Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hell in a handbasket

Now that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, there are many Americans who firmly believe that we've finally gone to hell in a handbasket.

But, how did that handbasket get there so fast?

Well, there are a number of touchstone moments over the past few centuries that led to this expected, but still stunning, ruling. 

For extreme right-wingers, Thursday's Supreme Court ruling affirming "Obamacare," for the sceond time in three years, meant that hell was right around the corner.

In reality, though, the most immediate precedent came exactly two years ago when the high court ruled that California's voter-approved, same-sex marriage ban discriminated against homosexuals and was unconstitutional. There was an expectation then among some Americans that the end times were near at hand. 

But, there have been a number of rulings that conservatives cite as proof that America was "going to hell in a handbasket."

The big one, of course, was Roe v. Wade from 1973 that legalized abortion. In spite of that ruling, hell was not reached. The sky did not fall. Pestilence did not ravage the land.

In the 1960s, the high court ruled that people of different races could marry and that contraceptives were entirely legal. Hell could be seen at this point.

But, the real biggie from that decade, and the one that led to all the troubles of this country, according to the far right, was the decision that banned prayer in public schools. Since kids haven't prayed in public schools since 1962, the "logic" goes, no wonder we have gay marriage today.

And, the ban on prayer in school would not have happened if segregation was left intact.

In 1954, though, the Supreme Court held that public schools couldn't discriminate against African-Americans. Much to the relief of conservatives, that didn't lead to integration overnight. In 1963, Gov. George Wallace personally barred blacks from entering the University of Alabama.

Of course, there wasn't much outcry from conservatives in 1944 when the high court effectively ruled that herding Asian-Americans into internment camps along the west coast was constitutional. Well, many Americans were, in fact, in the grip of World War II and we all know that "war is hell."

That wasn't the first time this country went to hell and back, though. There was a little ruling in 1857 that said African-Americans had no standing to sue for their freedom and that the federal government could not regulate slavery in territories acquired after the creation of the U.S. 

The Dred Scott ruling, which provoked little conservative outrage at the time, led directly to the Civil War, which was definitely hell for this country.

By contract, the Supreme Court's historic ruling on gay marriage will not lead to another Civil War. In fact, the decision will be forgotten by most Americans next week when they realize gay marriage doesn't make a mockery of "traditional" marriage. 

Here's a notable line from the decision: "Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations."

Leave it to President Obama, though, the first sitting president to support gay marriage, to really nail it: "This ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free."

That's far from hell in a handbasket.

1 comment:

  1. Only a fool would get married. Why would any adult sign away 50% of their future earnings? Marriage is an out dated tradition that is in big decline. I would argue government has no compelling reason to issue "marriage licenses". Adults should be able to enter contracts with other adult(s). That said I agree with the Supreme Court decisions of late.