Mother of all Choices

I don’t know about you, but I like to have choices.  This is one reason I tend to overpack when I travel, even for a weekend.  

I can barely decide on what I am going to wear each day, much less the day after tomorrow in a different city.  Given global warming and the toxicity of our environments, a forecast of 78 degrees FOR a Tuesday can mean 46 degrees ON that Tuesday.

If this reads like a flippant way to get into the #1 news story in American life, it is.

You knew where I was going…

How else can we right now treat the leaked draft of a new Supreme Court ruling that will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case and rescind a woman’s choice on whether to terminate HER pregnancy, even in the case of rape or incest, if a state so chooses?

Yes, we ALL need to demonstrate, fight, scream and, most importantly VOTE for pro-choice candidates if this draft becomes law once this ruling, or some variation of it, gets released in its final version next month.

Not now, not ever

But for right now the sheer hubris, audacity and basic on-the-record manipulative lies being perpetrated on the American public with this edict – basically because of three far right Trump appointed, judicial conservatives rammed onto the Supreme Court in order to purposely create this very majority opinion – should not to be treated with respect.

In fact, it should be treated for exactly what it is.  

That’s all.

A mountain of cleverly worded intellectual pretzel logic law horse traded by an orange-faced, aspiring dictator who still couldn’t win his re-election campaign.

A diarrhea of paragraphs meant to perpetrate a dogmatic, oppressive, religious agenda on a heretofore secular country. 

A betrayal by a small group of the most powerful judges in the land, the three most recent of whom committed moral perjury in their confirmation hearings so they could gain a seat to do exactly this – roll back our rights to those of half a century ago for the first time in American history rather than moving them forward.

The ultimate offensive, cynical stupidity of this move will haunt both the Court and the Republican Party for decades.

Please vote in November!

According to a recent Pew Research poll, 61% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.  Support for abortion with restrictions would score far higher.

And the Guttmacher Institute, a respected organization that studies sexual health and reproductive rights, recently estimated that a whopping 24% of ALL U.S. WOMEN will have an abortion before the age of 45.

What this means is that the anti-choice Handmaid’s Tale movement is outnumbered, and by A LOT.  As a gay person it reminds me of the similar approval numbers right before the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality – aka the passage of same sex marriage – seven years ago.

Did I mention VOTE IN NOVEMBER?

Of course, the difference is the equality ruling reflected where the vast majority of the country stood on civil liberties while this 2022 curtailment (Note: Or whatever you want to call it) of Roe v. Wade favors minority rule and taking away our long established freedom of choice.

I don’t usually read or promote the conservative leading Wall Street Journal, but this short opinion piece claiming that somehow these conservative justices didn’t lie in their confirmation hearings is a prime example of the level of hypocrisy the American public is being asked to absorb whole, and unlubricated.

Again, for the seats in the back!

Dodging questions that could expose them as anti-choice, the Trump judges all admitted that 1973’s Roe v. Wade fell into the legal category of stare decisis, a legal term which translated literally means to stand by things decided.

In fact, Justice Kavanaugh, that bastion of women’s rights, testified the issue of Roe had been reaffirmed many times, specifically noting legal precedent is critically important when it comes to judicial rulings.

But heavily implying you’re not touching that precedent and changing your mind about the case  is not the same as saying you absolutely won’t touch the case and change your mind!!

Who could have seen this coming??

That is the argument used by the WSJ editorial board, which is similar to the argument Lucy gave Charlie Brown before she moved the football.  Or the one that one grade school bully posed to me before he grabbed my tuna sandwich and left me with his hot lunch of rancid meatloaf, lukewarm beets and a teeny, tiny mini-carton of sour milk. (Note: Yes, this was the sixties.  And we shouldn’t go back).

Of course, all this wordplay does nothing for all the anger I have on behalf of young people – particularly women – who will now have to deal with this needless crap for the next, numerous decades.  The money spent, the energy expended on sheer dictatorial nonsense is enough for me to wish I could make every season of Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale required viewing in each classroom and courthouse in red state America.

Their new favorite superhero

Not that the majority of them wouldn’t side with the Gilead powers-that-be or send out a posse led by a Ginny Thomas clone  (Note: Our real life Aunt Lydia) to land me on the WALL.

The salacious, infuriating side story in all this mess is the one President Pancake Makeup told to Howard Stern in 2004 when he found out his then girlfriend, Marla Maples, was pregnant with the unborn fetus that would eventually become his youngest daughter, Tiffany Trump.

As he tells it, his exact quote was, Excuse me, what happened?, followed by a sarcastic, Oh great, and the proclamation, Well, what are we GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS?

UGH

As a fellow guy who grew up in his hometown of Queens let me translate that for you.  It means, and I paraphrase, how soon can you get an abortion and okay, I guess I have to pay for it.  See Allen Weisselberg, give him the receipt and he’ll reimburse you on your way out.

Something like that likely would have happened if Ms. Maples didn’t speak up and say to him,  Are you serious?  It’s the most beautiful day of our lives.

To which Trump once again replied, Oh, great, either sarcastically or in a serious but placating manner.   I will leave it up to you to CHOOSE the line reading that makes the most sense.

But however you interpret it, this much is clear.   Those at higher income levels will always have the right to choose

Either way. 

I, for one, fully respect whatever choice a woman makes.  What I don’t respect, and reject, are a bag full or hypocrites in robes being propped up by a party full of foaming at the mouth conspiracy theorists, would-be dictators and immorally bankrupt, power hungry just–for-the-sake-of-it stooges.

Luckily, we have the numbers on this. 

And come June they can kiss our collective asses. 

Hairspray – “You Can’t Stop the Beat”

Forward Backward Thinking

The many fans of writer extraordinaire Aaron Sorkin’s TV fantasy of the presidency, The West Wing, were able to luxuriate in nostalgia this week.

Simpler times

In support of Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, a non-partisan (Note: Ahem) organization that seeks to encourage voting in groups that too often sit out elections (e.g. young people, communities of color), HBO Max presented a staged reading, with the original cast, of Sorkin’s favorite WW episode — season 3’s Hartfield’s Landing.

This is where senior White House staff obsess about what the first reported presidential primary vote will be in a fictional 48-person New Hampshire town.  After all, the results will dominate the news all day and, if it goes well for the POTUS, it will set a positive tone for all the hoped for favorable press their boss will receive.

LOL remember when there was no news?

And, as we all now know, there is nothing more urgent than setting an upbeat tone in order to win the White House.  Right?

Well, history turns on a dime and what seemed urgent in 2002 and then became just plain silly in light of 2016 could easily, once again, become necessary in 2020.  Right?

Right Jon, right???

Sure!  As I explained to my students this week online via Zoom, because there’s been a deadly pandemic going on for the last eight months and we couldn’t possibly all be in the same room or breathe the same air, history swings like a pendulum – from left to right and back again.

To which one of them blurted out:

So,  when IS it going to swing back?

Yikes, good question #teachablemoment?

I, of course, immediately blurted back that they had to go out to the streets and, while safely socially distanced, swing it back the way they wanted.  Until I realized this was not only likely impossible but sounded like a Grade C imitation of the response Sorkin himself would give. 

Nor do I even believe it in the darker days of 2020.  Which, I confess, is most all of them.

Still, when you live in a purported democracy that’s about all you have, isn’t it?   It’s really just in how inspiring a way you can express it. 

Like a bad haircut, maybe it just needs time.

Well, Mr. Sorkin’s once again done an excellent job on that score as both writer and director in his latest film, The Trial of the Chicago 7. (Note…. the segue).

Dropping on Netflix just one day after the gauzy West Wing redux, his new Netflix offering (Note:  Because, well, our pandemic politics has shuttered most movie theatres and shoved this planned major theatrical release from Paramount right into your home stream) is anything but delicate.

Instead, it’s a theatrically cynical look back into history when the U.S. government was intent on using politics and every piece of the legal system, whether illegally or not, to punish and jail those who dare to take their protests onto the streets.

Look back? Who’s gonna tell him?

Side Note:  It seems particularly fitting it dropped after a week of Senate hearings aimed at putting arch Conservative (and self-possessed handmaid) Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the US Supreme Court.  When asked this week by a Republican senator to name the five freedoms the Bill or Rights guarantees for all Americans, Ms. Barrett could only think of four – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.

The one freedom that stumped her?

The right to petition the government for redress of grievances, OR, freedom to protest.

And there was laundry talk!

Fittingly enough, the clairvoyant Mr. Sorkin’s new legal drama takes us back in time to the late sixties, when this very issue was very, very VERY publicly spotlighted.  This was a time when the federal government, newly controlled by the uber conservative and freedom of protest loathing Richard Nixon, decided to charge a group of young and somewhat renowned and popular anti- Vietnam War protestors for conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intent to incite riots at the site of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Your next Netflix watch

Take the antics of this cross-section of long and short-haired, hippie and preppy, respectful and comically stoned and disrespectful young people – and mix it with a real-life first amendment-hating and often blatantly racist judge tasked with carrying out those charges by newly installed and diabolically fascist federally empowered Nixon flunkies and, well, you can see where hilarity and mass national conflicts could ensue.

And where the comparable present-day hyperbole might begin.

It’s not a particularly pretty story to look back on, even with the much hoped for and very pithily delivered Sorkin bon mots.  But even if you don’t love Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat movies or his borderline irredeemable prankster antics, you couldn’t experience anyone better portraying the late Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman, who famously feasted on yanking the chain of the establishment and even of his co-defendant Tom Hayden, the more straight-laced founder of Students for a Democratic Society so well evoked by Eddie Redmayne.

Also big hair moment

Ditto for so many others, including Frank Langella’s racist persecutor/Judge Hoffman, whose shared last name with Abbie is an ongoing joke, as well as a brief but memorable appearance by Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clarke, the much more liberal former attorney general from the previous Johnson administration.

It is the shifting of the pendulum of justice between left and right, liberal and conservative, and everything in between that gives the story of this Trial of the Chicago 7 its present day resonance.  At least for those of us hoping that this Election Day is about to once again cause a major shift back to what we used to think of as American sanity.

This. This. This. This. #VOTE

Yet at the same time it’s also this very issue that makes this movie inescapably scary.  As one watches the absolute conviction a single judge, backed by a new presidential administration, has towards enforcing racist and regressive views, and notes how willing both are to twist or even ignore the very laws it’s charged with enforcing in order to permanently silence those who oppose them, one can’t help but wonder — how many times CAN the pendulum shift back and forth before it all together cracks apart?

Sorkin’s courtroom antics and filmmaking dexterity do a great job of zeroing in on the core issues at stake and give us a happy ending from five decades ago that ensures American democracy will continue.

But this week’s US Supreme Court hearing, the one that will very likely (and somewhat dubiously) enshrine perhaps the most conservative judge in American history onto OUR Supreme Court, combined with the challenge for the umpteenth time of once again shifting the American presidency away from, well, fascism (Note: Fascism being the kind word), is a very steep, real life, hill to climb. 

Holding on tight to that last shred of hope

Especially in the middle of a global pandemic.

Where our ability, and even right to vote as we can, is being challenged at every turn.

Sorkin has written and imagined the way forward for us by going back in time.  But we now have to figure how to carry it out.

Another pat answer from me that borders on the cliché. 

Still, life’s never been quite as efficient, or satisfying, as any one Sorkin movie or TV series, much as we all (Note:  Well, the majority of us), would like to continue to pretend it to be.

Bob Marley – “Get Up Stand Up”