[Note: For the first time and probably not the last time, I am posting my column as a blog on the same day. The issues raised in this column/blog are too important not to "shout" from the highest hill. So, for this "special edition," I also include the message which covers my column when I distribute it to those requesting email distribution of my column.]
Because of the pace of developments in Virginia, I had to make changes in my column before its publication. I suspected that McDonnell would cringe to self-protect, but I also suspect that he will be back to the issue and others like it in any office which he occupies. Just as mainstream Republicans did not appreciate the fervor of Tea Partiers (ask John Boehner how it is going with him), so reasonable people have not appreciated the fanaticism of religious zealots. The rule of thumb: do not get on the tiger and think to ride it; it will go where it wants and you will not be able to get off safely. (Study Jeb Bush, who understands and is handling the extremists with adroitness.)
The real political divide today is less the partisan one between the cluster of interests on the Left or the cluster of interests on the Right, but between those who believe in reason and those who do not--I can almost say "respectively," but "almost" is a potent qualifier. The flagrant, unembarrassed dishonesty of those who make false or unsupportable statements threatens to overwhelm the responsible use of free speech for democratic purposes. It is platitudinous, but nonetheless important, to say that indifference to reason is the greatest danger to democracy. No one indifferent to reason can make sensible, not to say, honest, decisions. I am not surprised, but I am still shocked, that Virginia legislators passed and the Virgina Governor announced in advance his intention to sign the ultrasound bill without, so many now claim, knowing what was in the bill. The only possible credit which they can garner is for lying or recklessness of the highest order.
The most obvious is history professor and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's presumptuous pontification that Barack Obama is the most dangerous president in the country's history. I would be interested in knowing what the dangers are and what measures establish the superlative. Such statements have become the common currency on the Right, probably because they serve to fuel the anti-Obama hatred of the racist Right. Which is not to say, of course, that Obama cannot be criticized, for I have criticized more than once over several years, but for reasons and arguments given.
I conclude by congratulating the Sun-News for an editorial policy which permits the use of unvarnished medical language. By contrast, one of my addressees, with a Well Fargo office email, did not receive Wednesday's version because of the words "vagina" and "uterus." Part of the sullying of women is the suggestion that the anatomical terms for female genitalia are "dirty talk." I am no pro in pornography, but the little which I saw as a college boy did not use medical terminology. Perhaps times have changed, maybe such terminology is tres chic in those circles today, but I doubt it.
One final word. It is all very well for this old, white man to be passionately pro-feminist. But it is far more important for women to be passionately pro-feminist. Otherwise, if they allow men to give them their rights, they enable men to take them away. Women must earn the rights which are inherently theirs, and they must remain vigilant when they deservedly achieve them. What we are witnessing now is the slow erosion of women's rights because women have not understood that the culture of equality still lags earlier legislation and that many who disagreed with equality then disagree with it now, and will continue to resist for the same moral, religious, or social motives until, like certain words, all forms of gender and gender-orientation discrimination become, as they should be, politically incorrect in a country professing to be a democracy of "We the People." (The same holds true in matters of race, religion, ethnicity, and nationality.)
Revised version (now #8) of "Republican Leaders Abandon First Principles to Wage War on Women"
If Republican leaders do not practice what they preach should anyone believe a word they say? They profess first principles about personal freedom, individual responsibility, and small government, not least to prevent government intrusion into the lives and liberties of private citizens. And yet….
Since their 2010 take-overs, Republican governors with Republican-controlled legislatures have pushed gender-related legislation on same-sex marriage, contraception, and abortion. No majorities elected Republicans to enact laws on these issues. Indeed, same-sex marriages are legal in a growing number of states, contraception is legal and practiced by virtually all sexually active women, and abortion, more reluctantly and less frequently used than in the past, is legal and practiced for the usual medical and social reasons: the woman’s life or health, serious fetal defects, and rape or incest. The trend for a half-century has been for government to limit its power and to enlarge personal freedom.
But when personal freedom runs counter to their moral and religious convictions, Republican leaders, mostly male and obedient to religious zealots, defy the consent of the governed and try to deny the majority’s will. Unable to prevail by honest means, they pursue dishonest ones: silence on social issues when they campaign, unpopular legislative efforts when they get elected. The result: Republican leaders using state power to intrude into citizens’ lives
The most egregious example is a law proposed by Virginia Republicans leaders and protested by no Republican leaders anywhere for nearly two weeks, a law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound probe inserted into and through her vagina and into her uterus against her will shortly before a scheduled abortion. The proposed law makes Virginia Republican legislators a gang perpetrating rape by device.
Like similar laws in seven other states, this proposed law is a Republican effort at legislated terrorism. The purported reason for this politically motivated coercion is informed consent, with the state telling women what they must know to make a decision (and what doctors must do to them beforehand). The real reason is to deter abortion by the threat of abuse, humiliation, and cost. The state takes control of a woman’s body and subjects it to physical penetration. It requires her doctor to perform the procedure or incur a civil penalty of $2,500. It requires the father to support a child not aborted. Because insurance does not cover medically unwarranted procedures, it requires the woman to pay hundreds of dollars in costs and thus deters the poor more than the rich.
Republican hypocrisy is flagrant and indefensible. Republican leaders, vigorously in Virginia, oppose federal health reform legislation because, so they falsely claim, it allows government to intrude into medical decisions properly made only by patients and their doctors, and because it requires people to purchase insurance, regardless of their wishes. But, for political, not medical, reasons, Virginia’s proposed legislation and similar laws elsewhere violate the patient-doctor relationship, require involuntary and violative procedures, and impose significant expense.
The Virginia Governor’s belated effort to repair the political damage caused by this objectionable legislation to his vice presidential prospects does not matter. Despite his proposed revisions for less physical intrusion, the bill remains a travesty of Republican first principles and reveals the weakness of Republican commitment to them.
One note: Virginia’s white men have traveled a long way. Once, as Democrats, they protected the sanctity of white womanhood. They argued that integration would lead black men to deflower white women. Now, as Republicans, they legalize the desecration of all women, white as well as black. Integration has finally come to the Old Dominion.
Everything about Virginia’s governmental abuse of power and Republican leaders’ prolonged nationwide silence communicates contempt for women, whom they regard as both appropriate sex objects and suitable objects of pornographic practices. For only differences in volition and money distinguish inserting an ultrasound probe into an unwilling woman’s vagina and uterus, and inserting a sex toy into a porn star’s genitalia.
Between unconscionable legislation and unconscionable silence, Republican leaders everywhere reveal their party’s attitudes favoring, and beliefs justifying, the sexual subjugation of women. For Republican leaders, deferential to religious zealots, the problem is less that Roe v. Wade standardized and universalized rights already legal in nearly half the states, seven in Dixie, than that it tacitly nationalized the liberation of women.
Hostility to liberated women fuels implacable opposition to contraception and abortion. For these medical advances enable gender-based changes in traditional social roles and personal responsibilities, and thereby threaten paternalistic customs enabling men to control women. Ultimately, Republican leaders care less about protecting the unborn and more about perpetuating male power, by denying women the right to think and act for themselves. Battles over contraception and abortion are part of the Republican war to preserve male supremacy in America’s social order and to promote state power over private citizens.
Believe Republicans’ commitment to their lofty first principles? Shame on you.