“People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.” Will Rogers
The title of this post comes from an old phrase attributed to various sources, some biblical, some literary and some colloquial; it is very appropriate in describing the environment of the world today, including the US. We saw this in the summer of 2020 with the assaults and vandalism following the murder of George Floyd, the same with the January 6th Capital Riots, the Uvalde School massacre, and most recently the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. As Will Rogers said, all this flying into a rage has resulted in bad landings.
Where does this psychosis come from that so many people act as if no one can honestly disagree with them, and if you do, you will be censored, vilified, cancelled, fired or perhaps even shot? There is no more civil discourse, just civil unrest. American culture has devolved into partisan trench warfare, an endless series of narratives based on nothing more substantial than derogatory labels followed by violence.
While there is such a thing as righteous anger, what we experience is more akin to narcissism; it does not seek to engage and understand but to destroy; it is cowardly and envious because it sees the success of others as a threat, whether that be in an election or court decision. Thankfully, the majority of Americans are above the fray, but unfortunately we are all victimized by this sad state of affairs, and that can create an atmosphere of fear and hopelessness.
The latest example of this with the overturning of Roe vs. Wade is a case in point. While I am a pro-choice advocate, I always thought that the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision had a shelf life. In fact, I was surprised the overturning took this long as that decision was based on things not supported by the Constitution as the entire issue has no place at the Federal level. While I believe that it has no place at all with government at any level, apparently that will have no bearing with the outcome and I will have to live with that, as will many people in some states that will now ban or restrict abortion.
The existential problem arises with the violent reactions, which started with the leaked Alito draft. Actually, violent reactions regarding abortion started in 1973 with the attacks on clinics and doctors following the Roe vs. Wade decision, and now with the Dobbs decision on pregnancy centers. There is no real dialogue about abortion and with the recent SCOTUS ruling, only curious jubilation or unwarranted rage. The ruling was no surprise to the observant as the court was now decidedly conservative, and the leaked document was like a weather report after the storm, with the ruling of record a mere historical foot note about federalism.
What both sides on the non-debate are missing is the actual basis for any government involvement does not exist in the constitution even though the Founders were all aware of the practice. From colonial times to the mid 19thcentury abortion was legal in the US in most states, although socially unacceptable to many. But it is also true that some of the Founders, in their legal capacity within their states, viewed abortion as a misdemeanor based on common law, particularly as espoused by William Blackstone, a famous English jurist and frequently cited thinker in the American political writings of the founding era. Blackstone believed that fetuses, even while in the mother’s womb, are legally considered born.
What could hopefully happen, now that the issue has been returned to the states, is that each goes about its business according to the will of its people but respecting the decisions of other states. Making it illegal to leave your state for another to get a legal abortion, and return to your own state is contrary to the constitution on many levels, but some states have already made that law.
So far eleven states have now banned or restricted abortion, and likely there will be more, while many states will allow it under some guidelines and even provide fiscal support. Whether or not there will be cases of prosecution of women and their medical providers for an abortion remains to be seen, but if so such cases will likely make their way back to the Supreme Court by pro-choice advocates, and the outcome will likely spawn further conflict and violence. This is a movie that just gets endless remakes with no real progress in calming the polity of our country.
What we need is a thoughtful leadership that will help guide a polarized nation to a truly civil discourse on this, and other intractable issues, and back to a respect for the constitution and the right of all to their beliefs and opinions, regardless of how wrong we may find them; unfortunately no such leadership is on the horizon, and in fact the contrary seems more likely. For now we seem trapped in this Age of Rage, and as Thomas Sowell so insightfully observed “It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.”