I don’t blame the politicians. If you listen and watch closely enough they will expose who they are. You may think they are duplicitous but they all must go on the record and vote for a number of different things. There is no ambiguity to decry. I also don’t blame the news media. It’s a profit motivated industry and they want your attention. Accountability and limited bias is a business model type. Selective reporting and opinion driven content is another. Outright propaganda is yet another. We love the benefits of capitalism and can’t blame the system when it doesn’t serve our goals. It’s up to each and every one of us to focus on the facts amid the swirl of endless noise, separate reporting from opinion. Nobody is going to make you an active, informed, and knowledgeable citizen. You have to do that yourself. As long as most of the machinery of our odd form of democracy is still intact our culture is and will always continue to be a reflection of the polity.
That’s why I blame voters. The people who see a savior in an oily salesman. The people who think their interpretation of a magic book is justification for the imposition of their ideology on my behavior. The educated nihlists who sit on the sidelines, play all sides, or trade away their cultural values to save a couple of percentage points on their tax bill. The purists of every persuasion on the left who refuse to be pragmatic if they don’t get exactly what they want. The vast majority of people who just don’t plain pay attention to the world around them in any meaningful way. They have been born with the luxury of assuming everything will always work out, even without their direct engagement. The loud and proud who’ve never read a book and believe thinking with their “gut” is a badge of honor. Being dumb is an American birthright and that is the one right nobody will ever try to take away.
That’s why the silence from the political right has been deafening this week. You’d think they’d be dancing in the streets or filling megachurches with songs (and donations) or shooting off their semi-automatic weapons into the sky – whatever it is they do to celebrate. Instead we have eerie quiet, which serves two functions I think. The first is to not jinx the result. They’ve been after this for at least forty years and will pick away at the fabric of society for another forty if it means they get to impose their will. They won’t celebrate until the reactionaries on the court etch the official ruling onto stone tablets and dispatch their squires to promulgate the ruling throughout the land. Maybe then they’ll be free to quietly celebrate and move on to next phase of their undoing project. Race, gender, and marriage rights are all on the docket. The second reason is the more sinister because it relies on the American right to be dumb as I’ve already established. They want to take away the right of women to have dominion of their own bodies and want to do it in a way that you almost don’t notice. They won’t be overtly celebrating because then you’d be cognizant of the fact that you’ve lost something. They want to close the walls in around you and want you facing the wrong direction when one of those walls closes in. The hope is when you turn around again you won’t be sure if the wall has gotten closer or not. They are relying on your ambivalence and unreliable memory.
I read a story today about the Taliban’s reinstatement of laws mandating the use of burqas by women in public places. It’s a reminder that rights are elastic and can be lost as quickly as they are gained. It also illustrates how the imperatives of extreme theocracies can imperil the agency of an entire gender. A concept that doesn’t just exist out there in far flung places. It’s ideology alive and well in our country. I’m not being hyperbolic. I believe it and that’s why I refuse to be one of the people who lets it happen. Make sure you do too. It’s not as hard as you may think.