Private Matters, Public Consequences
by Natasha Chart, Thu Sep 04, 2008 at 04:51:41 AM EDT
"We have to take into consideration that this is a private family matter, and the family was hoping it would remain a private matter. ... I'd just hope that the private family matters would remain just that." - Tucker Bounds, McCain campaign spokescritter on PBS, 9/02/08
"And government is certainly not the church" - Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), Republican National Convention speech, 9/02/08
"We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby ..." - press statement by Sarah and Todd Palin, 9/01/08 (via)
I'm glad that Republicans are finally, kicking and screaming all the way, coming around to a feminist point of view. It's glacial, but you can see the cracks around the edges in the way they defend themselves from attacks like the agreement of former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan that Palin's not the most experienced choice and that the selection decision was based on "bullsh*t".
While the Republicans have tried to obscure the truth, these are all feminist and pro-choice positions: That medical and parenting decisions should be made by individuals and their doctors. That the government should not act as a church, making illegal all that is held by some to be immoral. That teenage women, like all women, should have the right to decide whether to become parents, whatever their choice may be. That they should be supported in those decisions, by their families and the larger community, rather than shamed, hidden away or shunned.
Not least, Republicans like corrupt serial adulterer Rudy Giuliani can say that Sarah Palin is being attacked because she's a parent all they want. They can suggest that Democrats and feminists look down on her because she's a mother of five. But what more needs to be said in response to that than, 'Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House.' The idea that a mother of five can be qualified for a tough job in public life is one that we've been championing for a long time.
So as I mentioned, and as irritating as the zealotry of the newly converted always is, I'm glad to see that they're starting to come around.
Though in typical Republican fashion, they make a distinction between their own private family matters and everyone else's. When it comes right down to it, they don't trust you, or your kids. They'd rather make the private family matters of everyone else a choice for the government to make in advance, based on an extremist and narrow interpretation of Christianity that fails to represent the diversity of America's religious communities.
And then they use their political stances on these private matters as a smokescreen for the disasters that they've visited on this country. They use belief checklists as a substitute for merit in public servants and people have died for it. At the last, the only response the have is, 'Look! Babies!' So I think Mark Twain said it best when he said,
"The words are there, my dear, but the music is wanting."
Now senior Republicans, in addition to their recent mass feminist conversion, even profess to Christianity. They say they follow the teachings of Jesus, whose words offer great compassion for people who've made imperfect decisions. They use their claim to faith in Jesus as de facto evidence for how much family means to them in both public and private life. So it'd be nice if, now and again, Republican politicians would act like they'd read Jesus' words in the book of Matthew at least once.
Matthew 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (NASB: Lockman)[via]
Everyone tries to take care of their own F.B.I.: friends, brothers and in-laws. It's the expected norm in every community, everywhere in the world. There's even a word, nepotism, for using that as your motivating philosophy. Yet both feminism and Christianity have bigger sights for their adherents.
"Heavy Burdens and Grievous to Be Borne"
Jesus, George W. Bush's favorite philosopher and sometime Republican talisman, had a lot to say about how the faithful should act towards people who don't love us and aren't our brothers. And though he never mentioned abortion even once, he also detailed his expectations for how people in positions of authority should act towards those they had power over.
(KJV) Matthew 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
But enough about John McCain. For a moment.
Republicans claim that Sarah Palin is being attacked as a mom, and that her daughter Bristol is being attacked for deciding to be one. That's wrong and anyone would fight back. Where do they stand when other mothers face hardships?
Sarah Palin's family cleared over $200,000 in income last year, so her daughters don't have to be worried about their financial security if they get caught in one of life's little ups or downs. But she thought other people's kids should get the state budget balanced on their backs.
Palin cut state funding for supporting teenage moms, just as John McCain fought federal funding for teen pregnancy prevention. For families that know how many houses they have, and whose incomes hit six figures, maybe that's not such a concern. Though when single moms end up as, have such high poverty rates and low standards of living, we might well ask where their mercy is for teens whose families can't so readily help them and whose partners aren't so supportive?
Then last night, Palin talked about how Americans were hurting from high fuel costs, something that everyone knows affects lower income households the worst. She got the whole convention mocking and jeering against the idea of taxing businesses to help with this burden, even though the oil industry has been making world record profits. But this is what she did for Alaskans:
... Over the opposition of oil companies, Republican Gov. Sarah Palin and Alaska's Legislature last year approved a major increase in taxes on the oil industry -- a step that has generated stunning new wealth for the state as oil prices soared.
... Alaska collected an estimated $6 billion from the new tax during the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. That helped push the state's total oil revenue -- from new and existing taxes, as well as royalties -- to more than $10 billion, double the amount received last year.
...Palin's administration last week gained legislative approval for a special $1,200 payment to every Alaskan to help cope with gas prices, which are among the highest in the country.
That check will come on top of the annual dividend of about $2,000 that each resident could receive this year from an oil-wealth savings account. ...
Alaska is one of the few states in the country where a blue collar family can still be comfortable to well-off. Palin knows Alaskans, and I don't doubt she cares about them. In fact, she cares about them so much that she and her husband seem to think Alaska should secede from the Union. That's the view of the Alaskan Independence Party, whose annual convention she addressed. The AIP's founder was killed in a "plastic explosives sale gone bad;" and perhaps he was trying to start some sort of war of western secession, to prevent Alaskans having to put up with the rest of us.
So I don't doubt that Palin cares about Alaska and puts Alaska first. Maybe she thinks that the oil companies only have enough windfall profits to help out that one state, and that's why she'd gladly cheerlead a hall of Republicans in mocking the idea that taxing them would help. She's just trying to put people off the scent of Alaska's private honeypot.
Though that isn't going to help the families who're losing their jobs at a plant in Ohio because of John McCain's campaign manager. If she wants those people to trust that her governing philosophy is based on more than nepotism, maybe she and McCain should suggest the same policies to help families in Ohio that she used to help families in Alaska.
Some people look at the strawman image of feminism and wonder why, if feminists and choice advocates really want to make social progress, they don't
call for more support for parents so that no one would ever have to choose to terminate a pregnancy because they couldn't afford a child.
That's an interesting question and a good line of thinking. Though the answer to that question is that feminists in general, and the pro-choice movement in particular, have been in favor of exactly that approach for a very long time. So yeah, it sounds like a great idea.
How about getting families some good quality, guaranteed healthcare so they don't have to worry that medical expenses from accidents or chronic illness will leave them destitute?
Medical bills cause half of US bankruptcies, even hitting those who are insured, but with substandard plans. Lack of guaranteed coverage can keep people in jobs they hate, can affect private decisions about marriage and divorce, can cost people their homes and, definitely, can affect whether they think they can support a new child. For many teens, the situation is even worse, as they're far less likely to have access to prenatal care.
It's as terrible when would-be parents decide that they can't care for a much wanted addition to their family as it is when people who don't want to be parents are forced into it against their will.
So where does the Republican ticket stand on healthcare?
Palin didn't mention rising healthcare costs, or anything to do with health, in her address to the RNC last night. But as of 2006, healthcare consumed sixteen percent of the US GDP. It was big news last year when employers were told only to expect single-digit cost increases in health premiums, so increases that were going up at a slower rate than before, but still outpacing both inflation and economic growth. The news this year is about the same: costs are still rising, still outpacing inflation and earnings, but not too fast compared to increases in other years. Great.
McCain thought that Bush was right to veto expanding children's healthcare to cover more middle class families.
They both want to let The Market sort it out. They also both have government-funded healthcare for themselves and their family members, but they'd never suggest it for the rest of us. I guess we aren't important enough to them.
And when it comes to that decision on whether or not to be a parent ... not only does the Republican ticket oppose comprehensive sex education for teens, not only does McCain want to see Roe v Wade overturned, not only does Sarah Palin oppose abortion for rape and incest victims, but McCain has voted against requiring health insurers to cover birth control.
I'm not sure that many families on the brink can afford that sort of government control in one of the most personal and important decisions anyone can make. Children not only require healthcare, food, clothing and shelter, but the time and attention of their parents. All these come at great cost to the typical family.
Considering how many women terminate pregnancies because they don't think they could provide adequate care to a child, who are John McCain and Sarah Palin, with their wealthy, supportive families to countermand their decisions? Who are they to say that they know better than us how we should live our lives?
Matthew 25:34 Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' 37 Then the righteous 16 will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' 40 And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41 Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' 44 Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' 45 He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'
Jesus didn't ask the faithful to give good speeches. He didn't ask of them that they should be from small towns, or some certain geographic region. He asked that they do something real, something material, to lighten the loads of their fellow travelers in this life.
But Republicans are the ones who most routinely invoke Him. Usually right before talking spitefully about people they don't know, whom, it almost goes without saying, they distrust. The faith of these Republican politicians is too often an identity card that, instead of informing their private spirituality, tells them which other people they need to be nice to and which they can screw over with impunity.
Last night, I saw a lot spite. A lot of nepotism. Not a lot of mercy for strangers.
Last night, I heard a lot of rote, feminist talking points. I didn't hear anything that might help lift up more women and their families. And among the pseudo-empowerment rhetoric, I heard nothing that would really help this current generation of young women better take their lives in their own hands.
It's still all words and no music.
Update [2008-9-4 8:52:51 by Natasha Chart]: Date correction at top.