24 June 2022

Another Victory for (the) Establishment

My outrage at the obvious substantive and methodological failures of the Dobbs opinion is for another time, another forum. The general tenor should and will be obvious: It is a kind of opinion that we should expect from "judges trained only in the law" (Bleistein) who — despite their reliance on a distorted practice of "history" that would be laughed out at any AHSA convention1 — don't know enough history precisely because of that limited background. Even less do they know enough about medicine to assimilate the dominant medical aspects of any individual decision.

As frighteningly obtuse, appallingly tone-deaf, and predictably tunnel-visioned as the opinion in Dobbs is, I'm actually more concerned about what its combination with Carson (from three days ago) really says:

Theocracy Now!

It's not just the substance of either opinion, or even both together. The methods of reasoning, the rhetoric, and the substance of these opinions constitute an Establishment of Religion by redefining the terms in a way to meet the preferences of the Establishment.2 One can't reach a valid understanding of either "free exercise of religion" or "establishment of religion" by reading a dictionary and performing grammatical exercises that wouldn't have been possible in late eighteenth-century America… even had any of the white upper-middle-class and upper-class gentlemen who were the Founders had what passed for "expertise" in linguistics at the time (most of them would have been stumped by "Alles ist verbinden, dass nicht verboten sind"). At its core, Carson treats "free exercise" as parallel to "free beer" — that is, kostenlos, while neglecting that "establishment" comes in a lot of forms other than having a Prince-Elector of Mainz. (Right, Lillian and William?)

It's not "three-fifths of all other persons" — it's 50.8% of all persons. And for that first one, the courts never admitted the error: It took three-quarters of a century and a very uncivil war, with just a few casualties (not the least of which was the truth), and the political will of largely non-gerrymandered Congress (and minimally gerrymandered states). I'm not optimistic about the other one, especially given other historical parallels regarding theocratic dominance and theocratic subversion of (pun intended) established political mechanisms. Meanwhile, the news contains not one word, not one inquiry of the theocrats, regarding either the obvious problem of "the death penalty" or the less obvious problem of "exactly what effective measures are you taking to prevent the slaughter of innocents in classrooms?"3

Ironically, this post is several hours later than it would have been; the blog's host decided to invade my privacy with Mystery Security Theater 3000 techniques (specifically, easily-defeatable so-called "two-factor authentication" that actually only benefits its advertising campaign) that I didn't have time to deal with.

  1. Or, to put not too fine a point on it, a convention of military historians… or of their law school classes.
  2. Being a member of a non-Establishment "belief group" twice over — once by ancestry, once by considered choice — and having suffered consequences from both aspects more than once (albeit nowhere near "as bad as it could have been") makes me extremely wary of this volatile mixture. Perhaps we can look forward to the Defenestration of ProudBoys in the very near future… and three decades of very uncivil warfare thereafter.
  3. Aside: The incident in Uvalde is a rather disturbing refutation of the "one good guy with a gun" meme: There were are least a dozen. And they were stopped by another good guy with a gun who froze, or lost sight of the actual mission, or was simply unable to translate "simulated experience" and "training exercises" to the real world. Anyone who has ever really been there knows that… and application to a woman's decision to have an abortion — or not — presents very much the same problem. Part of the point of "ethics and morals" is that the principles must adapt to the situation before one, based on what one knows at the time… and information deficits, not to mention panic attacks, still result in suboptimal decisionmaking without a moral deficit. I can say this without making either the on-scene leader or the off-scene leaders to whom he was answerable the "villains of the piece"; it's called being set up to fail.