Desert Ground Light Under The Shadow of Dobbs
“I don’t think it helpful to assume that an agenda that gets established at one
point in history will forever claim success on the basis of its initial victories.”
- Dr. Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy
In Japan, broken objects are often repaired with gold through the art of Kinsugi. The
‘flaw’ is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history, the repair of that flaw – that crack, now
filled with gold, bonding the piece together – rather than stressing a wound, transforms both the
break and the object, through its golden mending and cohesion, to a celebration and presentation
of hope and beauty to be honored.
One thing is sure. Oppression helps destroy itself.
This is different than abolitionism.
Abolitionism is about a new way, a new habitus (Bourdieu). A new life. Drawing on all
Oppression just repeats itself, however wickedly.
Key to the construction of an oppressive system is the duplicity and disjointed
mechanisms that come with persuading and controlling a system of lackeys who willfully agree
to be self-bound under a inconsistent, transactional system of service and sacrifice which
promises immunity and impunity, delivering just enough at just the right time on that promise to
keep the dream alive, while the same lackeys, in the larger sense, are kept at war with everyone
As such, there is a point where the minions – as we’re seeing in the January 6th hearings –
begin to eat each other.
This while the oppressed may bond, if looking up, in their shared, though varied, state of
implied, indentured servitude. There is no question as to who their enemy is – the killers. The
dividers. Those who only know the ethic of the Overpower. Yet, the killers will always end up in
a three-front war between those they strive to control, their overextended ambition, and their
brazen assumption of immunity and impunity concerning the harm they do to their obvious
targets. Their soft power becomes more illusory as their hard power fractures to unhealable
divisions. They know that they are always on the verge of being attacked and erased. Abolition
and democracy is inevitable, as history shows. So is the struggle to get it and keep it.
As the sick social structure breaks, it can be rebounded – at least in part - in gold.
With that hopeful reminder, let’s have fun dialing in a few key logical contradictions and
expressions of brazen Overpower from the majority opinion in the Dobbs ruling, overrunning,
and overturning the previously established Roe and Casey decisions which availed access to safe,
timely medical abortion procedures for women and their society. Rather than merely frame the
abortion ruling, as the court does, in preserving life after the first 15 weeks of gestation (it
doesn’t), let’s consider what the abortion ruling, in fact, actually does:
The Dobbs ruling directly demolishes and jettisons the protective dams between
legislated, control-based oppression and a woman’s right to choose: that is, her own ability to
self-determination over her life. It also betrays a couple’s, friend’s, and family’s rights, in at least
one state, to participate as counsel and aid in the woman’s process, as supposedly sanctioned
under Federal law, now giving present and burgeoning, significant, punitive measures to helpful
accessories. In its slanted, patriarchally framed, biased, and legislated Puritanical cultural
backsliding, the ruling maintains what Mark Fischer dubs the “Hauntology” of the past (here,
pre-Roe - not the untold stories of safe health that followed that ruling), making that inverse
public health view all-too present and doomed to be countlessly relived, rather than relieved, of
Notably, such an action is also, in itself, a hallmark of trauma – being frozen in the past,
pathologically reliving the past, even re-creating the past of an egregious, unexpected harm from
an instilled fear – repeatedly re-habitualizing and reliving a period or point in time, within the
body (the personal, cultural, social, political, etc. bodies, are all applicable referents here), as the
present - yearning for release, but compulsively driven to repeat even self-harming practices that,
while familiar, are dangerous and isolating. There is no natural shift, escape, or movement into a
new day - only a temporary, head-on effort to relieve the embodied familiar, though externally
absent. Following that, some sense of orientation and control over one’s environment is re-
established, if only temporary, and ultimately gives way to fear and frustration as a normative
personal and social development that accompanies life arises. Trauma ensues and the cycle
repeats and continues.
The violence of oppressive female subjugation has been renewed through Dobbs; the
damage of such oppression upon the female psyche under such conditions of threat is renewed;
the socio-economic strife such a measure inspires and incites, is renewed. Cultural conflict is
renewed. The harming and triggered self-harming of the social body is renewed.
The perpetrator attempts what all abusers attempt: to steal and own another’s story while
silencing the victim in the process.
All is systemically engineered to repeatedly interrupt, attack, subjugate, and silence its
scapegoat, its target of comparative superiority and dominance – its sacrificial lamb - to bolster,
however ultimately futile the effort, a sense of Power. Society writ large, following the initial
target of its women’s spirits, minds, and bodies, will also bear some, but not all, critical
Our critique here is important, as the Free the Body project incorporates the assessment
tool of abolitionism – imagining life outside of compulsorily considered structural realities,
measuring that imaginary against present circumstances, then culling effective approaches to
functionality from a cooperative binary. The Roe and Casey rulings represented ameliorative
abolitionism. Something was done away with and a new, safer, more equitable structure took
over, drawing from (not eschewing) both history’s lessons and best practices, while
complimenting then-current successes.
The logic of the majority justices in the Dobbs ruling, disappointingly, does not evoke a
complimentary anything (though Justice Roberts provides a critique of his majority colleagues,
albeit, ultimately, avoidant of the true matters). Again, in an imperialist system of oppression,
one can always locate a few standards of operations: duplicity, silencing, invisibilizing,
avoidance, denial, gaslighting, and the assumption of more-knowledgeable experience, ie.
Colonization and imperialism – in any form – is an attempt to steal your story from your
body, so the Overpower can make your body and your story another story, or no story at all.
Either way, an evaporative system of imprisonment and control strives forth.
Here we go:
Duplicity from Justice Kavanaugh:
When the State petitioned for our review, its basic request was straightforward: “clarify
whether abortion prohibitions before viability are always unconstitutional.” Pet. for
Cert. 14. The State made a number of strong arguments that the answer is no, id., at 15–
26—arguments that, as discussed, I find persuasive. And it went out of its way to make
clear that it was not asking the Court to repudiate entirely the right to choose whether to
terminate a pregnancy: “To be clear, the questions presented in this petition do not
require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.” Id., at 5. Mississippi tempered that
statement with an oblique one-sentence footnote intimating that, if the Court could not
reconcile Roe and Casey with current facts or other cases, it “should not retain
erroneous precedent.” Pet. for Cert. 5–6, n. 1. But the State never argued that we
should grant review for that purpose.
After we granted certiorari, however, Mississippi changed course. In its principal brief,
the State bluntly announced that the Court should overrule Roe and Casey. The
Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion, it argued, and a State should be able
to prohibit elective abortions if a rational basis supports doing so. See Brief for
The Court now rewards that gambit, noting three times that the parties presented “no
half-measures” and argued that “we must either reaffirm or overrule Roe and Casey.”
Ante, at 5, 8, 72. Given those two options, the majority picks the latter.
6 DOBBS v. JACKSON WOMEN’S HEALTH ORGANIZATION ROBERTS, C. J., concurring in judgment
Unbelieveable. A duplicitous entrance into proceedings by the state of Mississippi,
condoned by the SCOTUS, and then absolved of duplicity and responsibility by the same court.
Let’s watch Justice Roberts take the very distanced, narrow, stereotypical white, heteronormative, male, narrow view of the matter:
Justice Roberts: "Ample evidence suggests that a 15-week ban provides sufficient time,
absent rare circumstances, for a woman ‘to decide for herself’ whether to terminate her
So, the court is deciding how and when a woman – any woman - decides. Let’s continue.
Justice Barrett in the majority opinion “...the question is whether the right is “deeply
rooted in [our] history and tradition.”
The above point, intoned by Justice Barrett, is put forth as central to the court’s majority
decision. Yup, you read that right - history and tradition. Like our history and tradition of
slavery and pistol duels and labor exploitation and women voting/land holding and
Reconstruction turned Jim Crow and LGBTQI2 marriage denial. History and tradition – also used
to deny gay marriage (see the “I don’t think the U.S. is culturally ready for such a freedom”
argument from the late Justice Scalia) is proof positive of the cyclical trauma behaviour of the
Controller to freeze things at a familiar, though off-kilter, point in time within their own social
body, consciousness, and the story-body of their victim (ie. repeated abuse through the regular
transference of loathing through violence (see previous Blog)).
Justice Alito, in his lengthy opinion and addendum, does not prioritize access to an
abortion procedure that occurred before, during, and after Roe, at all - with Kavanaugh
concluding: “To be clear, then, the Court’s decision today does not outlaw abortion throughout
the United States...it leaves the (issue) to the people and their elected representatives...”.
J. Kavanaugh, didn’t you...I thought you said above...do you even read your own
opinions? I mean, do you want hamburgers or hot dogs? Make up your mind. Are you
overturning Roe or not? Because you’re, literally, writing two different things and, also, not
judging simply on the merits of the case, as Justice Roberts reminds the majority at the end of his
concurring opinion (though it frames an avoidant, irresponsible diversion, as we’ll see below).
Most notably, the court references the principle of stare decisis. This principle addresses
“the legal principle of determining points in litigation according to precedent. (Webster)” For the
SCOTUS, certainly as described in the majority opinion, stare decisis is bedrock, foundational,
immoveable, supportive ground.
Justice Kavanaugh, again:
“When precisely should the Court overrule an erroneous constitutional precedent? The
history of stare decisis in this Court establishes that a constitutional precedent may be
overruled only when (i) the prior decision is not just wrong, but is egregiously wrong, (ii)
the prior decision has caused significant negative jurisprudential or real-world
consequences, and (iii) overruling the prior decision would not unduly upset legitimate
reliance interests. See Ramos v. Louisiana, 590 U. S. ___, ___−___ (2020) (KAVANAUGH,
J., concurring in part) (slip op., at 7−8).
Applying those factors, I agree with the Court today that Roe should be overruled. The
Court in Roe erroneously assigned itself the authority to decide a critically important
moral and policy issue that the Constitution does not grant this Court the authority to
decide." Cite as: 597 U. S. ____ (2022) 7
KAVANAUGH, J., concurring
Given the history of harm to the female and social body under a lack of access to safe
abortion procedures, as well as the cumulative social strife it creates, how can Kavanaugh
quantitatively and qualitatively assert that there is not “significant negative...real world
consequences” rendering the absence of such legal structures “egregiously wrong”? By any
legitimate, sane metric, he simply can’t. It’s an incomplete, superficial, avoidant gaslighting of
an argument. And why does it win? Because of the slanted ideology and power position of the
Supreme Court. The in-group can say what it wants and gets away with it.
Even before the ruling, some State legislatures were instituting measures to hinder access
to safe, medically assisted pregnancy termination. In this opinion, as in Roe, that behavior is
considered illegal given the “viability” clause, yet in the present day United States, the practice
continues to go unpunished. Again, the colonialist effort is always imperialist. And the above
duplicity, false logic, applied posture of ignorance, and tradition of control exhibit just some of
Check out the Dobbs opinion for yourself. It is eminently readable. That the majority
does not give even a modicum of effort to hide its contradictions, failings, inappropriate personal
ideologies, false logic, insubstantiation, and social irresponsibility as the lead body of measured
justice in this country is an embarrassment to both the U.S. judicial process and the Supreme
Court as a proposed exemplar. The ruling is a brazen example of this most brazen ideology and
culture of imprisonment that the Overpower heaves upon the constructed “other”: the ideology of
control, scapegoating, social division, disenfranchisement, harm, silencing, and disappearance.
Thankfully, there’s a way out. Within us. Around us. Spiritually. Systemically. People are
working and thriving. We can, too. We’ll look at the poetics of this freedom next week. For now,
ironically, this week’s sound swatch is dedicated to a new tomorrow, today. This is the creative heart
Next Blog: The Culture Prison – Control, Restraint...and Escape
Written by Peter DiGennaro, Sound Artist/Human Rights Educator
Learn more: Free the Body