Anniversaries, our current moment, and looking ahead
Finding a moment to breathe in the middle of it all.
I went down to the National Mall on Saturday, to see some of the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington events, and I took in the crowd — the people who traveled to be here, the locals, the passersby who stopped once they saw what was happening. It was quite hot by time I got there, and most people had taken to the shaded park and walkway on each side of the Reflecting Pool.
The speeches that I heard had a sense of urgency — about justice for Black Americans and, more broadly, for all Americans — that made clear that our current moment needed to be addressed from the microphone as much as the past.
As The Washington Post reported:
“If I could speak to my grandfather today, I would say, ‘I’m sorry we still have to be here to rededicate ourselves to finishing your work, and ultimately realizing your hidden dream,’” King’s granddaughter Yolanda Renee King told the crowd.
From voting rights to criminal justice to economic justice and more, there is no doubt that she is right. The stories of continued Black inequality and injustices were described in stark terms by organizational leaders, legal leaders, business leaders, and more. There also were leaders from allied organizations — personifying and discussing intentional intersectionality — speaking about the importance of the 1963 march and its legacy and applicability today.
I’m really glad that I went.
It was good for me to stop and think this weekend.
To think about what this 60th anniversary meant; the 50th anniversary, which was during the Obama administration and happened a few years after I’d moved back to DC; and the original moment etched into history.
It was also good to think about the larger picture in the country, both today and its past. As Heather Cox Richardson wrote about that day, Saturday was also the anniversary of the date the 19th Amendment, extending the right to vote to women, was certified.
That right was established more than 100 years ago. And yet, many politicians and pundits were caught off guard by women’s response (not women solely and not universally, of course, but essentially) at the ballot box to the overturning of Roe v. Wade — despite polling that told them otherwise.
Now, we’re seeing the response to a string of abortion-related electoral defeats for the right: The opponents of a reproductive rights initiative have decided to take advantage of their offices to put a thumb on the scale.
After the Ohio Republican Party suffered what I described as “its worst statewide defeat” since 2018 in early August when it lost a statewide vote to make amending the state’s constitution more difficult, the Republican majority on the Ohio Ballot Board decided to try to poison the reproductive amendment by approving a rewritten summary of the amendment that voters will see in the voting booth. The new summary, prepared by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office, just happens to reflect his ideological, anti-abortion aims — despite this having been a citizen-led measure by those seeking to protect reproductive rights.
Even the Associated Press described it as an extreme move:
The original language seeks to assure access to abortion through what is called viability, when the fetus is able to survive outside the womb. It states, “abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability,” but not in cases where a treating physician deems the procedure necessary to protect the life or health of the pregnant person.
LaRose’s summary turned that section on its head. It now says the amendment would “always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician’s determination” the life and health exception applies.
Here is the changed version that the Ohio Ballot Board, of which LaRose is chair, approved on a 3-2 partisan vote:
Just an obvious and incredible disregard for the voters and the initiative process.
While most of the coverage focused on the “fetus” to “unborn child” change, you can see it was much more than that. Ohio Capital Journal’s report explains many of the changes between the two summaries.
The opponents of Ohio’s reproductive rights measure will keep fighting through November, but voters will have the final say.
Finally, I am still thinking about the article I published Friday, and the attacks that trans people and the larger LGBTQ community face today.
I just want to add to what I already have written how grateful I am for the transgender and non-binary journalists and other writers who cover issues of legal and cultural discrimination and hate regularly. They can be tough issues for anyone to cover, and all the more so for those whose lives are being directly affected. It’s an extremely tough role in an unusually toxic time covering a topic that is the subject of an unprecedented attack. I’m so glad that there are an increasing number of trans and non-binary people either working as full-time journalists or otherwise giving much of their time to document this moment publicly with the urgency it requires. They are essential voices — both to the public dialogue, but also within newsrooms themselves.
While there are many such voices, for now, I just want to highlight the almost unfathomable job that Erin Reed has done this year of covering the anti-trans legislative wave, both at her newsletter and on social media.
She has done an amazing service to us all, and I’m so grateful for her work.
As I thought about all of that over the weekend, it was pretty obvious that there is a tough, long road ahead.
And yet, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, hearing people speak from the stage who had been in the audience in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 26, 1963, I found a moment to breathe.
In that moment, I decided to appreciate just how much came before me and how our current difficulties or even crises are just that: current.
They are tomorrow’s history. What we do now — what we all do as people, what those who can vote do as voters, what our elected and appointed leaders choose to do — is what will determine how we look back on today.
Law Dork with Chris Geidner brings you independent, reader-supported legal and political journalism that seeks to hold government and other public officials accountable. Support this reporting by becoming a paid or free subscriber today.