On what should have been a morning of joy, I could not escape the darkness. Churches have been vandalized. Pro-life clinics have been fire-bombed. Supreme Court justices have been targeted. A president has called millions of Americans enemies to women and our health. The air is heavy with unspoken threats, and the summer promises heat and violence. The victory is real but as fragile as a Faberge egg.
Fifty years of conflict will do that. There was no expectation that the cancellation of Roe would be a moment of universal happiness. There was no possibility that the cheers from pro-lifers would rise to the heavens, clarion clear and singular like the voices of the Whos at the end of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” To think that this day would bring unanimity is to think that the soldiers at Gettysburg could have found a truce. It’s impossible, unreachable, beyond the wildest imaginings of the most hopeful optimist.
And pro-lifers know that. This day, one that was anticipated, legally strategized and prayed for over a period of five decades, was also going to be a day of reckoning. And that day will stretch far into the coming years. Any suggestion that the fight is over is a sign of amnesia. The blood spilled on social battlefields is replenished every time there is a victory for one side, over the other.
It reminds me of this country after the civil war. We had an attempt at piecing the torn factions back together, sewing up the scars on our body politic. Restoration was that attempt at union, at a filling in of the divide. But that failed miserably and gave way to the laws of Jim Crow and retribution. I wish I could say that we were a different group of people now, but recent history has shown that not to be the case.
Whether it be the violence of the George Floyd riots, or the insurrection on January 6th, each in their own way indicated that Americans were no longer willing to coexist with those who disagreed. There is no longer an ability to sit at the table, as William F. Buckley did with his liberal opponents, and hash out the issues of the day with wise words and witty aphorisms. There is no longer even an attempt to view the other side as human.
And so we are now at a point that many of us have longed for since we were very young, and others went to their graves despairing. We are at a crossroads that I personally never believed we’d reach, even in my most fevered dreams. There is a strange paralysis at this moment, the kind of thing that happens when you reach the summit of a mountain that loomed large against a far horizon. When the horizon is inches from your eyes, you feel uneasy.
Robert Browning captured that feeling in his poetry: “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for.” It might seem to many of us who have fought to overturn Roe that we’ve touched heaven, but in that single moment of success comes the defeat. Now, we have to confront the others who will push us off the mountain, block out that horizon and snatch away that heaven.
They are already beginning to mobilize. As I said before, churches have been vandalized, with the vilest graffiti sprayed across sacred stones. Pro-Life pregnancy centers have been attacked when all they do is counsel women to keep their babies and promise them assistance along the difficult way. Public officials who allegedly serve us all have turned to demonize those Americans who exult at the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. Schumer, Biden and Pelosi form a potent triad of animus, a three-headed Cerberus of hatred for those who oppose abortion rights. And of course, the justices needed to hide, which is something no American should ever accept.
The people who attack churches, Supreme Court justices and women who stand in front of Planned Parenthood clinics are remnants of an American history that used reactionary tactics whenever milestones of justice were achieved. They are the people who blocked the schools when Black children were trying to get an education. They were the people who prevented women from voting. They are the people who honestly and truly believe that the color of your skin, your birthplace, or your mental abilities can define just how valuable you are to society.
And they will be active, but they will not win. The arc of justice is wide and became wider on June 24, 2022.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org