25th June, 2022
By Umair Haque
Friday 24 June was one of the darkest days in American history. The end of Roe v Wade, which is the decision that legalized women’s reproductive healthcare rights in America, aka “abortion.”
A Supreme Court made up of fanatics and lunatics, whose vision is a fascist theocracy, has, in one fell swoop, eviscerated American democracy. Five people have taken the most basic of rights away from 330 million. 70%, by some counts, 80%, of Americans don’t want this. This is how a democracy ends.
Let me put in context just how incredibly dark this day really is. It’s one of the darkest in modern history, period. I can’t think of another example, certainly not in the developed world, where such fundamental rights, and so many of them, have been lost, for so many, in one fell swoop.
America went half a century backwards today — and more. That is an incredibly grim thing to see. It has almost never happened before in modern history, outside perhaps the Weimar Republic or the Soviet Union. This is how serious the stakes are.
What are those stakes? Let us all understand them with crystal clarity. This isn’t just “the end of abortion” — though that itself is huge. It is something much, much more grotesque than that. This is the end of a modern, free society for women in America. Yes, really. How so?
Anticipating this, Red State after Red State passed laws that were almost ludicrously Gilead-like. Women were to be informed on. Citizen-vigilantes were to be empowered to arrest them, sue them, deputize themselves as agents of a theocratic state. Women were to be policed by everyone. “Aiding and abetting” them was criminalized. The Morality Police of Iran or Saudi Arabia had arrived in America. That sounds bad enough, until you think about it, and then you understand what bad really is.
What does all that mean? Well, it means, for example, that if you’re a woman, sitting at a cafe, talking to a friend. The guy at the next table — a self-proclaimed “Patriot,” now carrying a gun in public, thanks to the very same Supreme Court, overhears you. And he decides that you’ve crossed the line. But he’s a deputy, because, well, anyone and everyone is. He turns you in. Or maybe he arrests you. For what? For a thoughtcrime. Wanting not to have a child. Are you even pregnant? Maybe, maybe not. Now the burden of proof is on you. And the friend you were speaking to? He’s arrested, too.
Grim enough for you? Then consider the next step. In some Red States, women were to be prevented from leaving the state. But how was anyone to know why a woman was leaving the state? Knowing would entail building a whole infrastructure to surveil and police woman. Ma’am, pull over. Can you show us your phone, please? We need to inspect all your social media, emails, correspondence. You need to prove it to us. We’re the Stasi — and we’re here to check up on…
Your purity. Your faith.
This is how a democracy dies.
This is the end of abortion. It’s also the end of democracy. How so? Well, think about the examples above. They are about to become true. But what is really happening in them? Basic rights no longer exist. Privacy. Expression. Association. Movement. The most basic rights of all — poof, gone. Not just for women. For everyone, because, well, anyone can “aid and abet” a woman.
This is actually how a democracy dies.
I want you to stop and think about that. Because Americans have been making fools of themselves for a while now. The process goes like this. Pundits tell them it can’t happen here. Intelligent observers like me, Sarah Kendzior, take your pick, say it is and it will. Denial prevails in the end. Nobody thinks it through. And it happens here.
This is really the beginning of end of democracy. Let me say it again. This is really the beginning of the end of democracy. 26 states already have trigger laws on the books criminalizing women’s rights. Many, in ways like the above. But those laws are hardly benign — sorry, you can’t go to an abortion clinic. They go much, much further than that. They are attacks on the fundamental fabric of democracy itself, the fabric of basic rights. They eviscerate freedoms of everything from privacy to expression to association. Now, you have to watch what you say. Who you say it you. Whom you meet. What you write down.
America? Or the Soviet Union? Or Nazi Germany? Certainly, in free societies, you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to to prove your morality, faith, rectitude, piety, purity, to anyone. Because it’s nobody’s business but yours, and maybe you don’t think of it much at all. But now? In more than half of America? You do.
That isn’t democracy. Nor is it democracy when five unelected people who are lunatics and fanatics can take the most basic rights away from 80% of people — against their wishes. Stop and think about that, too. Five unelected people are taking the most basic rights away from society — far from just “abortion,” but right down to what you can say where you can go, what you can think, express, write, want — against 80% of their wishes.
This is the beginning of the end of democracy. I’m not exaggerating or kidding. This is it. And you cannot be in denial about it anymore.
Why not? Well, how did it happen? Let’s think about it. The Republicans turned into a fanatical, neo-fascist machine. And they began to appoint genuine, bona fide lunatics to the Supreme Court. An alleged sexual predator, who cried and whined and shouted at his confirmation, sneering. A woman who’s a member of a religious sect which demands women who used to literally be called Handmaids, until it was bad press, be literally “submissive” to men. This is who is on America’s Supreme Court.
What were such people obviously going to do? You don’t appoint lunatics like this if you want, I don’t know, a Canadian healthcare system. You appoint them when you want a fascist theocracy. But something strange happened. When those of us who had survived and studied collapse before warned of this, our own side attacked us. Hey, give them the benefit of the doubt! You don’t know that woman is going to take everyone’s right away in the name of God — there’s no evidence of that! LOL — how much more do you need?
We are on the same side. We alarmists, and the sober ones who dismiss us as fantasists. We want the same things. But there is a big difference between us. They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, and we do. We have gotten everything right — all of it — from fascist collapse, to theocracy, to authoritarianism, to the coup, to how this terrible giant leap backwards would play out.
We have got to come together. They need to recognize that we have been right — you, me, etcetera — and we need to be able to counsel them to use their power in wiser ways. Or else the bad guys keep winning. What does that look like?
Well, it doesn’t take a genius to see what happens next, because one of those lunatic Justices already drew an outline. Next to fall? All the cases alongside Roe, which guaranteed rights for anyone in any way outside theocratic-fascist lines. Gay rights, rights to gay marriage, equality, representation. Rights to contraception. And then, of course, “interracial” rights — the return of segregation.
The lunatics talk about this openly. They slaver over it. The hard right is ecstatic that Justice Thomas laid out an outline for America to become a theocratic-fascist state. But where is the center left?
The vision the lunatics have for America is clear now. And it will not do to spend even one more second in denial about it. That vision culminates in taking every modern right away from everyone. In Clarence Thomas’s opinion, he writes: “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, & Obergefell.” That’s contraception, same-sex relationships, and gay marriage, respectively. They are not even being subtle about their plans. This is plain to see.
No more gay rights. No more interracial marriage, or even relationships. No more teaching kids what a modern, free society is. Forced birthing for women. No more privacy in the bedroom, the living room, the cafe, anywhere. No more, no more, no more. All these things are to be criminalized, in the same that women’s rights have been criminalized.
Did your kid do something gay? Time to turn him in. Wait, was he reading the wrong book? I’m going to turn your whole family in. Was that man wearing something that could be gay? Wait, did you see those two — they’re not even the same race! Hold on — we need to check. Are you dating outside your race? Is your kid exhibiting homosexual tendencies? Is that song talking about being gay? Does that book say women should have rights? Did you use contraception? You’re a criminal. You can’t say that, express that, meet people who say that, talk about that, want that, think that. We’ll check. Want to ever leave the state? How about a random stop to check your phone for evidence of being gay, having sex outside marriage, using contraceptives, having a relationship outside your race?
This is where it’s going. Stop the denial. Stop it. Jesus, for the love of all that’s holy, stop it. I know what a lot of you thought reading that last paragraph. Scary, but it can’t happen here. That’s also what you thought about Roe vs Wade what, five, ten years ago. And now here we are. Stop the denial. The first thing that scholars and survivors of social collapse have to teach you is that it happens in a blitzkrieg — faster, harder, swifter than you think. Like an avalanche.
Stop the denial and understand that this is real, and no, they won’t stop at this. Their vision is totalitarian. They want a totalized society, where they have total control of bodies, thoughts, actions, interactions, relationships, possibilities. They will not stop until they have that, because that is what fascism and theocracy both are — totalized visions of a moral order. They won’t stop at this. They will go all the way.
You want to know how to fight them. There are so, so many ways. A party that genuinely wanted to fight for democracy? It’d lead a general strike, right now. It would bring the nation to a standstill, and demand that these rogue institutions be reformed. It would keep that strike going as long as necessary.
It would impeach and remove justices for lying under oath. That’s an obvious step to take. When public officials lie under oath, they are derelict in their most fundamental duty. Steps must be taken to remove them from office. Not should, but must — because otherwise, anyone can say anything, contest any office, and nothing means anything anymore. It’s the basic, primary responsibility of a party to remove public officials who lie under oath — especially Supreme Court Justice. That should be happening, too.
And such a party would reform these broken institutions. It’d expand — aka “stack” — the court. Why should five people have that much power in a democracy — forever? It’d end lifetime tenure. It’d put in mechanisms of recourse for obviously undemocratic decisions. It would codify basic rights into law, and then go even further than that — it would draft whole new constitutional amendment, to redouble just how inalienable basic rights like speech, freedom, association, expression, and movement really are.
It would spark a grass roots movement, because, remember, 80% of American don’t want this. It would unify people and lead them to organize themselves to challenge these corrupt, horrific, malign institutions, and restore optimism and faith in self-governance.
My point isn’t that the Democrats will do that. Quite the opposite. My point is to teach you that, yes, even in social collapse, it’s possible to fight for democracy. Countries do it all the time. But it takes more than what Americans know. It’s not about trending on Twitter or escaping into Marvel-Movie land. It’s about getting real. And demanding better. Should there be a general strike? Should justice who lie under oath be impeached and removed from office? Should broken institutions which are fundamentally undemocratic be reformed? Of course.
But Americans need to begin genuinely demanding all that. Not acting like it’s impossible, and then retreating into apathy, doom, gloom, and despair. They need to barrage their representative with messages, arrive at their offices, and demand it. The right wing does it, don’t they? They do it so much and so well that they literally have little kits to organize pressure campaigns.
This is the development of an institution known as “the silent majority.” When that’s 80% of people, and they’ve grown so fatalistic, so hopeless, that they accept five people taking their most basic rights away — something is terribly wrong. It tells us that the party whose job it is to defend democracy has failed to galvanize them, to teach them, to lead them.
And so the people must lead themselves. This is not a game. It’s not a drill, a joke, or some kind of childish fantasy. This is it.
This is the beginning of the end of democracy. It’s the endgame, and it’s almost checkmate. There’s still time for a few moves left. But Americans have to learn to make them, instead of sitting there, helpless, in despair. We are Americans, goddamit. We went to the moon and defeated the Nazis. Don’t tell me we can’t. That’s not who we are. We do, because we can. We had better begin remembering that, now — or else all really is lost.
(Editors Note: I want to say something, as a woman. We knew this was going to happen. The draft was leaked. This wasn’t a surprise. And yet, the Dems did nothing. We went through the cycle of outrage, the Dems did some handwringing, and then… nothing. No strike, no action, no organising, no mobilising to prevent this from happening. If you want things to change, you have to be prepared to be relentless. I no longer see that spirit in Americans, except for the far right. They keep taking and taking from you — your rights, your livelihoods, your kids lives — and nothing ever changes. When will enough be enough? Will it ever? If not now, when half the population has had their rights taken away, when? Are we just going to sleepwalk into Gilead?
I don’t think men understand how it feels. To know that the government is inside your body. To know that your body is a political battleground, that is no longer your own. It is a violation. It is violent. And that is the point. To punish women for the “sin” of being sexually active. To put women in their place, to remind us that our bodies aren’t ours. They belong to men. To externalise costs to women, because that is what patriarchy is built on. So to me, I see the inaction that came after Roe, the way both left and right use us as pawns in a political game, as proof of just how much patriarchy hates women. And that’s how I really feel. I feel hated right now.
And I am furious. I am white hot with rage. I am furious at the far right, who dehumanise us and hate us. I am furious at the Dems, who did not care enough about us to codify Roe when they had the chance. I am furious at the inaction. To me it says: women weren’t worth the fight. I am furious that I have to explain to people that they won’t stop at abortion, that contraception is next, that America is going to become a country, save for a few liberal havens, where women are forced to become pregnant and give birth. Like chattel. That’s what we are now. Again.
I am furious that I have to be furious. But that is a fact of life being a woman in patriarchy. We’ve fought and won the right to vote, to own property, to have our own bank accounts, to be seen as people, to be full members of society. But to do those things, we were relentless. We have to be again.
On this day, remember Gerri Santoro, bear witness to what happened to her. See the reality of it. Don’t hide from it. And say, “we won’t go back.”)