more about assholes and libraries

In my last post, I wrote about assholes and Carnegie libraries. I didn’t expect this to be a theme. But this is the United States in 2022, and Comrade Trump has turned the Republican Party into a smug nationwide collective of aggressively stupid, hate-fueled, authoritarian bullies.

So, there’s a Carnegie library in the small Iowa town of Vinton, population of about 5000. Dedicated in 1908, it’s one of the smallest Carnegie libraries in the US. It operated to the benefit of the community for over a century.

That pretty much ended last week, when the library was closed. Why?

Because of assholes.

It began in May of 2020 when, Virginia Holsten, the Director of the Vinton Public Library for 35 years, resigned. She was replaced by Janette McMahon, who’d been a librarian in both Iowa and Wyoming.

You may remember that 2020 was an election year. Some library patrons complained about books written by Kamala Harris (who, by the way, had visited the Vinton Library and read from her children’s book) and Dr. Jill Biden being on display. They also complained that there weren’t enough books about Comrade Donald Trump. McMahon explained the rigorous process by which books are selected for the library. She said, “I can’t buy what doesn’t exist, and there weren’t quality books about Trump. We pay attention to reviews and publishers and our collection needs as a whole. We don’t just say what looks good on Amazon.”

Library patrons who objected to the Biden and Harris books began checking them out, then refusing to return them. In effect, they stole the books.

Eventually the attacks against the library became personal attacks against McMahon. She resigned.

In November 2021, Renee Greenlee was hired as Director. She had a long, respected career as a librarian in Iowa. She was one of the librarians given the 2022 I Love My Librarian award, which is bestowed by the American Library Association. Only ten librarians in the country win the award each year.

Vinton library patrons objected to the fact that she hired some LGBTQ staff and that there were book dealing with LGBTQ topics on display in the library. At a library board meeting, one of the patrons read a statement, saying:

It appears that there is a slow, quiet agenda moving into our local library culture through the staff hiring decisions and the books that have crept in our children’s section of the library. I don’t believe the library is representing our town well with hiring a majority of staff who are openly a part of the LGBTQ community.

Another said,

We would like to see more balance in the offerings of books for children. For each book promoting the LGBTQ lifestyle, there should be a book on display that discusses how God created and designed people as either male or female from birth, for life.

Greenlee reported that of the 5,779 children’s materials the library holds, only three books had a subject heading of ‘LGBT’, only two books had a heading of ‘Gay’ and only two books referenced ‘transgender’ issues. In addition, there were 173 books in the library collection that were based on Christian life.

Following the next library board meeting, which was apparently a repetition of the previous one, Greenlee resigned. The interim Director, a gay man, resigned shortly afterward, leaving the Vinton Public Library without any full-time staff.

This is NOT to say that Vinton, Iowa is a town full of assholes. It’s to say that the people of Vinton allowed their local assholes to disrupt a public service that’s been supporting their community for over a century. They’ve turned a lovely gift–a Carnegie library–into an open, festering wound of resentment and hate.

This is happening all over the United States. It happens because the assholes show up while decent people stay home and watch television. In small towns throughout the nation, a minority of bitter, ignorant, self-righteous religious bigots terrified of imaginary enemies have begun to impose their mean-spirited agenda on the rest of us.

And we’ve let them do it. We can’t expect them to be better. We have to DO better ourselves.

willfully and deliberately stupid

I don’t know if you’ve read any of the SCOTUS decisions from the last few weeks. I mean actually read them, not just read news reports or blog posts about them. I suspect most folks haven’t. Can’t blame anybody for that; it takes time to churn through these decisions (the Bruen decision is 135 pages long, for fuck’s sake) and big chunks of them (while certainly/probably important) are mind-numbingly boring.

But if you do take the time to read the most important decisions, I think you’ll discover a theme running through them. And that theme is this: the conservative majority is being willfully and deliberately stupid.

I’m just going to focus on the Bruen decision (and the concurring opinions) because we just went through a long holiday weekend that delivered sixteen mass shootings. The issue in Bruen was a New York law stating an individual who wanted to carry a concealed firearm outside their home had to prove they had a “proper cause” for doing so. In other words, you had to have a good reason for going strapped in public.

In essence, SCOTUS said, pffft, you don’t need no stinking reason, this is America, bitches.

The Court’s majority decision begins by noting that “this Court has long cautioned that the English common law “is not to be taken in all respects to be that of America.” It then (and I am NOT making this up) it spends pages explaining how common law back in Merry Olde England allowed folks to carry guns.

[W]hatever place handguns had in English society during the Tudor and Stuart reigns, by the time we reach the 18th century—and near the founding—they had gained a fairly secure footing in English culture.

You may be asking, “Greg, old sock, when were these Tudor and Stuarts reigning in England? And why should we give a shit?” I’m glad you asked (and stop calling me ‘old sock’). The Tudors and Stuarts were big hats in England from 1485 to 1714. A long fucking time ago. That means we’re talking about flintlock pistols—big honking single shot handguns weighing a couple of pounds, with an effective combat range of about 20 feet, that took a trained soldier at least 30 seconds to reload. Why should we give a shit? No idea. I confess, if I see a guy walking into Starbucks with a flintlock pistol strapped to his belt, I’m not going to get too concerned.

Flintlock pistol

The SCOTUS decision sporadically repeats its finding from Heller decision: “[T]he Second Amendment protects only the carrying of weapons that are those ‘in common use at the time.’” To say flintlock pistols were in common use at the time is bullshit, mainly because most folks didn’t have any need to tote a pistol around (and besides, those things were expensive). But it’s true that IF folks carried a pistol back then, it was a flintlock. Does that constitute ‘common use’? I don’t think so. The Court then goes on to say:

Whatever the likelihood that handguns were considered “dangerous and unusual” during the colonial period, they are indisputably in “common use” for self-defense today.

Dude, they’re in common use today because y’all allowed them to be in common use. It’s like saying colonial era folks never kept their dogs on a leash, then arguing that leash laws aren’t justified in cities now because unleashed dogs were common back then. Willfully and deliberately stupid.

The Court notes that historically, there weren’t a lot of laws in the US restricting the carrying of guns. Not until we passed an amendment restricting firearms.

Only after the ratification of the Second Amendment in 1791 did public-carry restrictions proliferate.

Maybe that’s because the 2nd Amendment specifically mentions that well-regulated militia? Once you link keeping and bearing arms to the militia, state and local lawmakers are going to base laws on that. Right?

The Court, in its review of the history of firearm restrictions, also notes there was an “uptick in gun regulation during the late-19th century—principally in the Western Territories.” You know why there was an uptick in the Old West? Because that’s where cowboys carried guns and got in gunfights. Cowboys had a need for handguns when they were out rounding up cattle and stuff. There were snakes and predators that threatened the cattle and understandably pissed-off native Americans. But when those cowboys rode into Dodge, the sheriff made them take off their guns to stop drunken cowboys from fucking shooting each other. This is NOT hard to understand.

The notion that states and cities have limited power to regulate firearms because the US doesn’t have a history or tradition of regulating firearms is massively stupid. We didn’t have a history or tradition of cowboys riding riotously through a town, shooting at random until cowboys started riding riotously through towns, shooting at random. You don’t need laws preventing folks from doing shit UNTIL THEY START DOING SHIT.

What we DO have now is a history and tradition of mass shootings and mass murder. We are contributing to that history and tradition every goddamn day. As I noted earlier, we had sixteen mass shootings from July 1 through July 4. Four days. Sixteen mass shootings. Eighteen dead, 105 wounded. In four days.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Alito scolds the three Justices who dissented from the majority opinion. He wrote:

[T]he dissent seemingly thinks that the ubiquity of guns and our country’s high level of gun violence provide reasons for sustaining the New York law, the dissent appears not to understand that it is these very facts that cause law-abiding citizens to feel the need to carry a gun for self-defense.

Alito is being willfully and deliberately stupid. The ubiquity of guns and the high level of gun violence ARE EXACTLY the reason for sustaining a law that requires people to demonstrate an actual need to carry a firearm.

Again, it’s like claiming I need to walk around with my dog unleashed to protect me from all those goddamned unleashed dogs out there.

well, here we are

I haven’t written here for a week or so — not because I don’t have anything to say, but because there’s SO MUCH to say. I start to write about this, which is necessarily tied into that and is deeply connected to this other thing. You can’t, for example, write about abortion without also writing about the political corruption of the Supreme Court, which means you also need to address the rising fascism of the Republican Party and the green grass grows all around, all around.

But here we are on July 4th. Independence Day, right? When we celebrate the decision by a group of colonists so fed up with a hostile government that subjected them to such “a long train of abuses and usurpations” that they felt it was necessary “to dissolve the political bands which have connected them.”

I think the operative term there is necessary. It’s from the Latin necesse (which meant ‘unavoidable’) and cedere (to withdraw, go away). Necessary, a thing from which there is no backing away. The colonists felt it was necessary to rebel against the government that oppressed them.

When we think about the Declaration of Independence, we tend to focus on the dramatic bits at the beginning. Mainly this line:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That’s powerful stuff, no mistake. Beautifully written. But we forget that the biggest chunk of the Declaration is a list of grievances — an inventory of all the shit the government of the King of England was imposing on the American colonies. That list includes stuff like:

— He has obstructed the Administration of Justice
— He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices
— He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us

There’s another small chunk of Declaration that gets overlooked. It’s just a paragraph that basically says, “Hey, look, we warned you guys about this. Repeatedly. We asked you nicely to knock this shit off. We have appealed to your native justice and magnanimity. But no, you fucking ignored all those warnings. You have been deaf to the voice of justice.

A lot of us today feel much as those colonists did almost 250 years ago. Instead of a tyrannical king or queen, we have to deal with a neo-fascist Republican Party. We have to deal with Republican at the state level who are actively manipulating laws to undermine the process of representative democracy. We have to deal with a Republican Supreme Court that ignores legal precedence when it conflicts with their personal religious beliefs or their political ideology. We have to deal with a former president who not only refused to accept the result of a free and fair election, but continues to foment sedition.

Those colonists had to choose — do we keep putting up with this shit, or do we act? We have to make a similar choice. We know basically what needs to be done. The Supreme Court MUST be made neutral. It MUST be returned to balance. Not a liberal Court (as much as I’d love that); just a Supreme Court that isn’t governed by any partisan ideology.

The Declaration of Independence was a revolutionary document. I mean revolutionary in every sense of the term. It sparked an actual revolution, it started a shooting war. We don’t want or need that here. We don’t need to turn the world upside down — at least not at this point; we just need to put it back into balance.

But one thing is clear. If we don’t act, if we keep putting up with this shit, if we don’t start electing Democrats who are willing to make some radical but legal decisions to balance SCOTUS, if we don’t do that in the very next election, then we may never see another free and fair election in my lifetime.

“the people’s elected representatives”

Yesterday morning, before I went to the gym, a woman who unexpectedly discovered she was in the early stages of pregnancy had options. If she didn’t want to be pregnant, she had the right to consult with a doctor and choose to terminate the pregnancy. By the time I left the gym, that right had been nullified in many states.

In those states, pregnant people lost the authority over their own bodies. Six Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States had given that authority to “the people’s elected representatives.” That’s right, a group of State legislators get to decide whether or not a pregnant person will be forced to carry an unwanted fetus and give birth to an unwanted baby. (NOTE: SCOTUS also decided the same group of State legislators do NOT have the authority to decide whether or not a person can carry a firearm; go figure.)

Was the pregnancy a result of rape? Sorry, it’s still up to “the people’s elected representatives” to decide whether or not a person has to remain pregnant. What if the development of the fetus threatens the mother’s health? Sorry, same answer — the decision belongs to “the people’s elected representatives.” What if the fetus develops improperly, if it suffers from physical defects that preclude it from survival after birth? If “the people’s elected representatives” want the person to deliver a baby that will die within hours of birth, then that’s what will happen.

As of today, in many states, a person who is pregnant has lost their status as a free and equal citizen. They are effectively under the control of “the people’s elected representatives.” That could mean a pregnant person who puts the health of an unwanted fetus at risk–by having wine with meals, by engaging in certain types of sports or exercise, by smoking tobacco, by not eating properly–could be punished by “the people’s elected representatives.”

You may say the proper response to that is to elect representatives who will give pregnant people autonomy over their own bodies, but there are two problems with that (hell, there are dozens of problems with it, but I’m only going to focus on two.) First, “the people’s elected representatives” in many states are changing laws to make it more difficult for certain groups to vote. This is an effort to insure they remain “the people’s elected representatives.” Second, the issue isn’t whether or not “the people’s elected representatives” are willing to grant a person autonomy over their own body; it’s that “the people’s elected representatives” shouldn’t have the power or authority to grant or deny that in the first place. That’s just fucking wrong.

This is a fundamental issue. Do pregnant people have equal rights? As of today, in many states, the answer is no. That is horrifying. It’s made worse by the fact that the tyranny of “the people’s elected representatives” will be felt most by the poor. And yes, that also means racial minorities will suffer the most.

Women will die as a result of this. Women will die. But we can be certain none of the dead will be members of “the people’s elected representatives.”

EDITORIAL NOTE: We need to burn the patriarchy. Burn it to the ground, gather the ashes, then set fire to them again. Burn the patriarchy, then drive a stake directly through the ashes where its heart used to be, and then set fire to the stake. Burn the fucker one more time. And keep burning it, over and over. Burn it for generations. Then nuke it from orbit.

hate

I’ve resisted hate. At least I’ve tried to resist hate. I told myself that hate is a pointless, futile emotion, that it only gets in the way, that it warps the process of thought, that it clouds judgment and leads to bad decisions. I’ve told myself that hate harms the hater more than the hated.

I still think that’s true. But I don’t care anymore.

It was difficult at first, but I came to accept the fact that I hated Donald Trump. I don’t need to list all the reasons for hating him — you’re probably aware of them, they’ve been pretty clear for most of his life. But man I resisted admitting to myself that I hated him. Actually hated him. I still hate him, of course. Hate is fucking hard to turn off. But that doesn’t matter, because I have no desire to stop hating Trump.

One of the problems with hate is that once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. It gets harder to resist. Trump taught me to hate. Today I hate Republicans. Right now, as I sit here and type this, I hate Republicans. Not just the Republicans who’ve voted in ways I disagree with, not just Republicans who hold public office at any level, not just the Republican Party — right now, this moment, I hate every person who voted for any Republican in the last five years, Make it ten years. I don’t think this hate will be as persistent as my hatred for Trump; I suspect this generalized hatred will subside over time. But right now, at this particularly painful point in time, I hate them.

They’re all complicit, every Republican, every one of them. The epidemic of gun violence in the US, that’s on Republicans. The erosion of civil rights and liberties, that’s on Republicans. The rise in hate crime against Asians, Jews, Women, Black people, trans people, Muslims, gay folks — that’s on Republicans. The rise of asshole billionaires, that’s on Republicans. The health care desert that so many people live in, that’s on Republicans. The collapse of representative democracy, that’s on Republicans and I fucking hate them for it.

I’ve learned to hate. I’m ashamed of it, but there it is. I’ve become a hater. I hate that they’ve taught me to hate. I feel diminished by that hate; I feel tainted because of it. I hate, but I’m still resisting being hateful. It’s bad enough to hate, to act on that hate…at that point, you’re probably lost. I know it’s possible to come back from that, but it wouldn’t be easy.

Working to defeat Republicans, however, isn’t hateful. It’s just necessary. If your foot becomes infected and gangrene sets it, you don’t amputate your foot because you hate it. You do it because it’s necessary for survival. Republicans are political gangrene; they are necrotic tissue on the body of representative democracy.

That’s where I am now. Right now. Today. I hate Republicans. But that’s not the reason I want them removed from political power and authority; I want them removed because that’s the only way to salvage democracy in the United States.

global positioning pregnancy

A lot of anti-abortion advocates are suggesting the furor over Justice Alito’s draft decision on Roe v. Wade isn’t merited because it doesn’t actually ban abortion. They say it just turns the abortion issue from a federal matter into a state matter. They quote Alito’s line that the abortion issue should be “resolved like most important decisions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.

They say this is fair. Voters get to decide abortion law for their own state. Some states will ban abortions, some will restrict the conditions under which abortions can take place, and some states will continue to allow abortions. This is federalism in action, they say.

That’s bullshit. Even if we ignore the reality that many states are restricting and limiting voter rights (and we shouldn’t ignore that), the notion that abortion should be a matter for individual states to decide is just fucking stupid. It boils down to this: a woman’s right to have autonomy over her reproduction will depend on her geographical location at the time she discovers she’s pregnant. Name me another legal right that is subject to GPS coordinates.

Consider this: some states have laws expressly forbidding pregnant people from leaving their state to obtain an abortion. What happens if somebody from a state where abortion is legal discovers they are pregnant while visiting in a state where abortion is illegal–a state in which it is illegal even to travel to another state to obtain an abortion? Can that person be detained until they give birth?

Let’s say dark blue represents states where men can drive freely, light blue is where men can drive if accompanied by an adult female driver, and in white states men aren’t allowed to drive at all.

There are issues and matters that transcend state borders, issues that require or demand national responses. We cannot have patchwork civil rights and liberties. We fought a bloody civil war to develop a national stance on chattel slavery. We decided marriage can’t be illegal in one state and legal in another–every state must accept the legality of marriage from other states. The right to free speech and assembly can’t be abridged by state borders. If you have a valid driver’s license in Utah, you can drive legally in Georgia. You get the point; some rights should be national. Some rights MUST be national. Hell, some rights MUST be international.

The right of reproductive choice is one of those national matters. Roe v. Wade needs to remain the law of the land. People should have the right to decide if they want to be pregnant.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Burn the patriarchy. Douse it with oil, set it on fire, dance around the flames. Piss on the smoking embers.

they’re right to be afraid

This is an actual Washington Post headline for an article by Jeff Stein (WaPo’s White House economics reporter):

With Roe at risk, GOP faces pressure to support families after birth

Republican supporters of policies to help children say new restrictions on abortion should change political calculus

Dude, c’mon, you ought to know better. The GOP opposition to abortion isn’t about babies. It’s not about children or families.

If it was about babies or children or families, the GOP wouldn’t need to start cobbling together policies “to help children.” If it was about babies, those policies would already be in place.

From the Women’s March in January, 2017

If it was about babies and families, the US would make pre-natal care, childbirth, and post-natal care free (or at least affordable). If it was about babies and families, the US mandate paid parental leave with employment safeguards. If it was about babies and families, we’d support new parents by guaranteeing they’ll be able to return to their jobs and insuring they didn’t lose income during the important first few months of a baby’s life. But the GOP opposes all of this.

If it was about babies and families, we’d have free (or heavily subsidized) day care for working families. If it was really about babies and families, we’d provide a basic income for a parent who opts to be a full-time parent. If it was about children and families, we’d fund public education better; we’d pay teachers more; we’d give much more financial support to after-school programs. But the GOP opposes that.

If it was truly about babies and children and families, we’d enact sensible firearm legislation. In 2020, firearms became the leading cause of death among kids aged one to nineteen. More kids died from gunshot wounds than from car crashes, cancer, or drugs. But there’s no way the GOP would support gun restrictions.

From the Women’s March, January 2017

No, it’s perfectly clear the GOP opposition to reproductive freedom isn’t–and never has been–about protecting babies, children, or families. It’s certainly not about protecting women. It’s about controlling women. It’s about reinforcing patriarchy. And deep down, it’s about being afraid of women.

The GOP is right to be afraid.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Burn the patriarchy. Set it ablaze and let it burn until its reduced to ash. Stomp the ashes into dust. Let the wind blow it away.

in the neck (again)

I just want to say this right at the start: fuck you, Sam Alito. Fuck you in the neck.

I was going to write a few paragraphs describing the role of SCOTUS draft opinions, because that’s important. I was also going to natter on about how Comrade Trump and the GOP have gutted the integrity of the Supreme Court. And I thought about saying something about unenumerated rights in the Constitution. All that stuff is important and deserves to be discussed. But mostly I just want to say why Justice Sam Alito should go fuck himself.

First off, he writes this: “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.” Obviously, I disagree. But that’s not why Alito should go fuck himself. I mean, I disagree with lots of folks about lots of things. Believing Roe was wrongly decided is a valid opinion even though I happen to think it’s stupid.

Fuck this guy

No, Alito should go fuck himself, in part, because in his draft opinion he goes on (oh, it occurs to me that I should include a link to the actual draft opinion in case you want to read it, so here it is) to make this argument:

It’s time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. “The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important decisions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” That is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand.

This is a bullshit argument for a metric fuck-ton of reasons. First and foremost, it’s galling for SCOTUS to claim the answer is voting AFTER they’ve helped states gut voting rights. Fuck you, Sam Alito, in the neck. If SCOTUS says 1) states can gerrymander voting districts (which are also Congressional districts), and 2) states can impose arbitrary partisan restrictions on voting places and voting times, and 3) states can impose partisan methods of voting identification (like accepting a concealed weapon permit, but rejecting a student ID), and 4) states can impose arbitrary restrictions on absentee voting or voting by mail, then SCOTUS is an irresponsible asshole for claiming the answer to any important civil question is voting.

You CANNOT eviscerate voting rights and then claim voting is how important decisions should be made. Fuck SCOTUS and Sam Alito in the goddamn neck.

But wait, there’s more. Alito also argues that any ‘unenumerated right’ “must be strongly rooted in U.S. history and tradition.” Unenumerated rights are those NOT specifically mentioned in the Constitution. The right to privacy is an unenumerated right. There’s nothing in the Constitution that explicitly says we have a right to privacy. But a LOT of SCOTUS cases have depended on that right. For example:

  • Skinner v Oklahoma, which said a law allowing convicted criminals to be sterilized was unconstitutional.
  • Griswold v. Connecticut, which said a law banning contraceptives was unconstitutional. The case made it legal to use birth control.
  • Loving v. Virginia, which said a law banning inter-racial marriage was unconstitutional. The case made it legal to marry somebody of a different race.
  • Lawrence v. Texas, which said a law against two persons of the same sex engaging in certain intimate sexual conduct was unconstitutional. The case essentially made it legal for gay folks to have sex.
  • Obergefell v. Hodges, which said a law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The case made marriage equality legal.

That’s five cases I can think of without any real research. None of the issues in these cases are mentioned in the Constitution; they all depend on the unenumerated concept of a constitutionally protected right to privacy. If, as Alito argues, these rights “must be strongly rooted in U.S. history and tradition” in order to be constitutional, then all of these cases can be overturned. I mean, there WAS NO history or tradition of allowing inter-racial marriage when Loving was decided. Hell, for that matter, there WAS a history and tradition of banning inter-racial marriage.

If/when Roe is overturned, then look for marriage equality to be threatened. Look for the right to contraception to be threatened.

That’s why Sam Alito should go fuck himself. So should Clarence Thomas, and Brett ‘I Like Beer’ Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett. And so should every motherfucker in the Senate who voted to approve them for the Court. And so should everybody who voted for every motherfucker in the Senate who voted to approve them.

There are a whole lot of people who should go fuck themselves in the neck.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Burn the patriarchy. Burn it to the ground, Burn it to the ground, collect the ashes, and grind them into powder. Bury the powder deep in the earth, and salt the ground above it so nothing will ever grow there. Pour cement over the salt. Then nuke the entire site from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure).