Thursday, March 29, 2012

Me v. World


An interesting discussion occurred on a Jezebel comment thread the other day, surrounding the pro-life/pro-choice/abortion debate. Each side claimed to be open to debate, yet every statement dissolved into attacks and accusations.

Obviously, this issue is hugely polarizing, and a matter of life and death, quite literally, but there’s something more preventing any sort of productive discussion on the topic.

I took a class on argumentation, as part of my Masters coursework. One of the biggest things I took from the class was that there can be no legitimate argument or debate unless both sides can agree upon the initial terms.

So for example, imagine you are planning to paint a wall. You decide to consult a friend/partner/spouse/whomever on the color choice. They don’t like the color you’ve selected because it’s too dark/light/neutral/aggressive/whatever. That’s fine. But they also don’t think the wall exists.

You can’t argue over what color to paint a wall if both parties can’t even agree that there is a wall, much less that said wall is in need of painting.

Maybe that example seems a little facetious – afterall, a wall is a wall, right?

But the point is, our starting points are different, and those are what we have to defend and define in order to make any sort of headway in the legal discourse surrounding the topic of abortion in the US.

The biggest starting point that has to be understood is that this is not an issue of religion. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution specifically states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” So if we’re talking about this in the legal sense, religion cannot be involved, because to favor or disfavor religious discourse would be unconstitutional. Of course, that’s assuming you recognize the right of the Constitution to govern lawmaking in the US. Let’s just assume that one, I hope.

This is not (and should not be) problematic for religious individuals, because affirming abortion does not mean forcing individuals to have abortions. There is a difference. And mandating the religious beliefs of one group over the religious or a-religious beliefs of another group would be constitutional violation (see above). And yes, the Free Exercise Clause (“…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”) is important, too. In fact, the right of taxpayers not to have to support abortion services because it *might* be against their religion is already federally protected.

The Hyde Amendment prevents any federal funds from being used for abortion services. That means those who worry that their religious freedom is being threatened by the taxes they pay going to fund the whorish and amoral behavior of slutty women nationwide can stop worrying.

Then, of course, we have the life issue. This gets even more tricky. Again, we have to be careful of religion. Because that has to be the accepted starting point – that anything that begins with “according to the Bible” or “God says…” is not allowed.

So when two cells meet, a sperm and an egg, is that life? I’m not a scientist, but I have some vague idea that if you took those two cells out of a woman’s body and set them on a table, they would not magically become a person. This is an important distinction. Maybe it would be life, but it would not be a person according to our legal understanding of the term. Those cells would not be capable of breathing, thinking, acting – not as they were. Without the intervention of science, or another person (the mother’s body), those two cells are never going to grow up to pay taxes, vote, or serve in the army.

Any legislation that seeks to call the combination of two cells a person (I’m looking at you, Oklahoma, Mississippi, etc.) has to be viewed with a good deal of suspicion. At the very least because it’s an obvious violation of the “no religion in legal issues” principle.

I know there is a lot more to this issue but I didn’t set out to write a treatise, and I didn’t set out to solve the abortion debate. I just wanted to maybe put together something to better help people understand how an informed debate about abortion could be started. We have to go back to the beginning if we have any hopes of ever having valid discourse about such a highly-contentious topic.

Feel free to leave your thoughts – just no personal attacks. <3 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Demonic possession


When they’re not coming after women, they’re going after gays. Everyone’s favorite Mr. Rogerian-esq crackpot Pat Robertson – not to be outdone by the raving lunacy Rush Limbaugh has perfected - claimed this week that homosexuality is a type of “demonic possession.”

I’m thinking little Patty Robertson must have stumbled into his mom and dad’s room at the wrong time once too often, because he has some seriously unhealthy conceptions about sex. I mean, if gay male sex is the most demonic, awful thing he can conceive of, maybe it’s time to start filtering all the animal/midget/weird-stuff-that-Im-even-too-na├»ve-to-know-about porn from Rush’s mailbox to his.

You want demonic possession, Patty? I’m sure we can find you some kinky shit.*

*Literally.

It never fails to boggle the mind that a country that has dealt with witch hunts and slavery and segregation and internment camps still can’t quite seem to learn from its mistakes. No, but, THIS time, they really deserve to be treated like second-class citizens…

Why can’t the Republican party exist on economic issues anymore? Have they just gotten really bad at math? If the total value of derivatives worldwide is estimated at well over a quadrillion dollars, and that bubble collapses… ah fuck it, blame the gays.

I feel like they must be using these tactics as a form of misdirection (“Transvaginally rape the women! Steal all the pills!” and “Our sons will become tutu-wearing sissies! Stop the gays!”) But for what? What don’t they want us to see?

We’re on to you, Republicans. We don’t know exactly what your shenanigans are yet, but we know they probably involve private yachts, sweater vests and choir boys. You sick bastards. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ignorant TV reporters and the uneducated hicks who love them


On an episode that probably should have been titled “Racist ignoramuses and the Fox News correspondents who love them,” Geraldo Rivera claimed that “the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”

Blaming fashion choices for ignorance and violence is all the rage with those kids in the Republican party nowadays. If a woman gets raped, it’s because she joined the military and/or dressed too provocatively; if she gets pregnant, it’s because she forgot to wear her God-issued aspirin pill; and if a kid gets murdered for no reason, it’s because he had the audacity to wear something that covered his ears in the rain.

Rivera tweeted: “In the avalanche of criticism how interesting that most minority moms back me because they want their sons to live long and prosper.” Nanu, nanu.

They’re just backing you, Rivera, because they don’t want to end up on an episode of Geraldo with a bunch of skinheads and a broken nose.

Is it really any wonder that Fox News viewers are considerably less informed than people who don’t watch any news at all? Or that there seems to be a link between lack of intelligence and prejudice/social conservatism? I could make up news that would be more reliable than the nonsense they churn out on Fox.

At least we still have The Simpsons…

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wisdom teeth and Mitt Romney

So I had my wisdom teeth out today. Not the most fun experience, and I have jowls to rival Newt Gingrich at the moment. But the fun part was, I have some vague, hazy recollections of dreaming about politics, and I woke up calling Mitt Romney stupid and begging the doctor not to vote for him.

Even under crazy anesthesia, my subconscious mind has its priorities straight.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A glimpse of our future?


I woke up this morning and opened my computer, prepared to be outraged over more domestic attacks against women and our rights. Representative Alan Dick (c’mon dude, it’s almost too easy…) didn’t disappoint, but what really caught my attention was the story about the Moroccan girl being forced to marry her rapist.

And you know what my very first thought was, when I saw the story posted on Facebook? ‘Jesus fuck, don’t give the Republicans any more ideas.’

In Morocco, article 475 of their penal code allows a rapist to escape prosecution if his victim is a minor and he ‘agrees’ to marry her. Shockingly, the marriage didn’t end well for the 16 year old girl in this story – she was raped, forced into marriage, beaten repeatedly to the point of drinking rat poison to end her own life, and was then dragged by her hair through the streets until she died.  

But at least her ‘husband’ is absolved of guilt. I mean, if she hadn’t been such a slut and provoked him in the first place…

Stories like this make me want to take my uterus and my ovaries and my dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged and fly off to the fictional Galt’s Gulch, where I can escape the farcicality of it all and watch the rest of the world launch itself off the edge and straight into hell.

Because in a society where just the most recent challenges to our rights and our freedoms include restricted access to birth control, reduced health care services for lower income women, transvaginal rape by the government, and the most recent Dick-ish move, suggested permission slips from a woman’s owner baby-daddy if she wants to access a legal, medical procedure, how far, really, are we from a situation like Morocco?

I really wouldn’t be surprised if there were some Republican men out there going ‘huh, well maybe not in the case of minors, but if we just had rapists marry their victim, she’d be provided for, so she’d have to shut up, and he’d be ‘punished.’ Problem solved…!’

Though the indignity of being forced to defend over and over what is already mine, and what is furthermore unassailable for the male half of the population, makes my stomach churn, I will continue to do so, because for now, I can. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Domestic terrorism


Domestic terrorism doesn’t get talked about a lot. Maybe because we like to think it doesn’t happen? Maybe because it’s easier to fear an enemy you can recognize: one with darker skin and a turban.

But it happens every day in this country, and every woman is a victim.

Sure, to some extent I fear walking down into a metro station and having it explode around my ears, or walking into the wrong building at the wrong time. But you know what I fear more? The acts of terrorism I can’t see, and the ones my government not only won’t stop, but actively supports.

According to the FBI's Terrorist Research and Analytical Center, domestic terrorism is "the unlawful use of force or violence, committed by a group(s) of two or more individuals, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

The attempt to coerce a segment of the population, namely women, to not seek a potentially-life saving, legal medical procedure, because of religious beliefs, using the force of Congressional power and legislation, is an act of terrorism. And not only is no one stopping it, the Republicans are actively engaging in and encouraging it.

Every time a “lone activist” firebombs a pro-choice Senator’s office door, or kills an abortion provider, or pickets a Planned Parenthood clinic, or tells me Jesus loves me, even though she thinks I’m a whore for getting an annual preventive screening exam, they are all working in concert toward a larger, more violent and hateful agenda.

An agenda that marginalizes women and makes their bodies property of the state, and their lives an afterthought to the professed religious ranting of right-wing Christian extremists.

The fact that we are forced to have this discussion, over and over again, is testament to the fact that women are not, and never have been, truly considered equals in this country. The very fact that our government condones this vicious, hostile attack against us every day – by individuals, by religious factions, by politicians – jeopardizes our health, our safety, our futures.

Whether you believe in abortion or not, the individual decision another makes is not yours, nor will it ever be.

Allowing access to abortion and birth control is not a personal affront to anyone’s religion, and any rhetoric that seeks to distort the truth and make a woman’s right to access and obtain health care a religious offense is a subtle yet diabolical attempt to undermine everyone’s right to exist as a free and autonomous individual.

We need to change the conversation. We need to let politicians and religious bigots and misogynists and the apathetic masses who really think my birth control personally offends them know that this discussion is over, and that this course of action against us is not okay.

You do not have the right to banter about my rights as if they were just another set of disposable golf balls at your country club. My freedom, my health care and my rights are no longer up for debate.