By Ira Rather
Based on the heavy media coverage of the Supreme Court’s first Hobby Lobby decision – there will surely be more to come – some have concluded that the foundations of American freedom were just shattered to their very core. Or gloriously upheld, depending on which side of the political fence you’re on.
Or religious fence. Or health care fence. And remember that fences make good neighbors!
It’s a huge story that maybe shouldn’t be, because if another plane had disappeared into the Indian Ocean on the day of the ruling, it wouldn’t be. It’s just an unfortunate fact that tragic, flaming deaths and their weeping relatives attract way more viewers than discussions on the nuances of the Constitution. Absent a plane disaster, fill the airwaves and web pages with Hobby Lobby stories instead. (Guilty here.)
Like most Supreme Court decisions, the Justices were either applauded for “getting it right” or lambasted for “totally blowing it” on this one. The truth lies somewhere in the middle (doesn’t it always?), and you may want to reflect on President Andrew Jackson:
While complicit in the deaths of many Native Americans, Jackson wanted to kill his Supreme Court Justices even more, and no one – except some opposition politicians – would have complained if he did. Since Jackson’s days, other Presidents have had severe issues with the Court, which is why we have this ironic system of allowing our President to choose Justices when a vacancy arises.
How’s that for separation of powers!?
Of course, there’s a confirmation process, or rather, we have a big show. Senators ask their questions, the nominee answers (but lies to get confirmed), and he or she either gets the nod to wear the robe or not, but always…always…based mostly on the political biases of the Senate majority party at the time. We should wonder why they even waste all of that time on the questions; the Senate should just vote yes or no.
No one really likes the Supreme Court, until they do, when a decision goes their way. Then, they start hating them again, when a decision doesn’t. The Supreme Court is like a stand-up comic:
Loved by half of the people for being funny, and disliked by the other half for not being so funny. Humor is in the eyes of the beholder, as is interpretation of the law.
As former lawyers, our SCOTUS Justices were regularly called upon to argue for either side of an issue, right or wrong. If they couldn’t do that, they didn’t deserve to be lawyers in the first place, and certainly not good enough lawyers to become judges and eventually make it all the way to the Supreme Court! Knowledge of the law is necessary to present views on interpreting that law, depending on the client’s or government’s objectives, often turning the law’s original intent up-side down. Everyone argues what the law means, with no one seeming to agree on what the law actually is.
So the actual law itself has little to do with it. Individual laws are nothing more than sentences—really long, complicated and ridiculously worded sentences—and have become bystanders in our process which we consider the best in the world. It actually happens to be the best process around, which is what’s so tragic and why you should be really depressed about the future of mankind. It works half the time, and stinks half the time, but the law’s the law and that’s it. But what is it?
Get caught smoking a few joints in Boulder in 2004 and you’re a criminal with a record. Smoke an entire ounce in 2014 and you can continue to head the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. The law is always changing, but only changing for the better half the time. If Socrates were alive today, having lived these past hundreds of years witnessing world history, our democratic systems would look nothing like they do today. He was a smart guy, much smarter than Scalia, and we would hopefully listen to his opinions on the subject.
So what does this one Hobby Lobby decision mean to you and me, especially since they’ll soon be opening in Coral Springs on Wiles Road and University Drive, at the former Stein-Mart location? The irony of this Christian-dominated company moving into the former space of a Jewish-dominated company shouldn’t be lost on you, so bring on the tasteless jokes!
Will the earth fail to spin, and will women actually be denied free or cheap, easily accessible birth control? Probably not, for now, but nothing breeds contempt like success, and you can look for Hobby Lobby to go as far as they can to further shove their Christianity down your throats, and in your vaginas, if you have one.
Hobby Lobby comes to town with some other heavy baggage, the most glaring of which is their refusal to sell Hanukkah decorations. According to them, and I’m paraphrasing, “Our customers are not the type for this sort of merchandise.”
Well, one could argue that any store has the right to offer any merchandise they’d like, but what kind of message does this particular decision send? Even if sales for Hanukkah items don’t go gangbusters in certain areas of the country, most retailers still carry limited stock to serve their Jewish customers. Unsold stock is simply rolled over for sale the following year. Wal-Mart does it, as do Target, K-Mart, Michael’s Crafts and JoAnne’s Fabric. Even Hallmark does it, and that’s about as Goyam a company there is! (Goyam = non-Jewish.)
None of these companies lose money on this stuff, and it’s not like their managers are screaming, “Hey! We got stuck with six dozen unsold menorahs! And I can’t even count how many dreidels!”
Hobby Lobby doesn’t sell Hannukah items as a very visible and very loud sign of disrespect towards Jews. Of course, if you’re not Jewish, you probably don’t give a crap, but what else is new? Maybe, though, this information will enlighten you about the kind of company this actually is, and where they would take their religious campaign if given half a chance.
For our African-American readers here, I didn’t forget you, except that none of my black friends celebrate Kwaanza in the first place. Plus, I don’t think Muslims are really big on decorating for Ramadan, so I don’t know how Hobby Lobby’s policies actually affect your faiths and traditions. I’ll look into it, but I doubt Hobby Lobby will get back to me. In their book, you’re probably lower than women and Jews.
Many will refuse to shop at the new store in Coral Springs. Many devout Christians will praise Jesus as they walk through the doors and fill their baskets with needlepoint kits of The Last Supper and St. Peter at the Gate. (Calvary Chapel will probably rent the place after-hours for wedding receptions.)
And most people won’t give a damn at all, and will buy that bottle of glue wherever they can get it cheaper—even if that’s Omar’s Jihadist Crafts Emporium on Riverside Drive.
But while Hobby Lobby executives might feel victorious and righteous about this religious victory against a woman’s right to choose her preferred form of birth control, when that particular form is needed and preferred, they shouldn’t feel all that smart and smug about it:
That plaza has been a death knell for big box stores for ages, and unless they offer free baptisms on the roof, they won’t last a year.
Ira Rather is an advertising professional and sometimes publisher of www.thecoralspringer.com. He is a former Brooklynite and 20-year Coral Springs resident. In his spare time, he interacts with private and governmental agencies to implement policies and establish new regulations for the aggressive hunting and eradication of the invasive Burmese Python.