A.C.L.U. Dinner: Being Among My People

The Constitution of the United States begins with the words “We the People…”. But we don’t have anything resembling “we the people”, as the election clearly revealed. Hillary won the popular vote. In the archaic electoral college system, Republicans swept the table. In January, they will add a hard-right Republican conservative Supreme Court majority, potentially in place for decades. The basic constitutional rights of all Americans will be bent to fit the fears and prejudices of angry white Christian conservatives. Welcome to a return of Jim Crow nation, as vendors in the public marketplace get to deny service to anyone they object to, based solely on religious beliefs. Welcome to using the power of the state to control a woman’s body for nine months, simply because she becomes pregnant.

On Saturday night I went to the A.C.L.U./Washington dinner, where I listened to speaker after speaker promising to fight the coming onslaught against our civil rights. I made my first contribution, and a rather large one. My fear is that all roads for the A.C.L.U. wind up at the Supreme Court — soon to be the hard right Republican Supreme Court. Justice is not, as Chief Justice Roberts said, a matter of calling balls and strikes. Justice is in the eye of the beholder. In 1944, in Korematsu v. The United States, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion order leading to the internment of Japanese American citizens. The decision was never overturned, even though in 2011 the DOJ — under President Obama — conceding that the Solicitor General’s defense of the policy was in error. That’s cold comfort to those Japanese American families who lost their homes, their livelihoods, and their freedom for the duration of the internment.

I found it comforting to be at the A.C.L.U. dinner. These are my people. The election showed me that instead of “we the people”, we have “my people v. not my people”. The two camps don’t have the same news sources, or eat the same kinds of food, or worship together, or vacation in the same places, or seek out the same occupations, or teach their children the same beliefs and values. Increasingly the warring camps don’t respect each other, and it seems that we don’t even like each other.

I’m not sure where this goes in a democracy, but it doesn’t seem like a strength.

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