal, no matter how much you mean it.

Don’t mourn. Organize.

* * *

I don’t like to predict things these days, in fear that I will be accurate.

Still, I can paint an extremely scary picture of what could happen in the United States, after these rulings. Next comes outlawing marriage equality.

And then, who knows? Maybe child labor laws or the right of a person with white skin to be married to a person with brown skin. Maybe raping one’s wife will become legal again, in the name of “conjugal rights.”

A government with no more checks and balances — one in which a critical mass of the Supreme Court, Congress, and the executive branch are all aligned and marching in lockstep like brownshirts — is a frightening thought.

The law sounds absolute, but it is just something people made up as they went along, and sometime justice is just ice. Remember the Dred Scott decision.

I have lived through a lot of bad days in U.S. history, starting with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and I have been paying attention the whole time. This is one of the worst days in my experience.

Again: Don’t mourn. Organize.

And remember this, from the flawed saint Gil Scott-Heron: “The revolution will not be televised,” he said. “The revolution will be live.”

If you want the arc of history to bend toward justice, you have to put your shoulder under it.

Don’t mourn. Organize.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #670 (Wednesday, June 29, 2022). This story appeared on page C1.

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