This is not a happy post. It is a warning, based on my study of governing history. It relates to the reality that across the globe we are seeing a titanic battle play out between two forms of governing: Patriarchy (in any of its many forms: e,g, kingship, dictatorship, tyranny, male-dominated oligarchy) vs. Liberal Democracy [see for example my book “War and Sex and Human Destiny” on my website: judithhand.net.]
With the election of the would be autocrat Donald Trump in 2016, the contemporary world’s oldest democratic republic now is faced with what I believe is the fateful deciding battle between the experiment of democratic government "of the people, by the people and for the people" and one form of patriarchy, viz. male oligarchy best represented by the U.S. Senate. In the USA the nature of the Supreme Court, the final arbiter of the laws of the land, is up for grabs. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a skilled champion of liberal democracy, has died and the battle is on to fill her seat.
Currently a male Christian majority holds an edge of power on the court and in their decisions they are influenced by conservative views. These reflect our patriarchal past rather than progressive views that reflect our ongoing progress into a fully mature liberal democracy.
Many scenarios are in play. And a presidential election will decide who in the future appoints and confirms judges to the court. Imagine if you will, this profoundly worse case scenario. The autocrat Donald Trump wins the next election. The U.S. Senate remains in the hands of his party, led by Mitch McConnell. He is a classically patriarchal senator with no respect for the norms that formerly guided Senate relationships and decision-making. They were norms that supported the democratic approach to decision-making.
So imagine that President Donald Trump, newly reelected, recommends that the size of the Supreme Court be increased to, say, thirteen. There is nothing, no law or even norm, to prevent him from doing this. With the help of Senate Leader McConnell, Trump nominates three extremely conservative judges that have one-way-or-the-other made clear that their loyalty is to the President. They are given lifetime appointments to the court. A man, for example, like Attorney General William Barr. The court thus becomes a powerful tool of a President who wants to change all laws to suit his agendas and whims. If you will, America becomes firmly fixed in perpetuity as one form of patriarchy, perhaps similar to Russia’s: a male oligarchy, a kleptocracy. Patriarchy wins the heart of America.
It can happen. Once a democracy is firmly lost to any of the forms of patriarchy, history teaches that it is not likely to be regained. And the experiment in liberal democracy, with its defining values like freedom of press, freedom of expression, freedom of a assembly, freedom of religion, respect for human rights, will be given a deadly blow.
VOTE! As if the life of the vision of liberal democracy depends on it. Because it does.
Yesterday evening the great American jurist Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed from us, leaving her family and her enormous legacy behind. I lived to enjoy and benefit from the equality she gave to women. I love her succinct words: "I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethern is that they take their feet off our necks."
She was an unfailing equal opportunity champion of equality for all humans in all spheres of life. A champion for voting rights, for marriage rights, for the right of women to have control of their own bodies.
The election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States in 2016 ushered in a four-year-long nightmare of corruption and incivility. She had hoped to live long enough to have a new president nominate her successor. Her final wish was exactly that. The battle to achieve her final wish has begun. But as those left behind to fight the good fight to preserve this democratic republish from the forces of authoritarianism, I want to take a moment to offer a eulogy to "the Notorious RGB." One of my FaceBook friends, Lindsey Keirsey, wrote the eulogy that I wish to share:
If she had lived 100 years it would have been too few.
In a world where women are expected to comply, she said "I dissent."
In a world where love has been kept in a box with rules, she said "I dissent."
In a world where borders are drawn tighter and walls are built higher, she said "I dissent."
In a world where fiction is told as truth and facts are twisted into lies, she said "I dissent."
And so, on a night when it feels like the pendulum has swung off its fulcrum, like there is no place to make a U-turn, like the darkness is winning, I will say - loudly so as to convince myself - I dissent.
For decades she stared unafraid into the faces of misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and bigotry, daring them to blink. She wrote reams and spoke volumes and did push-ups while her detractors... I don't know, ate cheeseburgers or whatever.
So because she did, I can. Because she did, I will.
Tonight feels like the end of something, but it doesn't have to be. This is a moment that, instead of being the death of hope, can be the birth of a renewed zeal. Giving up feels very easy, even warranted, but it also feels disrespectful to her memory. We can take this moment and turn it into a movement. We can, like the Notorious RBG, dissent.
We can, like her, dissent until the very breath leaves our bodies.
Thank you, Honorable Justice Ginsburg. You fought harder and longer than you should have had to, for us, and we are so grateful. Rest well; you earned it.
Oyez, oyez, oyez.
Tonight, we cry. But tomorrow, we rise.
Yesterday I finished the first draft of a new novel PEACE WOMEN. I’ll let it rest a month before I start polishing.
Today I start detailing the outline for the next one. It will take place at least 200 years in the future. The first step is to create that world. I work hard to make my fiction correspond to some “realistic” reality, a possible world, if imaginary. I don’t write fantasy.
And on my morning walk I realized I have a problem right away. I have been assuming that in the future governing of nations was by “the people”…that is, some form of democracy. BUT – I currently have developed deep concerns about that assumption. If the autocratic Donald Trump wins the Presidency of the United States for a second term it my view that the noble experiment in government “by the people” just isn’t in our genes. If so, then the future will more likely be a continuation of many forms of patriarchy. So although I can start a rough timeline, after November 3 (or thereabouts), the U.S. Presidential election, I may have to completely rethink where I had imagined my remaining books of THE PAX CHRONICLES would go!
My latest nonficiton book, War and Sex and Human Destiny, is a study of human sexual dimorphism. It is also a commentary on the ongoing working out of the titanic struggle now proceeding worldwide between patriarchy and liberal democracy.
This blog is written in response to an article about Vatican consultant Father James J. Martin who urged US priests not to tell their followers that a vote for Joe Biden for President is a mortal sin. Apparently some, or many, were doing so. Enough that he thought it necessary to address it. BTW: in the United States there is supposed to be a strict separation between church and state. The founding fathers realized the fatal danger of trying to co-mingle religion with a democratic republic.
I'm not surprised that a lot of priests would consider voting for Biden a mortal sin. They are members of an ancient and still very influential patriarchy. Biden represents liberal democracy....and liberal democracy and patriarchy are actually not compatible. Liberal democracy when fully mature confers human rights on everyone, including women. For example, it gives women the right of control over their own body. And giving rights to women is anathema by definition to a patriarchy. One or the other, over time, will have to give way.
That is the great struggle now across the globe: Patriarchy (in its many forms) vs. Liberal Democracy (still a new idea in the state of striving to achieve full maturity). That the Catholic Pope tells priests to refrain from telling citizens how to vote is very scary to all old guard Catholic patriarchs...a man who supports full rights for women, as Biden does, is a clear and present danger to any patriarchy.
There is a kind of sickness that can be triggered, especially in men, that relatess to a primal desire to be in control, to dominate rather than be dominated, and to use physical violence to achieve that control. It is often, maybe always, comingled with feelings of insecurity. In the novel I'm now writing I call that sickness #mania. A great deal of mania is on display around the world right now. Certainly in President Donald Trump's heavily-armed USA. And it causes susceptible men to do crazy and dangerous things. Mania is, in my novel, something humans must learn to control or it will ultimately lead to human annihilation.
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Dr. Judith Hand writes historical fiction, contemporary action/adventure, and screenplays. Hand earned her Ph.D. in biology from UCLA. Her studies included animal behavior and primatology. After completing a Smithsonian Post-doctoral Fellowship at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., she returned to UCLA as a research associate and lecturer. Her undergraduate major was in cultural anthropology. She worked as a technician in neurophysiology laboratories at UCLA and the Max Planck Institute, in Munich, Germany. As a student of animal communication, she has written scientific papers on the subject of social conflict resolution.
Astronomy image credit: NASA: Full Hemisphere Views of Earth at Night.