Whoa, Cowboy!

“Cowboy” – Frederic Remington, 1908

Texas SB8 seeks to enlist vigilantes to sue the Constitutional right to abortion out of existence.  This is a novel and sneaky scheme to escape jurisdictional limits imposed by the Constitution. They do this by deputizing vigilantes to stand in for and do the dirty work of the state. And it’s more than passing irony that this law was created in Texas.

It is the “Don’t mess with Texas” state. It is where a Lone Star is required to be blended into infant formula and where The Eyes of Texas is sung everywhere because it’s more important to them than the National Anthem. It is ground zero for demands for freedom from the federal government.

And it is where the governor both preemptively and reflexively prohibits even local ruling bodies from requiring protection from the pandemic. He does this on grounds that make it clear that individual freedom trumps the general welfare, even in the face of nearly 70,000 Texas COVID deaths, many of them preventable. Let’s unpack all that.

The wailing about individual freedom may be understandable, but SB8 specifically and aggressively attacks the freedom of anyone even remotely associated with an abortion. For example, under that law, if a friend counsels a woman regarding her obtaining an abortion, that friend can be sued by any random individual, even someone completely unconnected to that friend or the patient. That will dump expensive legal defense costs on the friend. If the friend loses the case, s/he can be hit with penalties of $10,000 or more, plus be required to pay the legal expenses of the unconnected plaintiff – let’s call him/her a bounty hunter. And that friend can be sued by yet more random bounty hunters and be penalized $10,000 or more by each one of them, plus have to pay the legal expenses of all the pile-on bounty hunters.

The standard in civil cases seeking damages is to show some kind of harm done to the plaintiff, such that monetary compensation is appropriate. It’s instructive that in the oral arguments to the Supreme Court on Monday the attorney for the state of Texas claimed that the harm done to that previously mentioned, unconnected individual – the bounty hunter – is

“emotional upset”

That’s it. Anybody claiming that they were distressed by someone they had never met, nor even previously heard of, can file a civil suit and collect damages for angst caused by that unknown person – the friend. That’s the state’s logic, as explained to nine Supreme Court justices.

So, with the weaponization of Texas vigilantes – bounty hunters – the friend counseling the woman seeking an abortion will effectively have his/her First Amendment right to freedom of speech terminated.

Wait, what?

A random freedom wailer in Texas – the bounty hunter – is now allowed to end another person’s freedom of speech? Yes. So much for the primacy of individual freedom in Texas. Apparently, freedom only exists for those citizens favored by the state government, like vigilantes. And the irony expands from there.

Under questioning from the Supreme Court justices, the attorney for Texas proudly stated that if Texas were to enact a law that made ownership of AR-15 assault rifles illegal, any random vigilante/bounty hunter could file suit against such a gun owner. They could claim emotional upset over a fellow Texan owning that weapon and win cash and prizes, like the termination of the gun owner’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. In Texas! Like I said: irony.

Texas prides itself as one of the leaders in flicking off the federal government. It’s an ongoing blustering of, “You can’t tell me what to do,” a demand for individual independence and freedom, consequences be damned.

Apparently the geniuses in Austin believe they can slice off any piece of the Constitution that’s a burr under their saddle. Happy Trails to whatever is left.

Now Texas Governor Greg Abbott has attacked local school boards, cities, counties, private businesses and more in his fight for yet more COVID death in Texas and against defeating the pandemic.

Wait, what?

The governor has unilaterally stripped power – freedom – from all other governmental agencies in Texas, as well as from private businesses and all the people in any of those places. He’s stripped rights from parents to decide what’s best for their kids, too.

When parents, through their duly elected school board, say that kids have to wear masks in school so that they don’t infect one another and cause sickness and death, parents now have a big problem. The rights and freedom of those parents have been usurped by the Governor of Texas through his mandating that there be no mask mandates. So much for individual freedom.

Red state freedom irony is all around, including in those states where the legislature and governor seek to nullify citizens’ voting rights, this being done – hypocritically – in the name of free and fair elections. We better do more than just hope for federal legislation and Supreme Court decisions to stop the raping of the Constitution, or soon we won’t have any rights or any freedom or a Constitution at all.

Note that there are no Democrats or Independents curtailing freedoms or wailing air-headed Marxist/socialist or Critical Race Theory lies. All of the anti-democracy il-logic is coming from Republicans, so I have lovingly and accurately labeled their sky-is-falling idiocy “Republicrap.”

Read Professor Heather Cox Richardson’s piece and note especially the inside-out, upside-down contortions and mentally ill projections of Republicrappers. Example: With his essay in The American Conservative, Republicrapper Sen. Marco Rubio shows that he has completely jumped the track and submerged himself in the un-drained swamp Trump left behind.

Yes, the metaphors are mixed. Deal with it.

In case you need something to give you nightmares, read this from The Washington Post. It’s about sheriffs who think they’re kings, able to pick and choose which laws they’ll enforce and which to ignore. They think they’re uncontrollable by local, state or federal government. It’s putting “Don’t tread on me” into a police cruiser. It’s making law enforcement a tool of right wing extremists. It’s institutionalizing individual freedom mania and, in the process, chopping away still more at freedom for the rest of us.

The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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Copyright 2023 by Jack Altschuler
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