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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Karen Meyer: Reflections on the decline of freedom in America

By Karen Meyer

By Karen Meyer

We have talked a lot about the principles this country has stood on for almost 2½ centuries: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At present, we are seeing very different interpretations of these ideals. There are arguments about what the Founders meant with widely varied concepts of original intent. Instead of continuing to expand our rights, this Supreme Court is withdrawing the rights extended to women, people of color and the LGTBQ community. The “Originalists” on the court are interpreting the Constitution to fit their personal values and beliefs. Their beliefs coincide with patriarchal and white nationalist beliefs. Their religious beliefs hearken back to Calvinistic principles. These beliefs are not “God given rights” as they proclaim. Who are they to determine what their idea of “God” has endowed on human beings?

The patriarchal society deems women to be inferior to men and gives men the power to rule over women. The feminist movement elevated the status of women to procure jobs in fields men have always dominated, though equal pay has yet to be established. Roe v. Wade allowed women control over their own bodies. What hubris those possess who think they can dictate a law that prevents women the same right that men have! If they don’t want women to have abortions, and now are even suggesting they want to abolish contraception, why don’t they pass a law that men have to undergo vasectomies? They could institute a law that says sex is ONLY for procreation, so if you don’t want children, sterilization will completely avoid that possibility. What would men say to that?

The progress made with the advent of the movement did not do away with the deeply seated prejudice we still see today. What happened to “All men are created equal?” Granted the term “men” could be used to the advantage of those who claim rights were never bestowed on women, but what about the rights of Black men, Native American men and other men of color? The suffragette movement established the right of women to vote. Subsequent movements endowed women with more freedoms through the 20th century. I would imagine the founders of our country would agree the U.S. had progressed far beyond their original writings and that their intent was for the Nation to evolve ever more towards granting all human beings the same rights.

Now, this so named “Supreme” Court may also try to undermine the progress made in the gay and trans communities. Happily married gay couples might well face the annulment of their marriages and lose the benefits of being a couple. Trans people already are not allowed the same rights as others in certain states. These prejudices run deep in our culture, and are now being used by the highest court in the land to reverse all the great progress of the last century and the first part of the 21st century.

The U.S. has long been a defender of human rights in our dealings with other countries. Who will come to our aid as our rights are taken away? People will once again have to hide their true identities. Women will risk their lives to get an illegal abortion or have unwanted children who will suffer greatly.

Perhaps the greatest threat to all of our citizens and people throughout the world is the recent passage of a law disallowing the government to regulate industries that contribute to the ever-growing crises we face with climate disruption. The consequences of their decision will be disastrous. There is a growing frustration and fear in those working toward a future free of the dangers of continued fossil fuel use. There could be a mass movement to fund scientists and inventors to find better ways to create renewables that do not still require fossil fuels to build electric cars, windmills, etc. Scientists are warning us that we only have a short window to prevent the worst-case scenarios, but the Supreme Court has given free rein to the big corporations by giving each state the choice to do what they want. Some states will work for the welfare of the people, but many will not. Restoring balance to the planet has to be a joint effort.

Even our established right to vote is challenged with all the gerrymandering and manipulation of voting procedures. What was once considered the sacred duty of a citizen to vote is now an arena to push through a candidate who will do the bidding of the power-hungry and annihilate any promise of democratic elections. The will of the people is no longer considered – the power of the oligarchs will see to that.

Will massive protests be effective? Will this moment see another civil war? We are at a tipping point. If democracy fails, the U.S. will go down in history as a failed experiment. If it prevails, we can start dealing with the massive injustices and inequalities and hasten the move toward renewable energies, regenerative farming and cleaning up the messes we have made since the beginning of the industrial revolution. There isn’t much time.

Karen Meyer is a retired musician who played with the Spokane Symphony for 15 years.

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