I was planning an essay on cell phones and surveillance. The central thesis was that our Supreme Court is a massively flawed institution. Many of our current Supreme Court justices are both willfully ignorant and opportunistically illogical. This set of people are not exceptionally knowledgeable, nor are they particularly clever. But we have given them extraordinary power to shape our world.
I will still write that essay – Carpenter v. United States is definitely worth discussing – but shortly after I prepared my outline, the Supreme Court released a slew of misguided, malicious decisions. And then Anthony Kennedy – who is already a pretty crummy jurist – announced his resignation. A narrow-minded ideologue will be nominated to replace him.
Last weekend, people gathered across the country to protest recent developments at our nation’s immigration detention centers. And I couldn’t help but think that the protesters’ energy and enthusiasm was misdirected.
Don’t get me wrong – wrenching families apart is awful. Every citizen of this country should feel ashamed that this is being done on our behalf, and we should want for it to stop. It’s worth being upset about, both these new developments at immigration detention centers and when families are severed because the parents were incarcerated for semi-volitional medical conditions like drug addiction.
(To be fair, living with addicts is often also horrible. It’s a point of pride among people in jail if they kept clean while their kids were young.)
In My Brother Moochie, Issac Bailey writes beautifully about the harms suffered by millions of families across the country:
As a member of the perpetrator’s family … you don’t know what you are allowed to feel, or think. Victims can mourn, and others will help them mourn. When prosecutors and pundits talk about justice, they are referring to victims and their families, not families like mine. Why should anybody give a damn that the ripple effects of crime change our lives, too? We don’t get to mourn. We don’t get to reflect, at least not fully, not publicly.
To stand by a man you love after he has done something dastardly is to be accused of having a lack of respect for what the victim has endured. To demand that he not be known solely by his worst act is to be accused of excusing evil. To not be there for him would feel like a dereliction of familial duty, a betrayal of the worst order. To state the truth – that sentencing him to a long stay behind bars would be a devastating blow to your family – is to open yourself up to ridicule and screams of, “He should have thought about that before he decided to kill a man.”
Although the numbers are smaller, what we’re doing at immigration detention centers is worse. The only “crime” that these people are accused of is fleeing torture, rape, and murder. They migrated to land controlled by the U.S. government too late – European immigrants already staked claims to territories by murdering the previous inhabitants. Those prior inhabitants had immigrated from Siberia and staked their claims by murdering dangerous macrofauna and their human competitors.
All claims of sovereignty, among almost all species, have involved violence. Even plants strangle their competitors, or steal sunlight, or waft poisons through the air.
But I digress. My worry isn’t philosophical. I’m simply afraid that horrendous abuses of power like what’s happening at the immigration detention centers will become tragically routine.
Lots of people voted for POTUS45 in the last presidential election, but demography is working against his political party. Through gerrymandering, a minority party can maintain control over democratically-elected legislative bodies for a long time. (Indeed, the electoral college is itself a form of gerrymandering, designed as a tool to suppress the influence of liberal northerners.)
But the Supreme Court is an even better tool for minority control. A mere quintet of hate machines can shape the entire country. Barring a constitutional amendment imposing term limits, or a wave of Supreme Court assassinations during the next administration, they will.
Given their fundamental misunderstandings regarding terms like “free market,” “privacy,” “speech,” and “person,” it will be pretty horrible.