It Has Always Been Up To Us
Or: How to go on after the Supreme Court's no-good very bad week
Okay, first, since Twitter continues to Implode, Somewhat Like That Submersible But Unfortunately Probably Elon Won’t Himself Actually Get Imploded…
How to find me:
I’m up in Vermont right now, where I’m hoping our airbnb doesn’t get hit by lightning the way it was last summer when we were here.
The color of the sky here has, unfortunately, not been the color of the sky at the new place everyone’s fleeing to on account of twitter getting shittier by the moment. You can find me there too, https://bsky.app/profile/amynewell.bsky.social
You can also find me on Mastodon: https://mastodon.social/@amynewell
And on LinkedIn, where I’m increasingly posting shit that isn’t strictly speaking, linkedin kind of shit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amynewell/
as you can see, I’ve snagged @amynewell pretty much everywhere I can, whether or not I’m actually using it, except on the photo or fan or patron oriented sites where I’ve snagged @amywearsboots pretty successfully.
If you’re reading this newsletter, however, the easiest place to find me is here, by subscribing.
I promise not to spam you, because I’m far too lazy to write spammy copy and I’m morally opposed to using an LLM to write my spammy copy for me. Plus I prefer not to sound like an ill-informed overconfident white man except when I’m trying to be funny, so an LLM isn’t really gonna help me out.
I hand-craft every single word, while soaking myself in, alternately, Islay scotch that’s had its hops peat-dried for a hundred hours, local small-batch turmeric-ginger kombucha, pour-over coffee hand-delivered by my husband, or a negroni with a Spanish biodynamic red vermouth.
Finally, if you live in the Boston area or are traveling through, please find me in person! You can reply to this email and let me know you’ll be around and we can make a plan. We can soak ourselves in beverages together! I even have seltzer and plain water on offer!
Next: I Feel Shitty, and Also What Are The Tarot Cards Trying To Tell Me?
I’m sitting here writing this without any particular idea what I’m going to say because it’s both smoky and raining outside and I have no other plans. Also, I’m feeling incredibly anxious about my path right now and I pulled the 7 of cups this morning, which suggests that I’m maybe not grounded in reality right now (no shit) and yesterday I pulled the hermit, which suggested that maybe I should go hike the PCT and/or grapple with my ambivalence about my direction in life.
What both cards suggested is that if I’m not a little bit careful, this period of my life could end up with me doing more drifting/dreaming than walking/doing, and I feel uneasy about that, so I decided to do a thing, which is to write this, because every issue of this that I send out actually does something in the world. Every time. Usually I even hear about a couple of the things that it does! The magic of showing up is real!
The magic of showing up is real.
The Supreme Court!
The Supreme Court were absolute fucking dickheads this week, you might have noticed. (If you are not up-to-date on this, I got u). This is because wealthy christo-fascist capitalists have been steadily purchasing the Supreme Court for decades, and the people on the court who they have bought off had to come through with the goods, which they have. Of course we should point out that this is obviously a completely illegitimate court and we could point out to the national Dems that perhaps it is time to pack it with people who are not shills for white supremacist billionaires, but this does not seem to be a thing Biden or any other national Democratic leader has said they are interested in doing, so let’s not hold our breaths that finally, finally they’ll see the light and take action. (No, I’m not telling you voting isn’t still important.)
In response, here are some things I can offer.
On student debt:
Haymarket books is offering the e-book of Can’t Pay Won’t Pay: The Case for Economic Disobedience and Debt Abolition for free right now.
Also check out The Debt Collective, who made the book, and who also organize student loan strikes.
Consider reading Debt: The First Five Thousand Years, by David Graeber (disclosure I have not read this yet, but I read another of his books recently and this is gonna be good, I promise).
Annoyed by prominent businesspeople yapping about the evils of student debt forgiveness? Enjoy looking up all your current and/or former employers and/or various blowhards in ProPublica’s database of PPP business loans. Two of my former employers borrowed over half a million dollars each and had those loans completely forgiven a year later. I can’t speak to what they did with that money or whether they would have laid people off if they hadn’t gotten it then or why they didn’t have to pay it back, and I want to be clear that I don’t necessarily fault a particular business the money grab in the first place because that was truly the fog of war and we all thought we were completely fucked, but I do fault the government for just forgiving it all, especially for businesses who are in fact profitable. Like what, no needs-testing at all, just wholesale forgiveness?
On Affirmative Action:
I’m sure you’ve all seen the stats about how many white Harvard students are making use of an affirmative action policy called Legacy Admissions,. Disclosure, I went to Harvard but was not a legacy although actually my older cousin also went to Harvard so maybe I sort of was? I always figured I got in because I came from a crappy little town in Brevard County, Florida, the birthplace also of Moms For Liberty, a right-wing hate group, and the county where a former SS officer died peacefully at home after years of leading Kennedy Space Center.
Anyhow white women generally turn out to have been the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action policies even though 70% of white women vehemently oppose them. Nice work, white ladies. Let’s DO BETTER. Also pretty dumb to fuck up your own benefit just to screw some other folks over, all the while hoping the patriarchs will protect you instead of forcing you to have unwanted children, forcing you out of the workplace and into the home, where you will be force-fed a steady diet of trad-wife propaganda until your liver bursts.
Anyways, I’ll just mention again that Our History Has Always Been Contraband, is also a free download and it’s a great time to learn more about Black history and the rich legacy of Black Studies.
What else can someone do besides, like, read? Donate to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) instead of other schools. Also instead of telling your recruiters to recruit exclusively from Harvard, Yale, and Stanford (especially Stanford), tell your recruiters to preferentially recruit from HBCUs.
Is this legal? I have no fucking idea, I’m not an employment lawyer, and to be honest, IDGAF because lots of shit I think is the morally correct thing to do is increasingly illegal. So, like, eventually (see below) we may find that we have to do more and more illegal things. Fun fact, my town’s teachers’ union spent years trying to get a contract but it’s illegal for municipal employees to strike in Massachusetts. When they finally did do a wildcat strike, lo and behold, THEY GOT A CONTRACT. So, anyways, here's a list of HBCUs.
On Bigotry against LGBTQ folk:
Okay so honestly I’m writing this section last and I’m a bit tapped out. Here are 4 things I’ll say anyways.
Respectability politics is always a mistake and it will not save the ‘love is love’ respectable gays now. Also throwing your comrades under the bus is a bad look, and if you do that I am putting a hex on you that you get neither laid by nor loved by other queer people, even respectable ones, ever again.
Stonewall WAS a riot, but there’s also real and complex history to know there. As usual, allow me to offer you a book, but there are lots of other good resources.
Still not a lawyer, and still DGAF, but aren’t the rest of us allowed to freely turn away bigots now? Can we declare heterosexuality to be a sin? (Yes, I love some heterosexual people, but I can love the sinner and hate the sin, right?)
Corporations don’t give a fuck about queer people except as labor or customers, because corporations don’t give a fuck about anyone except in so much as their labor can be extracted, their attention and data sold, and their money acquired. Corporate DEI efforts won’t save us, because they can’t.
I dunno, that’s all I have on this right now. More in some future newsletter.
On the Court Bullshit Generally:
We’re gonna need to fight this, and some of the fighting is gonna have to be in the streets.
It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice.
The Constitution gave no rights to working people: no right to work less than twelve hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions. Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight-hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance.
Still, knowing the nature of the political and judicial system of this country, its inherent bias against the poor, against people of color, against dissidents, we cannot become dependent on the courts, or on our political leadership. Our culture--the media, the educational system--tries to crowd out of our political consciousness everything except who will be elected President and who will be on the Supreme Court, as if these are the most important decisions we make. They are not. They deflect us from the most important job citizens have, which is to bring democracy alive by organizing, protesting, engaging in acts of civil disobedience that shake up the system. That is why Cindy Sheehan's dramatic stand in Crawford, Texas, leading to 1,600 anti-war vigils around the country, involving 100,000 people, is more crucial to the future of American democracy than the mock hearings on Justice Roberts or the ones to come on Judge Alito.
Let us not be disconsolate over the increasing control of the court system by the right wing.
The courts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees one way or the other, unless pushed by the people. Those words engraved in the marble of the Supreme Court, "Equal Justice Before the Law," have always been a sham.
No Supreme Court, liberal or conservative, will stop the war in Iraq, or redistribute the wealth of this country, or establish free medical care for every human being. Such fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence--an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--be fulfilled.
(Hat tip to Spencer Beswick of Empty Hands History for the Zinn article!)
It’s always been up to us. It was never up to RBG, it was never up to Obama, it was never up to AOC or Al Gore or Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or anyone else we wish it were up to besides us.
And that’s fucking scary. If it’s up to us that means we have to take real risks. And I’m gonna be honest here, I don’t wanna.
The other day I was walking down the street in my neighborhood with Max and someone gave me a mean look, and later I realized it was someone from town government who sees me as an enemy, because I am a member of the progressive caucus and he doesn’t like the progressive caucus or our values or our votes.
I have the tiniest role possible in town government now, I’m one of 255 elected Town Meeting Members, and even that is enough to make people actively hostile towards me. I don’t want people to be hostile to me on the street. It’s the tiniest amount of bad feeling and I’m being a total fucking baby about it. How in hell am I supposed to DO MORE WHEN EVEN THE LITTLE I’VE DONE has made me a target and I don’t like it at all?
I guess this is where I circle back to that 7 of cups and the Hermit, who rejects easy answers and vague commitments and keeps walking forward, holding the light of truth. It’s okay for me to feel like a fucking baby and hate that there’s no way to fight for human rights against an inhumane system without putting myself at risk1. But it’s not okay to just live in faux activist lalaland (delusion, the 7 of cups) and not actually do anything useful.
It’s okay to hate having to risk. It’s okay to think carefully about what is worth risking, what I can afford to risk, when I can afford to risk it, and what is worth risking it for. But it’s not okay to stop risking.
If we are not willing to risk what we have, we will end up with nothing left to risk.
Thanks for reading, xo, Amy
The random PS part:
PS My favorite thing I tweeted this week: “Why do I hate capitalism so much recently? I have determined that it’s turning the sky orange, and it also seems to have purchased the Supreme Court and I don’t like the decisions it is making for my body."
PPS. If you have stuff you’re relying on getting delivered soon, please take into account that UPS strike I told you about because it could be imminent. Also tell your UPS driver you think they deserve a fair contract.
The end part, where I ask for replies, shares, and money
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oh my god THE RISK THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT LIKE ME! yes I recognize this is not an actual risk, but when those people have power and I keep pissing them off that eventually turns into risk; if it’s not risky you’re actually not doing it right