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Summer in July 

Do we really live in a country where rapists are valued more than the women they assault? Where a handful of extremists with an almost non-existent understanding of human biology have the power to strip millions of women of basic health care and bodily autonomy? A place where guns are more precious than children? Where globally polluting and destructive corporations matter more than the environment every living thing on Earth depends on for life? Are we doomed to watch while that same handful of extremists strips away protections citizen activists have fought for and even died for? Is this rapid descent into a corrupt, patriarchal kleptocracy inevitable?

 No, it isn’t. Not as long as people are willing to stand up for what is right. We can all protest, and refuse to sit down and be quiet. We still have the power to speak up, and most importantly, to vote. We don’t have to bow to the inevitable; not if we stand together and push back. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but tends towards justice,” Martin Luther King Jr. famously said. Now is not the time to lose faith, no matter how out of reach justice may seem. There are ways to remedy even this morass, but the only permanent and lasting way to ensure that women have bodily autonomy is to write it into the constitution. 

To do that, Democrats will have to hold the House, elect  at least two more Democratic senators, and eliminate the filibuster. If that goal can be achieved, then there might also be a window for reforms. If we are going to survive climate change, then constitutional protections for the environment would be helpful, and how about finally giving women equal rights, and protecting the rights of LGBTQ Americans? 

Term limits for a Supreme Court that is increasingly out of touch with reality might be a good idea, too. Waiting for justices to shuffle off this mortal coil is not a practical way to run a major branch of our government, and neither is packing a court with a lifetime supply of extremists. A bill to establish staggered, 18-year terms for Supreme Court Justices was introduced in 2020, but never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee. Now seems like a good time to reassess the need for change.

Sometimes justice is achieved in unconventional ways. A California court recently ruled that bees can be classed as a fish under the state’s endangered species act, in order to extend state protections to several critically threatened bumble bees. Why? Because when the CA Endangered Species Act was written, the authors forgot to include terrestrial invertebrates, but the fish category includes: defines a “fish” as “a wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn, or ovum of any of those animals.” 

The media had fun with snarky headlines, but classifying bees as fish was the quickest and most efficient way to ensure they can receive endangered species status, without having to attempt revising the law. One of those bees is the crotch bumble bee, an endemic species in the Santa Monica Mountains, one that local residents may have seen in their own gardens without realizing it was something rare and special. It’s a reminder that legal decisions that make the front pages of the national news media can also affect us on a local, personal level, and that sometimes there can be unexpected solutions to seemingly impossible situations, if enough people care enough to work for change.

Fourth of July weekend promises to be hot and roads and beaches will be packed. Stay off the roads if possible, and if travel is essential, stay alert, slow down, and make sure to allow extra time.

COVID-19 remains a hazard this summer—the rate of new infection continues to be high in Los Angeles County—11 percent—but many traditional Fourth of July activities are back, including the annual Independence Day parade and fireworks in Pacific Palisades, and fireworks at Calabasas High School. Health officials continue to urge everyone to take sensible precautions like social distancing and wearing an N95 mask in crowded settings, but they aren’t advising people to stay home this year. 

The deeply troubling news cycle makes this a somber holiday this year, but the United States is an ongoing experiment in small-D democratic government. It’s a process, not a final product. We are still trying to figure out how to form that more perfect union, and “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.”  It’s a messy process, and at the moment, an ugly and dispirting one, but it’s still worth fighting for. And even with all of the problems we face as individuals and as a nation, we still have a lot to be thankful for.

Stay safe, be well. Happy Independence Day!

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