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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Abortion, The Court, And The End Of Roe v Wade – Progressive Angst Over An Unpleasant Truth

The Supreme Court of the United States has just (6/22) overturned Roe v Wade, the landmark decision guaranteeing the right to abortion that stood for over sixty years.  The Court decided that Roe was wrongly decided – that there was no such right either stated or implied in the Constitution; and that decisions regarding abortion must be those made by the people through the electoral process alone. Abortion by fiat will no longer be the law of the land.

Progressives who had applauded Roe for its acknowledgement of women and their particularly cherished rights had always viewed abortion as a simple expression of civil justice.  They ignored the protests of many who decried the decision and who insisted that the issue of abortion was far more than one of secular legitimacy.  Roe’s dismissal of the moral dimensions of abortion would eventually lead to its rejection.  

Now that these critics were proved right, progressives were apoplectic.  The Court’s decision, they said, was a blow against the integrity of women, returned them to second-class status, took away dominion over their bodies, and strengthened the hand of white, male supremacists.

The Court itself, the handmaiden of these malignant forces, should  be either dismantled or packed with the righteous.  Ignorant, misogynist rulings should never again occur.

Progressives of course have been up in arms forever over perceived insult, injury, and abuse.  The very nature of progressive liberalism is righteous indignation and outrage, a passionate feeling which has given the movement and those within it identity, meaning, and comfort.  

The more progressive causes espoused and promoted, the more comforting the welcome, the more secure the belonging, and the happier the outlook.

When commitment turns passionate, logic disassembles, deteriorates, and disappears. Whereas there might be some rational take in one’s first cause, it quickly evaporates thereafter.  The conclusion that women are the victims of misogynist, opportunist men makes it easy to automatically and instinctively believe in the absolute certainty of the pernicious racism that exists within every white man and woman; or of the absolute destruction of the planet; or the perpetual, pernicious corruption of Wall Street.  

One emotional cause folds into each successive one until the great ball of causes becomes bigger and bigger, gaining momentum, rolling hither and thither, finally losing its way.

A lot has been written about conspiracy theories and why so many people subscribe to them.  The Freudian school sees ego and superego conflicts ending in external resolution (aliens, Armageddon).  Social psychologists feel that the resort to unproven and improvable theories is a result of alienation, a lack of empowerment, and the loss of a sense of entitlement. Cognitive theorists suggest that those who believe in strange, improbable happenings simply have loose wiring in their hippocampus; and behaviorists predicate a loss of lack of reason on repeated illogical reinforcement.

While all these theories are reasonable, there has been no effective treatment for what is distinct type of mental disorder. What hope is there for people who believe that the Soviets are behind the universal fluoridation of American drinking water because fluoride has a mind-addling quality that increases receptivity to Marxist-Leninism? Is there anyone who doubts that the one-in-seven Americans who believe that Armageddon is coming within our lifetime belong in St Elizabeth’s?  We simply have to live with them, roll our eyes as one loose-limbed theory after another rolls through the Internet, and take the dark side of American exceptionalism along with the light.

Most progressives do not start off as conspiracists but as true believers in reasonable causes.  They are ardent environmentalists who fight tirelessly for clean water, clean air, and a nuclear-free environment ; or believe that women had enough ‘bumps on the noggin’ after so much banging the glass ceiling and joined women’s groups, academic caucuses, feminist associations, and the progressive wing of the Chamber of Commerce.

Good progressives are for equal-pay-for-equal-work, taking Walmart, Target, and other big box stores to task for their meager benefits and pitiful wages; become officers of Save Our Parks. For them the decline of rockfish and local oysters in the Chesapeake Bay is a tragedy that must be stopped.  As far as the granddaddy of social causes – Global Warming – they are as committed and tireless as Rachel Carson.

As reasonable and popular as these causes might be, if one were to look at progressives through the various cognitive, behavioral, and Freudian lenses referred to above, they would be no different than any conspiracy theorist. When disaggregated into component pieces, each cause itself is an expression of an American can-do idealism and a belief in progress and secular salvation.  

Adherence to any one of the many social movements popular today would be no more than a happy confluence of humanism, idealistic illogic, and irrational exuberance. No harm done.

Taken as a whole, however, social activism becomes unhinged, adherents find they have no time for friends, family, or church.  There is no balance in one’s life; no proportionality.

Most social activists have chosen to work under a big tent, understanding as they do the principles of economies of scale and efficient management. Since global warming is a result of predatory capitalism; materialism, and venal self-interest; and since such self-serving institutions will ultimately bring the whole house down , all causes are welcome.  

Fighting against global warming as an integrated whole means that all progressive vendettas can be carried out under one aegis. If there were more women in power to keep male egos kept in check, the country would adopt a more nurturing and caring view of the planet.  If capitalism could be tamed and reformulated into a ‘dynamic socialism’ which tended to the poor and needy while harnessing the energy of small, family-owned enterprises. If Christian faith-based community action groups could be brought even more fully into the mainstream, then the fundamental generosity of Jesus Christ would finally be realized on earth.

In other words, one size fits all. Raise the banner of Global Warming and everyone will enter the tent of Women’s Rights, Fair Housing, and good benefits for all.

Some social activist newcomers are never tempted by the progressive big tent. They want no part of universal suffrage, grab bag of environmental or social party favors.  They want an undiluted, mainstreamed, full-bore charge of energy and decisiveness for each and every cause that they espouse, and because of this quasi-religious zeal, go around the bend.

Greg Harkins was one of the most respected leaders of the progressive movement in America and the one to whom all comers turned to for advice, counsel, and support.  He was a Big Tenter par excellence and devised ingenious financial instruments to centralize donor funds. Everyone with a gripe, whether it be against the One Percent, Wall Street, Walmart, or the XL Pipeline, contributed the The Global Warming Fund of America.  

Harkins was a PR genius who understood the wisdom of what he called ‘idea collectivization’. By identifying and stressing the links between the many and variegated progressive causes in America and proudly raising the Global Warming banner overall, he made millions. He was the best carny barker that America had ever produced.  “Come one, come all”, he shouted and pointed at the great multicolored circus tent behind him.  “Its all inside, my brothers and sisters.  Salvation for you and the world.”

Harkins, calculating how he could harness the indefatigable energy of newcomers and send them out with his forward legions into America, invited the most promising to the corporate headquarters of the Global Warming Fund. It was a ten-story warren of individual action committees, so numerous that an annotated Building Directory, complete with electronic interface capability was installed in the lobby.  

Everyone was reaching out to their constituencies but sharing facilities and benefitting from common photocopying operations, accounting services, and HR support.  Under Greg Harkins’ management, the Fund not only made millions for each group, but millions more in overhead and profit for the mother company.  Similarly, the stable of lawyers on the tenth floor developed and monitored sophisticated tax firewalls while the investment counselors on the ninth worked with Wall Street to confection the latest in financial instruments.  It was a goldmine.

One such pupil became his his acolyte and he quickly succumbed to every social and psychological force that turned him into a true believer, a laborer in the vineyards, a soldier in a crusading army.  He became a whirling dervish of social causes, not a bureaucrat.  

The moral of this story is that social causes are good for the mind, soul, and pocketbook.  History has amply shown that the world does not progress, that one execrable human event is always followed by another; one depredation of resources and wealth is always followed by another even more callous and ingenious.  Wars follow wars, deprivation follows plenty, floods follow drought, and the engine of human nature never loses steam.

If the evidence is so clear – that human activity hasn’t made the world a better place after ten millennia – then it isn’t likely to any time soon.  Investment in social causes, then, is counter-intuitive. Nietzsche and Dostoevsky’s Devil had the right idea – the expression of human will is the only possible validation of existence in a meaningless world.  In other words, stop going to Save the Bay meetings, and have some fun.  Or as importantly focus on your own spiritual evolution before it is too late.

Yet the crusade continues, the good fight never wanes, women must be protected, the planet must be saved, and progress towards Utopia accelerated.  

Overturning Roe v Wade, as heinous and execrable a decision as it is to progressives will not slow the juggernaut, will not dampen enthusiasm and in fact will generate even more passion and commitment.  

True belief is both self-fulfilling prophesy and Mobius strip, turning forever back on itself in an illusion of progress where each upside down turn becomes an accelerator.  Now the fight is not to retain the universal right to abortion, but to tear down the very institution that desecrated women – the Supreme Court.  The true believer has no setbacks, for every seeming reversal is nothing more than the reason for more concerted effort, more fire in the loins, more purpose, more anger, and more belief.

We are therefore at one of those interesting socio-political moment where multiple Mobius strips are providing platforms for inertia and energy for both conservatives and progressives.  The courts, public opinion, civic leadership is finally calling out progressive excess, while progressives are performing a St. Vitus’s dance in a final wild exhilarating panegyric.

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