We progressives have every reason to be outraged and severely disappointed and disheartened by recent Supreme Court decisions made by the reactionary Republican-appointed majority. Their intent and ideology, if ever in doubt, is now clearly and undeniably revealed: they wish to return the United States to the days of old when moneyed white straight male interests ruled the roost.
They look with disdain on the progress of recent decades that have made America a more socially, politically, racially, and economically just place for all (though there is still quite a ways to go). The Court’s recent decisions appear to be a horrific destructive shattering of the beautiful fragile glass that progressives had built with such passion, dedication, and love over the course of decades.
It therefore is understandable that we, especially those who fought so hard for many years for the shared values of equality, freedom and justice, grow weary and depressed in the twilight of our lives, to see the progress we have made now shattering on an ugly regressive reactionary floor.
But we must not yield to despair and disillusion. We must remember the odds that progressives of the past faced when they struggled against similar and even greater forces of selfish greed,racist backlash, and white privilege. They did not despair, but held fast to their principles and persevered to victories.
Abolitionists sparked the eventual death of slavery even though a bloody civil war had to be waged against the ugly self-serving racism of slave owners. And so, the slaves were freed.
But that struggle had its ugly Jim Crow backlash that required even more long and hard struggle against the ugly forces of segregation, political repression, lynching and economic subjugation. But due to the unending activism of the civil rights movement, great obstacles were overcome. And so, great progress was made in ending business and educational segregation, enfranchising the Black vote, and establishing EEO and affirmative action programs.
Long ago, labor activists had to man the picket lines, risking death from the gunshots from the robber baron and government forces. Many died fighting for their (and our) rightful piece of the capital pie that an unjust and selfish class wished to keep all for themselves. And so, unions were born that raised the standard of living and working conditions for millions of Americans for generations.
Women who for years were denied the basic right to vote fought long and hard to finally win that right in the 20th century. And then, they continued that struggle for women’s rights for decades to make significant inroads into vocational, economic, and bodily freedoms.
LGBTQ+ activists had suffered years of persecution and cultural disdain and hatred, but in relatively few short years, overcame the embedded bigotry in our laws and institutions. And gay marriage was suddenly the law of our land.
And we were delighted when America’s first Black President, Barack Obama, uttered these words in his inaugural address, citing the supreme relevance of the struggles of women, Blacks, and the LGBTQ+ community in the furtherance of the American ideal of equality:
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears to Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone, to hear a king proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”
And yet, this SCOTUS, blind to the vision of a just America, struck down the right and freedom of women to make decisions about their own bodies. Their callous ideologically driven misogynistic vision will ultimately lead to the deaths of women suffering from the complications of pregnancy and will force women, slave-like, to give birth to the children of rapists. Welcome to second class citizenship, women.
And yet, this SCOTUS reawakened the possibility of Americans being refused service at a business simply because of whom the dominant majority despises. Soon the LGBTQ+ community will understand how generations of Blacks felt when they were refused service at restaurants and hotels across the country. This bigoted web designer said if a gay couple wanted a website designed for their marriage, she would be uncomfortable doing so and her free speech would be violated. So SCOTUS pandered to her bigotry by creating a gaping hole of ambiguity with respect to public accommodation laws where bigots of all persuasions can waltz right in. Will a prejudiced Subway “sandwich artist” now be allowed to refuse service to a LGBTQ+ person? Welcome to second class citizenship, gay couples.
And yet, this SCOTUS turned a blind eye to systemic racism embedded in our political, social and economic institutions since our nation’s founding on that ugly bedrock of slavery. SCOTUS, in their blindness to all colors except the white color, struck down affirmative action in college admissions. Welcome again to the second class citizenship at the back end of the line, Black Americans.
And yet, this SCOTUS turned a blind eye to the economic injustice foisted on 43 million Americans, many of whom are women and minorities, faced with crushing student debt. It’s a pity these students weren’t corporations or banks seeking tax cuts or loan forgiveness or bailouts. They then would have had a fighting chance. Instead, welcome to second class economic citizenship, bottom of the economic line, debt-ridden students.
Yes, these decisions are horrific and put us all back on the train to yesteryear. But that is all the more reason for us progressives to stiffen our resolve, become engaged in the political process, and fight for the principles and values we hold dear.
We need a new cadre of abolitionists who will fight for racial justice.
We need a new cadre of women’s liberation activists who will fight for women’s bodily autonomy and economic freedom.
We need a new cadre of activists who will fight for the cultural and legal equality of the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the light of the divisive Republican attacks on drag queens and the trans community.
We need a new cadre of union activists who will fight for economic freedoms that will give us all living wages and affordable education, healthcare, and housing.
Yes, these are tough times when our shared vision is under attack, but they should also be inspirational. We have so much to lose, but so much to gain. Remembering those activists who fought for us long ago, it is time to honor them with your energy and passion to carry the progressive light forward once again against the forces of darkness.