I have just gotten off the phone with constitutional scholar Linda Monk. She and I became friends years ago when I invited her on my radio show. She was on my show several times and was always insightful. I initially interviewed her about her book, The Words We Live By, a book on the Constitution. An alternative title would be A Simple, Thoughtful Guide to the Constitution and Why It Is Essential.
Her follow-up book, The Bill of Rights, the User’s Guide, was as excellent and fabulous as the original book. Anyway, I called her to discuss the 14th Amendment.
First of all, let me say that Linda Monk is brilliant. She is a Harvard-trained lawyer. She grew up in the Deep South, which gives her a deep sense of right and wrong. As with all of our conversations, we wandered through recent events. Although I wanted to talk about the fourteenth amendment specifically, we talked about many different things, including gerrymandering in North Carolina. We discussed corrupt Clarence Thomas and his misdeeds. We also discussed the overwhelming flood of legislation that can generally be described as, “I hate you because you are different.”
Our conversation was delightful. It was filled with lots of laughs and information. At the end of the conversation, as I hung up the phone, I felt somewhat depressed. As a progressive, how could you not?
Over the past 60 years, progressives have slowly but steadily pushed this country to be kinder, more equal, and more accepting of anyone who is not a white male. We have more equality for women. We have (almost, but getting there) equal pay for women and minorities. We have passed laws that say you cannot discriminate against pregnant women, the LGBTQ community, or anyone because of their religion.
Republicans in many states, including Texas and Florida, have passed laws in the last several weeks to erase all of this. Republicans are trying to tell teachers what they can and cannot teach. They are trying to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies. They are even telling teenagers who they are permitted to be in their lives.
It is enough to make you want to throw in the towel. Just shake your head and say it is enough. I am done. But, of course, that is what they want. Republicans want you to throw in the towel. They want us to feel helpless, overwhelmed, and defeated.
I am reminded of that fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman many years ago. Muhammad Ali was towards the end of his career. George Foreman was a mountain of a man. He had knocked out Joe Fraser and Ken Norton, whom Muhammad Ali struggled to defeat. Not only did Foreman knock them out, but he also knocked them out quickly in the early rounds. From the opening bell, in the Ali-Foreman fight, it appeared that Muhammad Ali was outmatched. Foreman seemed to be landing hard blow after hard blow.
In the third round, Ali employed what would later be called “rope-a-dope.” Muhammad Ali would retreat to the corner and cover-up. He would taunt Foreman (“Is that as hard as you can hit? My mother hits harder!”) and allow Foreman to punch him as hard as possible. The blows would glance off Ali’s arms and shoulders. Foreman had punched himself out by the sixth round. Then in the middle of the seventh round, Ali saw his opportunity against his exhausted foe and countered with a flurry of punches that knocked out Foreman.
We need to be more like Ali. We cannot let these Republican tactics affect us. We must cover up, study our opponent and wait for our opportunity to strike (not physically). We need to vote!