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Personal essays

Teeth - Essay from Newsletter 118

Time to dig in

Not yet

I know you thought I would write about the overturning of Roe this week. I just can’t. Not yet.

So this isn’t an essay on choice or the supreme court.

For some reason, though, this past week I was thinking about a Chris Rock routine explaining how race comes up in his life.

Don’t worry. This isn’t an essay on racism either.

Anyway, Rock talks about the neighborhood where he lives.

The house itself cost him millions of dollars. Even so, in his neighborhood of hundreds of houses there are four black people: Rock, Mary J. Blige, Jay Z, and Eddie Murphy. All of them notable and accomplished.

On the other hand, Rock explains, the guy living next to him is a dentist. Not the world’s best dentist or even a great dentist - just a dentist.

Rock says while he had to host the Oscars to get his house, the guy next door was just your average dentist.

He tags the routine by saying that for a black dentist to move into his neighborhood he would have had to invented teeth.

Great men

Dad was a philosopher.

Not a get high, listen to Pink Floyd, and make half-baked observations about the world philosopher - but an actual credentialed, studied, taught, and thought deeply about this stuff philosopher.

Growing up in his house gave me a skewed view of the world that I didn’t overcome for many years.

I thought people looked at a situation or an issue, considered the arguments, and came to a decision.

For the most part people come to a decision and then construct or seek out the arguments that support that position.

That’s not an indictment of these people. They have things to do - there’s a lot of content on streaming channels to catch up with.

OK, that was unnecessarily snotty.

But there are people on either side of any divide whose stand on the issue is formed first and reasoning comes second.

I’ve done it.

I do it.

But somehow I thought the great men on the Supreme Court - they were always men back then - considered arguments and precedents and implications and … and things I couldn’t conceive of because I wasn’t one of these great men - and then they came to a decision.

The great ones that I know of - Louis Brandeis, Thurgood Marshall, and others - they had deeply held convictions and a point of view about the law but they understood the foundation they were building on and the house they were building.

Maybe it’s not fair to single out Brandeis and Marshall. They were moving into an all-white Christian neighborhood.

Maybe they didn’t have to have invented teeth - but they couldn’t be an ordinary dentist.

They had to have teeth and they had to know how to use them.

No Pets

There’s that meeting with the condo association where they ask you if you have any pets.

You don’t have any so you truthfully answer “no”.

But you know that you’ve put your name on the list with a breeder and you’re getting a pair of the yappiest, most menacing, crap on other people’s lawns and you’re not going to clean up after them, huge dogs you could find.

You don’t mention that.

After all, if they didn’t ask the right question, why should you offer up that information.

In fact, you truthfully answer that you don’t have any pets and that you have a great respect for the association’s rule against having pets. You can see how that would be an issue with your neighbors.

And that’s how we got there.

The nominees for the court said that they respected precedent and considered Roe to be precedent. They didn’t say that sometimes they would be justified in striking down precedent.

So we’re looking at a lawn full of someone else’s crap looking for a safe path to walk on when we used to be able to walk barefoot anywhere.

Oops. I wasn’t going to talk about Roe.


The lack of consistency in decisions isn’t new. There were days when Scalia would write the majority opinion released one day and the dissenting opinion released the next and his arguments would contradict themselves.

He came to his decision then formed his arguments and he didn’t worry about the house his arguments were building. He didn’t have time for inspections and permits - there were decisions to hand down.

The lack of consistency bothers people on my side and that’s why we always lose.

A bully doesn’t care about consistency. They only care that they win.

Actually, they mostly care that we lose.

Thursday the court ruled that New York can’t apply their state rules to the concealed carry of a weapon and then Friday the court ruled that abortion rules are up to the states.

“But Daniel,” you say, “the constitution covers guns but not abortion.”

Sure. And the constitution say my friends who are people of color count as 3/5 of a person and my friends who are women don’t count at all. My friends who rent but don’t own land?

Yeah we should definitely go back to that document for everything.

A coach kneels and has his team kneel with him to pray and that is now protected. How would the case have gone if he was not a Christian?

People come out of the woodwork to support this coach kneeling before a football game because of his principled beliefs. Where were those people when it was a black football player kneeling during the national anthem?

Wait. I wasn’t going to write about racism.

I’m just talking about teeth.

We all need to grit ours and dig in.

We don’t need to have invented teeth to participate - but we need to have them and we need to use them.

Find an issue to sink your teeth into.

It’s not going to be pleasant but now’s not the time to stop.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 118. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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