Emil Amok!

American ideals have never seemed more endangered

/ 02:53 AM July 05, 2018

So, here’s the question for American Filipinos worth pondering. Can you be pro-life and still eat balut?

A fetus is a fetus. And life is life. But no one ever wants to go that deep. Comparing a human life to a duck’s?


So, shall we “pass the balut?”  Or pass onthe balut? It’s a Filipino spin on the big question facing an America that braces for yet another Supreme Court nominee from the Trump administration.

Retiring US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. AP PHOTO

No doubt, the abortion issue will be a litmus test for any SCOTUS applicant. And one’s answer will depend on how hypocritical one wants to be.

Duterte-hypocritical, like when the president recently called God stupid, and then made  nice and kissed up to the Catholic Church?

Or Trump-hypocritical, like when that other president declared Kim Jong Un denuclearized, even though now there’s evidence he’s ramping up, not down.

Conservatives deny there’s really a litmus test, but we know differently. Already one of the possible names mentioned is a white Catholic woman with seven children.

How do you think she’s going to vote on abortion? Seven children? Sounds like stuffing the ballot box.


This is not to say abortion is the only important issue in American life, but it pretty much determines the political direction.  The pick assures the court retains a solid 5-4 stance as a genuinely conservative court that will assure the rightward tilt of American life for at least two generations or more.

In other words, if you’ve enjoyed the last 50 years, the next 50 will be like driving in reverse.

That’s the impact of Justice Anthony Kennedy announcing his retirement. Kennedy, a Californian was a throwback. A conservative who could be fair and principled.


You can’t dislike a conservative jurist who writes the decision affirming gay marriage in America.

But Kennedy was on the wrong side of the hideous Citizens United decision, which recognized corporations as individuals with free speech rights. Sounds good on its face, but it opened the door to massive campaign finance imbalances that favored wealthy corporations over average Americans.

You can go ahead and point your finger at Kennedy for allowing money to poison American democracy.  Now Trump gets to pick someone who will make Kennedy look like a liberal.

Bad enough that the Republicans blocked Obama’s pick Merrick Garland, who would have been a moderating voice to replace conservative firebrand Antonin Scalia.

Garland was no flaming liberal. Just a moderate. Still, that wasn’t good enough for the right, and Garland never got a chance to make his case. Instead, the GOP was victorious in getting Neil Gorsuch, a Kennedy disciple onto the bench.

And now there’s another pick to maintain that 5-4 judicial edge.

After 242 years into the American way, this is where we find ourselves. Distrustful, uncivil, and un-American toward anyone and anything that doesn’t agree with our own limited views.

That goes to everyone in American politics.  We can’t agree to be on the same team. That’s how phony July Fourth is.

We wave the flag and salute, and neither side can stand the other, 242 years into this grand experiment called democracy.

We’ve become a country that prefers self-interest to community, autocracy to democracy, and a limit on freedoms for those we dislike.

Free trade? Nope. Free and open borders? Are you kidding?

At the turn of the century (2000), I was part of a group that looked forward to a New America based on a demographic swing where people of color would go from minorities to the majority.

It’s not turning out the way we’d hoped.

Korematsu and the New America

The Supreme Court issue last week was the topper of what was already a bad week because of a 5-4 decision on that travel ban.

If Kennedy’s departure was a kick in the groin, the travel ban 3.0 defeat was like a punch in the gut. Justice Roberts wrote the majority decision, and ironically mentioned the Korematsu case as bad law.

You’ll recall Korematsu was the 1944 Supreme Court case that said a California man who defied the internment order must go to the Japanese American internment camps.  The ruling was based on “military necessity.” Essentially, Fred T. Korematsu looked like the enemy.

It wasn’t until the ‘80s when a group of young Asian American lawyers sought justice for Koremastu. With new evidence the case was brought to the federal district court in San Francisco, where the Korematsu conviction was overturned.

Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. PINTEREST

But because the U.S. did not appeal, there was no need to go to the Supreme Court and undo the SCOTUS decision.

Technically, that decision still stands.

I asked the lead attorney about that and the feeling was that the “factual and legal basis for what he Supreme Court did” was undercut.  Furthermore, it was felt that no one in their right mind would ever invoke the Korematsu case ever.

Well, on the travel ban, we had Roberts bring up Korematsu as bad law. And then he upheld the travel ban. The lesson wasn’t learned.

Trump’s words and actions during this whole ordeal did matter and were supposed to be used against him. But SCOTUS discounted them all. Parts of the ban also went through more revisions, such as the addition of non-Muslim countries, and input from other organizations both in and out of the administration.

But a watered-down ban 3.0 is still poisonous, all while strengthening the power of the presidency.
So, the travel ban is a bad harbinger. Trump is getting his way. And freedoms are eroding as the president’s power increases.

Next week, Trump is expected to unveil his pick for the high court. The abortion issue, the overturning of Roe v. Wade will be all important.

Democrats have few tools at their disposal to fight whomever the nominee is. If they don’t find something quickly, the nominee could be in office before the mid-term elections in November.

That should get out the vote in America.  It’s the only sure way to fight the roll back of rights that will begin with the next appointee, freedoms we’ve enjoyed since the mid-1960s, in areas like voting rights, civil rights, immigration, affirmative action, and abortion.

Like I said, we’re heading toward a new America. It’s just not what we envisioned. It’s a step backward. We’re unlearning all the lessons learned, just like in Korematsu.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator who writes a column for the Inquirer’s North American Bureau. Twitter @emilamok. Find him on Apple Podcasts.

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TAGS: abortion, American ideals, Amok, civil rights, Donal Trump, Emil Guillermo, July 4th, Justice Anthony Kennedy, reproductive rights, toxic US politics, US Supreme Court
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