Dred Scott & SCOTUS Spreading Dread Across the Land

I spoke four DMs ago about “interrupting” our DM on courage and sacrifice of spiritual activists such as Alexei Navalny and Sister Dot and Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. 

Judge Michael Luttig and Andrew Weissmann join Nicolle Wallace on Deadline White House on the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the former White House tenant’s claim to presidential immunity on April 22. MSNBC

Why such an interruption?   In order to speak to the current decision by SCOTUS to take up the ex-president’s total immunity case and thereby delay a trial on the January 6 effort to erase an American presidential election by a current presidential candidate.

But really there is less of an interruption than we imagine.  In 1857, 167 years ago, there was another Supreme Court that yielded to powerful forces of evil, the very evil of slavery that Douglass and Truth and Tubman addressed head-on.  The Dred Scott Decision came about in 1857. 

Notice the infamous wording:  Dred Scott Decision.  Dred / Dread.  Scott / SCOTUS.  A Dreadful Decision.  Last week’s dreaded SCOTUS decision, which I propose in yesterday’s DM will live in infamy, is upon us.  The decision is “dreadful” and spreads DREAD across the land as far as we can see.

Former Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer examines Dredd Scott as the worst SCOTUS ruling, possibly decided politically rather than judicially. Brookings Institution

Of course, “Dred Scott” in 1857 was the name of a freed slave.  I shared his story in yesterday’s video.  His story is America’s of the 19th century and carries up to today. The Supreme Court decision, denying that slaves had rights as citizens or as human beings, had major impact on the explosion of the Civil War that engulfed America three years later. 

The Civil War, where over 700,000 American lives were sacrificed, but which did result in the Emancipation Proclamation and later the amendments 13, 14 and 15 to the Constitution supposedly guaranteeing full rights of citizenship to ex-slaves (and preventing insurrectionists from ever taking power in the U.S. government).

“Supposedly” because before long the KKK and lynchings and Jim Crow laws substituted for the promises made and progress gained by the Civil War and amendments gained to the constitution to enshrine them.

The ongoing impact of Dred Scott: students in Ocoee, FL, site of the worst election-day race massacre in U.S. history, resist state educational policies skewing black history. MSNBC.

So, in a real sense we have not “interrupted” our reflections on the holiness of people like Navalny, Stang, Douglas, Truth and Tubman. Rather, we wrap them together, some 19th century heroes and sheroes, with late 20th and 21st century ones. 

We remember what happens when a Supreme Court makes supremely misguided decisions—dreadful ones that spread dread across the land—whether that happen in 1857 or 2024.

See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society.

And Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

Banner Image: Portraits of Dred Scott and his wife Harriet Scott. Photographs by John H. Fitzgibbon of St. Louis, MO, 1857. Library of Congress.

Queries for Contemplation

What do the words “dread” and “Dred Scott” and “Scott” and “SCOTUS” and “dreadful” trigger in you in light of the 1857 and  2024 Supreme Court decisions?

Recommended Reading

Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society

Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them. 
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science.  A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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4 thoughts on “Dred Scott & SCOTUS Spreading Dread Across the Land”

  1. Avatar
    Kenneth Larry Matheny

    I’m a lawyer, and like all lawyers, I am familiar with SCOTUS’s history. There have been some bright moments, but historically the court has been reactionary. Dred Scott is the worst decision ever. But Plessy v. Ferguson (the separate but equal case) was awful. The Korematsu decision that upheld concentration camps for Japanese citizens was intellectually dishonest. There have been many decisions undermining labor unions based primarily on judicial class-based hostility to unions. Then we have Citizens United, which struck a perhaps fatal blow to democracy. The Court currently has a case before it that will probably greatly weaken federal agencies that protect our environment, consumers, and workers. I used to be sort of an idealist about our legal system. As I watch the judge in Florida and SCOTUS deliberately delaying the Trump trials, I have to say that I no longer have any respect for the federal courts. I am also ashamed that to even admit that I’m a lawyer (happily retired). Still there are good people out there and all is not lost. But our much of our current federal judiciary is hostile to democracy. That’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. It’s why they gutted the Voting Rights Act. It’s heartbreaking to watch the federal courts try to return us to the 1950s, or even the 19th Century.

    1. Avatar
      Gwen McGrenere

      Thank you for sharing your personal legal assessment and concerns about SCOTUS. It seems clear that Judges are able to bypass the spirit of the law while claiming to uphold the letter of the law. Dark forces can bypass the checks and balances designed for a ‘trueing’ of democracy.

    2. Avatar

      Thank you for this thoughtful response and your clarity in criticizing your profession from the inside. I am sharing this response with others in my Wednesday and Thursday DM’s. I think it deserves to be heard.

  2. Avatar

    It triggers by means of synchronicity that you can’t hide or suppress the Truth that racism still exists and Our fight and evolution towards Peace & Justice for All continues!

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