We must defend our progress or lose it

It’s all coming at us too fast — just as the tech pioneers intended. Journalist Kara Swisher writes in her terrific memoir “Burn Book” that tech innovators two and three decades ago were not big on safety tools. “They needed to anticipate consequences more. Or at all,” she says. Instead, their ethos was expressed on early Facebook office posters: “Move fast and break things.” Judging by the current state of social media, they succeeded.

Like many people, I am addicted to the platform once called Twitter, despite Elon Musk turning it into a sewer pipe of hate and disinformation. I follow some smart people there, including Swisher, a witty lesbian who knows all the tech CEOs and talks bluntly to them.

Breaking things is also the evident mission of the Republican Party. Mitch McConnell, stepping down as Senate Minority leader at the end of this year, was successful in packing the Supreme Court with right-wing justices and destroying the comity of the Senate in service of raw power. House Speaker Mike Johnson, a creepy theocrat who aided Trump’s January 6 insurrection and whose razor-thin majority is hostage to its most extreme members, will only take action on the floor if someone forces him.

American politics is epitomized by Trump’s recent visit to the Texas border where he baselessly claimed that countries like “the Congo” are emptying their jails and “insane asylums” and dumping the inmates here. Trump spoke of a “migrant crime wave,” despite the fact that immigrants to America commit crimes at a lower rate than people born here.

Trump and his mob are the crime wave, eagerly spreading an epidemic of meanness and ignorance.

There is increasing talk of a “ruthlessness gap” between Republicans and Democrats. As Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Republicans pretend they can save in-vitro fertilization while giving frozen embryos the same legal standing as children. They can’t. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), in blocking a bill to protect IVF, claimed it would lead to human-animal hybrids. It’s time for politicians to stop dabbling in science and medicine, and for voters to stop being so easily manipulated. Considering the number of email scams we all receive, we should have learned greater skepticism by now.

Progress is always followed by setbacks. Swisher quotes French philosopher Paul Virilio: “When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane, you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution.” Similarly, when you invent democracy, you invent demagogues.

“The only thing standing between freedom and the TOTAL OBLITERATION of our country is your endless gullibility,” Trump wrote to his supporters. “From the bottom of my heart, I’m asking for you to stand with me just one more time.”

Oh, pardon me. He said “support,” not “endless gullibility.”

Freedom is an empty word if it only means the freedom of a vindictive, cognitively declining sociopath to be above the law. It also means freedom from harm by the rich and powerful. Many business advocates don’t just want fewer regulatory guardrails, they want none at all.

An Alabama roofing company was recently fined $117,175 for violating federal child labor laws when a 15-year-old it hired fell 50 feet to his death on his first day. He died in 2019.

It is sad beyond words: a child’s entire future was stolen, and those responsible will pay a modest fine and move on. At his age, I was an avid science-fiction reader. When children die from others’ greed and recklessness, we might fitly pause to think of the futures that will never be.

It is not only guns that kill people. When you hear Republicans attack “job-killing regulation,” think of child-killing labor practices. Think of their opposition to environmental regulations, building codes, and life-saving surgery for women with ectopic pregnancies. If being “pro-life” is more to you than a slogan for gaining power, remember that the Democrats are the party with a real track record of protecting lives. Do not be deceived by culture-war rhetoric into going against your own best interests.

The civil marriage equality I helped win in DC has only been on the books for 14 years. The Obergefell ruling, which made our marriage rights nationwide, was only nine years ago. If we value the progress that we and those who came before us have made, we must stand clearly and firmly against those who would see it undone.

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