Whatever is Done Can be Undone

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared

I was recently social-distance camping with a sweet young woman who was telling us about her very conservative, very Christian family. She loved them a lot, it seemed, but she was sad because they didn’t accept her. They thought everyone should be like them, she said, and they disapproved of people not living the same Christian life as them.

I’m not sure how conservatives look at liberals, really. I actually don’t know many American conservatives, and British conservatives are different. But, how it feels to be a liberal right now, funny enough, feels like what the conservatives always say is going on — it feels like “our way of life is under attack.” I feel like the freedom to live the life I want, to say safe, to choose my own path is closing in on me.

This morning, after hearing about RGB’s death, I woke up very afraid about the future of abortion. What if, Trump wins and there’s a conservative supermajority in the supreme court, and four years from now, I couldn’t get one if I needed one? I’m… scared.

And, I imagine that statement angers conservatives because they think I should just suck it up and have the baby if I get pregnant. I don’t know what situation they’re imagining when they say that, but here’s are some of the situations I’m imagining.

In 4 years, I’ll be 40. If I manage to be pregnant at 40, it will almost certainly because I wanted to get pregnant; in fact, I imagine that I’ll be overjoyed. I will probably feel like this was my last chance to have a child. But, it will also be a high risk pregnancy because I will be older.

What if the doctors tell me the baby is sick? What if it’s a disease where the baby will die shortly after birth, but I will probably not miscarry? Will I be forced to carry that baby to term, just to have it die in my arms afterward? And, because I would be older, every year would matter to my fertility. I might not be able to have another child if I’m forced to wait a year. Not being able to have an abortion may cost me ability to actually raise a child that shares my genetic material (something that, I don’t know if is important to me, but might be — and sure seems important to a lot of people.)

What if my own health is at stake? I think it’s reasonable that I would decide to choose my own life over the life of my unborn child, but I’m not convinced I’ll have that option necessarily. Consider the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland before abortion was legalized; she partly miscarried, and the baby had no chance of survival, but the baby’s heart hadn’t stopped beating. So, Savita had to wait days until the baby’s heart stopped for the doctors to remove the fetus from her body, but at that point it was too late. Savita had caught sepsis and died the next day.

And… you know, I feel like a lot of conservatives feel like it would be ok if I got sick or died tried trying to start a family because I will have waited too long. I imagine they’d tell me, I should have had a baby younger when I was lower risk — I was a selfish liberal career woman who put her own needs ahead of those of her family’s

But like… it’s so hard to have kids now. Us millennials, we earn less than previous generations did at our age because wealth is getting concentrated into the hands of the ultra-wealthy. So, many of us are waiting longer to start families — but it’s higher risk when we do. Not only that, but for me personally, I was in several abusive situations including one where I experienced partner rape followed by a decade long stalking.

Was I supposed to have kids with the man who raped and stalked me just because I was young?

What about later, when my history of sexual trauma left me so triggered by men I had to take a year off work and go to therapy while burning through my savings? Was I supposed to have kids then? With what money — the money I needed for therapy?

For me personally, I have come to some degree of peace that I may never have children. I considered being a single mother by choice for a while, but that life looked so hard because of the economic pressure of raising a kid alone, so I don’t think it’s the right path for me. And ultimately I decided, I would rather not have kids than have kids with a man who was abusive.

And, many of the people I date are abusive. For a long time, I thought there was just something wrong with me for attracting abusive men, but now — I actually think a very high percentage of women are in abusive relationships all the time. Maybe a high percentage of people are in abusive relationships all the time.

One of the most fascinating accounts I read, from a highly questionable source, was this motel owner who used to secretly watch his clients. Via highly immoral means, he probably witnessed one of the most accurate accounts of human romantic behavior (since they didn’t know they were being watched.) He had this to say on most people’s relationships:

And, I think to some degree, this hidden unhappiness is all coming to the surface. I think that many conservatives are old people who are sad, and full of anger. I think they want young people to live the same lives they felt obligated to live, because their lives didn’t make them happy and it just seems unfair that young people are trying to live happy lives now. How dare we get what they never had?

But what they don’t see, is that to live the type of lives they value — get married, buy a house, have some kids — is even harder for us nowadays. We wouldn’t just be being as miserable as them; we would be ten times more miserable, because our wages are lower, the environment is worse, and houses more expensive. The misery behind the closed doors has become so great we can’t keep it secret anymore, and perhaps that’s what is bursting forth now; the secret rot under this whole damn country is coming out to the open for all to see.

People want to go back to the “good old days” or something, but those days are gone (and probably never that good.) The earth is worse, it can’t support the level of exploitation that allowed the type of industry that existed in the past. The technological revolution happened, people communicate and interact differently now. For the first time ever, we are witnessing the extent exploitation of white exploitation of people of color (think, the police killing George Floyd) and people aren’t willing to un-see that. Not now, not with video evidence. The “good old days” were supported by the systemic exploitation of POC that happened behind closed doors, but you can’t close that door anymore.

So all we really have, is a bunch of people in power trying to make an impossible situation come to pass. What they want just won’t happen; so like, they’re not going to “win.” What would “winning” even look like for them, anyway? They don’t seem to have much vision beyond pissing off liberals, frankly — but, if what “winning” looks like, is more white people in the suburbs having little 4 person families with dogs and white picket fences, that’s just not going to happen. My generation doesn’t have the money for fucking houses in the suburbs.

And, soon people of color will outnumber white people anyway — so even if people go back to the suburbs, they won’t all be white anymore. A future that looks like the 1950s just isn’t possible, so they can’t “win” in the sense of creating a future they want.

But, they can continue to exert power and control over a population that resents it. I don’t believe it can go on for too much longer though. While I know there exist deep authoritarian regimes that have existed for decades, most of the time, those regimes actually have popular support from the people in their countries (often due to a sustained campaign of propaganda.) That type of propaganda won’t work in America right now (other types of propaganda do work very well in America, but I’ll get into that another day.) As much as Trump may want it, there will never be a day where most Americans look to him as a kindly father figure. Putin, by contrast, has one of the highest approval ratings from his own people of leaders alive right now.

One reason it’s hard for Trump to create effective pro-Trump propaganda is other countries and groups are actively creating anti-Trump propaganda. For instance, China is using the George Floyd protests to discredit Trump and creating videos mocking the US response to the Coronavirus. Russia, on the other hand, crated propaganda that was to some degree pro-Trump and to some degree just politically polarizing during the 2016 US election. And, I’m sure they’re up to their old tricks this time as well.

Or, to phrase this another way, China leans anti-Trump and Russia leans pro-Trump but both have a vested interested in a weakened and divided America, and both are highly experienced in the art of population control via propaganda. Let’s say China’s anti-Trump neutralizes some of Russia’s pro-Trump propaganda and vice versa, what we have left are two propaganda campaigns the common goal of dividing and polarizing America with the intention of weakening it.

Seems like they’ve been pretty effective at that, yes?

So — here we are. A divided nation that hates each other so much, both sides are willing to undo political norms to get their way. The republicans and Trump undid political norms by refusing to allow Obama to appoint a justice during his final year, but are now demanding that Trump gets to appoint RBG’s replacement quickly before the election. This will just land on democrats as a flagrant abuse of power, not rooted in any political authenticity because it is. And, there will be fallout from that. I see one of two things likely happening next:

  1. The appointed justices stay within generally socially acceptable norms, and the US just tolerates it. In this case, we’re unlikely to lose things like abortion rights, but corporations will keep getting richer and richer and exploiting their employees more and more. Eventually, there will probably be something that looks like a worker uprising of some kind with riots on the streets — like we have now, but economically focused and more in the future. You can’t keep starving a population and expecting them to tolerate it silently; it just won’t work, and the American population doesn’t have much left to give. This is a little ways out though, so it’s harder to imagine what form it would take.
  2. The republicans go full hog and start rolling back abortion rights, gay rights, racial rights, etc. and we will realize, we haven’t even seen the beginning of the riots yet. If the democrats ever get back in full power, they will offset this by packing the court which will get them what they want in the short run and severely weaken the supreme court in the long run. However, they will likely make that tradeoff if the conservative justices demonstrate a lack of restraint.

Either way, we are probably witnessing the final stages of the American empire and decline — just either imminently, or played out over 1–2 decades. I don’t really know what that means, but I expect it will ultimately lead to the weakening of federal power with more power functionally being shifted back to the states as the federal government collapses under its own weight. We will lose our ability to be a unified player on the national stage, but our political situation will probably stabilize as people stop living in fear that their lives are going to be controlled by “the other” they have so demonized.

My advice: go local. Make sure you get good local leaders, make sure you get in touch with your communities; in the long run, these will be the people who have the largest impact on your lives. These will be the people who protect you as the failing federal government continues to lash out and trample on individual rights. Increased state power relative to federal is the only option I see that allows the polarization of the US to subside; we should try to make that transition smoother and quicker, because the federal government will get more and more extreme as each regime escalates its power while trying to undo the actions of the last.