“Bitch, bitch, bitch, moan and whine”: Clarence Thomas, Roe v. Wade and the Precarious State of Just About Everything

First page of a college essay,
dated 17 October 1991

Bitch.  Moan.  Whine.  I certainly do a lot of that.  Always have.  The complaining probably started around the time my mother first pulled away her nipple.  These days, though, there just seems to be more to “bitch, moan and whine” about; from the cumulative fallout of the unending pandemic, the new normal of war in Europe and the aftermath of Brexit and the Trump presidency to the burnout and sense of deflation I experience in my line of work as a newly promoted ‘Senior Lecturer’ whose recent and long-fought-for £8 a week pay increase feels more like a slap in the face than a patronising pat on the back for services rendered, albeit not without bitching.

Quit whining about that last one, you might well say; indeed, I try to remind myself that it is nothing compared to what others are suffering, possibly of necessity in the silence that does not necessarily translate into acquiescence.  Seeing things in proportion – which is proper, according to some – or putting them into the perspective that, by definition, depends on your angle, tends to be more difficult when you feel ever more keenly that everything is related rather than being relative by default.  When you are living in that fragile ecosystem of despair that some might deride as egocentricity, anything is apt to become everything, and it can weigh you down something awful.

“Bitch, bitch, bitch, moan and whine.”  That is hardly a comprehensive, let alone compassionate, assessment of the voicing of dissatisfaction by your contemporaries, however motivated.  It is a derision and dismissal of criticism as selfish, pointless and downright destructive.  As the quotation marks indicate, that does not reflect my general views on disaffection.

In fact, those words – “Bitch, bitch, bitch, moan and whine” – were uttered in the 1980s by Clarence Thomas, now a US Supreme Court Justice.  And they were voiced not in response to finicky folks rolling their eyes at just about anything – the kind of ‘why me’ injustices of our everyday – but to civil rights leaders who, in their rejection of the status quo, aim to address actual, momentous and seemingly insoluble inequalities.

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