Necessary trouble

This Fourth of July week, progressives have much to mourn, but it’s worth reflecting on the glimmers of hope as well.

If the murder of 26 elementary school children and their teachers wasn’t enough to convince our elected officials to do something about gun safety, why would we think 49 mostly young, gay Latinos cut down in the haven of a gay nightclub would change the hearts and minds of a Republican Congress?

At least we can count on their thoughts and prayers.

It was reassuring to see national Democrats find their voices and demand Congress do more than observe a minute of silence each time a gun-fueled tragedy erupts. Democratic senators forced four votes on common sense gun safety measures broadly supported by the public, to close loopholes in background checks and prevent those on no-fly lists from buying firearms. The votes failed, but left behind a tell-tale track of those beholden to the National Rifle Association instead of their constituents.

Then the House Democrats, led by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, literally sat down on the House Floor and demanded Speaker Paul Ryan allow a transparent vote on similar legislation. Ryan refused. He turned the CSPAN cameras off, and members of the House broadcast the protest via Periscope. Then he tried to redirect the debate to the members’ lack of decorum and flaunting of the rules.

The U.S. Supreme Court also recently took a swing at the NRA, upholding the Lautenberg amendment, which allows for guns to be removed from those convicted of domestic violence, a major concern in Nevada, a state that too often leads the nation in women murdered by firearms wielded by their domestic partners.

Another major U.S. Supreme Court decision favored women’s reproductive rights, declaring that Texas anti-abortion laws—served up as a deceitful effort to “protect” women’s health—were unconstitutional. The 2013 legislation imposed ridiculous standards of care that were not supported by medical associations or health professionals as a way to force abortion clinics from operating and, ironically, place many more women in danger from unsafe abortions.

Dissenting justices clearly showed their cards in response to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concurring opinion, which said “it is beyond rational belief” that the law “could genuinely protect the health of women.” The anti-choice justices who think women should not be allowed to make their own health decisions suggested the Texas clinics that closed in response to the new law might simply have all had older doctors who decided to retire on the same day.

Who do they think they are kidding?

Also last week, justice was finally served in the murder of Victor Jara, a Chilean folksinger (often described as the “Bob Dylan of South America”), during the 1973 military coup in Chile. His assailant, a former Chilean military officer who later immigrated to the United States and is now a naturalized citizen, was held to account by a Florida jury, who awarded Jara’s family $28 million in damages.

Rebecca Solnit, the West’s leading intellectual and writer, summed up the good news in a social media post, citing these and other meaningful progressive steps forward, commenting: “And yeah, I know forest fires, floods, coral reefs, climate change, Brexit, skinheads, corporations. The troubles didn’t go away, but you can’t wait until they all do or you’ll never ever celebrate. Good things are good even in the presence of bad things.”

Let’s allow ourselves a bit of celebration and gratitude that we live in a country where we can keep trying to get it right. There will be plenty of time next week to get into some of the “good trouble, necessary trouble” promoted by Rep. Lewis. As he said, “Sometimes by sitting down, by sitting in, you’re standing up.”