Category Archives: Social Justice

Quote of the Weekend: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries vs. Clarence Thomas

Democrat Hakeem Jeffries calls out Clarence Thomas

David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement — May 12, 2022

Democratic House Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) delivered an impassioned speech Wednesday, telling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas he should “have a conversation” with his spouse.

The far-right activist and lobbyist Ginni Thomas reportedly had a months-long text conversation with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, vehemently urging him to have the 2020 presidential election overturned.

Last Friday Justice Thomas complained in a speech to a group of judges and attorneys from the 11th Circuit, “We can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want.” He was referring to the majority of Americans who want the Court to uphold the 49-year-old decision in Roe v. Wade, supporting a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

“If Justice Thomas really wants to deal with bullying in America, or this problem of people supposedly unwilling to accept outcomes that they don’t like, I’ve got some advice for Justice Thomas: start in your own home, have a conversation with Ginni Thomas,” Congressman Jeffries said.

“She refused to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Why? Because she didn’t like the outcome,” Jeffries reminded the House. “So instead, she tried to steal the election, overthrow the United States government, and install a tyrant. That’s bullying. That’s being unwilling to accept an outcome because you don’t like the results, because the former twice impeached so-called President of the United States of America lost legitimately to Joe Biden.”

“How did she respond? Instead, she said, the Bidens should face a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, on trumped-up charges of sedition. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

 

When news broke in March of the text exchanges between Thomas and Meadows, Slate’s legal expert Mark Joseph Stern, said: “Ginni Thomas urged Mark Meadows to overturn the 2020 election by any means necessary—while her husband was ruling on cases attempting to overturn the election.”

Congressman Jeffries, considered by many to be Democrats’ next Speaker of the House after Nancy Pelosi, was far from done with the Supreme Court Justice.

“And lastly, let me ask this question of brother Thomas:

Why are you such a hater?

Hate on civil rights.

Hate on women’s rights.

Hate on reproductive rights.

Hate on voting rights.

Hate on marital rights.

Hate on equal protection under the law.

Hate on liberty and justice for all.

Hate on free and fair elections.

Why are you such a hater?”

“And you think you can get away with it – escape public scrutiny. Because you think that shamelessness is your superpower? Here’s a newsflash from the House Judiciary Committee,” he said while being interrupted. “Truth pressed to the ground will rise again. And truth will be your kryptonite.”

A video version of Jeffries’ speech is here.

 

 

A Progressive Catholic Goes There: Against Abortion, But Supports Keeping Roe

I can relate to this article. I published one like it in a Boston alternative weekly in early January of 1973. Angry letters poured in for weeks, until January 22, when Roe v. Wade was issued; then my qualms & quibbles were instantly forgotten.

I wasn’t sorry. Since then, some of my views have evolved, while my general antipathy to most abortions remains. (More on my personal pilgrimage here.) But I’m still as staunchly against criminalization as I was 49 years ago.

Now I’m too old to draw much fire, so it was gratifying to see this piece by a young radical Catholic (if indeed she’ still identifies as Catholic), planting her flag in the columns of the National Catholic Reporter, the “loyal opposition” progressive American weekly.

Some pro-Roe adherents may not care about Chastain’s reasons, but only that she arrives at their preferred destination.

A blast from the Kavanaugh past; we didn’t get fooled, like Collins & other Fools on the Hill.

That’s a mistake. In the new struggle that’s upon us, the agonized ambiguity of many, Catholics and non-  will be a crucial arena of either progress or further setbacks. If not agreement, finding a basis for respectful coalition will be — and in truth, long have been — imperative.  This article is one  such new opportunity.

I’m thinking first here of my fellow liberal Quakers: to save our rights, we’ll have to learn & think and act outside our blue bubbles. But this sentiment applies more broadly too.

National Catholic Reporter: COMMENTARY

I’m an anti-abortion disability advocate. Overturning Roe isn’t the answer.

Medical instruments for a surgical abortion are seen in this photo. (CNS/Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein)

Medical instruments for a surgical abortion are seen in this photo. (CNS/Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein)

I was in high school when I first learned which of my extended family members had encouraged my mom to abort my very-much-alive disabled brother. At the time, I had just begun attending youth group, which was the first place I ever saw images of abortion. I attended my first Walk for Life. Those same youth leaders helped that same brother finally receive his sacraments of initiation, after he’d been denied them for almost a decade.

As I entered undergraduate studies at a small Catholic liberal arts school and pursued a degree in theology with an emphasis in disability, I confronted the historical reality that had galvanized me as a teenager: Abortion is implicitly eugenic. The disproportionate targeting of disabled fetuses for termination hinges on deeply violent assumptions around worthiness, rooted in capitalistic beliefs around productivity and conventional social futurity.

Put plainly? Disabled people may not learn, work, marry or procreate “normally,” and that nonnormative lifestyle will inconvenience too many people. A disabled person may experience profound pain and social exclusion.

Regardless of whether or not these things are always and everywhere true (they are not), it is equally troublesome that people who hold these beliefs around disability often don’t believe these circumstances are within their power or responsibility to change outside of abortion (they are).

Abortion was always going to be personal for me — the abortion topic always is — even when approached from different angles. One in four women will have an abortion, which includes treatments of ectopic pregnancies, tubal pregnancies and other forms of “spontaneous” abortion or miscarriage. And whether or not they personally experienced one, everyone knows someone impacted by abortion. It is this intimacy that has kindled the fire of many in the pro-life movement, including myself.

20210316T1100-NORTHERN-IRELAND-DISABILITY-1166813 resize.jpg

Pro-life supporters are pictured holding signs outside the High Court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jan. 30, 3019. (CNS/Reuters/Brian Lawless)

Pro-life supporters are pictured holding signs outside the High Court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jan. 30, 3019. (CNS/Reuters/Brian Lawless)

But then, in graduate school at a large secular research university, I began to study feminist, queer and crip histories and theories of the body. I began participating in more progressive religious spaces that emphasized Catholic social teaching and needs for social reconciliation.

Being in relationship with secular, pro-abortion feminists who were learning alongside me about the systematic underresourcing of marginalized groups — while the world’s racial and medical disparities were being aired live during the COVID-19 pandemic — moved me into the place of intense nuance where I am now and that I believe undergirds a truly consistent life ethic: I am anti-abortion, but I do not think criminalizing abortions will stop them, because having access to abortions isn’t what causes them.

Things that cause abortions: lack of comprehensive sex education, inaccessible health care, violence against women, religious shame and exclusion, familial rejection or coercion, and workplace inequalities including but not limited to barriers for advancement, disparities in pay and lack of paid parental leave or child care.

Making abortion illegal before addressing these injustices is going to kill women, because women will continue to have abortions, secretively and unsafely.

For the first time that I can recall in my years of being anti-abortion, tales of the pre-Roeworld from women who lived it are being shared on a massive scale. (Many are circulating this New York Times article from January and sharing their own stories in the captions.) Social media is a flurry of back-alley horrors.

And in a post-COVID-19 society when young people are already experiencing a catastrophic mental health crisis, making abortion illegal is going to kill women in more ways than one.

Refusal to accept the reality of these dangers is resisting a nuance that is dire. You can accept the dangers of overturning Roe v. Wade are real and still be anti-abortion. I certainly am. None of these dangers changes that abortion is a deeply ableist system used to root out genetic differences based on bigoted sociocultural values. None of these facts change that I’ve seen disability-motivated abortion rhetoric devalue people at the cornerstone of my life. It is personal, but it is also necessarily systemic.

We can recognize that abortion being legal represents a certain form of public complicity in permitting a grievous sin to happen. But are we actually permitting it any less without changing the causes of abortion? To achieve the desired society in which abortion is no longer permitted, we have to create a reality where abortion is no longer caused. We are complicit in those systems, too.

We need mandatory and comprehensive sexual education and accessible health care. We need to address income inequality and mandate paid parental leave. We need to demolish the prison industrial complex and stop criminalizing the poor and marginalized. We need robust community-based postnatal care and to crack down on violence against women. We need to revolutionize the way churches approach sexuality, that we might embrace and support sexually active women in crisis, regardless of their marital status.

I am still anti-abortion. And yet, it is amazing how quickly the solidarity comes with my pro-abortion loved ones the moment I articulate these nuanced beliefs: I am anti-abortion, and I do not want it to be illegal. This solidarity will be crucial to providing a safe haven for at-risk women, if Roe v. Wade is indeed overturned. We must all keep our eyes on the true culprits; we must shout about the real causes of abortion, together.

Madison Chastain

Madison Chastain

Madison Chastain writes about the body, faith and culture. You can find more of her work on Instagram @maddsienicole, or on theologyforeverybody.com.

Sen. Bob Casey: The “Pro-Life” Democrat, Walking a Fine Line, On a Narrow Path, Down a Lonely Road, through a Minefield

Philadelphia Inquirer — May 3, 2022

by Jonathan Tamari and Max Marin

Bob Casey is one of the last ‘pro-life’ Democrats. The Supreme Court decision is going to test his views.

WASHINGTON — When the Sandy Hook school shooting rocked the country, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey changed his longtime stance on the Second Amendment, becoming a fierce advocate for stricter gun laws.

When a Supreme Court decision neared that would make same-sex marriage legal nationwide, Casey embraced the shift, abandoning his previous objections.

And when President Joe Biden took office early last year, Casey softened his stand on the Senate filibuster, suggesting he’d be open to changing the rule if it helped Democrats turn big, progressive ambitions into reality.

 

But as Casey has followed his party’s leftward trajectory over the past decade,, one key issue still set him apart from most Democrats: abortion. Casey is one of the few major Democrats left who describes himself as “pro-life.” Continue reading Sen. Bob Casey: The “Pro-Life” Democrat, Walking a Fine Line, On a Narrow Path, Down a Lonely Road, through a Minefield

Quakers & the End of Abortion Rights: A Very Mixed Bag

Some liberal pundits are predicting a tidal wave of backlash against the leaked SCOTUS decision to reverse Roe & Casey, the decisions that have made abortion a right since 1973, forty-nine years ago. (The full text of the draft decision is here.)

I’ve written that, while a Roe supporter, I’m not at all sure any such tidal wave is certain, or even likely.

Let me add here that this uncertainty seems to apply just as much to U. S. Quakers.

Why?  In sum, because

A. Americans (Quakers too) are exhausted by years of crises, from an attempted (& ongoing) coup begun at the capitol, a continuing pandemic (case numbers are rising again, fast), a new, not-exactly Cold War/World War 3, inflation, and more.

B. Americans, even American women, are and long have been divided on the issue. Furthermore the pro-Roe supporters have long been out-campaigned by the anti-abortion side. Again, Quakers too.

This last is not just my opinion. The leftist journal Dissent put it bluntly and well in 2019:

The American right is winning the battle over abortion rights. In fact, they have been winning for a long time. Since the late 1970s, conservatives have worked to build a well-funded, militant anti-abortion movement that that includes white nationalists, religious extremists, and pro-life feminists. Now, the end of the legal right to abortion appears terrifyingly imminent.

(More on my own ambivalence about a great backlash here.)

I’d be happy for Dissent and I to be wrong and the prophets of political tsunami proven right; but the evidence for it isn’t there now, and I’m not in the “wish-casting” business.

Besides, an informal survey of public Quaker sources only reinforced this impression. Continue reading Quakers & the End of Abortion Rights: A Very Mixed Bag

The Perfect Democratic 2022 Attack Speech: A Review

Everybody on the pro-democracy side seems to be in orbit over the searingly eloquent takedown by Michigan state senator Mallory McMorrow, which melted the MAGA stickers off bumpers for half a mile around the Michigan state capitol.

And rightly so. It has garnered millions of views, and deserves to be watched half a dozen times by any Democrat who wonders how to improve their side’s morale and prospects for the November midterms. (We can watch it again here).

Right now, though, I want to take a few minutes to highlight some things McMorrow did not say, along with underlining some of what she did.

Mallory McMorrow, Michigan state senator

Note  she tore the hide off her antagonist’s slanderous fund appeal (which called her a pro-pedophile groomer and more. Yet McMrrow’s reply used almost none of the jargon that clutters up so many DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) “trainings” and “anti-racism” diatribes. (Word to the wise.)

The speech also differed from the standard fare in that McMorrow’s aim was true: she wasn’t guilt-tripping that mythical group, “white people,” and skipped the cliche of “white supremacy.” She went directly after those, like Theis, who peddle hate and marginalization. Continue reading The Perfect Democratic 2022 Attack Speech: A Review

Pauli Murray! Pauli Murray!

I’m lucky enough to live just a few blocks from Pauli Murray’s modest childhood home, which is now a National Historic site.  Pauli Murray was distinguished in so many ways that it’s difficult for any concise document to do her justice. Here are a few important items the ACLU letter below left out:
Pauli Murray, from a wall mural in Durham NC.
> Murray survived years of grinding poverty while excelling in school and college.
> Murray was not only a brilliant legal theorist, but also a feisty activist, arrested more than once for pioneering civil rights protests.
> Murray “invented” what some now call “intersectionality” decades before it was popularized, based on her own plentiful experience of oppression based on her gender, race, and class. She called it, tellingly,  “Jane Crow.”
> Amidst a life if personal & social turmoil, Murray was a person of deep faith. In fact, late in life she became the first Black female priest in the U. S. Episcopal church. She celebrated this by conducting her first official service in a “historic” North Carolina chapel where many of her enslaved ancestors had been taken.
> After her death in 1985, the Episcopal church declared Murray a saint in 2012.
Ria Tabacco Mar , Director, Women’s Rights Project
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March 10, 2022

Continue reading Pauli Murray! Pauli Murray!

The Impending, Ominous Return of “States Rights”

 

Jamelle Bouie

Jamelle Bouie is rapidly emerging as one of the more acute and important members of the rising generation of New York Times columnists.  His career has followed a different track than previous generations of Timesmen, among whom almost all roads to the paper led through  Harvard Yard.

Instead, after the University of Virginia, Bouie blogged his way into and through The Nation, The American Prospect, The Daily Beast, and Slate. And after a stint in Washington, he left the Beltway to make a home back in Charlottesville. There he caught the last stand of one of the larger statues of Robert E. Lee, and its removal from a downtown park. It was a dramatic departure, but the resistance to it, as Bouie makes clear, is far from over.

The view of America he shares from this perch next door to his alma mater and well inside the not-quite-but-pretty-Deep South is repeatedly trenchant and revealing and feels prescient.

In the excerpts here he combines alarm and historical depth to sum up the arc of my public life, and the gloomy prospects that beset its denouement, building from  a question provoked by an unguarded moment when a reactionary Senator spilled the beans about the American right’s larger agenda:

How Are We Still Debating Interracial Marriage in 2022?

Continue reading The Impending, Ominous Return of “States Rights”

Welcome to Spring; the Massacre of Mariupol; and a New Hello Kitty

“I’ve been writing about Ukraine in this space nonstop for a month. I’m exhausted by it. I suspect you are, too.”

That’s not me saying that. It’s Jonathan V. Last (aka JVL). He’s a never-Trumper ex-Republican, who blogs & podcasts for The Bulwark, one of the key ex-GOP-Save-Democracy-if-we-can media shops which I follow.

But in Quaker-talk, I affirm it: this friend speaks my mind.

My sense is that the American public’s attention span for disasters and even wars, except maybe our own, is no more than a few weeks; and we’re approaching our limit with Ukraine. (And in “our” I’m including myself.)

Sure, Putin is still awful, we really hate the invasion, the razing of cities, killing of civilians, especially kids, the flood of refugees. Zelensky is a surprise megahero, the citizen resistance has been epic, even Biden seems to be doing the job right of fighting back without loosing the nuclear furies on us (so far).

And yeah, it’s grimly fun to watch Putin’s Fox News pals squirming and trying to cover their bloody tracks. For a few minutes, anyway. Continue reading Welcome to Spring; the Massacre of Mariupol; and a New Hello Kitty

Elon Musk? Ukraine Freedom Fighter?? (Well, Virtually . . .)

Elon Musk’s Starlink is keeping Ukrainians online when traditional Internet fails

Musk sent terminals for the satellite Internet service after a Ukrainian official tweeted at him

Excerpted from the Washington Post: By Rachel Lerman and Cat Zakrzewski
— March 19 2023

Elon Musk recently challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to a one-handed fistfight for the future of Ukraine. But the entrepreneur’s real defense of the besieged country is his effort to keep Ukrainians online with shipments of Starlink satellite Internet service.

Starlink is a unit of Musk’s space company, SpaceX. The service uses terminals that resemble TV dishes equipped with antennas and are usually mounted on roofs to access the Internet via satellite in rural or disconnected areas.

When war broke out in Ukraine, the country faced threats of Russian cyberattacks and shelling that had the potential to take down the Internet, making it necessary to develop a backup plan. So the country’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, tweeted a direct plea to Musk urging him to send help. Musk replied just hours later: “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.”
 Continue reading Elon Musk? Ukraine Freedom Fighter?? (Well, Virtually . . .)

A Quaker Reconsiders His Peace Testimony

My fate was heavily shaped by a small card that came in the mail in late September 1965.

That card, and fate, are back on my mind now, 57 years later.

I was in Selma, Alabama when the card arrived, still working with the civil rights movement. A few weeks earlier the endurance, courage and determination of the Black people of Selma and many other places in the South had been vindicated by passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Application of the act was just beginning. But after the nine long, tumultuous months of witness leading up to its enactment, full as they had been, my attention was turning elsewhere. Continue reading A Quaker Reconsiders His Peace Testimony