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This is Not the Story We Wanted

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This week’s Journal is not the issue we planned a week ago.

On Tuesday, as the Journal staff read copy on its way to press, it was with the Jan. 6 hearings in the background, with all its attending shocks and scandals, showing us moment by moment how close we came to watching a petulant dictator overthrow our government, aided by cowering GOP officials and a frenzied mob. This on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade and imperil its citizens at the behest of zealots who would drag us into a theocracy. (Sometimes, it seems separation of church and state is the only edict from the Founding Fathers they happily ignore.)

It is wild that we should have to say — to argue — that we believe in people’s rights to privacy and reproductive choice, that we each have sovereignty over our bodies that should not be violated by the state. It is wilder still that we’ve lost that argument on a federal level and now people in our country will suffer the physical, psychological, educational and financial consequences of forced birth and most assuredly die from unsafe illegal abortions and dangerous pregnancies. It’s not how the story of progress is supposed to go.

We say it from the relative safety of California, where lawmakers and activists are working to strengthen our reproductive freedoms. We say it with fingers crossed for our children and grandchildren, that they have every means available to choose their paths. We say it with only some idea of the suffering and loss previous generations endured, partially because so many of those stories were — and continue to be — hidden in fear.

But we do not end at our state borders, regardless of what red and blue maps or Texan secessionists say. We are bound together — no more so than when some of us are in crisis, whether it’s disaster, illness or governmental oppression. As Americans, we must stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us, including those in other states, where pre-Roe laws still on the books are springing like old, heavy traps. Those with money and power will doubtless find their way to safe abortions, but the poor, people of color, people with disabilities, victims of rape, domestic violence and incest, have fewer options or none at all. We cannot abandon them. Nor are we helpless.

It's easy enough to say “vote,” but it will be harder than that to get our constitutional right to bodily autonomy and our full status as Americans back. Those who are able will need to give up something, to sacrifice what we can: time, money, safety, comfort. It will take showing up to be heard — in face-to-face interactions, at protests, as volunteers and in relentless, nagging phone calls to representatives. Our votes need to be informed all the way down the ballot to our local representatives, especially given the rural healthcare issues we already face, to make sure they support our right to make our own reproductive choices.

Those with means can donate to local and national organizations supporting reproductive rights and to fund travel to places where people access safe, legal abortions. And we can offer refuge to our friends and family in states enacting forced birth laws. This is the part of the story where we decide who and what matters, who we will shelter and who we will obey.

Across our nation, including within our largely progressive state, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ comments on revisiting the right to contraceptives and marriage equality bring a shiver and dread. Once again, the obliteration of the separation of church and state make us vulnerable to the same right-wing Christian extremists who would roll back the rights and human dignity so many fought so hard on so many fronts to establish with law. And lower down in the courts, the rights of transgender people to exist and move safely through society and its institutions are already under attack. Both legal and physical attacks are fueled by anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. That ugliness is something we can take on right here in our county. Having seen how every level of our government allowed AIDS to ravage a generation of LGBTQ+ people, we can tell you the need for those outside the communities currently in the crosshairs to lend their voices and labor to protecting them is urgent. 

On July 4, many of us will approach the holiday with new ambivalence. Many of us are already all too familiar with the heartbreak of loving a country that does not seem to love us back. It’s OK. Feel it; weigh the pride of place and your history here against the powers that would grind you and yours to sand. Consider the opportunities it offers and denies. And remind yourself this country is not only its bloody history and the people who shape and wield its laws. It’s also the generations of people who have looked out for us and the people we can look out for now, those who sacrificed for freedoms they might never get to enjoy. Those who are doing that work now for our children, and our children’s children.

This is not the story we wanted but it’s the one we face, and it’s not over yet.

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.

Thadeus Greenson (he/him) is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.



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