These days with a numbskull obtuse racist president in the White House it’s hard to find a silver lining. Maybe this will help, or not. But the US has made a lot of mistakes—and somehow we’ve kept going.
So I’ll let that sink in as good news. Our Supreme Court has made lousy decisions, Congress has passed some unjust laws that impinge on the rights of certain demographics, the citizens of these United States have collectively made unwise choices. It’s one reason to be afraid of but also believe in democracy. Or maybe it’s about having faith.
Faith that the universe will somehow right itself. That people will at some point in history go, My bad! And turn the ship around.
You might think I’m alluding to Dreamers and the end of DACA, to that stupid wall. But, no, I’m referring to the Dread Scott Decision. Sorry, Dred Scott. Also known as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Summarily: this meant that a runaway slave who had resettled in the North, perhaps for as long as 30 years, could now suddenly be fair game for the police. Neighbors, suspecting neighbors, could turn in a black skinned person upon suspicion of them being a runaway. Immediately they could be seized and returned to southern jails to be repatriated to their master.
Much like the Polish doctor who has been in the States legally since age 5, about 30 some odd years, now in custody waiting to be deported. He had a Green Card. And speaks no Polish. His wife and children miss him.
Dreamers and others who at least for now have papers can likely relate to the Fugitive Slave Act. Suddenly one’s whole life is turned inside out. You have a job, school, social network, and Poof!
I’m reading a biography of Henry David Thoreau and when the Dred Scott passed and the Fugitive Slave Act he and his friends ran to Boston to stand up for people much like we did when Trump tried to ban Muslim from entering the US, we ran to the airports. In Concord Thoreau and his friends who had already been instrumental in the Underground Railroad now assisted locals in moving on to Canada. A black person was no longer safe anywhere. Without provocation they would be stopped and ordered to show proof/documentation. (Remember they were not able to vote.)
Consider also the division this caused among law-abiding whites. They were simply following the law. Isn’t that what Sarah Huckabee-Sanders was trying to say the other day to the press corp. Except that one needs to stop and think: these laws are anathema to the Constitution.
I guess that’s why “On Civil Disobedience” resonated back then as it does now. Sometimes we simply have to follow our conscience and hope eventually the laws will change.
The case of Fred Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case concerning the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which ordered Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II regardless of citizenship.
We’ve dealt with shit, will continue to deal with shit, and work towards a shit-free world.