Admittedly, since I am recovering from knee surgery, I have been paying too much attention to the Republican primary. It's horrifying, but I can't look away. Sometimes you think it can't get any crazier, and then it does. The right wing fringe of the Republican party which has taken control of the primary and hopes to control the election have gone beyond even my wildest imaginings. Obama for all intents and outcomes is a moderate Eisenhower Republican and that leaves the right listing much further right than is safe for them or the country. In the HBO movie, The Game Change," there is a moment when McCain is losing and he and the strategists are trying to beef up their flagging campaign. McCain won't let them use Jeremiah Wright as ammunition against Obama because of his experience of racism regarding his adopted daughter. McCain says that there is a dark side to American populism and he doesn't want to go there. However in desperation, he oks using Bill Ayers and thus begins the onslaught of "palling around with terrorists" and "not an American like me" which spirals downward into he's a Muslim, Arab, as the white haired red suited old lady at McCain event tells McCain in a voice quavering with fear. To give him credit is disabuses her of the notion, but the notion lived on and still lives and we are hearing it again in this go round.
The dark side of American populism has been activated consciously and with intent. Muslim is the new "n___" word for the undereducated whose hate and resentment is easily manipulated to focus on a president whose legitamacy is questioned day and night on hate radio and Fox News. It has been useful to the ultra wealthy to keep the focus off the crimes of high finance, off of increasing environmental degradation, and off the plight of the middle class workers. It is for the most part a very successful campaign of disinformation and outright lies that has been used through the last 20 years to distract the country and pit us against each other.
But the Frankenstein monster now is up and moving on it's own power and it fuels the campaign of Santorum and the other Republican contenders under the guise of Christianity, return to values of old and the faith of our fathers and an imaginary America where everyone knew their place. The monster may be scaring even it's creators because Romney, the annointed one who no one likes and is a Mormon besides, was the chosen one to lose to Obama, the centrist Republican, but he's having a bit of trouble. Along comes Santorum, who a few months ago was a Google joke, surging ahead in expected and unexpected places. And suddenly, who would have believed, contraception becomes an issue as he thinks it is "wrong" because sex is for marriage and procreation only. And then there's Limbaugh and slut and whore and Fluke and Obama and Planned Parenthood and ultrasound vaginal probes prior to abortions and such its a whirlwind of mindbending controversy and outrage about an issue that for most of the first world women of the world was settled 40 years ago. But here's the thing. Like all civil rights fights just because you see women and dark complected people in high paying jobs and on TV and things are a lot better than they were, that invisible white man hand is still holding the strings of how far you can go, and how much freedom you can have. And they're scared, those old white men. The Frankenstein monster is all they've got besides their money, and it's kind of lonely not being able to tell others what to do. The world is changing around them too fast and they still want proof of their control. And so, they decide maybe contraception is a pretty bad thing, leading to bad licentious behavior, and why should it be paid for however remotely by other innocent people. And maybe it's a good political move. So it goes.
This is the point at which women who have been busy taking care of their jobs, their house, their children, their husbands, mothers, fathers and trying to get by financially and have a life, suddenly hear that health care shouldn't pay for contraception yet will pay for viagra and vasectomies! Well, that doesn't sound right. And Planned parenthood is suddenly demonized and yet we women all went there as students, as struggling young adults, and were treated well, tested for cervical cancer, got birth control at a reasonable price and were grateful. WTF!
This is, I think and hope, a tipping point. We see that the gains of the last 40 years are being questioned and threatened and could be taken away. There is no woman in her right mind who wants to go back to fear of unwanted pregnancy. Anyone who was sexually active before the pill and access to abortion remembers what that was like, that fear, how it was a cloud over your relations, how waiting for your period was a prayful act, how having an unwanted pregnancy had no good solutions. Women remember the demeaning jokes about aspirin between the knees. Barefoot and pregnant was all about keeping women in line, keeping them dependent and the attitude is real and alive today. It came as a surprise to me and to a lot of other women that suddenly a done deal might be undone.
It is women who have brought us to what I hope is a tipping point. I think it is women and the influence of women on the men who love them that have caused some 140 advertisers to leave Limbaugh's show and who saved Planned Parenthood from Komen's rejection. I imagine them calling in droves. I imagine them emailing congresspeople. I imagine them giving whatfor to their CEO husband or lover, their feckless boyfriend and saying WTF! This is outrageous! I imagine all the energy and attitude and sorrow that went into getting some sexual freedom and not being shamed for it, the responsibility for taking control of your own reproduction(such a welcome gift of the modern world )and the courage to demand respect from the sneering that surrounded you, I imagine that energy reawakened.
We are meeting again that Frankenstien monster which is the dark side of American populism. We understand, in our own way, somethng of what it is to be gay, to be Afro American, to be Hispanic. We know what it feels like to be abused and scorned. We have fought with demons before and we are not cowering before this one!