Let Freedom Ring…..or not
For years now as an English teacher, I have struggled to come up with the perfect example to teach my students about irony. Underwhelmingly, I have often found myself resorting to that insipid Alannis Morisette song, but somehow focusing on “10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife” (please excuse the pun) just doesn’t cut the mustard. But with the same crowd of supposed “freedom lovin’ patriots” now vociferously applauding the recently leaked Supreme Court decision that will inevitably overturn Roe vs. Wade and strip women of their constitutional rights to safe and legal abortions, I think I have finally been gift-wrapped the perfect example of irony that I have long been looking for. After all, how else can one describe someone suggesting that they are a defender of American “freedom”, when what they really mean is that they want the freedom to tell others what to do with their bodies, to take rights away from their fellow American citizens? Sadly, the full comprehension of that irony will be lost on a group of people too stupid to recognize it. And just as sadly, it will be too late when they find that their rights too have been stripped away by a Republican Party hellbent on depriving all of us our constitutional freedoms and imposing their minority worldview on an unsuspecting nation.
Last week in TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less, I discussed how this imminent decision signals the ever-encroaching demise of the democratic principles that this country was founded upon. But that is not the only casualty at stake here. No, unfortunately it is the very notion of freedom itself, the other bedrock of American government that will soon be called into question. And with it, the Republican Party will finally strip away the last vestiges of America as our founders envisioned it and we once knew it.
You see, Justice Alito’s decision does not apply to abortion alone. Its broad brushstrokes are clearly intended to undermine all federally-protected constitutional rights and defer our personal liberties back to the states. Any rights not specifically outlined within the constitution itself, a document that mind you was created in the late 1700’s, are no longer guaranteed and will be left to the states to determine if you possess them or not. I’ll remind you that the 1700’s were hardly a progressive era, you know with the slavery and inability of women to vote and all. So to say that we are being sent back to the dark ages, or at least that some of us in the red(neck) states will be, is hardly an overstatement.
Remember that 2015 Supreme Court decision protecting gay marriage? Gone. This decision will throw that too back to the states to decide. Appreciate that you live in a country with guaranteed access to birth control and personal choice in the confines of your own bedroom? Yeah, the evangelical right sure doesn’t, and they would be more than happy to roll back the protections that keep the government, and their scrutiny, out of your personal life. You might think the 15th amendment guaranteed blacks the right to vote, but in the case of Shelby County vs. Holder in 2013, the conservative members of the Supreme Court ruled that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was “no longer necessary”, and so that too will now be left to the states. I’m guessing that states like Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama are just licking their chops at the opportunity to deprive gays, blacks, and women of the constitutional rights we once thought were sacred. Ah, let freedom ring….
I hate to be Chicken Little crying about the sky falling in, but the repercussions here are dire. As we discussed this around the dinner table the other night, my son immediately grasped the endgame here. By sending this back to states polarized on these issues, our country will be further divided into vastly different governing ideologies. Some states will work to protect those rights left in question and safeguard the citizens of their states. But for those living in Republican-controlled states, the basic freedoms we once thought were inalienable will vanish into thin air, like dreams of a once-forgotten lifetime.
You know, it’s funny that it is these same conservatives that are so petrified of the proliferation of Sharia Law in Muslim countries that do not likewise see their own hypocrisy in then trying to impose their own Christian values on their fellow citizens. How far have we strayed from the underpinning ideology of the founding fathers who were clear in their intent to remove religion from government and create a distinct separation of church and state? Packing the Supreme Court with activist judges who would do their bidding, the religious right is set to deprive a vast swath of this country of their own freedoms and impose upon them their own vision of a Christian America. America’s founders understood innately that religious fundamentalism, regardless of what form it takes, inherently leads to oppression and a loss of personal liberty because they had seen with their own eyes how religious zealots will inevitably seek to impose those personal moral choices on their fellow citizens. That’s why they composed an American constitution that would resist the confluence of church and state, and reinforced that principle as a key element of American Democracy. Unfortunately, it is those same evangelical Christians who are most likely to wave their American flag in everyone else’s face who then trample on the very ideals the nation itself was founded upon.
The problem with rights such as reproductive autonomy, universal access to voting, and marriage equality is that they are won with decades of hard work and personal suffering, but can be taken away with the swift signature of a pen. With the Supreme Court and the religious right intent on depriving Americans of the freedoms we have come to take for granted, we must once again stand up and fight to take them back. Freedom and democracy do not come without vigilance and sacrifice. Let’s hope that we can awaken from the complacency that has mired us in ineptitude and brought us to the brink of our nation’s demise, for without that mass awakening, America is set to start looking a whole lot less American.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com