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Opinion and Analysis from the Grassroots

Return to the Dark Ages
By Ruth Gadebusch

Ruth Gadebusch
Ruth Gadebusch

The assault on women continues. Worse yet, it has intensified in the current political climate. The party that once expressed great belief in keeping government out of our lives is now pushing full force into the most sacred part of our being.

While this nation is in the throes of economic disaster, in the 10th year of a devastating war and still suffering the consequences of another ill-advised military venture, the Republican-controlled House of Representative in its first week in power introduced legislation infringing on the rights of women to make private medical decisions. What’s more, this legislation will not linger in committee ignominy. Immediate hearings are scheduled.

The party appears to have determined that the most important issue in the world is that no woman shall ever have an abortion under any circumstances whatsoever. Proposed legislation places the woman’s life as secondary to a fetus, regardless of its stage of development or condition.

Hospitals sworn to care for all could turn away a woman needing an abortion to save her life. Incredible, all these years after the court ruling of Roe v Wade. Incredible, the thinking that women are incapable of making our own medical decisions. Incredible, requirements that doctors explain details demanded in no other procedure. Incredible, the implication that women are just joyfully and ignorantly having abortions.

As if not bad enough, the proponents of such drastic legislation also oppose most birth control. Title X funding for family planning is slated for elimination specifically targeting Planned Parenthood, often the only available medical care. Although the critics would have you believe the service is willy-nilly 99.9% abortions, it actually offers all manner of care and uses no federal funds for the small percentage of its involvement with abortions.

Arguably, this society is the most squeamish about sex of any nation on the planet. We use sexual innuendo in all manner of jokes, mostly raunchy, and sex appeal in the selling of products totally unconnected. We place severe restrictions on teaching about the parts of the body involved when it should be taught in the natural course of events. Normal teaching just might open up that family values talk at home—so lauded but often missing.

When we talk with them at all we tell our teens, in the most vulnerable time of their lives, to wait. This, after we have dangled the forbidden as the be all and end all of existence. Then we are shocked when they get involved under less than ideal conditions. Talk about putting one’s head in the sand; the admonition to just wait is about as effective as “just say no” to drugs given the limitations of the message with actions of the society around them speaking louder.

This is a health issue. It is also a moral issue with entitlement to individual beliefs but no entitlement to legislate for others. The same is true for churches.

Family planning has allowed women full participation in society. Now there are those who would put women back in the dark ages of the male-dominated society with a shortened female life span, largely due to death in childbirth. Many would deny contraception and, worse yet, when women get pregnant whether by choice, mistake or rape allow no recourse regardless of conditions.

The Tea Partiers have made their wishes known. It is time for us progressives to do the same. We must stop this onerous legislation. It redefines rape as sex with force. Never mind whether the woman was in any condition to give consent. It puts financial burdens on private insurance provisions. It gives insurance companies authority to determine treatment. The intent is to make abortion impossible and in so doing limit every aspect of female healthcare.

It makes women less than equal partners. Not only is the movement flourishing in Congress, but there is also a determination to do state by state what they have been unable to do nationally. The last election increased anti-choice governors from 21 to 29. Yet, poll after poll continues to indicate that the majority of Americans believes that women should be in control of our own reproductive life. This political momentum will overrun pro-choice forces unless we mount an equally passionate force.

Beyond political momentum is determination to take matters that cannot be done legally into their own hands. Harassing patients and providers is mild in their stash of weapons. Sanctity of life, the supposed claim for objecting to abortion, does not follow when it comes to murdering providers. It does not add up, therefore reasonable minds must commit to counteracting these unreasonable people unless we are willing to return to the dark ages of yore. Such a situation will not serve women, or the nation, well.

Ruth Gadebusch is a veteran and a community activist, a former member of the Fresno Unified Board of Education, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.

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Egypt Rules!

By Ann Calhoun
It was a children’s crusade. But instead of swords, they came with iPhones and Facebooked and Twittered, and the world watched—amazed. They stood in the square, righteous and pure and clear-eyed and simple and sure as only children can be. And said, “Enough!”

And their sisters came and their mothers and fathers and illiterate day laborers and workers from nearby towns came and joined them and they all said, “Enough!”

And government goons came to beat them and kill them by the hundreds, yet their numbers grew and grew and still they stood in their righteous thousands and said, again and again, “Enough!”

And the world held its breath, the Egyptian Army held its fire, weighed the odds and considered its duty—to the state or to Pharaoh?—and then decided.

Pharaoh lost.

And fled to his palace to count his money and muse over the fate of kings and tyrants in the age of social media and a new generation of kids who, in their innocence, demanded the right to shape their own futures.

And America, a country that started in revolution and with the words, “We the People,” dithered and hummed and didn’t know what to do since we are also a country that profoundly distrusts “the people.” They’re too hard for our corporate plutocrats to control in their quest to make the American empire safe for Coca-Cola.

Plus, Pharaoh was our boy. Never mind that he brutalized his people and was a world-class kleptocrat. Our history is clear on this issue: America never met an anti-democratic thug it couldn’t buy and get in bed with. The Shah was our boy, Somoza was our boy, Saddam was our boy.

And here was our Egyptian boy, wholly owned and paid for by us and there, for God’s sake, were those damned “We the Egyptian People” standing in Tahrir Square saying, “Enough!”

How dare they? What’s the world coming to when scary “foreigners” take to the streets to demand their right to join our head table? And then ask for a piece of that nice pie formerly reserved for only a select few? What happens when the idea of “democracy” ignites and spreads from Tunisia to Cairo to Yemen? Where next? What next?

That’s the scary thing about “democracy.” It can take many forms, and in this country a “democracy” not aligned with America’s corporate self-interest is viewed as the wrong kind of democracy and in no time it is co-opted or overthrown in favor of American-run thugs who are paid handsomely to make sure that their country’s self-interest is America’s self-interest. While the “We the People” of that country need not apply.

Until, inevitably, some alchemy of time and generations results in a volatile brew that will ignite and burn into chaos and murder and more thuggery. Or by some miracle, turns into a beacon of light and reform and a rebuilding of a government of law and a real sense of the common good that will bring benefits to everyone.

At this point in Egypt’s history, the world still needs to hold its breath. (And keep its dirty fingers off the scales and out of the pies.) The message of Tahrir Square is simple in its clarity. Enough. Enough of the fear-driven lies, enough of government lawlessness, enough of the kleptocratic plundering, enough cats-paw manipulating. We the People demand the right to form our own “more perfect union” in our own way for our own people.

Enough!

That is a cry of light in a world of darkness. I can only hope that cry will be enough to keep the fragile flame alive until it can ignite a steady life-giving fire that cannot be snuffed out.

Ann Calhoun is a columnist on the Central Coast. Her blog is at www.calhounscannon.blogspot.com.

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Out of Touch

By Leonard Adame

Leonard Adame

Currently, the federal government and the State of California plan to reduce money sent to the agencies that help those most in need. The GOP, along with some misguided Democrats, aims to gut social service budgets.

It should go without saying that if the funds aren’t there to help the poor and the homeless, people will have no healthcare, no housing, no child care and, at some point, no food stamps. The homeless will be even worse off, more than likely dying off in greater numbers. In other words, our once compassionate society with its safety net of social programs will become a place that will produce more suffering, more hopelessness, more illness (much of it contagious) and more death.

Should these things occur, who among us can continue declaring that this country is the place of justice, equality and Christianity?

Here’s one suggestion on how to avoid these terrible things. How about having the wealthy pay more in taxes, especially given that they don’t pay much as it is? Corporations rarely pay taxes even as their profits rise and their CEOs and COOs get richer and richer. Keep in mind that they do so by laying off workers, closing plants (that are profitable) and hiring small armies of lawyers and accountants to keep the IRS at bay.

Wealthy citizens use more resources: more water (for lawns, pools), more electricity and gas (their homes are larger), and produce more waste. Why shouldn’t they pay more for using more? The less wealthy among us don’t have half acre or more lawns to water, don’t have two-story edifices that require more heating and cooling, and certainly don’t generate more waste.

Were the wealthy to pay more, would that not encourage them to use less of everything?

Federal and local government want to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, people who are much less capable of defending themselves because they don’t have lawyers on retainer or easy access to those who make laws. The GOP especially has perennially wanted to gut social service programs, saying that they’re wasteful and cater to the lazy and less ambitious among us.

In general, wealthy politicians have no idea what it is to live without the advantages they think normal. If we are to believe Barbara Bush—that the poor and the homeless are used to being so—then the wealthy are excused from what I thought was everyone’s responsibility to look out for our brothers and sisters.

But more than revealing is her lack of awareness that through no special talent or exceptional intelligence, she became wealthy—and therefore insulated from the less fortunate lives of the majority of people in the United States and the world. I would guess as well that she and people like her don’t really care that they have so disproportionately much while others have little or nothing, especially these days when jobs are being sent to foreign countries. Nothing in their lives would indicate otherwise, notwithstanding a few charities here and there.

In Egypt, people have demonstrated that they’ve had enough with a soulless, ultra-egotistical leader whose main focus was to retain power and wealth without understanding that doing so has resulted in poverty and hopelessness in his country.

My feeling is that our leaders, especially President Barack Obama and Governor Jerry Brown, are on the same path: ignoring the hopelessness and poverty that is growing in city after city, county after county. Their focus on balancing a budget (bloated by blind spending on weapons and endless war, mostly for the sake of corporations’ bottom lines) regardless of who gets left out of the bread line is morally criminal. At the same time, they clearly have become wealthy and powerful men who enjoy the best healthcare, the best food and the best living conditions.

Perhaps those people who are insulated from poverty and homelessness should drive to homeless encampments and barrios and ghettoes to see how people are being forced to live. Were they to do so, they would have to leave behind their biases, their preconceptions, their selfishness and their failure to follow the Christian ethics that say no to violence, greed, war, hatred and mendacity. Perhaps then things may change.

Leonard Adame is a retired professor of English. He currently plays drums in The Beale St. Band and writes articles on Fresno. He can be reached at giganteescritor@hotmail.com.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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