Courting Fascism: Facing America’s Supreme Coup

When the law fails you, where do you go?

When the highest court in a nation is compromised to the point that it disregards the law and becomes becomes predatory toward its people, what recourse do those people have?

What happens when a small minority weaponizes the very systems designed to protect its citizenry?

America is about to find out.

Despite he and his party’s relentless efforts, Donald Trump could not quite successfully manage a bloodless or bloody coup in the wake of the 2020 Presidential election, but it turns out he didn’t need to. He’d already done mortal damage to the Republic from the inside.

Through a perfect storm of Republican opposition during the Obama administration, a current Democratic majority-in-name-only in Congress, and the unfathomably tragic timing of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Trump and his party have commandeered the Supreme Court and are rapidly rewinding the clock of human and civil rights here to a place that would have been unthinkable to many, just a decade ago.

With only a few months before the most pivotal midterm elections in our lifetimes, the reproductive rights of women, environmental protections, the marriages and freedoms of LGBTQ people, and the viability of elections are all near or at the precipice. The velocity and scale of the losses are beyond what most people’s minds can fathom.

Every day people ask me what we can do to stop the coming flood of fascism and far wiser human beings than myself struggle with answers, especially if November doesn’t manage to catalyze the majority into the voting booth in numbers that we haven’t seen before. If the theocracy being built right now is solidified in Congress later this year, we will be in uncharted territory that none of us can predict or imagine. It may require personal sacrifices and bring relational schisms that our nation hasn’t had to face since the Civil War.

So what are we who are here and grieving all this, supposed to do with our sadness and worry over what this nation is and what we fear it could become? The answer is: everything we can.

People of faith, morality, and conscience each need to take stock of what we value here, of the freedoms we still do have, of the people and causes we care about, of the kind of place we don’t want it to become—and live boldly, fully, and passionately in light of all of it.

November is not yet here, which means there is still time to write a better story if we are willing to spend ourselves on behalf of that story; to stay in the small and the close and to embody the America we believe is worth fighting for and the nation we dream of living in.

If we recognize our interdependence, disparate Americans need to move together despite our relatively small differences, to push back an existential threat to all of us. In the face of a Supreme Court that no longer operates in the interest of the law or the people, and of a political party whose collective soul has long been sold, the rest of us need to do your best to dissent. We need to embrace what is within our hands: our relationships, our work, our resources, our energy, our shared voice, our shared vote—and to leverage those things in the cause of life, liberty, and happiness as best we can and hope that these things are enough.

And if they prove not to be, we’ll need to wake up in that unimaginable day and keep fighting.

Humanity is worth it.

The planet is worth it.

And the America that still could be is worth it, too.

 

An Apology to My Daughter

My Dear Daughter,

I’ve been thinking about you ever since the news a few days ago.

Every time I try to find the words to talk about this to you, they jumble all together, swelling up and getting stuck in my throat. Tears quickly well up in my eyes, and all I can manage is a barely audible, “I’m sorry.”

I am.

I am so very sorry.

I’m sorry for America.

It has failed you.

I’ve lived all of my life believing in this country, believing that we would never go backwards, only forwards. I believed that there were enough good people here to prevent the terribly ugly things of our past from becoming our terrifying present. I rested in the trust I had in the greater collective humanity here being enough. I had faith in the center holding and in our better angels prevailing.

I was wrong.

When your mother and I chose to bring you into this world, we never dreamed that you would spend a second of your life without the elemental freedoms over your body, over your decisions, over the care you receive from doctors. We knew you would face the challenges of living in a nation that still offered so much resistance to your progress, so many caustic messages about your self-worth, so much opposition to your full equality—but this… this was unthinkable.

We’re so very sorry—not for choosing you or for your beautiful life, but for you having to know the fear and the worry and feelings of less-than that women here have not had to endure for decades, because they and people before them fought so terribly hard for so long.

There are so many reasons for us being here right now: so much collective laziness and greed, so many opportunistic people who sacrificed your choice on the altar of their phony religion, so much first-hand and internalized misogyny. I wish I could rewind and help change even one small thing that would give you a different nation and a different day to wake up in today.

But since I can’t do that, I can only give you these promises in the present and for the future:

I will never stop fighting for you.
I will spend the resources I have to make sure the place you call home becomes more deserving of you.
I will never back down from awkward conversations with our families.
I will never hold my tongue in a crowd of strangers.
Whenever laziness or fatigue or sadness make me drift toward hopelessness and inaction, I will think of you and of every other daughter in this nation, and I will propel myself back into the fight because you are worth that.

I know it’s probably very scary right now, especially hearing mommy and daddy saying they’re scared, too. Just know that we will be with you in the darkness and we will chase every every real demon and every imagined monster and we will fight for the light.

I’m sorry for America and the way it has so grievously let you down.
I’m sorry for the Church we once called home and for the way it dehumanized you.
I’m sorry for our relatives and friends who chose their tribalism over your choices.
I’m sorry that I was not louder or more involved or more aware of the danger.

Most of all, I am sorry to you and to every daughter in this nation who had no choice in being born here or calling it your home, and now do.

You deserve better.

The Americans Still Awaiting Emancipation From Slavery

On June 19th 1865, Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to declare the emancipation of all Americans, of every slave being freed.  The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued two-and-a-half years earlier by President Lincoln, but as a result of the geographic fractures created by the war, many strongholds of institutionalized racism existed. Texas was the final area of this nation to surrender to this particular bend of the arc of the moral universe toward racial justice—and someone had to forcefully bring them the news they’d refused to come to terms with: the war was over.

59 years later, from the Birmingham jail where he was imprisoned for being a participant in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a response to a public statement of concern issued by eight white Southern religious leaders. In his address, King lamented both white political moderates and the white Christian Church for hindering progress toward equality, either by their inaction or through outright opposition by criticizing the timing and method of protests. These tactics are all too familiar today.

We wake up in a nation where Juneteenth and MLK Day are both national holidays—yet where an entire political party is working incessantly to prevent teachers from teaching that the decades of ugliness that precipitated the civil rights movement even existed.

All the slaves and prisoners in America are not yet emancipated.

157 years following the last holdouts of the confederacy facing the reality of the war ending, and 59 years after Dr. King’s letter lamenting white resistance to progress, our shared sickness remains.

The symptoms of this slavery and imprisonment are apparent in the disparity in the rates of incarceration between white people and people of color,
in the disparity in pay for equal work,
in the disproportionate accessibility to healthcare and education and voting rights and affordable housing,
in the lack of people of color in positions of power and leadership,
in the lopsided history of police brutality,
in historic generational poverty.

But these truths themselves are not the slavery and imprisonment that most afflict this nation. Our greatest collective ailment is not a literal confinement or physical imprisonment, it is the white supremacy, privilege, and resistance to equality within the hearts so many white Americans that is still hindering humanity: the conscious and subconscious prejudices presently permeating us.

You can see it in the responses to the murder of George Floyd, to the gerrymandering a and voter suppression efforts of the Republican Party, to the white supremacy embodied in the MAGA movement. And, as Dr King grieved in Birmingham, you can still find it in the lukewarm response of so many professed  progressive white people in the face of it all.

Whether due to fatigue or laziness or fear or aversion to conflict, human beings who wouldn’t advocate for slavery or deny people of color a vote or celebrate police brutality or wave confederate flags or intentionally perpetuate systemic racism—still  enable it all by their silence and inaction and intentional distractions.

Bob Marley once sang, “emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” and we in white America who want to imagine ourselves anti-racist need to embrace this invitation in the core of our beings. The internal servitude of our countrymen and women is being aided by people like us who would rather keep an uneasy peace in our families, marriages, churches, workplaces, and social circles, than enter into the fray of honest conversations about race.

157 years after the events of Juneteenth, white America needs to work for the “emancipated minds” of so many white Americans: for the freeing of people from the fear, bigotry, selfishness, greed, and hatred that still perpetuate racism, inequity, and injustice.

Because of that, we need to continue march into the fortified strongholds of racism, and to the last holdouts against equality—in our homes and neighborhoods and schools and churches, and then to the polls—and declare that all people are not yet free and deserve to be free. We need to release white Americans from bad theology, predatory politics, lack of information, unconfronted privilege that maintain this sickening status quo. Until this happens, the cancer of racism will remain and slavery will not be in our regrettable past—but in our grievous present and our disfigured future.

People of color can be legally free, but until more white Americans are emotionally, intellectually, mental emancipated from prejudice and privilege, we will still be here 157 years from now, fighting over the value of a black life. This nation doesn’t need more ceremonial holidays, we need more courageous caucasian people who will invite discomfort, sustain bruises, welcome turbulence, and risk relational separation from our tribes of affinity and communities of origin, for the sake of disparate humanity in a time of urgency.

The fight against racism is not the fight of people of color alone. We who are white “moderates” (or progressives or liberals or simply decent human beings) need to be more vocal in our anti-racism and more willing to be disobedient to laws and accepted norms and popular movements that are inherently racist. We have to risk the kind of relational and social “tension” that MLK described in his letter; the kind millions of others have willingly engaged in the cause of equality.

This will mean that white Americans will need to confront those they know, love, worship and work alongside, and those live and socialize with—with the ugliness of who we have been and in many ways still are.

157 years after Juneteenth, there are still barricaded holdouts to ratified prejudice who need to hear that all people deserve to be free.

We need to lovingly but loudly bring that message to those still waging a war inside their heads that desperately needs to end.

We are not free until we are all free.

The True March for Our Lives is To the Polls

Marches are powerful things.

They are a necessary visual reminder that we are not alone.
They help provide a sense of agency in dark days, to right size the threats that seem so towering and overpowering.
They give us a chance to stand with a tribe of affinity and be a tangible response to the things that burden us.

Marches are awe-inspiring, goosebump-inducing, breathtakingly cathartic moments.

But marches don’t vote.

They can’t craft legislation and they won’t protect people in danger.
Marches won’t jettison corrupt leaders from their well-fortified perches of power. They can’t reach into the  labyrinthine hallways and cloistered rooms where those charged with protecting us, decide our fates.
They can’t tip the scales of our political process back toward balance.

All over this nation, millions of Americans, stood in a public space with a small army of like hearted people and loudly declared the America we desire and the America we will not abide.

We spoke out against senseless violence and predatory politicians and toxic systems.
We cheered and applauded and exhorted one another, and we cultivated hope together for one another.
It was so very good for the weary soul starved for hope.

But even as I basked there in the radiant glow of disparate people, assembling to celebrate life and demand its defense; even as I joyfully gorged on the Tweets and photos streaming in from similar gatherings through the country; even as my eyes widened at the scale of the outpouring; even as I wiped the tears from my eyes at the courage of teenagers—I realized it could easily be for not.

Marches are indeed powerful things but they can’t hold a candle to votes.

Marches can encourage imperiled people for a day. Votes can save them for a lifetime.

To those who coordinated carpools and painted signs and braved rain and weathered heat and endured the taunts of angry people this weekend: this can’t be a landing pad, it has to be a launching pad.

As beautiful as the #MarchForOurLives was (and it surely was), if it doesn’t catalyze us into participating in and changing the political landscape, it will have been an exercise in self-medication; a temporary high that for a moment allows us to escape but does nothing to alter the terrifying reality we find ourselves in.

So here in the afterglow of such clear and glorious goodness, the real work begins.

We need to register to vote.
We need to register others to vote.
We need to canvas neighborhoods.
We need to financially support political candidates committed to equality, diversity, and justice;
to build social media groups and community organizations and interfaith partnerships;
to be as focused over many months as we were for a few days.

This is how we protect our children.
This is how we eject predatory politicians.
This is how we collapse the gun lobby.
This is how we dismantle the fake news of FoxNews.
This is how we eradicate white supremacy in Government.
This is how we protect Muslims and refugees and immigrants.
This is how we protect students and teachers from terror.
This is how we stand with bullied gay teenagers.
This is how we care for poor families and sick children and elderly couples.
This is how we help America be its best self.

In the wake of acts of gun violence at schools, millions of young people inspired and challenged us all in bold activism and we praised them applauded them.
They need us to do more than praise and applaud them.
They need us to do more than turn their images into icons we wear on our chests.
They need us to do more than shower them with our accolades.

They need us to do what we hadn’t done enough of until now.

They need us to enter the spaces they cannot and to be as passionate and persistent and courageous as they have been.

They need us to show up and cast votes on behalf of them.

Adults in America, we cannot let these students or the tens of millions children they represent down by letting this moment remain simply a moment.

We of every color and religious tradition, every political affiliation and gender identity, every nation of origin and sexual orientation—we need to march now and we need to not stop.

For these young people who are leading us now, and for those who will come after them; those committed to changing the world—we need to do our part.

We need to march all the way to November, all the way to the polls—and for all our lives.

Then, we’ll look back on this day not as merely a day of defiance and celebration, but as the beginning of a revolution.