NORTH CHATHAM, New York—U.S.A.
A powerful clique of black-robed jurists given lifetime appointments to the United States Supreme Court—that august institution reputed by fools to be an impartial branch of the federal government—has brought America to the cusp of adopting a principal tenet in the misogynist creed of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan: Abortion is an abomination to God and therefore must be outlawed.
…But wait, there’s more!
The same clique looks beyond attacking the feminine half of the country to giving the greenlight to all Americans old enough for booze and serious brawling to carry lethal firearms practically anywhere and everywhere, concealed or proudly displayed and come what may.
What could possibly go wrong in a country that represents four percent of the global population but accounts for forty percent of the world’s privately owned guns? What possible ends to a radical increase in the visibility and veneration of guns in a country whose exceptionalism is a staggering number of mass murder by gunfire—year after year after year, schoolhouse massacre after massacre after massacre, racial terrorist strike after strike after strike?
In coming weeks, the troubling policy questions of abortion and guns are set for momentous decisions in the Supreme Court, a body known in Washington as “The Robes.” Consider the irony—
• On the one hand, a judicial plurality led by one Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. ascribes “sanctity of life” piety to zygotes and embryos, including those resulting from rape or incest. Hence, a majority vote to strike down Roe and establish a new law of the land: forced birth, no matter what.
• On the other, the same judicial plurality would entertain yet more murder and debilitating injury for those of us born and still alive, at least until the usual random inevitability. A majority ruling in the matter of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, expected to coincide with overturning Roe, would abolish state laws requiring that applicants for permits to carry concealed handguns show “proper cause” for personal protection above and beyond the needs of others.
Imminent decisions in these cases will be the latest salvos in a domestic cold war over culture and criminal culpability, and the very future of America as a democratic republic—“if you can keep it,” as it was said to us by founding father Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790).
Many of us are under the illusion that our current political form—secular, multi-ethnic democracy—is somehow permanent. Many of us, perhaps most, ignore a darker experiences of national history: Our democracy has always been a wobbly proposition, and seems to be at a tipping point today.
Many of us, perhaps most, fail to acknowledge the enemy that would destroy us. We are largely unwilling to even say its name—Christo-fascism—or to recognize the enemy’s corona of religious fervor.
Many of us, perhaps Mr. Franklin were he alive, predict the hour is too late to extinguish a hellfire of fascism.
A fire given oxygen every day by nativists, white nationalist terrorism that inspired the May 14 murders of ten African Americans as they shopped for groceries in the upstate New York city of Buffalo, paranoid resentments orchestrated by a right-wing media coalition that Josef Goebbels would envy, a soulless Republican Party hierarchy, feckless leaders of the Democratic Party—and especially the ugly influence of Donald J. Trump, his courtiers, and his slavish army of violent know-nothings.
Upon this hellfire, a Supreme Court under the de facto leadership of “Smirkin’ Sam,” as Mr. Alito is known by his rightful detractors, is poised to pour grease.
…But wait, there’s more!
Televised hearings into the attempted coup d’état of January 2021, the Trump instigated armed insurrection in Washington that threatened the seat of American democracy, will commence on June 9.
That evening in prime viewing time, a select committee of the U.S. Congress will begin to lay out a damning criminal case against the twice impeached ex-president and his mafia, based on evidence compiled from more than a thousand interviews with witnesses to sedition.
Samuel Alito carries the prestigious honorific of “Justice,” as bespeaks a member of the highest jurisprudential authority in the land. He has drafted a document that would allow the Supreme Court to torpedo a constitutional right to medically supervised abortion, established by the court’s own 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.
The draft provides legal coda to the decades-long goal of anti-abortion zealots: to crush what they consider unholy. Their coming triumph would spell a radical departure from a near half-century of settled law.
In Afghanistan, female conduct is governed by the all-male “Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” which reads like a joke but is not. Likewise, with the removal of lawful protection under Roe, American women and girls would be obliged to cede control of their bodies to the cultural, political, and religious mindset and cramped worldview of Samuel Alito.
Last year, Justice Alito addressed students at Thomas Aquinas College in California, an institution guided by Roman Catholic tradition and strict ecclesiastical law. Without citing a single example of suppression or any definition of suspect orthodoxy, he declared, “There is a real movement to suppress the expression of anything that opposes the secular orthodoxy.”
Jill Lepore, professor of American history at Harvard University, describes the Alito draft as “shabby and benighted.” Her appraisal is due in part to its heavy reliance on the dubious wisdom of one Sir Matthew Hale, a clerical and legal macher of seventeenth-century England.
Early in his career, Sir Matthew (1609-1676) trained as a priest. He switched career paths to become a barrister, though one who maintained fealty to the old-time Puritan religion.
In his rôle of barrister, for example, he oversaw the executions of two “witches.” Females, to be sure.
Sir Matthew also authored the definitive text of long-accepted British common law exempting husbands from the charge of spousal rape. To wit: “[B]y mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself.”
—NOTE: It was only until 1993 that the last of America’s fifty states abolished the Hale doctrine.
The Alito draft has preliminary approval from four like-minded colleagues who put their signatures to it. Thus constitutes a five-four majority of the nine-member bench. Five stalwart anti-abortionists—all of them Republican Party loyalists; all answerable to no one in a nation where eighty percent of us favor abortion as an adjudicated right, according to a recent Gallup poll.
As Professor Lepore notes, Justice Alito’s admiring quotations from the writings of Sir William pepper the draft ruling—quotations that include the priest-cum-barrister’s denunciations of abortion as “barbarous,” a “great crime,” and a “pernicious act“ against the peace of our Lady the Queen, her crown and dignity.”
Asterisk-worthy items of further contextual interest:
• Justice Alito’s antediluvian draft is not his first round-up in the rodeo of misogyny and élitist racism. As a graduate of Princeton University, he enlisted in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP), an outgrowth of a campus lobbying effort to exclude women from admission to the Ivy League institution. Further, CAP advocated for prestigious male-only dining clubs, and sought to limit the number of non-white students.
Smirkin’ Sam included his CAP allegiance as among the “conservative” bona fides that landed him a high-level job in the right-wing administration of the late President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), éminence grise of the Republican Party and a former B-movie Hollywood actor best known for playing human second banana to the chimpanzee star of “Bedtime for Bonzo.”
• Justice Alito was appointed to the high court in 2005 by George W. Bush, a Republican widely regarded as the worst U.S. president in history until fellow Republican Donald Trump assumed office in 2017. He is one of six current Supreme Court members who profess to Roman Catholicism, which according to its Catechism considers abortion a “moral evil” worthy of automatic excommunication.
• Among the six Catholic justices, five of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, is Clarence Thomas. His wife Ginni is a prominent Republican extremist, and peddler of conspiracy theories that echo crackpot views of the QAnon cult. During his 1991 confirmation hearings before Congress, Justice Thomas was credibly accused by a female aide of inappropriate sexual conduct. In the course of those hearings, video rental shop receipts revealed that Justice Thomas was (is?) a connoisseur of films featuring a pornographic starlet known by the stage name “Bad Mama Jama,” whose obesity renders her nearly immobile.
Allied with Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in a majority determined to overturn Roe are Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh. The latter trio owe their recent appointments to the disgraceful Mr. Trump and anti-abortion Republican members of the U.S. Senate who prevailed at confirmation hearings. During those sessions, all three Trump appointees lied to the American people in claiming they understood the matter of Roe to be long settled law they had no intention of reversing.
We Americans make up four percent of the global population, yet account for nearly half the world’s privately owned guns. Further—
• According to the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Bureau, there are more guns than people in America—at least 400 million weapons versus 330 million men, women, and children.
• According to the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. rate of gun-related homicide is twenty-five times higher than the combined rate of twenty-two other wealthy nations. In the past decade, the U.S. accounted for 82 percent of all the world’s gun murders.
• The leading cause of death among children aged 14 and under is guns.
• According to Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association’s multi-million-dollar sponsorship of Republican election campaigns, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
By Mr. LaPierre’s calculation, the United States with its millions of guns cocked and loaded ought to be the safest country on Earth. Then again, consider the carnage of only last month.
In May 2022, America experienced ten mass shootings, defined by researchers as incidents in which four or more people were killed or injured. One mass shooting in the state of Mississippi, one in Arkansas, two each for Wisconsin and New York and California and Texas.
The last of these shootings occurred at Robb Elementary School on May 24 in the small city of Ulvade, Texas. It was the first schoolhouse massacre since twenty children and three teachers were blown away in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012—and unlikely to be the last.
In Ulvade, nineteen children and two teachers were mowed down on the season’s final day of school. The killer was young and troubled Salvador Ramos, who just days before the slaughter celebrated his eighteenth birthday with the legal purchase of two AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifles.
For his lethal mission, Mr. Ramos chose the rifle manufactured by the firm Daniel Defense of Black Creek, Georgia.
Marty Daniel owns the eponymous gunmaking firm. He is a major donor to both Trump presidential campaigns, in 2016 and ’20, and an ardent financial contributor to Mr. LaPierre’s N.R.A.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, gun sales surged. Nevertheless, Mr. Daniel’s company received a $3.1 million (€2.89 million) subsidy through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, intended for small businesses at risk of laying off workers.
During his birthday buying spree for the necessary supplies of mass murder, Mr. Ramos acquired body armor and some three hundred and seventy rounds of flesh burning, organ melting 5.56-caliber bullets capable of blowing pancake-sized holes in the human torso.
Prior to killing twenty-one people and dying himself in a hail of police gunfire—which came far, far too late—Mr. Ramos shot his grandmother in the face and stole her car for transport to Robb Elementary.
Parents could not determine, on sight, whose dead children were whose. All they saw were small bodies blasted to bloody pulps by Salvador Ramos’ AR-15, the top-selling gun in America. Identification of the corpses was ultimately made through DNA matchups.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd described the May 24 scene—
“The shooter…slipped into a fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary, ominously announced ‘Look what we have here’ and fired more than 100 rounds.
“[L]ocal police did nothing to stop the human sacrifice. Officers loitered in the hall for up to 78 minutes as children died.
“…As the officers waited, not bothering to break down a barricaded door, the 19 lambs went to slaughter, trapped in a blood-soaked classroom with an 18-year-old madman.
“In a haunting tableau, one little girl smeared herself with her dead friend’s blood to appear dead…”
During the siege, another little girl made a series of furtive cellphone calls to the local police department. Ten times she asked, “Please send the police—now!”
Contrary to Wayne LaPierre’s notion, good guys with guns are not necessarily the solution to bad guys with guns.
Eight days before the Ulvade massacre, Marty Daniel tweeted out a promotional advertisement for his company.
The ad was illustrated with the photograph of a small boy sitting cross-legged on the floor, delighted to be cradling an AR-15 assault rifle in his arms. Above the photo was holy scripture from Proverbs 22:6 of the King James Bible:
Among my favorite observers of the American scene is the writer Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), better known as Mark Twain. His frequent subjects were characters of his time who populated the nation’s capital in Washington, and candidates aspiring to such questionable company.
Mr. Clemens might as well be with us today. In his day, he wrote, presciently, “Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you’re a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
In the wake of schoolhouse mass murders—the slaughter last month in Texas and ten years ago in Connecticut—an array of Congressmen and congressional aspirants stepped into the klieg lights of television news cameras to calm the nation, so they imagined.
All of them nincompoops, all Republicans. But I repeat myself. The unexpurgated lowlights of their socio-political commentary:
• TED CRUZ, junior U.S. senator from Texas, on the massacre at Ulvade: “Have one door into and out of the school and have that one door, armed police officers at that door. If that happened…when that psychopath arrived, the armed police officers could have taken him out.”
• LOUIE GOHMERT, U.S. congressman from Texas, on the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut: “I wish to God [the dead school principal] had an M-4 in her office…so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, she takes him out, takes his head off…”
• EARL L. ‘BUDDY’ CARTER, congressman from Louisiana, on pledges by Democrats to crack down on America’s gun fetishism that leads to massacres: “They should address the actual underlying causes of these tragedies. Mental illness must be addressed, and we should work together to actually enforce the laws currently on the books to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals. Additionally, the threat of radical Islamic terrorism increases every day and Americans are rightfully afraid.”
• HERSCHEL WALKER, football star and Trump-backed candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Georgia, on angry young men who gun down schoolchildren: “What I like to do is see it and everything and stuff. What we need to do is look into how we can stop those things. …What about getting a department that could look at young men that’s looking at women that looking at social media.”
• JOSH MANDEL, candidate for U.S. Senate from Ohio, on gun law generally and efforts to license gun ownership specifically: “We have all the licensing that we need. It’s called constitutional carry, and means law-abiding citizens have the right to carry without government permission.”
• MIKE BRAUN, U.S. senator from Indiana, on schoolhouse shootings generally: “To me, this is something I think we definitely should be concerned with.”
• BILL CASSIDY, U.S. senator from Louisiana, on owning an AR-15 assault rifle: “I use it to kill feral pigs.”
In the foregoing, Mr. Mandel has a small point, at least by especially befuddled reasoning exhibited by the Supreme Court bench of fourteen years ago in the matter of District of Columbia v. Heller. In that case, The Robes dealt with Constitution’s Second Amendment, adopted in the year 1791 and today enshrined as Holy Scripture by right-wing gun fanatics.
The amendment is exactly one sentence long: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Militias of America’s colonial-era villages are the police departments of today. Blunderbuss muskets of the 1790s predated bullets, introduced in 1830 by the French inventor Casimir Lefaucheux. Militiamen were armed with registered weapons, as are modern-day police officers.
By the power vested in The Robes, now any American desirous of arming himself or herself is free to buy whatever the armaments industry brings to market. Since 2008, Daniel Defense has been especially adept at enticing new customers who needn’t bother with licensure.
Now comes Bruen as an extension of Heller.
When Bruen is decided as predicted, anyone desirous of carrying a concealed pistol while roaming the streets or shopping malls or dropping by houses of worship or grocery stores or dance halls—venues of past, present, and future mass shootings—may do so.
What could possibly go wrong?
America will very soon face a first consequential phase of Christo-fascism on the move. Clearly now, the movement’s legal wing is ready and willing to facilitate the criminalization of women in need of abortion and the creation of a new frontier of gun atrocities.
…But wait! There is talk in important places of reorganizing the Supreme Court, talk of two obvious steps that need to be taken:
• End lifetime appointments with a cap on service of perhaps ten years, with possibility of a two-year extension
• Related to the above, and in further interest of a less partisan high court—an impartial court—expand the nine-member bench to eleven.
There is nothing in the Constitution that could halt these steps. The Constitution merely requires the existence of a Supreme Court, allowing Congress to legislate its operational rules.
Meanwhile, in the necessary hope for a better future and as things now stand, we must abort the court.
And as we Americans have done before in disquieting eras, we must prepare ourselves for necessary days of rage.