When Men Have the Last Word

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http://womanscape.com/2017/11/27/women-chains/woman-in-chains-song-tff/

As I write this, thousands of Evangelical Church leaders (at the urging of #45), are encouraging their members to get out and vote in November. This is part of a larger campaign that involves millions of dollars in spending through the use of social media, phone calls, mail, and e-mails, and the  so-called micro-targeting of voters: a planned total of 1.2 million people in all.

The spheres of religion and politics  are now fully merged in this country.  It has taken decades of organized planning-both overt and covert-that has brought us to this moment in America.  The movement began in the late 70’s as a reaction to racial integration and mid-twentieth century feminism. Let us not forget that Jerry Falwell  began his movement when he founded an all white Christian school -Lynchburg Christian Academy- as a response to forced racial integration. He touted racial segregation as biblically based. Since that time, we have at least two generations of evangelical citizens raised up and hard-wired for religion, most especially through the growth of private Christian schools and their related churches who are free to espouse and require an adherence to a particular doctrine and dogma of Christianity. As a result, the Religious Right has grown into a powerful political force intent on creating a Conservative Christian Fascist Theocracy under the thinly veiled disguises of religious freedom and a “pro-life” stance (which, by the way, is fairly new to Conservative Christians, who until Paul Weyrich had the idea, were decidedly pro-choice and quite uninterested in politics in general). To arrive at the present moment, the movement’s leaders have had  to strike a Faustian Bargain, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s election right up to the current occupant in the White House. Neither one of these men were and are particularly religious people. But they were and are willing to appease this particular constituency in order to secure their power. In fact, the current administration’s Cabinet is stacked with many Conservative Christians who are changing and implementing all sorts of policies designed to benefit and satisfy big corporations as well as their xenophobic, homophobic and misogynistic base. In fact, I would argue that Evangelical leaders, their members and the current White House occupant are engaged in their own Devil’s Triangle, with the members serving at the behest and pleasure of both. The movement’s influence has had an effect on all levels of government; it is no coincidence that many state legislatures are now chock full of far right conservatives. Nor is serendipitous that much of our current Congress is caught in this same stranglehold. Their path to power has been paved by stoking the fears of false persecution and victimization, voter suppression,  and good old-fashioned gerrymandering.

So, here we are once again at another critical moment; we have had may weeks of them since January 20th, 2017! Right now, I believe that we have reached a breaking point where more than half of our citizens’ rights are at stake.  Like millions, I witnessed the Kavanaugh hearings last week. I watched as the usual big mouths from the Republican side used a woman to ask another woman questions out of false deference to Dr. Blasey-Ford’s terror about appearing in front of such a powerful body of white privileged men. Then I watch them shut the former down as soon as she got close enough to a possible crack in Kavanaugh’s calendar of events. Prior to that, I watched Kavanaugh unleash a vast amount of unchecked anger on unfounded conspiracies that he claimed were bent on derailing his nomination. As I watched, it became clear to me that this man has never had any of actions questioned. Up until this moment, he probably lived a life of elitist ease, working hard to climb higher on his social and career ladder but never suffering any real consequences for his escapades. Kavanaugh openly displayed what can only be described as adolescent aggression often attributed to teenage boys who are trying to squeeze their way out of a lie or a seriously damaging situation. He was unwilling to help himself or any of the committee members get to even a kernel of truth (which he also did at his previous hearings, evading questions about himself or policy or any precedents set by previous Supreme Court decisions). And this is why I found him to be so unbelievable. That, and the fact that he was aided and abetted by many of the 11 Republican’s ridiculous pontifications-as if he were the victim here.

By putting Kavanaugh after Dr. Blasey-Ford, he got the last and loudest word. Of course, if Dr. Blasey-Ford was as belligerent and petulant as he, we would have been having an entirely different conversation. And this brings me to another point. Imagine if all women spoke up at the time of their harassment, molestation or assault. Suppose they came at us with all the venom that Kavanaugh displayed? What would we do?

Women don’t speak up because we have been rendered powerless and because we are wrongly judged. We all remember Anita Hill and how she was treated. Some of us remember how we have been treated when we have come forward and then wish we hadn’t. When a graduate school friend of mine accused her landlord of rape, the first question the police asked her was “How many beers did you have that night?” The guy assaulted her in her own bed while she was sleeping after he gained entry into her apartment!

I cannot begin to tell you how many stories I have heard from friends and loved ones about their own sexual and physical abuse at the hands of someone they know. Not one of them came forward. Call it whatever you want. Fear. Shock. Shame. Self-Blame. Why? Because this is the culture in which we raise girls.  You are either Eve or Mary. Temptress or Perpetual Virgin. Which brings me back to the Evangelical Movement. In their culture, women are considered sexual threats to men. They are raised to be the gatekeepers of men’s sexual weaknesses and are also taught to keep themselves pure until they are married. This involves all forms of sexual expression, not just intercourse. Men are taught that their wives are there to serve at their pleasure and to procreate. (For more on this, I suggest reading Linda Kay Klein’s book, “Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free.”)

And this is why the movement wants to outlaw abortion. They want women to serve as vessels for the next generation regardless of the circumstances or health risks to themselves. They want to limit access to birth control too (remember the Hobby Lobby decision?). When women cannot control their fertility, they have no autonomy. They are not free to pursue their own interests and desires. They are forced to control and suppress their sexual expression out of fear of pregnancy.  Thus, they are viewed as “virginal” except when someone wants them pregnant or to use them for their own pleasure. This unholy trinity of purity, pleasure and pregnancy is totally out of bounds when it comes to embracing the faith that was founded in Jesus’ name.  Perhaps for some Christians, it is only about his death on the cross and his sacrifice for our sins. From this, all doctrine springs forth and controls the behavior of the faithful from birth until death. I myself believe it is bigger than that. I worry less about being a sinner and more about being a giver and doing some good in the world. I believe that Jesus had a big tent. He was radically inclusive and spoke truth to power and he would be mortified at what some are doing in his name.

We forget that women had to “bust their butts” in order to get laws passed that allowed them to become more fuller citizens. We have had the right to vote for less than 100 years and it only came after many significant battles, including arrests, jail time and yes, rape! The Civil Rights Act allowed for more work place protections and opportunities. Title IX allowed for more equity in all areas of education and athletics (although Betsy Devos is attempting to undermine this in regards to sexual assault, of course!). Women can now apply for a credit card and loan without the consent of or co-signing by a man.  Wives can be victims of rape by their husbands. It is illegal to beat and batter your spouse.  Access to birth control has come as a result of a Supreme Court decision (Griswold v. Connecticut). All of this is at risk because of  the restrictive cultural and religious beliefs of a few.

When you want to rule all of your citizens in an authoritarian manner, you start with the women. During his reign, Hitler outlawed abortion (with the exception being if the father or mother was Jewish). One of the slogans during that era  was: “Kinder, Kuche,  Kirche” or Children, Kitchen, Church.  Sound familiar?

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In the Name of Love*

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Save others so you can Sanctify yourself

 Help others so you can Heal yourself

Live for others so you can Liberate yourself

In this tempest tossed time

it is necessary to remember those whose lives were lost

Those who desired- not special treatment- but equal treatment

Access and Admittance

  Sacrifice without Servitude

 A place at the table and a room at the inn

And choices without the taint of self-righteous judgement

Day 4.  Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. *The title is inspired by U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)”- one of my top favorite songs from my favorite band. They continue to rock on in my heart and soul!

 

Scammers, Schemers and Scoundrels

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Image courtesy of: https://www.askideas.com/60-most-beautiful-injustice-quotes-and-sayings/

OH THE MENDACITY!

Have you heard that giant sucking sound?* That’s what you’re hearing as the Prevaricator- in-Chief, his pal The Grim Reaper, the Ayn Rand Adherent of the House, the Chief Perjurer Attorney General, and Commander for Copious Amounts of CO2 begin to whittle away at our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are on the fast track to being denied our ability to breathe, vote and live. Preparations are already underway to throw us in the Pit of Health Careless Hell. The House pulled an all-nighter last week, working hard not to help the American people, but to hurt us-a sure sign of democratic decay in this country. And that’s just for starters, of course. The Prevaricator also sent Marines into Syria to fight ISIS.  Yes, let’s keep repeating the same actions and expecting a different result!  Speaking of  destruction, the EPA is well on its way to evisceration. With less regulation and more contamination flowing our way, we are sure to perish from poorer quality drinking water, chemically poisoned fish and increased levels of air pollution before we can even get to a doctor. At best, we’ll probably be too sick to get to the voting booth come the mid-term elections. And if we do make it, we better be sure to show proof that we qualify, lest we appear to be committing fraud.

It’s easy to come undone with each onslaught of ominous news. In my gut, I knew this was coming. When I wore black on Inauguration Day, a colleague complimented my outfit. When I told her I was in mourning for our country, she was dismissive, stating that she didn’t like everything Obama had done but nothing bad happened to her. I wish I had the right words at the time; I knew the bad boys up on the Hill were waiting with bated breath to unleash their Machiavellian Manifesto.

I have spent much time reading and listening and watching this week, furiously taking notes each time important information presents itself. My scribbles are scattered about waiting to be more coherently transcribed. I supposed this is a metaphor for my own thoughts. And what I’m learning and discovering is mind-boggling. Like Congressman Shimkus, who doesn’t think that men should have to pay for prenatal care through their insurance (doesn’t he know how insurance works?) Or HR 1313 which supposedly preserves employers wellness programs but also may now require an employee to submit to genetic testing. (Since I am now on my husband’s health plan, we already have to undergo yearly biometric screening to avoid getting financially penalized.) Or worse, the provision in the Republican health scare plan that would end insurance coverage of abortion (sorry if you’ve been raped or a victim of incest or your life is at risk or the fetus is severely deformed -pay up!). This kind of “law-making” is reminiscent of the former Communist totalitarian regime under the late Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania who- among other horrors-made abortions illegal and banned all forms of birth control in order to increase his country’s population. He even went as far to forbid sex education(don’t forget we already lack consistent, comprehensive, quality sex education here). And his regime had their own form of biometrics as well. Women under the age of 45 were subjected to pregnancy tests at clinics every 1 to 3 months, having been rounded up at their workplaces for the procedure. If they did not reproduce, they were subjected to questioning and even a “celibacy tax”. Doctors were under pressure to keep pregnant women and their children as patients because their salaries would be cut if a child died. Under these oppressive laws lay a few harsh truths: inadequate nutrition due to poverty and chronic food shortages and inadequate health care. Estimates in Romania at the time were that 60% of pregnancies ended in abortion or miscarriage. Illegal abortions were expensive, costing 2-4 months’ salary. Exceptions were only permitted if a woman was over 40 or had 4 children. (If you had Communist Party connections, abortion was readily available.) Harsher still, were the many orphanages discovered after Ceausescu’s overthrow and subsequent execution. Parents were just too poor to care for their children.

This is just one country’s disturbing history. Other countries surely have more depending upon their current laws:

https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/AbortionMap_Factsheet_2013.pdf

Years ago during the Reagan Administration, I read Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale. The story, (which was adapted into a movie in 1990 and is set to be a mini-series on Hulu next month) is  set in a dystopian future. Citizens live in a totalitarian theocracy where any remaining power women had is taken from them. I remember thinking it was the scariest book I had ever read. Given the times then and the times now, I am afraid it still is. For perspective on the book and current events in our country read Atwood’s essay here:

My friends, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The big bills make the headlines. Not so much House Bill 610 sponsored by Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa, which states: “To distribute federal funds for elementary and secondary in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.” A step toward dismantling public education? ( Thanks to Izzy for this piece of news!)

What we are currently witnessing in this country is the continued creeping infiltration of corporations (disguised as government through the passage of legislation) into every aspect of our lives. Health care decisions are not left to the doctors, nurses and other professionals (as well as their patients).  Health insurance  and pharmaceutical companies call the shots. The science on climate change  from NASA, NOAA  and other qualified experts has been flushed down the toilet by greedy energy companies. Public education policies are not in the hands of classroom teachers, child development experts, literacy specialists and education researchers and professors. Investment in education is now moving towards private religious (aka Fundamentalist Christian) and/or a for-profit business model that misses the mark on what really works to educate all 21st century children from birth to age 22.

As I and millions like me continue to speak truth to power, I fantasize about that special place reserved for those whose narrow-minded ideas and endless greed and rabid hate hurts us all.

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                        Image courtesy of: Google Images

*Ross Perot inspired this one. He said it during his presidential campaign regarding factory jobs going to Mexico if NAFTA went into effect.

Stand Up and Fight

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Image: Google Images

It was all about power. Creating it. Using it. Taking it from others.

~from “How the Light Gets In” by Louise Penney

Overheard in the grocery store check out line yesterday: “It’s been a long day, up early and I still  have a ways to go.”  I have fallen into the rabbit hole of overt political action; I am paying attention to an inner voice that leaves me with no choice but to speak up and contend with the dark forces operating within our country and beyond. The last four weeks have been mentally exhausting and at times frustrating, but also exhilarating.

Some may be surprised at our arrival at the current state of affairs; I am not. When I was in the midst of preparing to move in the spring of 2015, I came across a paper I had written for a graduate course entitled: “Reagan, the New Right and the Threat Against Feminism.” I wrote that paper in 1986. Unfortunately, the paper was lost but I do recall writing about the administration’s attempt to pare down and/or eventually eliminate the Department of Education and of its tenuous partnership with Christian Fundamentalists and their attempts to outlaw abortion and certain forms of birth control for women that they had deemed abortifacients. Sound familiar?

Since those seemingly halcyon days of youthful idealism and continued progressive push back against Christian fundamentalism, I have learned a lot.  All along, I always thought it was about the legalization of abortion in 1973.  In reality, it is more sinister. In fact, religious conservatives were supportive of abortion rights early on  (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133?o=0):

In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

The tipping point for religious conservatives came when the IRS refused to grant Bob Jones University tax exempt status because it practiced racial segregation, a violation of the Civil Rights Act. At the time evangelicals believed that racial segregation was biblically based. In short, this prompted people like Paul Weyrich (co-founder of the Heritage Foundation), Jerry Falwell and others to jump on the political band wagon, find a cause that would unite evangelicals and then associate themselves with people whose values didn’t necessarily align with theirs but, who in turn, needed their votes in order to attain national power. In fact, as governor of California in 1967, Ronald Reagan actually passed a very liberal abortion law. The New Right’s association with the late president was nothing more than a marriage of convenience. This arrangement has been reignited in the latest presidential election with far more devastating and far reaching consequences for all the citizens of our great nation.

The Christian fundamentalist stand against abortion is nothing but a smoke screen for a more underhanded manipulation for absolute power:

In the last forty years, big money (and this means Religious Right Big Money as well-their organizations are run like corporations) has further infiltrated elections on all levels: local, state and national. We all know of the consequences of the Citizens United decision. But the devices of suppression and oppression were being put in place long before then. The Koch brothers and others like them have felt stymied by what they deem as over regulation by government agencies such as the EPA.  They and their operatives have long had a hand in the creation of political movements such as the Tea Party and the selection of hard right candidates who will do their bidding (think of the State Republican Attorneys General and their ties to the energy industry and the subsequent approval of former Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt):

And, in today’s news, a story of how of how current House Republicans are demanding climate change documents from the New York and Massachusetts Attorneys General (both Democrats), known as part of the “Green 20”:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/house-republicans-demand-climate-documents-from-state-attorneys-general-%E2%80%94-again/ar-AAn44H3?li=AA5a8k&ocid=spartandhp

It would appear, then, if you are not on the “right” side of energy companies you will be part of a federal investigation.

And clearly, you have to be on the “right” side in order to get elected at all.  The REDMAP Initiative (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-power-that-gerrymandering-has-brought-to-republicans/2016/06/17/045264ae-2903-11e6-ae4a-3cdd5fe74204_story.html?utm_term=.5727a0444985)  has brought unprecedented conservative power to both the House and the Senate. Their stranglehold helped to obstruct nearly every proposal brought forth by President Obama. And there is something surely wrong when the leaders of the House (Paul Ryan) and Senate ( Mitch McConnell) deliberately chose to ignore the Constitution (Article II, Section 2) when nominating Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, the Religious Right’s current  claims of religious freedom violations are disingenuous. For example, prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, Hobby Lobby covered birth control methods such as Plan B and ella. Yet, when the Affordable Care Act mandated coverage, they claimed that their right to practice their religion was being infringed upon. Hypocrisy at its best!

The Prevaricator-in-Chief is the epitome of  the authoritarian(some claim militaristic) turn this country has taken. His chief strategist believes in a New World Order and a purging of political elites. And his Vice President is the Conservative Christian puppeteer. Pence believes in conversion therapy for gay people, said that same sex couples were a sign of “societal collapse”  and voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act for equal pay for women because he believes that two working parents leads to “stunted emotional growth for children” ( Gail Collins, New York Times). The elected officials in the House and Senate, however, have their own Machiavellian agendas to push through and willfully ignore the problems he is creating. Now that they want to actually enact laws, they are willing to put party over country:

We must act with greater moral courage than those who purportedly serve us. There are people who believe that their actions won’t make a difference one way or another. No matter which side your representative or senator falls on, he or she must hear from you! In fact, when I called Charlie Crist’s office one day last week, his staffer told me that we are making a difference. Bill Nelson’s staff is always gracious and patient; I know his votes match my views but I call anyway. More importantly, I still continue to call Senator Marco Rubio even though he clearly has put party over country and profits over people. And local officials matter as well. I am looking forward to meeting with my representative and senator during the Florida recess.

If we don’t stand up and fight, we are at the very least headed for a Corporate Fundamentalist Christian Theocracy. The evidence is clear that Democracy is in peril. Find your passion then find ways you can act upon it. It doesn’t take much time but if  we don’t act, we will run out of time.

 

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Image courtesy of: Ha! Tea ‘n’ Danger – WordPress.com

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Liberty is Weeping

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Image courtesy of: AmericanIconsTemple – WordPress.com

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Can you hear them?

The thundering hooves of delusional despots

Faces with painted smiles

in a heated hunt

like hounds headed for their prey

Hell-bent on holding down the humble

Heaving them into hovels to hide-away  

Can you see them?

The circling sharks, self-serving, selling and seducing second-rate safety

Can you smell them?

The pussy-footed pustules and pompous panderers promising protection

Make no mistake, the nation will not be “ours” again

 No return to “greatness” or “glory”  

The tide is turning

The disenfranchised

The degraded

Thrown into a rip current

to be drowned

dismembered

and dismissed

While those with the skin of the founding fathers

All mighty and white

Fracture the freedoms of  females

and others lacking fair faces

We are not mere birth vessels

Your slaves and servants once and again 

We cry for our beloved country

We are gutted but not defeated