Disrobe the Supreme Court

The word 'robe' is directly related to the word 'rob'

Disrobe the Supreme Court

I’ve never really understood robes. They’ve always kind of seemed like something popularized by movie studios as a way to adhere to the Hays Code. And then once the code lapsed, I don’t know, maybe they kept showing up in movies because the costume department just had all these robes. “Hmmmmm, this character is reading a newspaper. What should he be wearing? I guess we’ve got some robes I can pull.”

And sure, you can buy robes in real life, but I was never sure whether anyone actually did! I can’t think of a single person in my childhood or adult life that I’ve ever seen wear a robe. It’s like…after Home Alone 2 came out, it was technically possible to purchase a Talkboy. But I never knew a kid in real life who had one. 

It seemed possible I’d go my entire life without ever really trying out a robe. Well, possible until about nine days ago.

Riley and I went to California on June 19th. The trip ended kind of traumatically! But before it ended, we spent our last night at The Prospect Hotel. It feels too close to Hollywood Boulevard. Until you step inside. Then it feels like a jewel box. And while it contains you, it’s very easy to pretend you’re the kind of person who sparkles. Or wears robes. 

The funny-pathetic story behind the robe try-on is a paid-member exclusive. It's just waiting at the end of this letter. Read it and cringe.

The room we stayed in had perfect pillows, a just-right mattress and two Derek Rose London robes in the closet. I’ve never heard of this Derek fellow. Is he from London? Is London his last name? Is Derek a person at all? Or just a personafied branch of a conglomerate? I don’t know. I do know that when I slipped his robe on, after a shower and hours before I had anywhere to be, I finally understood how to use a robe. 

California light, soft with a bouganvillia filter, spilled into the bathroom and I looked at myself in the mirror. I cinched the robe and called out to Riley, 

“Riley! I think I get robes now! They can cushion the time between getting out of the shower and getting dressed! Like you can wear a robe while you do your hair or makeup or whatever. I think people wear robes because they’re trying to extend their comfort into the day a little bit!”

He called back, “What’s it like to be a visionary?”

Which is very funny. 

Why had it taken me so long to discover the ease of robes? I don’t know! But I think the way I became an adult had something to do with it. I had a baby before I’d even attempted rob wearing. I was still a dumb kid when I had a kid. I hadn’t built out rituals and rites for my mornings; I still hadn’t figured out how I wanted to spend my days. 

It’d be easy maybe to turn this into some kind of moms are always denying themselves self-care narrative. But that isn’t what I mean at all. I am trying to convey something different and deeper and sillier. I think I thought robes were for people who were living more seriously than me, or more intentionally or...something. I just wasn’t living a life that qualified me for robe-wearing. 

And here, you might ask, well…what kind of life qualifies you to wear a robe? And then we’d both giggle at the question, because it’s very stupid! 

I realized in that bathroom that the people who wear robes aren’t really different from me, they’re just people who decided to put on a robe one day. 

I was thinking about that robe moment today when the latest Supreme Court decision came down. Today, six people in robes made the U.S. President something much closer to a king than a citizen. They wore those same robes last year when they declared women don’t have reproductive rights. And they’ve worn those robes while making every other decision that destablizes democracy and makes the vulnerable more vulnerable.

Did you know the word robe is directly related to the rob? Both come from words that mean, booty, spoils, things stolen. Back when textiles were difficult to produce, clothing was very valuable. When a conqueror conquered, their plunder included the fine clothes of the vanquished. 

In Christian Europe, spoils served as evidence of a ruler’s God-given authority. “God must want me to be in charge because God is letting me take all this cool shit.” In medievel Europe, robes were associated with Church authority. And Church authority was all wrapped up with State authority. Different robes represented different levels of God-endorsed power. 

Judges in the United States wear robes today because robes were proper attire for the Royal Court in the 1300s. And to be clear for my non-monarchy minded readers, the Royal Court is not a judicial court, it’s the seat of the king. You want to gawp at royalty? You had to wear the right robe. 

English judges started wearing robes in other courts because the garment clearly associated their authority with the King’s authority. The Crown even gave judges the material for their robes. In the winter, their robes were trimmed with fur. In the spring, they were often ornamented with a bright taffeta. 

When the American colonists split from the British, their judges kept the robes. But they made them more sedate. Simple black robes. The idea, I suppose, was to separate judges from their history of answering to kings for trimmings. 

But power finds a way. And in America, it’s found a way through a once backwater court. A half-hearted hack, the Supreme Court wasn’t supposed to do much or be much. But, under the direction of its judges, the Court has been accumulating power since 1800. In recent years, that pursuit has really picked up - accelerated by eye-watering corruption. 

Bringing us to today, when the majority of the court claimed the power to Make America a Monarchy Again. A decision made squarely in the service of Trump, the would-be king who gave three of the majority opinion judges their robes. 

They’re using those robes to rob us of our rights. Which I appreciate from a etymological perspective, but abhor from a being alive in this time perspective.

The Supreme Court justices think they can get away with this because we’ve been raised to think those robes represent something inviolable. But it’s all made up. All of it! Their ability to plunder our rights isn’t proof God is on their side. It’s just proof that they’ll do anything for the trimmings of power. 

Would you let me slip on that white robe from Derek Rose London and declare it gave me the power to keep your daughter from having a life-saving abortion? No? Because that’s ridiculous and no one should have that power - even someone who’s gone through rites and rituals to gain Robe-Authority?

Okay! Then why are we giving these miserable pick-mes that kind of power? We should pack the court until it's got no influence at all. Or something! Really anything other than letting a couple people who decided to put on robes rule.

A robe is just a large piece of cloth with a sleeve stuck on each side. They’re easy to put on and easy to slip off. 

There are currently nine Supreme Court justices. Six of them seem hell-bent on our collective exploitiation and repression. How many of us are there again?

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Even with the fancy robes hanging in the closet, I might not have ever tried one on, if it weren't for Riley. Keep reading.