Alan Zendell, September 2, 2021
As a kid, whenever I watched a movie or TV western, there was one thing I could always count on. Some bad guys would rob a bank, shoot an innocent bystander or two, then jump on their horses and ride out of town headed for their hideout. Moments later, the sheriff or marshal would call for volunteers for a posse to hunt them down, and dozens of farmers, store clerks, and assorted cowboys would show up armed to the teeth and eager for the chase. They’d all be “deputized,” and ride off into the sunset.
They were like a volunteer fire department responding to an emergency, except that they were licensed to arrest and kill if necessary. With only a few hundred lawmen to cover a couple of million square miles of largely unsettled territory, there was no other reasonable way to catch bad guys. The rule of law was represented by circuit judges who came to town once a year, leaving the local citizenry to make their own laws, and posses often turned into lynch mobs.
Another common TV/movie trope was the sometimes real, sometimes fictional dictator who stayed in power with secret police and citizens spying on each other. Neighbors reported neighbors, children spied on their parents, and sniveling cowards spied on everyone for a few pieces of silver. We saw it in war and spy movies, and dystopian fiction like 1984.
Texas recently enacted laws designed to turn back the clock and incorporate both of these approaches to law enforcement into its repertoire. According to The Texas Tribune, as of September 1, 2021, every citizen over twenty-one who is not a convicted felon or criminally insane is permitted to carry concealed (or unconcealed) weapons without permits or licenses. Another new law outlaws abortions after six weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions. It doesn’t matter if a woman or young girl was raped or a victim of incest, or if she wasn’t aware she was pregnant until after the six-week mark.
The abortion restrictions go further – they criminalize every form of assistance to a woman seeking an “illegal” abortion from performing the procedure, helping her make an appointment, to driving her there. And to get around the Rowe vs Wade precedents that states may not forbid abortions before twenty-two weeks, the new law bypasses law enforcement and government entirely. Instead, it authorizes any Texan to sue or take other actions to prevent anyone from violating it.
As a result, Texas has in effect created a posse of 22.9 million potentially armed citizens who have no training in either law or its enforcement to enforce the horrific crime of helping someone have an abortion under circumstances that have been formally legalized by federal courts for nearly fifty years. The same Texas legislature recently passed a voting rights law that bans ballot drop boxes and attempts to turn back the clock on who can vote to Jim Crow days, which Governor Abbott eagerly signed when it reached his desk.
Asked to stop the law from taking immediate effect, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to take no action, yesterday, thus signaling that forty-eight years of consistent legal precedents in hundreds of cases around the country are now deemed meaningless. As serious as the issues of abortion rights and responsible gun control are, both of which are supported by substantial majorities of Americans, the implications of the Court’s looking away go far beyond them. Some people might call this a great victory for states’ rights, but most see it is as undermining federal authority and an erosion of our constitutional guarantees.
In fact, what we see in Texas today is a victory for a minority of Texans who are tyrannizing their state and setting an example for other, similarly minded states. That minority is an unholy coalition of White Supremacist leaning Trump supporters and sheep-like evangelists who blindly follow the doctrine of ignorant and politically corrupted church leaders. They were defeated at the polls, nationally, but they still hold sway in half the state legislatures, at least until the next election.
Trumpers in general, a clear minority of voters nationally, are like a lame duck party scrambling to change everything they can before the voters get wise to them and throw them out of office. Texas is a clear example of this, a state whose population is only forty percent white (as opposed to African American, Hispanic, native American, and other minorities) but is desperately trying to prevent its sixty percent nonwhite majority from sharing power.
Texas’ new laws are anti-democratic in the extreme. Creating the largest posse the world has ever seen and turning it loose could be a precursor to anarchy and the end of our Constitution. None of us can afford to be apathetic while these things are happening. Imagine what Lincoln would say about legalized vigilantism.