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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Pointless proclamations

by John Brummett | July 8, 2021 at 3:01 a.m.

The big move on the red-state right is for chest-bumping free community expression, not merely free individual expression. It's for an official tit-for-tat attitude toward the liberal population centers.

It's the politics of division-sowing resentment, of American alienation and the corrosive culture war. It's all the rage.

It's a self-deluding declaration of local sovereignty, which doesn't exist.

Well, let's be clear: Local sovereignty doesn't exist. Self-delusion thrives like a Delta virus hopping around welcoming Arkansas noses.

The latest right-wing community expression goes this way: If some of these big cities want to call themselves "sanctuary cities" and ignore immigration laws and welcome un-papered people, then, by golly, Washington and Benton counties will be "pro-life counties" thumbing their noses at the abortion-legalizing case law of the land.

It's all fine by me. There are better things to worry about--such as what's for dinner--than unenforceable matters of community expression and the hollow playground-caliber trash talk of the American culture war.

The best way to combat this toxic politics of self-pleasuring resentment is to ignore it. Bait untaken is bait that people will eventually quit using.

It takes two to fuss. It takes two to one-up.

I could put a sign in my front yard declaring my property a no-taxpaying zone. It wouldn't make a darn. The FedEx guy would walk right past it to drop off on the front porch my latest purchased item on which my credit card already had paid the taxes.

You can call a cat a dog and a dog a cat, but the meows and barks aren't going to change.

What America needs right now are the two "A's," which are ambivalence and apathy. We must become uncertain about more and worked up about less. We need sage political commentary that passionately preaches "beats me" and "so what."

For one thing, sanctuary cities aren't really places in which anything goes in terms of immigration. They are places in which local law enforcement declines by principle and caseload practicality to work with federal immigration officials to round up harmless undocumented residents. The police have more pressing matters, like, for example, violent crime.

These sanctuary-city policies spring into full cooperation action if locally committed crime occurs. But, as to whether all the hardworking folks living on top of each other in that house have papers ... the police just don't have the time.

For another thing, these pro-life community declarations pending before the quorum courts of Washington and Benton Counties are resolutions, not ordinances. They're mere words affecting nothing substantively but fully serving their real purpose by puffing right-wing chests locally.

Basically, they would say, "We're pro-life around here. Take that, San Francisco."

For that matter, the pointless state law permitting pointless local pro-life declarations mentions only municipalities. It doesn't authorize county declarations. That's an issue that cries out for my new commentary themes of "beats me" and "so what."

If a thing is pointless, does it really matter whether state law permitting the pointlessness says city limits or county line?

Those ordinances in a few small Texas towns presuming to impose fines for abortion services are (1) wholly superfluous since abortions aren't being done in those towns, and (2) as thoroughly unconstitutional and unenforceable as they can be.

Northwest Arkansas contains no abortion clinic at present. Planned Parenthood still says it wants to place a clinic in the region, in Fayetteville, perhaps. If it chose to do that, it could do so by prevailing federal law, paying no attention to the pro-life sign, just as the FedEx man would walk right past my no-taxpaying yard sign to deliver my fully taxed play-pretty.

T hanks to the chest-beaters, community expressers and culture warriors in the current state Legislature, Arkansas now has a law on the books telling the big-city liberals where to go by presuming to make abortion illegal in the state, period.

Well, no, not period, but comma, after which we need the phrase that the state law means nothing considering that Roe v. Wade remains federal case law until and unless the U.S. Supreme Court says otherwise.

If Washington and Benton counties want to double-down on that meaningless state declaration and proclaim themselves pro-life jurisdictions by resolutions even as they are located within a state that already proclaims itself pro-life by law--with none of all that proclaiming amounting to a danged thing--then, by all means, have the heck at it.

I want to know what's for dinner.

I also need to go put up that yard sign declaring my house part of Denmark. That'll show 'em.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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