"It is awful, it's a sad day, I never thought that I would see the day when the U.S. Supreme Court would put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
-- John Lewis, 1960s civil riights leader and U.S. congressman from Georgia.
It wasn't supposed to me like this. In 1965, John Lewis and a small band of activists who'd been trying, unsuccessfully, to register black citizens to vote in Selma, Alabama, tried to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and onto the state capital of Montomery, to demand their rights. They were beaten back by a flying wedge of savage state troopers with clubs in their hands and hatred in their hearts. The next time, they crossed the bridge, kneeled and prayed, and turned around. The third time -- with the protection of the federal government in Washington -- they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and broke into the daylight. They made it to Montgomery, and their spirit marched on to Washington, where the Civil Rights Act was passed and signed into law. Freedom had made it to the other side.
Made no mistake -- liberty was tossed backwards yet again yesterday. This time it took just five men in their cruel formation; they did not wear hard blue helmets but soft black robes. Their weapon of choice was a laptop -- proving that in the 21st Century, the keyboard can be as mighty as the nightstick, but their hearts were every bit as hard as the thick blue line on the wrong side of the Alabama River.
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision today to gut a key section of the Voting Rights Act was no small matter, not at all. Good men and women who represent struggling communities of color are going to be mapped out of their jobs. Poor people and newcomers to America are going to be denied a chance to vote because they can't produce the right papers. Lines at polling places that ran around the block in 2012 are going to stretch across town in 2016, until the old and infirm cannot take it anymore and go home, unsatisfied and unrepresented. This is not that America that John Lewis got pummeled fighting for in a bus terminal 52 years ago. Yet it the America that five angry men wrought today.
A wedge of unreason, pushing backwards. An Edmund Pettus Bridge too far.