Saturday, March 31, 2012

Start the Revolution

Many times I have wondered what it would take to spark a revolution in America. I have lived in countries where a revolution has taken place and it has not been a positive movement. I’m talking about places like Iran where a relatively secular society turned almost overnight into a puritanical theocracy. It was most visible among the women. Overnight the women with whom I worked went from strong, well educated, and fashionably dressed to scared, barely visible beings in black chadors. Fortunately they were still strong and well educated. It was just a lot more difficult to discern these character traits under their black cloaks of oppression.

What is it I wonder about religious men that compels them to target people they perceive as easy victims for their thinly veiled hostility? Perhaps it is their equally thinly veiled insecurities. What is it that compels women to acquiesce to and embrace ideologies that commit such violence to mind, body and spirit? Perhaps it is fear? Perhaps it is ignorance? Perhaps it is an alignment with the perception of power?

Egos that perceive a need of defense will often point an accusatory finger at a nearby, often innocent, victim. We have all witnessed it happening among our children travelling in the back seat of a car on a long journey. And that is about where this level of ego defense belongs. It’s an immature attempt to deflect criticism for a real wrongdoing of which the accuser is usually guilty.

There seem to be a number of religious men with sensitive egos riding the campaign trail these days. In recent weeks we have seen an explosion of vitriol spill all over women in a way that has not been seen since the days of the suffragettes, and for Americans that is about a hundred years ago. Maybe there is a collective unconscious remembering among masculine archetypes of that particularly embarrassing wrong and its attendant violence on women that is rearing its head, looking for light and understanding once more. But then, that may be way too sophisticated a supposition for what appears to be profoundly petty, immature, puerile behavior among men with no less of a potential for violence toward women.

It is a stunning shock to women to see that there are still men, apparently quite a large number of men, religious men, and women, religious women, who cling to the belief that they have the right to tell women what can and cannot be done with or to their bodies. And not an embarrassed face was seen among the recently convened panel of men, religious men, to discuss the right of women to access birth control. They all looked suitably self-righteous.

Rick Santorum on the other hand, once he gets started on the issues that even hint at women’s rights, can wax forth with volumes of lies stoked with his righteous, histrionic, indignation. Not only is he an embarrassment to the system of education that produced his lack of serious critical thought, he has become an international embarrassment to the country he professes to love and is attempting to lead. His most recent long litany of lies about the Netherlands and policies he claims begin with women having the right to contraception and abortion should be an automatic disqualifier for the Presidency of the United States of America.

What these religious men and women do not disclose in their verbosity is that the religious institutions whose right to refuse women reproductive health care that conflicts with their beliefs are supported more by government funds than church funds. That is, we who pay taxes are subsidizing not only the care that is provided but the religious cloak over the care that is not. Perhaps it is is time to demand that we the people receive all the benefits from our subsidies to religiously affiliated health care providers. Or, we could just demand that those subsidies be removed then those institutions will truly have the right to proceed as they wish within the confines of current laws.

As a woman who lived through the revolution of 1978 and ’79 in Iran, I can attest to the fact that I did not believe for a second that America would let Iran fall into a puritanical theocracy. History proved me and thousands of other ex-patriots living in Iran completely wrong. In disbelief and shock we straggled to our various home countries with little more than could fit into two suitcases.

It is with the same level of disbelief that I listen to the current GOP candidates, to so called leaders such as Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, to legislatures across the country and try to reassure myself that Americans would not let America slip into a puritanical theocracy. But the reality is that it is happening, America is returning to its roots; roots that have always been present in their religiosity and violence toward women.

Over the past decade laws have been passed in eight states that have restricted a woman’s right to access abortion services. At the same time these laws also restrict a woman’s ability to access the kind of health care that she needs in order to maintain her reproductive health and ultimately to care for herself and her family in a way that ensures personal, family, and community well-being.

From the back seat of the car we are hearing these puerile voices demanding attention in the name of a god, which if his followers bear witness, is getting more petty by the day. Perhaps we women drivers need to stop the car and start the revolution. Perhaps we are the ones who need to channel the spirit of those not so long ago suffragettes and take to the streets. I have a feeling that there are many men, men whose egos are not quite so sensitive or immature, who would join us.

For my part I am putting aside the yoghurt tops in the plastic container in my pantry. I won’t be signing up for any more Susan B. Komen walks. It’s not that I don’t want a cure for breast cancer. I do. But I will not compromise the health of women now or in the future by any longer supporting an organization that has the ideology of oppression in its closet. What I will do, as many have already done, is send a check to Planned Parenthood. It will be accompanied by a note requesting that my donation be specifically used to help a woman who cannot afford to do so, pay for an abortion.

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