A few days ago, following the most tumultuous week in US judicial history, a Spanish friend of mine texted me: ‘Todo Mal’.
He was right.
This past weekend, I joined several dozen people, about half of them under the age of 30, to meet with a US Senator campaigning for reelection. It was an opportunity to discuss ‘Todo Mal’.
Ahead of that gathering, I asked myself: Where did it all go wrong?
And I also asked myself a few other questions.
For example, shall my generation—the Baby Boomers—now make a collective apology to our children for bequeathing them a nation in far worse shape than the one our parents left to us?
That is not hyperbole.
Last Friday saw the evisceration US women’s rights. Within days and weeks, women of childbearing age in roughly half of all US states will lose the liberty to make fundamental decisions about their bodies and their health. Effectively, if they become pregnant and do not wish to have a child, and do not have the means to travel to states that permit abortion, they will be forced into involuntary servitude as wombs for the state. A state, by the way, that otherwise shows scant interest in their general health or welfare. The removal of abortion rights is nothing short of the enslavement of pregnant women who do not wish to give birth.
Moreover, the rationale adopted by the six-justice majority at the US Supreme Court for striking down abortion rights could now easily be applied to rescind rights to same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and contraception.
Last week the US Supreme Court also swept away the rights of citizens to live without fear of guns by upholding others’ rights to carry guns. Yet, gun possession creates fear—fear of being shot, maimed, or killed. Gun possession is therefore a source of a negative externality. No matter—six justices are oblivious to the injustice of living with fear. How can that be constitutional? How can the ‘pursuit of happiness’ be consistent with an intolerance of avoidable fear?
It is impossible not to conclude that six justices of the US Supreme Court believe in absolute rights for some, even if that means trampled rights for others. It is equally impossible to avoid the conclusion that the US Supreme Court is now merely a collection of ideologues and politicians, rather than a forum of impartial jurists.
Yet that is not where my questions or my search for answers ended.
Perhaps, I thought, our generation has just not fought well enough for justice. How might we learn from recent events and more effectively create a just nation?
The answer, I believe, begins with introspection, which quickly leads to a recognition that we have failed ourselves and failed others. Many of us have been, it seems, too self-absorbed in our careers, in our families, and in our desires to pursue narrow perceptions of happiness. That’s not to say that we didn’t care about bigger issues, only that we may not have cared enough.
Those of us who came of age in the 1980s entered a world replete with broadening freedoms and opportunities. Good things came our way, as might be expected for educated elites of the postwar era. But we failed to recognize the misfortunes, frustrations, resentments, and injuries of those not far from us, yet very much out of our sight. And we failed to appreciate that our blind neglect left an opening for those willing to prey on others’ genuine insecurities to advance their illiberal beliefs and ideological ambitions.
Error is individual. A generation cannot be lumped together and blamed. Nevertheless, those of us born in the late 1950s and 1960s aren’t likely to collectively grace the pages of history. I can only blame myself for my shortcomings, yet it is difficult to see how my generation can avoid opprobrium.
That is, unless we collectively come to our wits and begin to take responsibility for what has happened on our watch. We have no other choice. Starting now, we must pledge to do things, however, scant our time or resources, to resist the darkness that is enveloping our times.
Even if all we accomplish in the years left to us is to gather our strength and set in motion those things that will restore justice, then we may yet be able to envisage a more just and kinder world for our children and grandchildren to inherit, much like the one we were blessed to receive in our youth. And perhaps, by our example of renewed commitment to justice, future generations will not only appreciate their bequest but will also husband and nurture it better than we did.
The interplay between climate change and the spread of deadly pathogens could herald an era of global devastation and disruption. To avert