More dystopian by the day

More dystopian by the day

We live in a world in which we still have a choice. We can end with our vote what is barreling toward us, or we can deny what is happening with frightening speed.

SAXTONS RIVER — In 1940, Alice Duer Miller wrote a beautiful epic poem, “The White Cliffs.” An American who married a British man just prior to World War I, she soon lost her husband serving a country that wasn't hers. As she penned the poem, she faced the possibility of losing her son to World War II, again for a country not her own.

Yet her last poetic lines are “I am American bred,/I have seen much to hate here - much to forgive/But in a world where England is finished and dead,/I do not wish to live.”

Imagine loving a country that is not your own so much. Then consider the pain of not loving your own country anymore because it has dragged you into a dark place, a place of fear and disillusion, a place growing more dystopian by the day.

In the space of a few days recently, we watched a Congressperson promise to shut down media organizations if they complied with legal subpoenas. Texas passed draconian laws that inhibit voting rights in dramatic, disturbing, and undemocratic ways, serving as a model for more states to enact such laws.

Then we watched as Texas ignored the constitutional right to abortion granted to women in 1973, showcasing another disastrous model. On top of that, Texas granted vigilante rights with financial incentives to anyone who didn't want to grant women that right.

Let the idea of private bounty hunters sink in.

They might be husbands or boyfriends, angry neighbors, relatives, friends, pastors, people who think pregnancy by rape or incest is not so bad, folks who hate the idea of abortion but especially like the thought of a $10,000 reward.

Some of these people may consider themselves devout Christians, but they are devious and despicable in defying what their religion teaches. What ideological fantasies might inspire other state leaders to consider employing similar laws?

Then came the most stunning blow of all, in the form of the incredible, terrifying silence of an overwhelmingly conservative and politicized Supreme Court in the face of Texas's dangerous, inhumane, replicable law - a law so hideously fascist that it reeks with the stench of secret police in dictatorships like those of Italy's Mussolini, Romania's CeauÈ™escu, and today's Viktor Orbán in Hungary.

How can any American not be sickened by that level of betrayal?

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of four dissenting Supreme Court justices, unleashed her fury and spoke for many of us in her minority opinion.

“The court's order is stunning,” she wrote.

“Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand,” Sotomayor continued.

The court, she said, “has rewarded the state's effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the court's precedents, through procedural entanglements of the state's own creation.

“The court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”

How, one must ask, does the court overrule 50 years of precedent - a value deeply held by conservatives - in its race to allow the invasion of women's bodies and lives, a question former Rep. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) asked in rage when commenting on MSNBC. How quickly will states rush to replicate this precedent?

In a statement that could have been more strongly supportive of women's right to privacy and agency, President Biden warned that the nearly complete ban on abortion in Texas will cause “unconstitutional chaos.” It also suggests the question: How will the Supreme Court rule on other cases that seek to curb abortion rights nationally? Will Roe v. Wade survive?

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Meanwhile, ultra-right conservative leaders at local, state, and national levels continue denying voting rights, fighting lifesaving Covid vaccines, and banning the teaching of American history that doesn't glorify white supremacists, while ignoring our continuing racism.

While civil rights advocates warn of future laws, human rights activists suggest the situation has reached crisis proportions such that terms like “conservative” and “evangelical” for right-wing radicals are no longer appropriate because they normalize groups that have become U.S. Taliban.

That term might offend some. But in the face of a growing political climate of oppression, exclusion, and violence, and a Congress or Supreme Court that increasingly embraces ideas antithetical to democracy and uses their respective powers to curb it, surely the time has come to recognize the imminent and credible threat before us.

That threat is nothing short of an autocratic and dystopian future in which we join in the despair of so many others around the globe.

It's a world in which we still have a choice: to end with our vote what is barreling toward us, or to deny what is happening with frightening speed, only to find ourselves in Plato's allegorical cave, staring at a blank wall, our backs to the light, believing that is the way we must live.

As Alice Duer Miller might have said, in such a world, where freedom and hope are finished and dead, I do not wish to live.

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