Curtain Raiser

Pride, Race & Old George, Colltalers

A busy week for the U.S. Supreme Court, with its predictable mix of good and bad rulings, was not enough to flush from the headlines the shocking, and still growing, revelations that a government intel agency has been spying on Americans for years.
The media’s focus, however, is as misguided as usual, hyperventilating about the now known whereabouts of Edward Snowden, the man who brought up the NSA’s err, indiscretions, rather than investigating them further. And much remains to be probed, as it seems the surveillance was not limited to Americans.
SCOTUS did manage to dominate the conversation with two rulings: one, momentous, on the unconstitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, and California’s Proposition 8, both draconian laws that had prevented thousands of same-sex couples from marrying, and the other, shameful, striking down a key component of the historical Voting Act Rights, under a preposterous assumption.
These two contradictory decisions have the power to frame at least part of how we want to see ourselves as a nation going forward. In that sense, the one doled out in the middle of Gay Pride Week celebrations is about tolerance and of a U.S. view as a more egalitarian society. The other one, not so much.
For the group of justices currently manning the highest court of the land have added yet another catastrophically wrong decision on politics, along the lines of last year’s ‘citizens united’ ruling, which effectively allowed an obscene amount of secret money to drown the fairness of the American electoral system.
This time, the court decided that the ‘country has changed,’ as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, implying that therefore it no longer needs to guarantee rights to black voters in the south, the focus of the law that had been in place since Dr. Martin Luther King’s times.
By allowing states to change election laws without federal approval, the court may have set the clock back 40 years, a time when black demographics were barred from being a factor under an array of excuses. Part of the reason that the country has changed is exactly because the act outlawed such racist practices.
Justice Roberts’s disingenuous statement hardly covers up the ruling’s real potential: to derail a process that has brought to the polling stations millions of black voters, i.e. Democratic Party voters, and as such, his court’s decision is not only questionable but indeed ideological.
As an immediate consequence, Texas has already taken steps to enact its state ID and redistricting maps plan, two extremely strict measures specifically designed to make more difficult for impoverish communities and so-called minority citizens to exercise their right to vote.
But not even the Supreme Court can disfranchise the black constituency, or prevent it from occupying its legitimate place in American politics, the Confederate past of this nation notwithstanding. It’s only deeply disappointing to see such a distinguished institution all but proclaiming that racial inequality is now over.
Right on cue to the contrary, racism itself again stuck its ugly mug to the cameras, as the murder trial of the self-appointed vigilante, who shot dead unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, got under way, and, to a lesser extent, through the self-inflicted fall of butter-rich southern culinary matron Paula Deen.
As we said, though, no amount of diatribes from that privileged body of justices can possibly supersede the enormous implications of what’s been coming out from the disclosed NSA files, the latest of which being that it bugged the European Union offices in DC.
This may further complicate the disconnect between President Obama’s public persona – his storied run to office and earth-inspiring speeches – with his behind-the-scenes strong-handed endorsement of discretionary policies, from possible killing targets to killer drones to widespread surveillance of U.S. citizens.
Ironically, a surprising sample of such disconnect happened in Africa, of all places, where he was chided by political leaders, not for the above reasons, main source of growing disenchantment with his administration at home, but from that very same SCOTUS ruling, on same-sex marriage, that he had no part of.
On that account, it’s unfair to the president, who would have our vote any day against such leaders. They’re obviously steeped in ancient and obscurantist religious dogmas, and have no problem watching some among their own people being massacred daily by the mob because of their sexual orientation.
Strange times. We’ve been so busy with the contradictions, and the disconnects, the good-cop, bad-cop playing, and the nightmarish vision of a whole security state invested in apprehending someone for giving away some of their tricks to the people who pay its salaries, that some of us may’ve forgotten something.
A week ago tomorrow, it was Eric Arthur Blair’s 110th birthday, and his most famous novel, 1984, has been in everybody’s mind, since at least the moment we’ve learned that billions of calls and Internet links are being recorded every day. That’s right, old Georgie had warned us about that, back in 1949.
His book has now risen to the top of best selling lists, higher than even when it was first published or ever since. Perhaps someone (other than a shady government agency) is also paying close attention. Let’s have a great July, while keeping a watchful vigil for Nelson Mandela. WC


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