Over the weekend, the Taliban, which last summer promised (or maybe implied? hinted at?) a movement away from its draconian past, reinstituted dress rules for Afghan women. The burka is back, and whether or not anybody favors it, the Taliban leaders have made their ruling. It's in the Quran, they say. Of course, it isn't. Or maybe it's "settled law," the American equivalent?
This regressive ruling marks the first time in decades that Afghan women will be forced to wear the Islamic face veil – a direct reversal of any pretended movement toward liberalism among the Taliban. In truth, many Afghan women already wear the burka, but generally not in urban areas where a simple hair covering has supplanted it. The new decree passed by the eerily Puritanical-sounding Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue will route the country backward. At the same time, tens of millions of Afghan citizens face hunger and deprivation daily – a problem for which the Taliban sees no similar urgency.
Fortunately, in the United States, we have no Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, but we appear to have its Doppelgänger: the Supreme Court.
Nine of one, 3/4 dozen of another, I suppose
But make no mistake. Whether it's a decree from the Taliban militants or a leaked draft from a bought-and-paid-for pietistic justice, whether it's a mandatory face-covering or the elimination of reproductive rights, the ultimate goal remains the same: the subjugation of women by a smothering male paternalism. The decisions of these two seemingly disparate judgmental bodies have as much to do with female modesty or the unborn child's rights as voting restrictions have to do with fraud. Both rules evolve out of a growing fear that white male supremacy is withering under constant attacks from militant feminism and an annoyingly pervasive equal rights movement. The cowardice of these big strong men in the face of any challenge is embarrassing.
What to do in the face of this threat? For the Taliban, hide the individuality of these interlopers behind identical "wardrobes." For the Supreme Court, keep the women at home raising children. Donald Trump, everyone's favorite Neanderthal, claimed that women love the term housewives. Justice Alito and five others seem to agree.
All regrettable but hardly unprecedented. We have witnessed many attempts to beat back the advancing tide of progress only to have it wash over us utterly. And in the sine wave of politics, the amplitude of liberalism always grows higher in a reaction to conservative repression. It will again, though it may be a long siege, and the casualties will be many. The proscription of abortion rights may alter and, in some cases, destroy the lives of men and women for decades.
In Afghanistan, the husband of a woman who spurns the burka will be warned, then arrested, fined, and imprisoned. If some legislators get their way in America, a man who assists his wife in gaining an abortion will face a felony murder charge. Contraception, same-sex marriage, gay and transgender rights – everything will be on the table if our very own Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue continues to misalign itself with the wishes of most Americans.
It's one thing for a buffoon like Marjorie Taylor Greene to be out of touch with reality. It's entirely different when men and women whose jurisprudence has permitted them to ascend to the Supreme Court show the same lack of awareness.
Of course, this has less to do with jurisprudence than with the new Republican party, but the results will be the same. And the popular belief that the executive and legislative branches are too mired in politics even to function but that the Supreme Court was above it all? We can put that to rest.
Political hacks can wear robes too.