Just in case you were smarter than me and decided not to watch the news tonight or read any news today online or otherwise, you might have missed the Supreme Court’s decision. They effectively decided to do away with key pieces of the now landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. It’s all very complicated and murky to dissect but effectively, there was an old formula that determined that certain local municipalities and cities had to receive “preclearance” from the federal government before they made any changes to their voting regulations. This could include anything from redistricting to the requirement of specific kinds of picture IDs or literacy tests before voting: specifically, regulations that might disenfranchise one particular group and therefore taint the vote in that district.The judges ruled that the formula itself was outdated and therefore it made no sense to give the federal government the right to review the voting regulations in districts selected by said outdated formula. The districts who brought the suit to the court see this as a win because they argue that their towns in the deep south and other formerly highly segregated areas are not what they used to be: that they should receive equal treatment from the government to reflect this progress. But in her dissenting opinion, Justice Ginsburg wrote this telling statement: “The sad irony of today’s decision lies in (the court’s) utter failure to grasp why (the law) has proven effective.”
Ginsburg’s words ring in my ears: a sad irony indeed. It brought to mind another piece of critical legislation that we once had in place, and then did away with: the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. The law prohibited the manufacturing of assault weapons for civilian use. It was a 10 year bill that passed with a sunset provision meaning that if Congress failed to reauthorize it in 2004, the law would simply expire. And so it did. At the time when the bill first passed, Adam Lanza was 2 years old. When Congress failed to renew it, he was 12. Which made it that much easier for him to enter Sandy Hook Elementary School and kill 26 people, getting off 154 shots in under 5 minutes. Had Congress acted to reauthorize the ban once in place just 8 years earlier, it would have been impossible for him to do what he did in the time that he did it. The children killed in Sandy Hook were primarily between the ages of 6 and 7. Most of them had never lived in world where such a ban existed. Ginsburg’s words ring in my head again: a sad irony indeed.And I just keep looking at my kids, at your kids, and thinking, what are we doing? Seriously, what the fuck are we doing? How are we possibly fucking this up so badly?
Not only are we unable to get new, important stuff done well. But the stuff that was working for us – the stuff that ensured voting rights for all and safety from assault weapons, we are unraveling that too. And I’m just scratching my head and thinking, how is this possible?How am I possibly raising my children amongst a generation of parents who micro-manage and analyze every single moment of our children’s lives from the level of toxicity in their Doritos to baby wearing and cloth diapers, or not cloth diapers or lots of television or no television - and what the hell? Why does it even matter? Because one day they are going to wake up and realize that while we were obsessively micromanaging this tiny little shit, their future world was literally crumbling around them while we sweated the details. And they are going to look at me and say what the fuck? Why didn’t you rise up and stop this madness? And I have no idea what I’m going to say.
You know what? I don’t give a fuck about Edward Snowden. Or what he knows or doesn’t. Or even what the NSA does or doesn’t know about me or my emails. Maybe they are spending their precious moments monitoring my TMZ usage. It doesn’t even matter. Because we are all sweating the wrong stuff here. We worry about terrorists and the safety of our planes. Shoes are still a threat. But you know those laws that stopped you from bringing small knives and every piece of technological shit ever created and using it on a plane? You know how that used to exist? Well pack up your tiny knives and fire up your laptop before hopping on that flight – those laws are gone too.What the fuck? How are we this bad at this? In my mind, the 80s were a glorious time and place where we all wore neon clothing and danced to Whitney Houston and everything was just happy. And it actually wasn’t but sadly, the trajectory of this country felt more hopeful than it does now. Did you even know that right now millions of young people are out of work? To be more exact, more than 8 million young folks between the ages of 20 and 24 are unemployed. But is America talking about that? Not really, let’s just try to undo some more useful shit that already exists or do something really productive like stop people from getting married because THAT WILL MAKE AMERICA BETTER.
Seriously, I’m just feeling deflated.In one of my favorite movies, 1995’s The American President, one of the Presidents’s advisors argue that “when people are thirsty, they’ll drink the sand.” Michael Douglas, playing the President, fires back: “People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”
Indeed. We don’t need to drink the sand people. We know the difference. We actually used to do this stuff better. At this point, we don’t even need to get fancy, we just need to put back in place stuff that already worked well and then sit down and take a good look at ourselves and ask, when will we as a nation and for the sake of our children be ready to tackle the really tough stuff? The stuff that will decide whether they really will have a shot at becoming the next greatest generation: stuff like the budget, the achievement gap, unemployment? G-d I’m thirsty but I know the difference. And I’m waiting for someone to stand up just once and show me it.