Notorious RBG and a Last Wish


by Roxanne Tellier

I was preparing dinner in the kitchen on Friday night, when Shawn came into the room and said, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died.”  

One hand flew to my mouth, the other to my heart, and I gasped in shock, a reaction that I know was echoed by many in the 24 hours following news of her passing.

How can it be that one small, 87-year-old woman, riddled with cancer, became the only check in the vaunted checks and balances meant to keep an entire nation democratic? How did she become the last bastion of sanity and decency in a country that claims to be ‘exceptional’? Why did it take the loss of her presence on the Supreme Court to wake hundreds of millions of Americans to the stripping away of civil and human rights that awaits them, as early as next month?  

While those who claim to be pro-life insist that their religious beliefs should trump the rights of all women to control their own bodies, the Trump administration is already lined up to strip away the health care rights of EVERY American – male, female, black, white, young and old – when their request to invalidate the Affordable Care Act is heard. Some 20 million Americans, many of them low income, will lose health care coverage, and be denied any form of coverage due to pre-existing conditions (something that every single American may have following the COVID pandemic), and will discover that these changes will also disallow children from staying on their parents health plans until the age of 26.

Trump has repeatedly promised that he has a ‘beautiful! New!’ health care plan in the works, but after more than three years of these idle promises, no one should be holding their breath for that to emerge.

Roe v Wade, the case that legalized abortion nationwide nearly fifty years ago, is also on the line. Tom Cotton, one of trump’s proposed new jurists, is on record stating that this would be his first priority.

Short of overturning Wade, there are still several cases in the pipeline that could effectively restrict access to the procedure, including one case already before the court in which the trump admin has asked the justices to overturn a federal judge’s decision that lifted restrictions on telemedicine abortions during the pandemic. And in terms of the most common second trimester abortion procedure, the D&C, (dilation and evacuation) at least 10 states are on record seeking to outlaw clinics providing this option.

Women’s rights to control over their own body is not the only controversial issue. There’s even talk of rolling back the landmark case, Brown v Board of Education (1954) which famously dismantled segregation. The more recent cases that decided on the rights of the LGBTQ, the handicapped, and other minority communities will also be on the table with a fifth Conservative Supreme Justice.  

One small, fragile, senior, woman held back that tide of discrimination, prejudice, and misogyny for as long as she physically could. But within two hours of her death, and in defiance of her stated last wish that her seat remain unfilled until a new president was in power, trump was already declaring his intent to fill her seat with a person of his own choosing.

And that follows in a horrific pattern in which four out of five of the conservative justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court (Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) were nominated by Republican presidents who lost the popular vote

Two of trump’s most loathsome minions, who campaigned ruthlessly to prevent President Obama from appointing a Justice in his last year of office, have reversed their ‘hand on the bible’ statements from 2016.

And today ….

But they are not the only Republican Senators displaying blatant hypocrisy, and a lack of ethical morality, in their decision to blindly follow in their leader’s doddering steps.

The very idea that matters considered so integral to how justice is allowed or denied should be in the hands of judges who profess fealty to a specific political party boggles the mind. Having trampled upon any pretense of a separation of church and state, the modern Court openly skews either liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. That can’t be right. The law must be the law, not something that can be warped to suit the needs of the politicians currently in power. If the decisions are made based on party, then the decisions are only opinions, frothy and transitory, as worthless as the blatherings of a drunk at the end of the bar.  The justices lose all credibility, cease to be the ultimate legal decision makers, and are instead mere pundits. .  

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Mitch McConnell seems determined to rush the seating of a lifetime justice, in hopes that, regardless of the outcome of this election, the conservative, Republican ideals will remain the law of the land for decades to come. McConnell is cementing his position as the man who broke American democracy, and brought the pillars of American justice down around it’s citizens, the modern-day Benedict Arnold, made mad thru his insatiable lust for relevance and power.

“According to American political scientist Larry Diamond, democracy consists of four key elements: a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; protection of the human rights of all citizens; a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.”  (Wikipedia)   

During this administration, each of those pillars has been systematically mocked, repeatedly attacked, and is in peril of becoming a dead issue.

ONE: “ a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections;

Despite having won (by Electoral College) the presidency in 2016, trump attacked all forms of voting, insisting, despite his own repeated investigations that found no tampering, that all American elections were fundamentally flawed and rigged. With the pandemic impairing the ability of citizens to safely vote in person, he then first verbally attacked mail-in voting, intentionally underfunded the Postal Service, and then appointed Louis Dejoy as Post Master General, who viciously decimated staff and equipment in the nation’s postal offices, bringing the mails to a slowdown unlike any in it’s history, and making the handling of the volumes of mail ensured by election mail-in voting nearly impossible to consider.

As some Americans opt for early voting in states like Virginia, trump’s goons are swarming polling locations and would be voters, in blatant acts of voter intimidation. Trump has already admitted that these acts of intimidation will be severely ramped up on Election Day, November 3. He has also admitted that he might challenge the 2020 election results, or even stay in the White House, despite a loss. It is quite likely that the final results may be delayed by days, or even weeks, based on these restrictions, and while a late decision on who has won is actually not illegal, trump’s mouthpieces are spreading disinformation on the legality of such a delay.

Two:  “the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; “

Trump’s first town hall meeting in, I believe, the entirety of his four-year term, was held just this past week. The people allowed to question him were thoroughly vetted, and most questions were fairly straightforward and logical. However, his answers merely echoed the beerhall rants familiar from his rallies – mainly incoherent, highly self-congratulatory, and rarely with any semblance to the real world everyone but trump is inhabiting.

Three: “protection of the human rights of all citizens; “  Since the first month of trump’s ascendency to the presidency, the rights of all citizens, American or otherwise, were secondary to his platform. Within hours of his first day in office, he began the process to repeal Obamacare, and within days, had put into place executive orders to set in motion travel bans and restrictions on refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. By April, 800,000 ‘DREAMers’ had their lives upended and their futures made uncertain.

By the spring, new armies of ICE agents began arresting and deporting many immigrants who were in the process of becoming citizens. And of course, the infamous border wall, persecution of would be refugees, and camps for kids weren’t far behind.  

Four: “a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.”  Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present Attorney General William Barr … personal lawyer to the POTUS, and expediter of pardons and the overturning of legal decisions.

America is in crisis. American democracy is on its last legs. And as the citizens limp towards the election, burdened with a lethal pandemic, massive unemployment, and the threat of homelessness looming over the heads of about 40 million people, they must also contend with almost daily revelations informing them of trump’s knowledge of exactly how deadly this pandemic is, and that he hid that knowledge from the people, for his own re-election plans.

Rather than shore up America’s defenses, rather than trust the people whom he took an oath to protect and defend from this deadly virus, trump has instead relied on the snake oil sellers he’s seen hawking junk on FOX to its addled viewers. And now, finally, he’s admitted … his plan is to not have a plan, but instead to gamble on ‘herd immunity’.

This new non-plan will kill as many as 3 million people. “Trump has a plan for coronavirus: herd immunity. Say goodbye to your parents, your neighbors, and your friends. Because the Trump plan will kill millions in the next four years.”

And in the midst of all of this madness, and with a plan that’s not a plan but rather an abdication to the power of the virus, trump has told the American people that he believes that he alone has the right to name yet another conservative judge to the Supreme Court, to join the previous two that were foisted upon the nation.

Despite the last wish of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said, ‘ My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed’.

A NEW president. Not this used up condom of a failed, incompetent, wannabe dictator.

If Americans want to fulfill her last wish, with the added bonus of saving the nation from plunging into fascism, they’re going to have to vote like their lives depend upon it.

Because it does.

Martin Luther King Day


what are you doing for othersInjustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.”   (Martin Luther King Jr. ) 

Today, Americans observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a federal holiday, so many people will enjoy a long weekend, with schools, banks, courts and all federal offices closed.

King was the inspiration of millions, being integral to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s. During the 1963 March on Washington, he gave hope to all who felt less than free in America with his uplifting “I Have a Dream,” speech which earned him a reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.

rosa parks quoteIn 1964, then President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. That same year, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence.

King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray, in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” (MLKjr)

After his death, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Soon after, labour unions in contract negotiations began to campaign for a holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day , in his honour. In 1971, the day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states

reagan signs MLK dayPresident Ronald Reagan signed a bill designating the third Monday in January to honour King in 1983, but it was not observed until three years later. It is a floating holiday, in that it is celebrated around the time of King’s birthday, January 15. In 1986, the day became a U.S. federal holiday.

Interestingly, Reagan originally opposed the holiday, citing cost concerns.

jesse_helmsSenators Jesse Helms and John Porter East (both North Carolina Republicans) led opposition to the bill and questioned whether King was important enough to receive such an honor. Helms criticized King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and accused him of espousing “action-oriented Marxism” Helms led a filibuster against the bill and on October 3, 1983, submitted a 300-page document to the Senate alleging that King had associations with communists. New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan declared the document a “packet of filth”, threw it on the Senate floor and stomped on it “ Wikipedia.com)

In 1994, Congress designated the King Holiday as a national day of service. But some states resisted observing the holiday, an action that would seem directly opposed to King’s ‘dream.” It was not until 2000 that the day was officially observed in all 50 states.

Many politicians still active in government today voted against the holiday. In October 1983, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah, former GOP presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona, and Richard Shelby of Alabama, were amongst the 22 opposing votes against 78 Senators in favour, along with the current House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, and current top Republican advocate in defense of the Voting Rights Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

steve scaliseMajority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, voted twice against a state version of the holiday. Which is not surprising, considering that it has recently become known that Scalise delivered a previously unreported speech at a 2002 conference sponsored by a white-supremacist group. He was one of three Louisiana statehouse members who voted against the proposal in 1999, and then one of three nay-sayers in 2004.

supreme court“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June 2013 that a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act designed to prevent racial discrimination in certain voting laws was no longer necessary. The majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, stated that “things have changed dramatically” in the South and that the “country has changed” since the Voting Rights Act was passed. The court argued the law had successfully defended against discrimination, but was no longer needed. Racism, the court majority appeared to suggest, was over, and laws created during a time when such hatred was in its heyday served now to place unjust “burdens” on certain states and jurisdictions that wished to pass new voting laws — laws, of course, that had nothing to do with trying to suppress minority votes. “ (Huffington Post)

“An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.” (MLKjr)

And so today, Americans celebrate a holiday honouring a man instrumental in the creation of the Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, while SCOTUS – which consists of a non-elected Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate for life tenure “unless they resign, retire, take senior status, or are removed after impeachment (though no justice has ever been removed)” (Wikipedia.org) – dismantle that act to protect the very states that impelled it’s necessity.

“How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” (MLKjr)

martin-luther-king-jr-quotes-silenceKing’s words ring as true today as they did in this 1967 speech he gave at Stanford University. The “Other America” still exists, and will continue to do so until more people, universally, demand social equality and human rights for all.