What to do now?

[n.b. I can’t continue with my usual personal development content without acknowledging the seismic shifts taking place in the country where I live. While I don’t think this post will make a difference, I refuse to stay silent. But if you don’t want to read about US politics, skip this one.]

We knew it was coming, and it was still somehow shocking when the Supreme Court released its decision on Friday to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and start rolling back fifty years of social progress, starting with abortion, and targeting several other rights we have come to take for granted (e.g. contraception, interracial marriage, same-sex relationships and marriage, etc.).

Siderea has the most alarming take I have yet seen where she writes that while the Supreme Court was once “an authority of last resort who could be appealed to who would step in and not let tyranny and injustice prevail”, those days are gone:

There are no more guard rails on American democracy. There will be no grown-ups to step in before things go too far. There is nothing stopping the wolves from voting themselves the lamb for dinner.

Progressives have grown up in a world where “the ultimate way to pursue justice has been through the courts” but “That is now a booby trap. Bringing court cases now will not only fail to promote justice, it will make things worse.” This Supreme Court has shown it will use each case as an opportunity to overturn decisions it doesn’t like, not for any defensible judicial reason, but because they can.

Movement conservatives watched how the Supreme Court of the 1960s and 1970s expanded rights beyond what they felt comfortable with, and railed about judicial activism. But they took notes, and implemented their own decades-long strategy to take over the courts. And now they are using that judicial power to force their minority positions on all Americans.

So things are going to get worse before they get better. And the only way out is to actually restore democracy to the United States where what the government implements is the will of the people. Siderea exhorts: “Nothing matters more than restoring and expanding voting rights, because it’s that which all other fights depend on.” The conservatives know this, which is why they have targeted state legislatures to redraw voting precincts and pushed their myth of voter fraud to deny “the legitimacy of anyone who does not share their ideology”.

While the conservatives are saying this is about “state’s rights” (an idea created to enable slavery and minority rule), the Supreme Court will overrule states when they choose to, as they did with gun control last week. This is about exerting power to increase the power of government over personal choices (for the religious zealots) and stop government from regulating business owners exploiting people to make more money. When they say “originalist”, remember that the original Constitution was for white, male, property owners at a time when slavery was widely accepted, and the decisions make more sense as returning us towards that.

Anne Helen Petersen shares in her article Your State Will Not Save You, “No amount of protesting or campaign donations will immediately change that calculus” that “changes are impossible in the immediate future”. But if the standard answers of voting and donating are not enough, what can we do? One of her subscribers articulated an inspiring framework:

“Get organized,” Siena said. “Not just mobilized, which is showing up at a rally once or twice. Organized means acting in coordination with others who have a long term strategy. Finding a local group doing direct, tangible work and asking them how to help. … Go in person if that’s appropriate, don’t just email. Show up thoughtfully. Be consistent and reliable. Follow their lead.”

There are already people who have been doing the work for years on these issues. Don’t start your own thing. People of color have been fighting a system that works against them for their whole lives. Follow their lead. Learn from their experience. Do what they tell you to do.

Petersen ends with this challenge: “So if you’re furious or grieving, ask yourself: what am I willing to do to change it? What am I willing to do to protect the autonomy and safety of our generation, and the next, and the next? How do I push against the natural inertia to pull my own circle tight and protect them and them alone from the world outside?”

A couple other links that I recommend:

  • This heartbreaking story of a teenager who was pregnant with twins when the Texas heartbeat abortion ban went into effect. She had to give up her education, and is now trying to survive in a system where everything is stacked against her. This is the hypocrisy of the “pro life” framing – neither the life of the child or the mother matters after the birth.
  • Amnesty International lays out the facts on abortion that abortions are never stopped by legislation, they just make it less safe. The US already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, particularly for women of color, and more women will die when they are unable to access abortion care.
  • Here’s a donation link to support abortion funds across the country and for Abortion Care Network.
  • For voting rights, a commenter on the Siderea post recommended Movement Labs (“We focus on finding new ways to use technology to achieve tangible outcomes in areas like voter registration, candidate recruitment, and elections”) and Black Voters Matter (whose goal is to “increase power in marginalized, predominantly Black communities. Effective voting allows a community to determine its own destiny.”) as organizations worth supporting.

I would also love to hear from you what you plan to do and how to help.

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