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My parents always told me that my siblings and I shouldn’t have to experience something to learn a lesson. As true as that advice is, as a child I didn’t always follow those wise words and found myself touching the iron to see if it really was hot. Unfortunately, the past few months have shown us that our nation has never really taken that advice either. Instead of learning from history and listening to warnings, we seem far too likely to want to touch the iron.

Over the past few weeks, our nation has been taught a lesson about the consequences of our actions. The withdrawal from Afghanistan has made it clear that in September of 2001 we should have listened to the one lone voice and vote of Congresswoman Barbara Lee who tried to warn us of the serious consequences of our actions starting an endless war. For speaking the truth at that time, Congresswoman Lee was ostracized and threatened with violence. Yet, we stand here today as a nation and debate how we allowed ourselves to lose so many lives and spend billions of dollars on a failed policy driven by war. As a member of Generation Z, we are also aware that this lesson will cost us trillions of dollars, although we had no say or vote in creating it.

Then the United States Supreme Court decided to take no action on an emergency appeal by Texas abortion providers to stop Texas Senate Bill 8 from becoming law and going into effect. SB 8 is the legislation signed by Texas Governor Abbott earlier this year that prohibits women from having access to and getting an abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy.

Social media has been and continues to be flooded with posts expressing rightful outrage against this new Texas law. Women, physicians, health advocates, women’s rights groups and more are expressing their concerns on how this new Texas law is likely to set off a new wave of restrictions on a woman’s ability to control her own body and the right of physicians to practice medicine without government interference in the sacred patient-physician relationship.

There is also outrage being expressed toward the current members of the United States Supreme Court for deciding to take no action and letting this new Texas law go into effect. Organizations such as the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood have released powerful statements dedicating themselves to fighting this attack on a woman’s right to control her body.

What should be pointed out though is that this outrage is coming although we all understood that a United States Supreme Court that includes Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett was likely to take actions to attack Roe v. Wade. We seem to forget that this tipping point on the Supreme Court was put in place by President Trump’s appointment of Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett.

What is truly amazing is that many are acting as if no one warned us that the 2016 election would have consequences for issues like women’s reproductive rights and voting rights if we didn’t work to stop a right-wing takeover of the government led by then GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump. As with Congresswoman Lee, we are openly rewriting history and choosing to ignore those who warned us that this would happen if the 2016 election ended as it did.

As often as Hillary Clinton is attacked on social media by pundits, they are often the first to go quiet when her warnings in 2016 about what a Trump presidency would mean for our nation come true. In the October 2016 debate on Fox News between future President Trump and Secretary Clinton, moderator Chris Wallace pushed candidate Trump on the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade. President Trump responded with the following:

WALLACE: But what I’m asking you, sir, is, do you want to see the court overturn — you just said you want to see the court protect the Second Amendment. Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v. Wade?

TRUMP: Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that’s really what’s going to be — that will happen. And that’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court. I will say this: It will go back to the states, and the states will then make a determination.

Secretary Clinton responded with the following:

CLINTON: Well, I strongly support Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a constitutional right to a woman to make the most intimate, most difficult, in many cases, decisions about her health care that one can imagine. And in this case, it’s not only about Roe v. Wade. It is about what’s happening right now in America.

So many states are putting very stringent regulations on women that block them from exercising that choice to the extent that they are defunding Planned Parenthood, which, of course, provides all kinds of cancer screenings and other benefits for women in our country.

Donald has said he’s in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood. He even supported shutting the government down to defund Planned Parenthood. I will defend Planned Parenthood. I will defend Roe v. Wade, and I will defend women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.

Just as with Congresswoman Barbara Lee on the threat of endless wars, Secretary Clinton tried to warn us about what a Trump presidency would mean for the Supreme Court and for important issues such as a woman’s right to control her own body. 

But also, just like Congresswoman Lee’s lone voice and vote in September of 2001, the warnings by Secretary Clinton and her campaign were often met with disregard, being called “hysterical.” Especially from many on the political left.

Just take a look at a tweet from former 2020 Bernie Sanders National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray to NPR Politics on February 1, 2017.

Gray also took it steps further by sharing that she voted for Jill Stein in the 2016 election and refused to endorse Joe Biden for President after her former employer Senator Bernie Sanders did in April of 2020.

But it wasn't just Gray who helped take us down this road. In this interview by BBC with Susan Sarandon, just before the 2016 election, Sarandon shares with the world that “I don’t vote with my vagina. You know, this is bigger than that.”

This came after Sarandon's interview with Chris Hayes of MSNBC, where she shared, “I think Bernie would probably encourage people [to vote Clinton], because he doesn’t have a lot of ego in this. But I think a lot of people are, ‘Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to do that.’”

When Hayes asked her if she would vote for Clinton she stated, “I don’t know. I’m going to see what happens. Some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately.”

Gray and Sarandon were not alone in their 2016 attacks on Secretary Clinton. There are many Americans who were unwilling to listen to the warnings and now are feeling concerned by what is happening in Texas and the clear signal by the current majority of the United States Supreme Court of their willingness to let states continue to chip away at everything from a woman’s right to choose to voting rights.

The lesson to learn, especially for Generation Z, is that we must be willing to listen to those with experience and courage who are standing up and warning us of what our actions may bring. The actions and warnings given by Secretary Clinton and Congresswoman Lee demonstrate what courage looks like and how important it is to stand up and speak the truth, even if it is unpopular at the time.

There is also another lesson to learn: We should all be careful of our words and what we say we wish for.

I sincerely believe that Gray does not feel or believe that the Supreme Court is not important, but she has placed herself in a position where her words have not aged well in a world where over half of Texans recently lost their access to important healthcare services and rights. Of course Gray does not live in a frontline RED state like Texas, so being able to freely pontificate and never have to deal with the realities of those pontifications may be why she seems not to care.

For Sarandon, she will spend the rest of her life having to live with her words and that quickly growing horrific video of the MSNBC interview with Chris Hayes where she says “Some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately.” As a 19-year-old Texan, I can share what I learned on September 2 — that I live in a state in the United States of America where my very existence is under attack. Our ability to vote, learn the truth about our nation’s history and, as a woman, have the right to control my own body are all under blatant and deliberate attack in Texas. If this is the “revolution” Sarandon said she wanted, she is free to move here to Texas and actually live on the frontlines with those of us who are already here and fighting.

Lessons can be a hard thing to learn. Most of us often express our regrets when we experience the outcome of an action that we knew would not go well. Like so many members of Generation Z, we were not able to vote in 2016, so we had little control over the actions that would create this current lesson that we must live with. But for Gray, Sarandon and the rest of the United States, please know we are paying attention and learning lessons none of us ever asked or wished for.


Haley Taylor Schlitz is 19 years old and in her third year of law school at SMU Dedman School of Law. In May of 2019, she became Texas Woman's University's youngest graduate in history when she graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Woman’s University College of Professional Education. She is also the host of the online show Zooming In w/Gen Z.