From a novel in progress:
"I knew what she meant. All the innocents murdered in the Holocaust, the Native Americans systematically exterminated, Black Americans enslaved, tortured, and killed, gay men and women persecuted and marginalized—all of them wound up on the right side of history, but it meant nothing to them when they were alive, and that’s the part that counts."
That passage spoken in frustration by a recurring character of mine, Francis McNally, is from my next as yet untitled novel—the last in which he appears (probably). I mention it here not to sell a non-existent book, but because McNally echoes my own frustration, one which I share with many others. I too am frustrated by Democrats' continual warnings to Republican senators that their defense of the president will land them on the wrong side of history. With few exceptions, current Republicans don't care about history or posterity. They're living now as actual breathing and sometimes sentient organisms, riding high on a right-wing wave of legislative and legal decisions. Why should they care if some yet-to-be-published history book snubs them?
When we're dead we don't care anymore—surprise! And unless we've committed crimes so heinous that even our name must be avoided—I'm talking to you Adolph—then that threat of being denigrated in the years to come is feeble, unconvincing, empty. And the Democrats better have more than that in their arsenal in the thirty-odd days between now and November 3.
Maybe instead of shaking a warning finger at these venal sycophants and saying you'll be sorry, Democrats have to remind Americans that, despite the Supreme Court and MAGA hats, America is a socially liberal nation, and the majority of its citizens favor progress over stagnation and regression. The fact that this is the first time in our history when we can't expect our kids to do better than we did should infuriate us—should make us question and then terminate the leadership that brought us here. We're going the wrong way.
Most Americans don't want to go regress to a time when back-alley abortions killed or mutilated young women (before 1973), to when free adults could not marry the person they love (before 2015), to when Americans needed to work until either they died or their children could protect and feed them (before 1935), or to when polio victims faced imminent death or a lifetime of paralysis, (1950's when Jonas Salk gave his vaccine to the government for distribution to all, and the Salk vaccine became a socialist program).
Liberal and progressive—yes, socialist—programs are enjoyed by all Americans, regardless of political affiliation. They keep the country moving—sometimes they keep the citizens alive. Even Donald Trump, who denigrates mail-in voting, sends his ballot to Florida via the post office, one of those socialist constructs. Expanding programs like affordable or free health care, tuition assistance, and public works projects to rebuild our failing infrastructure can effectively move the country forward. In four years the Trump faction has shown no interest in any of them.
Most Americans know that attempts to go backwards inevitably fail, and yet, we appear to be on our way, led by a Supreme Court pointing us in that direction. But I do hold out some hope, even today, and it lies in that same Supreme Court and all the other jurisdictions across the United States. Judges do, in fact, judge; and those judgments do reflect the laws of the times. But they also reflect the tenor of the times—the mores of a changing world—and the justices who may seem sequestered in some judicial bubble, also live in that world. History is replete with instances of justices whose votes defied personal beliefs and biases—who made efforts to do what was right for the greatest number of people. I would not be shocked to see it happen again.
Until then, however, Joe Biden must make it obvious that we remain a progressive country, and we, the voters, must make it clear that getting rid of Trump is more than ridding the White House of a sociopathic grifter, but also the only way to keep America from falling behind. The rest of the world isn't going to wait while we go back and retrieve some magical America that never was—the America of legalized segregation and male hegemony, when every cancer diagnosis came with a countdown timer.
With the exception of the occasional foray into retro clothing, Americans has never been very good at going backwards. If you don't believe me, take it from McNally. He remembers the good old days. He knows they weren't that good.