The Lasting Power of Complicity


Part of the grand legacy of the US is that its citizens have stood up and fought for their rights, again and again, until they’ve won. The Supreme Court has been historically instrumental in locking in the protections and freedoms that come after long, hard battles where human lives are put on the line—and, in many instances, where those lives have been lost. Tragically, the brutality our marginalized have faced, and stood down, and sacrificed everything for, is part and parcel of how human rights are secured.

And the battle has never truly ended.

Every day, we see new examples of people of color are being criminalized for simply being of color. And workers are being told their right to organize to ensure fair wages and workable schedules is asking too much. The highest court in the land is handing down some pretty low-ball rulings under this administration, thanks in great part to the easy installation of conservative judges by the GOP, while more liberal-leaning nominees to the court have been actively and vehemently blocked. With such a slanted bench set up to erode previous key rulings—in addition to making some genuinely atrocious new ones— what we believed to be clearly protected has proven to be reversible. But thanks to rulings like Brown v The Board of Education and Roe v Wade, there there are records of these rights being secured; they must remain stable, because we all should be able to agree that race and color and gender and sexuality are non-determiners for life, liberty, safety, and the pursuit of happiness. People of color are fully-protected citizens; women have ultimate rights over what happens to their bodies. LGBTQ couples can marry and love and raise families and be seen as equal in the eyes of the law. 

Simple, yes? And so very obvious. 

So when a president who wears his prejudices on his sleeve while purporting to represent all of the people (and turns that claim into a blatant, self-Tweeted lie almost hourly) chooses Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice nominee, someone who has voiced his opposition to prosecutions for presidents embroiled in criminal investigations (for...I don’t know...say, colluding with an enemy foreign power to gain the presidency, maybe?), and the president-investigate who stated during his campaign that he’d only choose pro-life judges for his Supreme Court nominees, surely Congress would of course recognize this as an egregious breach of presidential responsibility and democracy and stand in staunch opposition. Right? 

Not in 2018. 

All of those long-fought and hard-won protections and rights are in danger of being entirely undone, at a time when MORE should be done to lock them in even tighter. 

Congress, with its spineless, devolving GOP majority, is either in agreement with this choice, or is too afraid to oppose the president lest he call them grade-school names on social media and rally his base to oppose them and strip them of their power in upcoming elections, or is playing thoroughly passive-aggressive with every next destructive decision he makes, eager to see the success of his roll-back agenda that they fear is too radical to support out loud. “The president chose,” they think, as they’ve thought about almost every other decision he’s made, “and we need another conservative judge to ‘balance the scales’. What can we do but vote ‘yes’?” 

Well, for starters, you could recognize the discriminatory practices of your conservative agenda. And that would mean recognizing people in the minority in the US as equal citizens with equal rights that demand equal protections under the law. 

No, wait. That’s a liberal agenda. 

What Congress will do instead is either enthusiastically support the president’s choice, or they’ll do it with complicity. However it happens, they’ll tip the courts further toward inequality to “help” – as in, help pull at the threads of security for women seeking safe, legal abortions, help let people of color know their equality isn’t quite as equal as they’ve been led to believe, and help gay and lesbian couples understand that they aren’t as “citizen” as cis people are. 

In other words, the scales will be so imbalanced now, and the court so “helpful,” it will be nearly impossible to find the America in America. 

And GOP representatives in Congress will be as much to blame as the president for all of it. The cowed among them will proclaim they had no choice. And this is where the true power of complicity lies: they’ll be guilty for this deterioration even if they think they had no choice. Because they WILL have a choice. And if all goes as expected, they’ll have made it with clear consciences. 

But we’ll know exactly where the blame lies. 

They may think their hands will be clean, but they’ll be covered in blood for generations to come.

Steven Luna