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These Disunited States

Spurred by the Supreme Court, a Nation Divides Along a Red-Blue Axis

On abortion, climate change, guns and much more, two Americas — one liberal, one conservative — are moving in opposite directions.

The Supreme Court’s decisions have accelerated a division of the nation along policy and ideological lines.
The Supreme Court’s decisions have accelerated a division of the nation along policy and ideological lines.Credit…Shuran Huang for The New York Times
Jonathan Weisman

By Jonathan Weisman

July 2, 2022Updated 9:36 a.m. ET

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Pressed by Supreme Court decisions diminishing rights that liberals hold dear and expanding those cherished by conservatives, the United States appears to be drifting apart into separate nations, with diametrically opposed social, environmental and health policies.

Call these the Disunited States.

The most immediate breaking point is on abortion, as about half the country will soon limit or ban the procedure while the other half expands or reinforces access to reproductive rights. But the ideological fault lines extend far beyond that one topic, to climate change, gun control and L.G.B.T.Q. and voting rights.

On each of those issues, the country’s Northeast and West Coast are moving in the opposite direction from its midsection and Southeast — with a few exceptions, like the islands of liberalism in Illinois and Colorado, and New Hampshire’s streak of conservatism.

Even where public opinion is more mixed, like in Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, the Republican grip on state legislatures has ensured that policies in those states conform with those of the reddest states in the union, rather than strike a middle ground.

The tearing at the seams has been accelerated by the six-vote conservative majority in the Supreme Court, which has embraced a muscular states-rights federalism. In the past 10 days the court has erased the constitutional right to an abortionnarrowed the federal government’s ability to regulate climate-warming pollution and blocked liberal states and cities from barring most of their citizens from carrying concealed gunsoutside of their homes.

“They’ve produced this Balkanized house divided, and we’re only beginning to see how bad that will be,” said David Blight, a Yale historian who specializes in the era of American history that led to the Civil War.

Nettie Hunt and her daughter Nickie on the steps of the Supreme Court after the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.
Nettie Hunt and her daughter Nickie on the steps of the Supreme Court after the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.Credit…Corbis

Historians have struggled to find a parallel moment, raising the 19th-century fracturing over slavery; the clashes between the executive branch and the Supreme Court in the New Deal era of the 1930s; the fierce battles over civil rights during Reconstruction and in the 1950s and early 1960s; and the rise of armed, violent groups like the Weather Underground in the late ’60s.

For some people, the divides have grown so deep and so personal that they have felt compelled to pick up and move from one America to the other.

Many conservatives have taken to social media to express thanks over leaving high-tax, highly regulated blue states for red states with smaller government and, now, laws prohibiting abortion.

We Americans Are Dancing on the Titanic. Our Iceberg Is Not Far Away
Francine Prose
/
Guardian UK

The greatest shock of all would be to wake up and find that while we were driving the kids to soccer practice and enjoying cocktails, autocracy took hold

By now the US supreme court’s overturning of Roe v Wade hardly comes as a surprise. We’ve known this was imminent since the leak, a month or so ago, of Justice Alito’s memo. And yet it still delivers a profound shock – in fact, a series of shocks. Stunned, we ask, how could this happen? as if we hadn’t known, for weeks, that it was a more or less done deal.

What’s shocking is the actualization of the scary Handmaid’s Tale scenario: our growing suspicion that Margaret Atwood’s fictional dystopia – a society in which women are forced to bear children and brutally punished for disobedience – is nearer to becoming a reality than we might have imagined. What’s shocking is this proof of the court’s desire and ability to control and punish women, to deprive us of our constitutional rights. What’s shocking is the justices’ reckless disregard for the additional suffering that this ruling will cause poor women, women of color and those living in rural areas. What’s shocking is the memory of three of the current justices swearing, under oath, to preserve the precedent established by Roe v Wade.

What’s shocking is the realization that we are living in a country that now boasts some of the world’s most misogynist and repressive laws. What’s shocking is the knowledge that the institution I grew up seeing as committed to the most precious guarantees of the constitution and to the highest and most sensibly bipartisan ideals of justice is now in the hands of a powerful faction of extremists.

But what shocks me most is the fact that, according to surveys that keep surfacing and being reported, a substantial majority of Americans support abortion rights and oppose the outright ban. According to the latest Gallup poll, 85% of the population believes that abortion should be legal under some circumstances. What’s noteworthy is not that high number so much as the discrepancy between that figure and the substance of supreme court ruling. What’s shocking is yet another fact that we have known or suspected for some time: that we are living under minority rule, that, in some of the most essential ways, the wishes of the majority no longer determine government policy, and that it has become a kind of joke to suggest that our government, at the highest level, is responding to “the will of the people”.

Meanwhile these shocks are intensified and amplified by how little we seem willing or able to do about the slow-motion stealth with which the seeds of autocracy are being planted. “We’re living under minority rule,” we say, and then go on to plan the kids’ birthday parties, to try to find a job and pay the bills, to complain at the gas pump, see our friends, celebrate the good weather and the new freedom occasioned by the latest downturn in the pandemic. Social media is abuzz with valuable – and necessary – suggestions for circumventing the new measures: how to obtain abortion pills from abroad, how to help women travel to states where abortion is still permitted. But I have yet to see a truly viable and broad-based plan for influencing the legislators of the so-called “trigger states” that have outlawed abortion in the immediate wake of the supreme court ruling.

It’s hard not to notice that our passivity is being encouraged by the mainstream media’s commitment to “fair and balanced” reporting. In the coverage I watched on the night of the ruling – not only on the primetime channels but on PBS – equal time was given to the exultation of the “pro-life” (that regrettable term suggesting that its opponents are anti-life) faction and to the anger and disappointment of women who wish only to maintain control over our own bodies. How can it not add to our sense that the country is equally divided, deeply and hopeless factionalized, and therefore that nothing can be done? In fact the two sides are not equal, but one side is grievously underrepresented in the places where it matters most.

It’s never been more important to insist on our rights – not only as women, not only as Americans, but as human beings. We need to talk to our friends, make plans, apply unceasing pressure on our state and local governments, hold every political candidate accountable. We may need to forget our pressing worries over inflation and gasoline prices just long enough to take to the streets, with unceasing frequency and in greater numbers, in order to make our beliefs and our voices heard.

Because the greatest shock of all would be to wake up one morning and find that while we were driving the kids to soccer practice and enjoying that welcome after-work cocktail, more and more of our rights had been stripped away, as has happened in so many countries in which democracy vanished, overnight and in darkness –when, as it were, no one was looking. The overturning of Roe v Wade should shock us even more than it already does – shock us into looking beyond the dance floor of the Titanic and spotting that iceberg, looming in our path, not so very far away.

After Rapes by Russian Soldiers, a Painful Quest for Justice
Valerie Hopkins
/
The New York Times

Women who were attacked in a village near Kyiv yearn for justice. “I want them to be punished,” said one victim. But Ukrainian officials face daunting challenges in prosecuting such crimes.

Every day, Viktoriya has to walk past the house where she was raped by a Russian soldier the same age as her teenage son.

Russian troops arrived in her two-street village, near the Kyiv suburb of Borodianka, in early March. Soon afterward, she said, two of them raped her and a neighbor, killed two men, including her neighbor’s husband, and destroyed several homes.

“If you do not think about it all, you can live,” Viktoriya said in an interview in the village on a recent rainy day. “But it is certainly not forgotten.”

She is cooperating with prosecutors because she said she wants the perpetrators to feel the “lifelong pain” they left her with. “I want them to be punished,” she said.

Whether they ever will be is uncertain and may take years to determine. Rapes were among the many atrocities Russian troops inflicted on Ukrainian civilians during weeks of occupation in the Kyiv suburbs and elsewhere. But the challenges of prosecuting the assaults are daunting: Evidence is limited, and the victims are traumatized and sometimes reluctant to testify about their assault, if they even report it at all. The accused soldiers have mostly disappeared.

Ukrainian prosecutors say they are investigating thousands of war crimes, including execution-style killings and the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. Among them, “dozens” involve rapes, said Kateryna Duchenko, who oversees rape cases at the office of Ukraine’s general prosecutor — a low percentage that represents only a fraction of the suffering. The oldest victim was 82 years old, she said.

Still, the Ukrainian authorities are trying to seek justice for episodes of sexual violence. Last Thursday, in a different case from Viktoriya’s, prosecutors opened the first trial of rape as a war crime. At a closed hearing at a court in Kyiv, they charged a Russian soldier with breaking into a home in Bohdanivka, a village east of the capital, raping a woman in the presence of her child and murdering her husband. The assault took place the day after Viktoriya and her neighbor say that they were raped in their village on the other side of Kyiv.

The soldier on trial, Mikhail Romanov, 32, was identified by investigators using social media, according to news media reports, and the survivor recognized him. He is being tried in absentia, but the case will nevertheless send an important signal to victims of wartime sexual violence, said Yulia Gorbunova, a senior researcher on Ukraine at Human Rights Watch.

“It shows that the government is serious about prosecuting rape cases,” she said.

Russian forces retreated from the areas surrounding Kyiv, including Viktoriya’s village, throughout March. In the weeks that followed, Ukrainian authorities were inundated with accounts of atrocities, according to Lyudmyla Denisova, who was serving as the country’s top human rights advocate at the time. From April 1 until May 15, her office’s psychological help hotline received 1,500 calls from people seeking assistance to cope with sexual crimes, torture and abuse, said Oleksandra Kvitko, who manages the hotline.

“A mother called to report that her 9-month-old had been raped with a candle,” Ms. Kvitko said. “They tied the mother up and forced her to watch.” The mother had called saying that she wanted to take her child and jump out of the window. Ms. Kvitko said it was her job to give the mother a reason to live.

The hotline has registered hundreds of calls about rape, but many of the victims were in a state of fragile mental health, Ms. Kvitko said, and were not ready to provide official testimony to the authorities.

To investigate rapes, prosecutors collect whatever physical evidence is available and take testimony from the victim. A medical examination can also serve as evidence, but when rapes occur on occupied territories, an exam is often not possible immediately, and if enough time passes, it may not produce traces of a violent sexual encounter.

In the absence of DNA matches, prosecutors try to rely on other forensic evidence — such as torn clothing, and evidence of cuts and bruises on the victim.

Even when it is possible to determine a perpetrator’s identity, most of them are not in Ukrainian custody, as was the case with Mr. Romanov, the Russian soldier who was put on trial last week.

The Russian Ministry of Defense did not respond to requests for comment on Mr. Romanov’s case. It has denied allegations that its soldiers commit war crimes.

Viktoriya, 42, and several neighbors provided accounts of the night of the assault to The New York Times on condition that only their first names be used. Viktoriya asked that her village not be named because there are so few people in it that outsiders would be able to identify her, and she feared harassment.

On the night of March 8, Viktoriya said, there was a knock at her door. Three Russian soldiers came in, reeking of alcohol.

They forced Viktoriya to accompany them to a neighboring house, where they had planned to take away another woman, but they decided she was “too chubby,” she said.

The drunken trio took her down the village road to a third house, where a neighbor named Valentyna lived with her daughter, Natasha, 43; Natasha’s husband, Oleksandr; and their 15-year-old son.

When Oleksandr opened the door, the soldiers asked for his wife. “I’m also Russian,” he protested, telling them that he had been born and raised in Crimea. Viktoriya watched as he pleaded with them to take him instead.

One of the soldiers shot him in his doorway, she said.

The soldiers marched Viktoriya and Natasha at gunpoint to the home the Russians were using as their headquarters. A soldier named Oleg took Natasha, Viktoriya said, and one named Danya took her. “When he was leading me there, I asked how old he was,’’ she said. “He said he was 19 years old.”

“I told him my son was 19,” she said. Oleg, the commander who assaulted Natasha, was 21.

Viktoriya said that she had asked Danya if he had a girlfriend. He replied that he did, that she was 17, and that he had never had sex with her.

“He was so cruel, he treated me not as a woman, as a mother, but as a prostitute,” Viktoriya said. “He raped me, and in front of my eyes, they killed Oleksandr so cruelly. I hated them so much. I wish they would die along with Putin.”

In an interview in the entrance to the house where Oleksandr was killed, Valentyna said that her daughter had returned in the early morning hours, looking for her son. She wasn’t able to say much.

“She was like a stone, she walled herself off,” Valentyna said.

The family buried Oleksandr in their backyard, near a birch sapling. Valentyna had bought one tree for each family member, expecting them to grow for years before any of them died.

Police investigators came to exhume the body a month later, and the women gave statements about what had happened to them that they hope will lead to a trial. Prosecutors confirmed that they were investigating the assaults as well as Oleksandr’s murder. A neighbor, Viktor, confirmed to The Times that Viktoriya had come to his house that night and told him that she had been raped. He said she stayed until the Russians left — fearing the soldiers would search for her in her home.

Natasha’s relatives convinced her to leave the village with her son. She is in temporary accommodation now in a small Austrian town where neither of them speak the language. She is in touch with a Ukrainian psychologist, a fellow refugee, with whom she speaks daily.

Her mother, Valentyna, lives alone now, except for her goats, chickens, and cats. The Russians killed her dog on March 19, 10 days before they retreated from the village. Despite the conservatism and stigma in Ukraine over rape, she encouraged Viktoriya and her own daughter to speak to a reporter about what had happened to them.

Viktoriya has remained in the village, living on the same road where she was held at gunpoint. Signs of the occupation are still present. Outside a home near the village entrance, someone had painted a stark white V, a symbol of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Nearby, another fence bore an inexpertly painted “CCCP,” the Cyrillic acronym for “USSR.”

But along the rest of the road, the signs are plaintive appeals for mercy from the Russian soldiers: “People live here.” “Children.” “Elderly.”

Viktoriya said that she didn’t want to leave Ukraine without her husband, who, as a man of military age, cannot leave the country until the end of the war. It was difficult remaining in the village, she said, because everyone knew what had happened to her. She believes that those who left during the war and returned have blamed the ones who stayed for the destruction.

“This war was supposed to reconcile the people, and they got worse,” she said. “This war broke everyone’s psyche.”

She has resumed smoking, which she said she had quit before the war. She is also taking sedatives. She hopes her tormentors will be punished. But no trial, she said, will be able to answer the questions she still asks:

“Why do they have such aggression against our people? Why did they come here, burn people out of their homes, and bring grief?”

Makes You Smile

In church last Sunday, I heard a sweet
elderly lady in a nearby pew saying a
prayer. She was so innocent and sincere
that lijust had to share it with you:
“Dear Lord: This last year has been very tough. You
have taken my favorite actors Sean Connery, Kirk
Douglas, and Diana Rigg; my favorite television host,
Alex Trebek; Carl Reiner from Your Show of Shows’;
my favorite singer from the ’50s, Little Richard; even
Charlie Daniels and Kenny Rogers my two favorite
country-western singers; and from sports you took Gale
Sayers and my favorite basketball player Kobe Bryant.”
“I just wanted you to know that my favorite politicians
are Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and
Lindsey Graham.

Judge Jackson Takes Her Seat

Ketanji Brown Jackson Becomes First Black Female Supreme Court Justice

Annie Karni

June 30, 2022

Annie Karni

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WASHINGTON — Ketanji Brown Jackson took the judicial oath just after noon on Thursday, becoming the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Justice Jackson, 51, was confirmed in April, when the Senate voted 53 to 47 on her nomination. She is replacing Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 83, who stepped down with the conclusion of the court’s current term.

Justice Jackson took both a constitutional oath, administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and a judicial oath, administered by Justice Breyer, making her the nation’s 116th justice and sixth woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. The brief swearing-in ceremony took place in the West Conference Room at the Supreme Court, before a small gathering of Judge Jackson’s family, including her two daughters. Her husband, Dr. Patrick G. Jackson, held the two Bibles on which she swore: a family Bible and a King James Version that is the property of the court.

“I’m pleased to welcome Justice Jackson to the court and to our common calling,” Chief Justice Roberts said and shook her hand. He added that there would be a formal investiture in the fall, but the oaths would “allow her to undertake her duties, and she’s been anxious to get to them without any further delay.”

Justice Jackson made no statement.

Her rise to the court will not change its ideological balance — the newly expanded conservative wing will retain its 6-to-3 majority.

She joins at a time of sharp polarization about the court, especially in the wake of its ruling striking down Roe v. Wade and ending the constitutional right to abortion, and in the wake of rulings in which the court has shown its deep skepticism of the power of administrative agencies to address major issues facing the country.

Minutes after Justice Jackson’s swearing-in, anti-abortion protesters staging a peaceful sit-in were arrested outside the Supreme Court.

The Biden administration and Justice Jackson have underscored the historic import of her elevation to the nation’s highest court.

The Latest Jan 6 Public Testimony- Explosive

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