Here is what I learned from a wise old woman. She had fought many battles for the rights of minorities. She marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Her name is lost in my memory, but I still can see her weary, earnest face, her work-worn hands, and I can hear her deep, soft voice.
I was seated in a crowded room filled with several dozen students, representing colleges and universities from across the United States, gathered in Washington, D.C., in 1963, to try to influence their members of Congress to support what was to become the Civil Rights Act.
This woman began our discussion of how we should approach our representatives by encouraging us to try to express our own definition of politics. A variety of phrases rained down. We heard the words “influence,” “power,” even “corruption.”
Finally she spoke. Politics, she said, is the pursuit of power, of control over other people’s lives. She spoke of such control and about the meaning of liberty, being free from oppressive restrictions imposed by others in authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views. She emphasized the necessity of a moral code to drive political decisions.
This struggle between control and freedom defines our politics and our lives. Today we are more than witnesses to the struggle; we are participants.
Vested in the Supreme Court of the United States, nine women and men, is enormous power, control over how we conduct our lives. These nine jurists serve until they die or choose to retire. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wise and respected associate justice, died last week, creating a vacant seat on this all-powerful court. In our system of government, the president nominates a candidate to fill the vacancy. With the Senate’s approval, this candidate joins the court.
Those whose numbers endow them with power are eager to pounce, so they can retain and expand their control over others’ lives. So is the president, a pathetically insecure creature obsessed with personal power. At this moment, he faces a daunting battle to be re-elected.
Such a vacancy on the high court also occurred a few years ago during an election year, several months before the end of the administration of his predecessor. Those in power insisted that in an election year, the new president should choose a nominee.
This, too, is an election year, but those with the power now choose to reverse their position, so we Americans once again find ourselves in the midst of a struggle.
Fairness is not a consideration. Power is. Control. For a lifetime, Americans trusted the Supreme Court to serve us as a politically neutral decider of our fate. This changed 20 years ago when five justices handed the presidency to the worst president in history up to that point. We now understand that the Supreme Court is as political as the Senate.
Power. Control. Morality?
Today, some of these senators, the ones holding the power to control our lives, are facing re-election challenges. Others and their president are busily trying to corrupt the election.
Which will win? Power? Control? Morality?