Some Days I Feel Like Cassandra

young women talkingSo much has happened since I wrote my blog on February 13 in the mist of the Susan Komen controversy I am literally out of breath.  My analogy of the motor boat was apt, but right now it looks like a jet plane is about to take off in the other direction. At least, I hope so.

For years I have been warning women younger than myself that they didn’t understand the depth and passion of the men opposing women’s rights.  I usually ended by admonishing, “You won’t be so sanguine when they start to take your birth control away from you.” The answer was usually a look that said, “Yeah, right.”

Now that the day has arrived I am glad a fair portion of women are beginning to sit up and take notice.

There has been progress on their side of the street in a lot of states in the last few years. Marching is fine. I went to Richmond along with three of my gray haired friends, but that won’t do it.  We have to VOTE THE GUYS OUT! Get ready and get going girls.

Abortion, Public Policy & the Consequences of Myopic Focus

Woman with tape over her mouth
Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer (flicker)

The publicity surrounding the support of Planned Parenthood by the Susan G. Komen Foundation brings into stark reality the truth pro-abortion/anti-abortion controversy. In that form it doesn’t exist. No one is pro-abortion. It is always a last and often desperate option.

The revulsion, whether religiously inspired or not, toward the act is fully understandable. In fact I share much of it. I am, as many American’s, against abortion and pro-choice. This is not an inconsistent position.

The fact that I can see reasons for terminating a pregnancy does not lessen my opposition to the act itself. But then I didn’t have badly malformed fetuses. I didn’t have a test that told me I would have to raise a mentally retarded child. I didn’t carry a stillborn child in my womb. I could easily afford to feed as many children as I could bear. Even in disagreement, the men in my family treated me with love and respect.

It’s important that all women understand that abortion is NOT the issue. It is simply the boat that carries a load of other issues. The oars that launched that boat were two shared public reactions; one that abortion not be abused and second that it not be supported by those who didn’t want to support it. Neither of these motivations say eliminate the procedure.

The outboard motor that started this craft on its way is the ancient American tradition of trying to hammer everything into law. As a country we are control freaks and this infects both the right and the left. Thus movements, led first by people of good will, escalate into zealotry and finally violence. The outcome is always unforeseen. The Civil War after one hundred and fifty years of public and private violence ended in the Civil Rights Act. Looking back on it, it was an awful passage. Prohibition offers a better example. The banning of booze led to all the excesses we still deal with today from organized crime to a welter of stupid and outdated laws. Prohibition is the mirror image of Roe v. Wade. Without termination of a pregnancy being safe and legal, we will surely go back to back alleys, coat hangers and knitting needles with their fellow travelers, infertility and death.

Most important, the jet engine that is carrying this controversy along is a dispute over power. The real issue is about property and governance. The more autonomy a woman has over her reproduction the more civilized the society. It also means men have less authority and have to share in all aspects of governance. To many men and many institutions run by men, this seems like a loss in a zero sum game. The actions of the Roman Catholic Bishops since President Obama adjusted his stance on coverage for birth control is a case in point writ large. The legislation in many states concerning many so-called pro-life issues isn’t about that at all. It’s all about control–period.

The Word Plastic

Every once in a while I meditate on the word plastic.

I always want to pronounce it the way the French do, plastique. This in turn brings up an image of some sort of gooey gel used to blow things up.

Plastic—malleable, easily formed—that was the original meaning of the word and somehow it has morphed into—rigid, unchanging. Of course, it’s both and those of us who are English speakers rely on the context to figure out which description fits.

I was looking at my four-year-old granddaughter’s Barbie doll the other day. If you didn’t know, Barbie has gone modest. She now has little molded briefs on her attenuated body. How demure.

She’s still plastic.

Somehow this musing brought me around to television these days; gooey, amorphous, rigid, unreal even in reality—plastic and totally false.

Answer to a Constant Complaint

The news media is always whining that the Occupy Wall Street movement is not specific about their aims and demands. I have a simple answer for them:




The first one is relatively easy to understand and would not be supported by a lot of people on the right side of the spectrum. The second one is more complicated, and should appeal to everyone.

First, as a senior who has been on blessed Medicare for fourteen years, I am an advocate of the single payer and the “everyone covered” school of thinking. Medicare works just fine, thank you, and if there was some logical way to contain the rising costs of medical care (care that comes without commensurately good outcomes) we could swing this deal, just the way other countries with some sense have done.

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Listen Up Liberals!

It’s time to educate yourselves by consulting a conservative. No, you don’t have to listen to Beck, Hannity, the various Foxes or any of those people. You don’t even have to read David Brooks, but he is an old dear who actually says something original upon occasion.

Grab that lefty rag, the New York Times or go on line and read Ross Douthat. I guarantee you four things. One, you will not agree with him. Two, three and four come as a package. You will get his side of the argument with facts he is not afraid to back up with references or citations, a history of whatever point he is trying to make and context. Facts, history and context are rare qualities these days, so savor them.

My second suggestion is about television. Pay special attention to whatever John Harwood on CNBC says. I have discovered during this debt ceiling crisis that he is the only reporter in Washington who can 1) remember that we pass legislation by casting votes, not talk and 2) he can COUNT!

My advice to libs and teas alike is fasten your seat belt. The votes have never been there—ever. If you think those new Repubs are going to play by the old rules, forget it. Poor Boenher never had the votes for any sort of compromise bill. Now he may lose his seat, perish the thought. On the Dem side, there were never going to be enough votes for a compromise bill either since everyone has had to move further right than anyone on that side of the isle wanted even to get a “look-in” at a possible compromise.

Finally I would like to point out the American electorate is going to get what they deserve. All those DFs around the Country Club lockers and at the corner coffee shop are going to get their way and it is going to be really ugly. Can’t you hear them over the years? “Boy, I know what I’d do, I’d just cut off the funds to those suckers in Washington! I’d cut ‘em right off at the knees.”

Hey, guys. The knees belong to all of us. Ooooooooooooooooooooops!

On a happier note…

After writing about everything passing away, a few thoughts on what never changes seems appropriate. It’s the old French axiom, “Plus ca change, plus le meme chose.” (Apologies to the French students. I don’t know how to get my computer to add accents.) For the non-French speaking, it means, “The more things change the more they stay the same.”

Someone once said to me, “You know, we all want things to be perfect, but we have to settle for progress.” This reminds me of housecleaning, which I hate. Once I get through dusting and sweeping and washing, I want it to stay just that way so I won’t ever have to do it again. However, dust motes and usage have other ideas. So, what was “perfect” slowly slides into chaos. What that means is I get to do it all over again. The progress part comes when I manage to keep a fairly decent house while not letting the cleaning ruin my attitude or become an obsession.

And we do get progress, but it only comes with change. With change, it seems we get a lot of repetition. My philosophy professor, Dr. Gustav Mueller, used to say (he was German-Swiss) that the Dark Ages didn’t seem so dark to the Germans. After all they were a bunch of Teutonic tribes who won their wars and got to run countries. It’s true, they didn’t have much respect for all that Greek and Roman learning, but as it happened, a lot of that was preserved by those brilliant monks in the Northwest corner of Europe so we got to rediscover it in the Renaissance.

The point is progress is not only a matter of point of view, it is also acceptance of the fact that progress comes in fits and starts. Stock market goes up–stock market goes down, repeat ad nauseam. But the market never quite goes down to where it was before. The whole thing reminds me of the guy in the Escher etching, climbing the stairs. In one way it’s as though he never gets anywhere, but he’s still forging ahead. I prefer that to sitting down and becoming a mushroom.

And while we are trudging along, it is a good idea to pay attention to all the positive things happening right now. A large dose of gratitude is a help. Think of it, it’s gloomy and raining today, but I don’t have to water!

Image courtesy of Frieda de Witte (freaky03) of stock.xchng

Falling Down

When I was a child I was subtlety taught that nothing is forever. One of the ways I learned was the age-old children’s song, London Bridge. The words even emphasized you that the best ideas of mankind often came to naught. If you build with wood and clay it will wash away. This is a concept that seems to have slipped away from those vaunted American values so often talked about.

The concept disappeared somewhere in the 1970s when, I believe, the generations that could not remember the death and destruction of World War Two when so much of our world was falling apart.

Last week I drove up to our Episcopal Church in Northern Wisconsin and admired the lovely addition built on it in the past five years. I suddenly had a memory that has occurred to me over and over since 9/11. Sometime in the 70s, I was riding the train from Washington to New York City on business. When we got to New Jersey, across from New York, I found myself staring at the World Trade Center. I had never liked the buildings and thought their extreme height and placement at the tip of Manhattan was jarring and out of place. I got to thinking that at some point they would have to be torn down and I found myself going over scenarios of just how one would do that. To deconstruct them from the top would be an enormous job. I remembered the implosion of a downtown hotel in Oklahoma City, and thought what a mess that would be in structures so tall. Never would I think I would live to see them fall down from a hostile action, but I had visions of them, ivy covered stumps in some far distant landscape.

The sight of the church reminded me that in a thousand years, it will not be here, or at least not in its present form. This is not to say that some things last a long time; the step pyramid at Sakkara, Angkor Wat, Chichen Itza, Cusco and Mesa Verde come to mind. But they are not the same and the civilizations which surrounded them are totally mutated.

Somehow, attached to our cars, our houses and sometimes even our families, we fail to recognize what children grew up knowing in another age. Nothing on earth is forever. This is a concept deeply imbedded in Eastern philosophy. Somehow America has to relearn the paradox of letting to receive. That being and becoming must always be taken together. It’s not easy when you are terrified of not getting something you want or losing what you have. But it is a lesson nature will force on us.