Month: May 2015

Fear and change

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Starting with the secret Muslim socialist Kenyan Birtherism, conservatives have gotten so terrified and so paranoid that I’m afraid they will respond in the most human way imaginable. That they will inevitably resort to hysterical violence. Each of their conspiracies are more crazy than the one before.  At this moment, we have such a huge swath of Texas believing they’re about to be invaded by our own military for some obscure reason. So many believe this so strongly, they’ve convinced their governor and a leading presidential contender/actual senator to treat them seriously. This is after Michelle Bachmann said with a straight face and in all seriousness that Barack Obama will bring about the apocalypse.  These are the same people who pointed weapons at federal law enforcement officers at the Bundy Ranch. (Thank god the government stood down.  The Bundy Ranch Massacre would not have made a good headline.) and shortly after those same nutters shot several cops. Somehow I don’t see the Tea Party taking themselves out like Jones Town. I see them needing to exercise their demons using high caliber weapons. If you listen to gun rights advocates, the number one reason they will tell that they need all these guns is to protect themselves from an overreaching government. This is a uniquely American phenomena. No other government on the planet would allow people to stockpile weapons for the express purpose of destroying or resisting the government. But in these uncertain times, this is what is necessary for them to feel safe. And there in lies the key. 

If you look at history we’re in the middle of a transition. For thousands of years men have invented myths and religions to help explain the world and provide a sense of order and direction. And religion is really good at coming up with feel good bullshit about how the world was made and how it works. 

Eventually, sometime around the late Iron Age-early medieval period, government began to compete with religion in what it can tell people to do, and how it made sense of the world.  The clash was long and horribly bloody with no clear winner.  Religion and government more or less agreed to a compromise and thus began The Enlightenment. Since then there have been successive industrial and scientific revolutions that have gradually displaced religion and government from people’s lives. People have more freedom now than ever before. People are healthier and wealthier than at any point in human history and the twin institutions that we’re used to relying on, have proven themselves completely inadequate –if not thoroughly corrupt.  

The problem is science is, by definition, uncertain. In fact, it’s uncertain with a very high degree of precision. The government certainly can’t provide a comforting narrative. I think people beginning to realize there’s no quick fix, no handy ideology for the economy. Terrorism can’t be fixed with a strong military or shadowy police state. Environmental problems now have a global reach and global problems aren’t as simple as locking delegates in the same room in New York’s most architecturally boring building. It means talking to the “bad guys” because ignoring them or blowing them up simply won’t work. Even long standing traditions are under assault because they’re terribly oppressive and that’s no longer acceptable. If you chart the progress of freedom during the last 100 years here has been tremendous growth. But it hasn’t been easy And there are no guarantees. Obama isn’t the first President to promise change. They all do that. But he embodies that change by virtue of his skin color, his personal narrative, and his view of the world.  It’s this combination of racism and generalized anxiety that is causing such an extreme reaction to his relatively banal politics. 

Humanity has yet to embrace this new found power. It’s still looking towards institutions for meaning and direction.  It’s still rejecting that meaning, freedom, and liberty because they don’t have the strength to resurrect them as internal constructs. So many are afraid. This latest conspiracy theory is just a focused outpouring of fear and uncertainty.  Change is hard and we have the duty and obligation of ensuring that change comes to all.  The more we resist change the harder it goes for us. The less control we have. It’s time to seize control of our own emotions, our will, and abandon the need religion and governments to provide meaning and direction.  I don’t expect this to happen.  I fully expect that people will grow old and die clinging to their outdated beliefs.  But where there are children, there is hope.

The collateral damage of the pro-life movement

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When I talk politics I try to limit what I consider recent events to be a national level incident that has the potential to really happen or really impact peoples lives.  For example, I don’t like to write long blogs about some local official somewhere thinking his use of the n-word doesn’t make him a racist.  However, sometimes you find something so quintessential of long term challenges that I want to talk about it.

Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Texas) has launched a proposal that forbids the termination of any pregnancy post 20 weeks which is a full 4 weeks prior to the deadline set by the Supreme Court.  Proposals like this are a dime a dozen these days and have already decimated reproductive health care in many areas.  What makes this one slightly different is this allows for zero exceptions even if the fetus is nonviable.  It would even contravene the wishes of doctors.  To forbid abortions even in the case of nonviable fetuses represent an extreme threat to the health of the woman.  Such a thing would be very dangerous.  Either Matt Schaefer is unaware in which case he has no business crafting such legislation, or he is aware and does not consider the life of the mother worth protecting.  I doubt that something like this would pass, and even if it did, I doubt it would survive a constitutional legal challenge.  But less extreme regulatory attempts to shut down abortion providers and facilities are successful.  So successful there are states, like Texas have almost completely run abortion providers out of the state.  The result for this abundance of life? In the past few years infant and maternal mortality has skyrocketed.

For the record, it’s stunts like this and the never ending war on abortion that has left the United States with the greatest mother and infant mortality rate the highest in the developed world and, it’s rising. At some point, the conservatives have got to get it through their skulls that the war on women has actual real life casualties to the tune of hundreds and thousands of women and children every year without doing a thing to save the lives of fetuses. You want to know the real pro-life position? It’s everything liberals are talking about: easy access to contraception, easy access to reproductive health (all options), a comprehensive sex education in school (none of this abstinence only nonsense). I can appreciate the good intentions of conservative positions, but the health of women, particularly women of color, women of limited resources, women in rural areas, and women vulnerable because of domestic and other kinds of violence is now threatened. So much so that it appears that conservatives simply don’t care, but the stats don’t lie.

Conservatives want to protect life, this is a laudable goal, but their actions are proving counter productive to this objective.  Women are literally dying in the collateral damage that conservatives are creating.  If you’re not looking after the health of women, you can not possibly consider yourself “pro-life”.  You are not serving humanity by attacking the lives and health of women.  I’ll also let you in on another fact, abortions have been steadily falling since Roe v Wade and not because of the legislative assault on abortion, but because of better access to contraception and education.  Every child needs to be intentional, but only half of pregnancies are planned.  If you want to protect the life, healthy, and financial well being, then you have to give women the freedom to explore their constitutionally mandated freedoms.