Why not...

My last of twenty-seven years in the secondary classroom, my baby just now in college, a government and economy looking like something out of Duck Soup, a pituitary tumor, chronic migraines... Hell, why not write a blog?

(My students are now gone. I'm now a civilian and really no longer a "lame duck." I hope the readers of Mama Duck will come to my new blog for some new writing and new directions. My new blog is at: Writing Isle to Isle.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's Not a War on Women, It's a Crusade!

Armor of God PJs, for Parents Who Want to Teach Their Children the Crusades Were Fun

By now you’ve all heard the news—the Republicans have their Jockeys in a pucker because they don’t like that folks are saying they’re waging a war on women. And they’ve brought out their mighty mouths to denounce the accusation. RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus, unwittingly confirmed that even Republicans like cannabis saying “Now if the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars, then every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, so then we’d have a problem with caterpillars.” Accusation—women—caterpillars. I get it, man. I vaguely recall having those conversations in college after a few bong hits. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon would be playing in the background, and an ant on the windowsill could progress to ant arms races, ant d├ętente, and was it possible ant colonies utilized Sun Tzu’s Art of War strategies. I so get you, man.

Caterpillar Logic clearly needed backup--some reliable “Old Glory” spin. So RNC spokesman Sean Spicer pulled the “if you disagree with us ‘true Americans’ you must be a traitorous flag burner” trump card, a little trick he picked up serving master Bush. Spicer said about the war on women phrase “It’s not only bad, but it’s downright pathetic they would use a term like ‘war’ when there are millions of Americans who actually have engaged in a real war. To use a term like that borders on unpatriotic.” Oh applause, applause, Sean! Where’s my flag so I can raise it? After saluting it, I’ll salute you, Sean. God, you do make me hungry for apple pie! I’d say communications-wise, “Mission Accomplished!” Oh, I’m sorry. Did that little piece of 2003 Bush rhetoric fail to include all of our soldiers who’ve died in that senseless war since that little stunt on the USS Lincoln? Also, I guess accusing Obama of waging a “war on religion” must be different. But I digress…

Let’s face it. These two choir leaders (and all their FOX surrogates in choir robes singing the same hymn) have a point. Is this really a war waged on women? I think I’ll go out on a liberal limb here and agree that “war on women” is inaccurate, for what’s going on in this country is nothing less than a religious crusade. Now the Democrats can’t say that, because saying anything with even a whiff of Christian critique in a country where 4 in 10 people believe that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old is about as clever as putting Palin on a presidential ticket(1). But I’m not a politician running for office, so I damn well can.

The great thing about a crusade is that it gives the crusaders pretty much full authority to do anything they want, because it is in the name of God. Pope Urban II, the initiator of the First Crusade back in 1095, after promising “a remission of all sins for all who die in the service of Christ,” did the equivalent of an 11th Century fist pump and yelled “Deus vult!” Or “God wills it!” (He’d have made a hell of an NFL coach I think.) Off to Constantinople and Jerusalem some 100,000 dashed to kill infidels; crusaders made up of the rich, poor, criminal, and saintly. No need to wait to cross the Bosporus and Dardanelles for their God-willed task. Hell, Jews lurked right there in Europe. So Crusaders butchered and burned thousands in unimaginable attacks on their way to “save” the holy land. In a traveling orgy of savagery, once the crusaders made it to Jerusalem, they spared no one. Fulcher of Chartres, a French chaplain, described the carnage in the holy city.
“Within this Temple [Solomon’s] about ten thousand were beheaded. If you had been there, your feet would have been stained up to the ankles with the blood of the slain. What more shall I tell? Not one of them was allowed to live. They did not spare the women and children.”(2)
While atrocities occur in all wars, this war was in the name of God. These were zealots high on bloodlust, and their acts still scar relations between Muslims and Christians.  God willed it, my ass.

It may seem a bit extreme to start my argument with sins committed a millennium ago. But I think it’s good to let history remind us now and then that things can get mighty out of hand when a bunch of guys (or women for that matter) strap crosses on their chests and act on the divine authority. The Christian Crusades morphed into inquisitions. While most students have studied the horrific Spanish Inquisition, fewer have heard of the Albigensian Crusade, a twenty-year period of terror in Southern France from 1209 to1229 to eliminate Catharism, compliments of Pope Innocent III. (I would have suggested a different name.) Among other Cathar practices that irked Innocent, these “heretics” included women in their clerical ranks and had no problem with contraception. Upon church orders a half million people--men, women and children—were murdered in the Languedoc region of France. Both Cathar and sympathetic Catholic. In fact, it is from a Papal Legate Arnaud-Amaury that we get a particularly callous saying, one that’s been repeated in wars since. When laying siege to Bezier, a confused crusader asked him how to distinguish the Cathars from the Catholics. He answered “Kill them [all]! Surely the Lord discerns which [ones] are his."

Another “Innocent Pope”, Innocent VIII, issued the Bull Summis desiderantes on December 5th, 1484. That bull in effect gave two depraved German inquisitors the equivalence of a rave New York Times Book Review for their truly frightening work the Malleus Maleficarum or The Hammer of Witches. The handbook detailed how to detect, torture, and kill witches, instructions that facilitated the deaths of thousands of women. Scholars cannot agree on estimates culled from extant records, but responsible figures ballpark no less than 60,000 women burned between the period of 1500-1650.(3)


 Christian Crusades, inquisitions, a handbook on how to torture women from the era most consider the renaissance—what on earth do these have to do with Republican policies affecting women today? And no, I’m not listening to Pink Floyd.

First, let’s start with an extensive (and statistically responsible) study from 2006 that found “roughly half (49%) of conservative Republicans [said] the Bible should trump popular will.” Another 29% of moderate Republicans agreed.(4) Let me repeat that for it bears repeating. Half of conservative Republicans and damn near a third of moderate Republicans think that the Bible—or let’s be clear—what they think the Bible says—is more important than democratic rule. That’s a lot of theocratic Republicans out there. Now, who constitutes the base of the Republican Party? That’s right. Evangelical Christians. And 60% of them believe that the Bible should win when it conflicts with the will of the people.(5) The press talks a lot about the Republican Party’s rightward swing, but few if any tackle the real truth—that the war on religion is coming from the uber-religious. And they control the new, evangelically directed Republican Party. That party is now some weird love child spawned by Ayn Rand and an Old Testament patriarch. And the pearly gates of this tax-free club would likely stiff Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley, or even Ronald Reagan.

Second, what beliefs drive these people beyond the idea their interpretation of the Bible is more important than majority rule? This is where women come into the picture, and poor Eve is our diva of double standards. For those wishing to keep women’s sexuality in careful check by their husbands or law, we need first to look at the often cited I Timothy 2:14: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” So, Eve (not Adam) was deceived. Woman is gullible and in need of protection; man is rational. (Newt Gingrich the obvious exception.) But all you have to do is read Genesis to remember that Adam quite willingly gobbled that fruit down as well. Yet woman bears the responsibility.

So it’s a woman’s fault alone if you walk through an apple orchard and find nothing but cores, but that doesn’t equate with female authority. Au contraire for according to the evangelicals, 1 Corinthians 11:3-9 clarified her subordination: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man... For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.” Ah, Paul (or subsequent Pauline interpreters of Paul), so much for following Christ’s path of treating women equally.(6) Of course, that doesn’t stop the Southern Baptist Conference and the Vatican for latching on to Paul’s narrow views and keeping women from the pulpit.

American women, especially poor women, are caught in the crossfire between biblical literalism and privacy. And even though Jesus never spoke on abortion or contraception (although abortifacients were certainly used in the era and women used the era’s contraceptive methods), the Christian right cherry-picks passages from the Old and New Testaments in order to clean up these female practices. Fuck privacy. Privacy is for presidential candidates whose financial records are in Swiss accounts. Privacy is between men and their doctors. Privacy is for property owners and corporate patent rights. For these biblical literalists, when Jesus said “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me,” (Matthew 25:40) these folks see a zygote. They don’t see a poor woman without financial or emotional support who has sought human comfort with a man who could give a shit about her. Nor do they see a married woman who has to make a painful choice 22 weeks into a pregnancy when she discovers the child she desperately wants is dying inside her and cannot be saved, but the law the state just passed does not allow the doctor to induce labor. No, she must wait agonizingly until the child actually dies and an infection ensues, which could take weeks. Why? Because in Exodus “Thou shalt not kill” prevents killing. These are the same people that want us to bomb Iran to preserve Israel. Go figure.

But what evidence is there that an actual crusade is being waged? That would require evidence of many crusaders and many attempts to quell these female infidels. Senator Barbara Boxer offered up a laundry list in this week’s Politico.(7) I’ve condensed and embellished her list below. As Jefferson would say, “to prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”

1.     In the House of Representatives, Republicans have introduced 30 bills that would restrict a women’s reproductive health care.
2.      At the state level, nearly 500 bills that define and limit women’s health care have been introduced in 39 states. Who introduced these bills? You guessed it. Republicans with a small percentage of them introduced by conservative Democrats.
3.      And then there’s “personhood legislation” sponsored by—*gasp*—119 House Republicans and another 19 of McConnell’s minions in the Senate. These are zygote-happy bills that outlaw abortions and give no exceptions for a woman’s life or health. And, duh, they would in effect make some forms of birth control illegal. These laws would also bar doctors from saving women when they have ectopic pregnancies. Yeah. Pretty sure that’s what Jesus would have wanted.
4.      Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (is it just me or does this guy remind you of one of the Seven Dwarfs?) just happily penned a repeal of the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which protected women’s equality in the workplace. Yeah, equal pay for women can really hurt business and the economy. The Seven Dwarfs must have been working in a Right to Work mine. Oh, and by the way, when Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (Obama’s first bill passed in 2009 once taking office) 36 Senate Republicans voted no. But then women will be home raising kids, so no problem.
5.      Then there’s the ongoing crusade against Planned Parenthood. This is a crusade being waged at both the federal and state levels. Good ole’ boy, Rick Perry has strapped a big red cross to his Carhart jacket and signed a “tiered priority system” that ensures Planned Parenthood clinics would be the last to receive any Title X funding. This, of course, violates the Social Security Act. But the Federal Gubmint can’t tell Texans what to do. Hell, they could just secede from the union. Meanwhile, 130,000 women are without healthcare.(8)
6.      Transvaginal ultrasound laws. These by-God got my attention as you’ve read in a previous blog post. Virginia’s Republican legislators pretty much played the doctor on TV with this law. But Virginia is just one state. Crusading Republicans wishing to intimidate women and put (I guess) biblical rods up women’s vaginas have introduced and fought for bills in Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wyoming and…hell yeah, Texas.(9)
7.     One of my personal favorites (not listed by Boxer) is Arizona’s “tell your boss why you’re on the pill” bill. “Replicating but broadening the federal push to let employers deny women access to birth control….the bill stipulates that, unless a woman brings in a note proving she is not using it to avoid getting pregnant, an employer can deny birth control to any woman in the workplace.” Seriously, women need a note from their employers to get their insurance (which they work for) to cover contraception. And why? According to female sponsor Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, “We don’t live in the Soviet Union.” There’s a red news flash. She went on to say “My whole legislation is about our First Amendment rights and freedom of religion.” Whose rights, Debbie? Employers’ rights? Or the religious rights of employees? Hey, those women don’t have to work there, right? Don’t you just love when people force their religion on others and scream about their religious rights being taken from them?(10)
8.       The crusade extends beyond our borders. Since the Senate must ratify all treaties with a 2/3s majority, here’s one that the Republicans won’t seem to budge on: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. You’re probably saying, yeah, but it must be really controversial. It must be for good economic reasons. No, the usual stuff—reproductive freedom discussions, equal rights amendments discussions, etc. The text does not require that, but Republicans grasping their Bibles in one hand and James Dobson’s phone number in the other decided it’s better to fall in line with the other “progressive nations” that have not ratified: Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Palau and Tonga. Hey, Republicans. Didn’t your moms ever tell you that you are judged by the company you keep?(11)
9.       One more example…and there are many more. Arizona, again. I’m sick of the rain, but there is no amount of sunshine that state offers that could lure me to retire there. A newest piece of legislation that’s causing a kerfuffle is one that will protect doctors from any medical malpractice should they chose to withhold information to their pregnant patients that could lead those women to seek an abortion. While I was shocked to learn about this, I was more shocked to find out that doctors in Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah, Idaho, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and South Dakota can already act like they don’t see something seriously wrong on an ultrasound, or Tay-Sachs disease in a Chorionic villus sampling, or any variety of tragic reports from amniocentesis. No, the doctor’s religion and moral code trumps that of the woman and her family.(12)

Having written this, I know many who read it are going to squirm. Wow. Let’s not attack the Christians, after all, most of us are Christians. I hear you. My mom taught me early on to never make fun of someone’s parents or religion. “Their parents,” she used to say, “is beyond a kid’s control. And a person’s religion is deeply personal and their own business.” Those two factors in a person’s life were off limits for criticism as far as she was concerned.

But my Mom also taught me to stand up for myself. She liked the saying “what’s fair for the goose is fair for the gander.” I do believe it is troubling and even paradoxical to be intolerant of the intolerant. And I accept religions as long as those religions do not attempt to force those beliefs or practices on me. But I think we’re at a point in this country when we have to call bullshit on those extreme elements that have captured legislatures and want to impose their theocratic rule on our daughters’ bodies and earning capacities. The First Amendment's Free Exercise clause is not there to allow people to impose their religious beliefs on others. Unless we start calling this what it is and call these people out, that part of our Constitution is gravely in danger of being reinterpreted to mean “free exercise of a particular form of Christianity.” And that’s not a constitution that is good for women or men.
(2)  The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials. Second Edition. Edited by Edward Peters. University of Pennsylvania Press. Philadelphia, 1971. www.clas.ufl.edu/users/sterk/Practicum/fulcher.pdf
(3)  Why Witches Were Women by Mary Nelson
(4)  The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Politics-and-Elections/Many-Americans-Uneasy-with-Mix-of-Religion-and-Politics.aspx
(5)  The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Politics-and-Elections/Many-Americans-Uneasy-with-Mix-of-Religion-and-Politics.aspx
(6)  Jesus radically departed from the tenets of the day by teaching women. In one instance, when visiting two sisters in their home, one sister became flustered when making preparations while the other sister sat at his feet to listen to his teachings. He at that point told the flustered woman to chill on the Martha Stewart tasks and focus on learning. (Luke 10:38-42).
(7)  Barbara Boxer, “Foul Play: War on Women Real.” Politico, (4/15/12) Available at: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0412/75143.html
(8)  Amanda Peterson Beadle, “Texans Rally Against Defunding of Planned Parenthood, Which Would Leave 130,000 Without Health Care,” Think Progress. Available at: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/03/07/439979/texans-rally-against-defunding-planned-parenthood/
(9)  Kate Sheppard,“Mandatory Transvaginal Ultrasound Laws: Coming to a State Near You,” Mother Jones. Available at: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/03/transvaginal-ultrasounds-coming-soon-state-near-you
(10)                 Annie Rose Strasser, Arizona Senate Committee Endorses ‘Tell Your Boss Why You’re on the Pill” Think Progress, Available at: http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/03/14/444111/birth-control-to-control-birth/?mobile=nc
(11)                 This convention has been around since 1979. The text defines discrimination as follows: "...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."
(12)                 For a list of Arizona’s bills with pdf texts, see: http://www.azpolicy.org/current-bill-status. A doctor’s opinion on such bills may be read at: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/03/09/az-allowing-doctors-to-practice-bad-medicine