Dr. Jen does it again. The lasso of truth indeed.
I have a question for Governor Rick Perry of Texas, State Rep. Mark McCullough of Oklahoma, State Rep. Dennis Richardson of Oregon, State Rep. Betty Olson of South Dakota and all the other (mostly Republican) lawmakers who have publicly voiced their support for arming school teachers:
Are. You. Out. Of. Your. Fucking. Minds?!!!
It’s one thing for these Second Amendment enthusiasts to balk at the very real threat of tougher gun laws being passed in the wake to the Newtown shootings. It’s another thing entirely to look at the specifics of that shooting (or of ANY mass shooting) and think than any of those situations could have been improved by more flying bullets fired by untrained individuals. You know, because that usually ends well. Especially with CHILDREN literally in the crossfire.
Before this post disintegrates into me shouting ‘What the HELL are you thinking?’ at digital images of the aforementioned lawmakers, let me establish a plan. I’m simply going to list my top five reasons why arming schoolteachers is a stupid, asinine, ill-conceived, arrogant, short-sighted, and (perhaps deliberately) distracting “solution” to the very real problem of mass shootings in this country. Then I’m going to go hug my daughter.
Teachers are not Navy SEALs, Special Forces, or SWAT Officers. They’re teachers. Perhaps these lawmakers have been swayed by action movies that depict heroes who can neutralize bad guys with two or three expertly targeted shots to the chest without harming a single bystander but it simply does not work that way in real life. Even with training, the emotion of a tense situation can dramatically affect a person’s ability to shoot at and hit a specified target. Police officers, federal agents, and military personnel with decades of experience hit and kill bystanders in standoffs with alarming regularity. Do really we think a schoolteacher with a roomful of terrified minors will have the concentration, focus and sheer luck to shoot the bad guys and ONLY the bad guys? For a recent example of this look no further than the August 2012 incident at New York’s Empire State Building where NYPD officers pursuing a suspect shot and wounded nine bystanders before killing the actual shooter.
Guns aren’t always used on their intended targets. The teacher who carries a gun into a school to protect themselves or their students may have the best intentions but it ultimately may not be up to them how that gun is used. Nancy Lanza bought her guns to protect herself and while we don’t know precisely what she wanted to protect herself from, we seriously doubt she envisioned what her son would ultimately do with them. The same is true for the father in Western Pennsylvania who accidentally shot his seven year old son to death in the parking lot of a gun store this November. He was simply trying to put his gun away when it fired. Similarly a teacher would not foresee a situation wherein he or she is overpowered by an intruder, a coworker, or even a student for a gun or one where the gun accidentally fires and hits an innocent bystander. For a firearm to be useful as protection, it needs to be accessible to the user. But how, in a crowded school, is a firearm going to be both accessible to the user and secure from everyone else?
Guns in schools complicate emergency situations for actual law enforcement officers. Picture this: an elementary school is in lockdown. The local SWAT team is called in to “neutralize” an armed intruder. There are five adults on the premises with firearms drawn, one or more of them may be teachers. How is law enforcement supposed to figure out who the intruder is? Remember, these incidents happen fast. Split seconds fast. What is the likelihood that this situation doesn’t end with one or more dead teachers?
Students may not respect or fear guns; they may see them as toys or movie props. All the lawmakers who have proposed arming schoolteachers and/or allowing teachers to carry their own weapons have stressed that said teachers would be “trained” in the use of firearms and would therefore pose no threat to the children. Really? Have they met children? Have they seen news stories about children of all ages getting shot playing with guns? In every classroom in every school in America, there are children who simply do not understand what guns can do. Their concept of guns may come from movies, television, or (more likely) video games. This is what they know about guns: if you get shot you hit the “restart” button and try again, hopefully firing faster than your digital opponent. To them a gun in a classroom might seem cool. It may be something that are irrevocably drawn to: to touch, to try to take apart, to hold, perhaps so they can emulate someone or something they’ve seen. Again, a gun kept accessible for the teacher may be easily accessible by a curious student. And in the upper levels of middle or high school, when the students grow to be almost the physical equal of their teachers, what stops a student from taking a teacher’s gun by force? Then what?
A teacher trying to use a gun in an emergency focuses on him/herself and the gun and not on the students. The lawmakers who propose arming teachers or permitting teachers to carry their personal weapons paint a picture in which a teacher with a gun learns of an intruder, retrieves his or her weapon and uses it on the intruder thus preventing unnecessary bloodshed. Simple, right? But is that really how it would play out? And in this scenario, who exactly, is focusing on the students? Who is making sure the youngest students are remaining calm and quiet, helping them hide, getting them to more secure locations, and doing any of the other truly heroic things that the teachers in the Newtown shooting did that saved the lives of children? A teacher who is armed at the direction of the school district or state has split priorities: eliminate the threat and protect the children. Can we really expect them to do both? Isn’t a teacher holding a weapon and looking out for a gunman inevitably focused on that first and the children second? For the last time, teachers are teachers, not law enforcement. If you want safer schools, focus on funding better law enforcement and passing better laws, do not add to the list of things a teacher needs to do in an unimaginable crisis.
These are my top five reasons. There are likely many more reasons that you can come up with, given that you might be slighter calmer than I am at this given moment. I’ve been in constant state of stunned/enraged disbelief that any lawmaker who has actually been in an American public school could possibly think this is a good idea. Perhaps that’s the problem? Have the lawmakers who’ve proposed these laws actually visited schools? Talked to teachers? To law enforcement? To parents?
As the mother of a middle schooler, the wife of a high school teacher, and a school volunteer, I’m in and out of school buildings almost every week day. I want them to be safer. We need them to be safer. Putting more deadly weapons into them will not, I repeat, not achieve that.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
An old friend called me a few days after the Newtown massacre to see how I was doing. Knowing that I have two small children the same ages as those killed in that class, he guessed correctly that I might be struggling to process the whole thing. He and I had grown up together on Long Island, and while it’s not without its poor areas, and its violent ones, New York State’s gun laws are pretty strict and there aren’t many gun enthusiasts on the Island. Steve, however, was one of them. He’s a blue-collar Italian guy from Suffolk County who knows quite a bit about firearms and other sundry explodey things. This is, let’s say, not my area of expertise.
He’d just recently moved to North Carolina, and I asked him how he was adjusting to the different climate and culture. He said to me, without any joy, “Well, I heard an ad on the radio today for a gun store. They were advertising AR-15s with no waiting period on the radio. Not good.” I knew an AR-15 was used in the Newtown shootings, and that in pictures they looked pretty big. That was about it.
Steve went on, “Do you know what the difference is between an AR-15 and an M-16?”
I didn’t. I knew that the military started using M16s to mow people down in Vietnam, and that they could be semi-automatic (the gun drops the spent cartridge case, cocks the rifle, and loads a new cartridge without you having to cock it yourself) or automatic (the gun does all that on its own but repeatedly, allowing you to spray a lot of bullets at once as long as you are holding down the trigger). I didn’t know much beyond that. He explained: “An AR- 15 has a shorter stock. You buy special parts online that are legal for you to purchase but illegal to install, to make it fully automatic capable…that’s it. It fires the same .223 round ammo.”
Now I understood why he sounded bothered. Here was a “light” military weapon that could be easily made fully automatic, firing the same ammunition, available for sale to just about anyone, with no waiting period. Something he would never have experienced on Long Island. He said, “And we wonder why the rest of the world thinks we’re nuts.”
It’s not clear whether the AR-15 in Newtown had been similarly modified. It’s less clear why the shooter’s mother thought that a good way to bond with her emotionally disturbed son would be to introduce him to this type of weaponry. We make a lot of hard choices as parents, and they’re not always right. But this one was sadly fatal. And a lot of folks are taking that to heart.
There are plenty of sane, responsible gun owners who are starting to think that maybe it’s not a good idea to have these kinds of weapons widely available as toys. You see it on Facebook, as otherwise conservative people on political pages talk about their change of heart on this issue. You see it on television, where personalities like former congressman Joe Scarborough, who in his day had a 100% rating from the NRA, are coming out and saying, “No more of this.” From regular folk like Steve, who used to think gun control was unnecessary but are feeling that things have gotten out of hand. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I’m sure I’ll be glad to let anyone say “I told you so” who insisted upon keeping these death dealers, but short of that? Every argument I’ve heard in favor of these things crumbles under mild scrutiny.
In the coming weeks and months, we’re going to be looking at some of those arguments and the reasons why they don’t hold up. Know that the WRUN you have been following for however long you’ve been following it… will still be here. We will still continue to follow, share and comment on the topics traditionally thought of as “women’s issues”; articles on reproductive rights, paycheck fairness, and domestic violence are still going to be part of our regular rotation. But after the tragedy in Newtown, we can hardly keep silent on the subject of guns and violence in America; as mothers ourselves, we can all too easily put ourselves in the shoes of those parents who lost their children. With nearly 7,000 of you alongside us, we feel it would be irresponsible to beg off on talking about this important issue just because it doesn’t fit the mold of the other things we typically cover.
Moreoever, there’s a strong case to be made that the issue of gun violence IS a women’s issue. While there are many correlative and contributing factors to a domestic violence situation ending in the victim’s death, the abuser owning a gun is a big one. Studies illustrate a multiplied likelihood of homicide in domestic violence incidents if the abuser has a gun. While such a weapon is often used to threaten, control and intimidate, a woman is also five times more likely to be killed by her abuser if there is a gun in the house.
But beyond that, sometimes, women are the ones who have to stand up and demand a change to society at large. So many of us are mothers, sisters, daughters, anchors of our families, protectors and nurturers. And sometimes, with issues like this, we are the ones who have to lead the way. When drunk driving claimed the lives of their loved ones in 1980, women just like us took on the legislative system as well as the culturally entrenched notions that allowed people to get behind the wheel drunk. Mothers Against Drunk Driving was born, and over the last 30 years, drunk driving deaths have been cut in half, through lobbying for traffic safety laws, drunk driving laws, and victims’ rights legislation. And most notably, through their persistent and powerful messaging, drunk driving is no longer considered socially acceptable. The terrible fact that you can never completely eradicate it did not deter them from working at it, and there are many people who are probably alive today because of it.
I’m exhausted. I’m tired of the false choice the NRA offers us between tyranny and semi-automatic weapons. I’m tired of the false choice between addressing this issue on a mental health level and addressing it from the perspective of gun control. There are a lot of pieces to this thing, cultural ones, mental health ones, and yes, looking seriously about restricting the types of weapons that allow you to easily kill a lot of people at once. It’s absolute folly to pretend that they are not a part of the problem. The second amendment can be preserved along with the safety of our children. But we have to come together, and do it.
Once more, we have to rise up.
by Siobhan Carroll
Hello dear readers! It has been a while. Like many of you, I suffered mightily from a post-election hangover and needed a month or so to recover. A trip to Ireland, copious amounts of turkey and one Christmas tree later, I have returned just in time for Rick Perry to remind us all why he is (thankfully) not president.
For me this story doesn’t start in Texas. It starts several thousand miles away in the Dublin hotel my husband and I were staying in when we sat down for breakfast and I perused the paper. Savita. A name we would hear almost constantly throughout the next several days of travels. W:RUN did a fantastic job of covering this story from afar, but for those who are not aware, Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant, miscarrying and in pain when she requested an abortion. She was denied said abortion by doctors in her Galway hospital because the fetus still had a heartbeat and “Ireland is a Catholic country”, according to her husband. Savita contracted an infection and died of sepsis, an avoidable outcome had a timely abortion been performed and appropriate antibiotic measures been taken. She was a wife, a daughter, a dentist in her adopted homeland- a productive and loved member of society.
I am an Irish American. This trip to the motherland was the 7th time I’ve gone over in less than 20 years. Much has changed in recent years-as my husband noted that “there isn’t a cross on every street corner now”- but Ireland is still very much a catholic country, and the church still wields enormous influence. This is a nation where divorce was forbidden in the Constitution. (What would Rush Limbaugh have to say about that?) It was only repealed by referendum in 1996 and even then by less than a percentage point. One better, you need to have lived apart from your spouse for 4 of the last five years to even begin the divorce process. The populace has responded by simply not getting married- the Irish Examiner reports that marriage rates in 2011 were the lowest in a decade, and the average age of marriage was 38 for men and 31 for women. In the US it was 29 and 26, respectively. This is an extraordinary illustration of how attempts to legislate people’s lives can backfire and result in unintended consequences.
After that breakfast (I know, that was a lot of information in between but you read my stuff for its entertaining and informative quality, not its brevity) my husband and I headed west from Dublin to visit Galway, my favorite place in Ireland if not the world. It’s about a two hour drive through lovely countryside and myriad unimpressed sheep. The radio occasionally played music (if you consider One Direction “music”) but the Irish are talkers and so much of the stations were discussing the news of the day, which was Savita. When we initially set out the DJs would stumble over her Indian last name, but they got so much practice so quickly it soon rolled off the tongue like marmalade.
The outrage was palpable. The only reason Savita’s death was made public was because her husband went to the press when a proper investigation was not launched. He has expressed concerns about the impartiality of the experts, two of whom are staff doctors at NUI Galway hospital, where Savita was treated and ultimately died. This is a nation that has elected two female presidents, legalized divorce, seen an incredible rise in economic opportunities for women since 1990, and yet a young woman was allowed to die because of an archaic attitude towards women’s health.
The day after the news broke, we were making our way up a treacherous switchback (think Lombard Street in San Fran but with cows instead of houses) on our way to the Cliffs of Moher. The only station that was coming in clearly was a call-in radio show discussing the Halappanavar case. I heard three women (one named Siobhan) describe how placing the life of an unborn fetus above that of it’s mother impacted their lives. One woman was denied painkillers and a diagnostic x-ray as she agonized through the pain of an undiagnosed bowel obstruction, on the pretense that either intervention might harm her fetus. Her bowel eventually burst, her daughter was born premature and died as a result of exposure to bacteria in the womb. Her mother lost part of her intestine, saw her daughter alive for only moments before they were separated, and slipped into a deep depression from which neither she nor her marriage recovered. Siobhan’s fetus had been diagnosed with a “genetic condition incompatible with life” and yet could not abort her pregnancy as long as the unborn child had a heartbeat. She and her husband traveled to Liverpool for the procedure, and returned with the cremated remains of their son as some sort of ghastly souvenir. The last story I heard was a woman in similar circumstances, as her fetus also suffered a significant genetic issue. Rather than travel abroad to abort she carried her child to term, having to explain to friends, family, coworkers and strangers who were overjoyed for her the sorrowful news that her baby would not survive outside her womb.
There were candlelight vigils held in memory of Savita’s life, and rallies so that her death may not be in vain. This horrible experience may be what wrenches Ireland’s abortion policy into something resembling at least the 20th century.
We’ve been back since just before Thanksgiving, living the life that normal people with two kids, jobs, parents, and a weird cat live. Post-election I haven’t had too much to whine about- Barry won, Joe went to my local Costco, New Hampshire has declared it Lady Time- all good stuff.
And then goddamn Rick Perry had to open his mouth about abortion:
“I don’t think any issue better fits the definition of ‘compelling state interest’ than preventing the suffering of our state’s unborn.”
It’s totally okay to laugh. I laughed riotously for a while in an attempt to the keep the anger from inducing a stroke.
I will let you know if and when my blood pressure returns to normal. In the meantime, fuck you Rick Perry. I apologize for the profanity but it is the only appropriate response to this horseshit. The “unborn” are precisely that – unborn. They aren’t people, they don’t have consciousness, and science disagrees about when a fetus might even feel pain. You know what suffering is Rick? Being born into a family already struggling financially. Or being born only to suffer for a short time on earth. Or being a waking, talking reminder to your mother of a brutal attack. Or simply being unwanted. Or being a woman forced to continue a pregnancy that she, for any reason, does not want to.
This isn’t a game, this isn’t harmless rhetoric. This is about quality of life for women and their children, both born and unborn. Savita’s story and the anecdotes I’ve provided are a vivid and nauseating illustration of what happens when government interferes between a woman and her doctor. These aren’t abstract ideas or theoretical scenarios, these are real women faced with awful outcomes because their ability to choose what was best for them was taken away. On the other side of the coin, doctors shouldn’t be afraid to do their jobs responsibly for fear of going to jail.
I note with chagrined irony that the state most reputed for its fierce independent streak – its “don’t mess with us” sloganeering – may be ideologically trading places with a nation long considered backward by its neighbors. As Ireland progresses, will Texas regress? The Lone Star state indeed.
by Emily Kellogg Magner,
Guest Blogger, Musings of a Lady
On November 28th a group of social work students and myself woke up at 3:30 am, drove on unplowed and unsalted roads to talk to our representatives about HB 5711.
We studied and analyzed this 60+ page bill and found that it would regulate women’s health centers out of existence, limit abortion access for women in rural areas, prevent private insurance companies from covering any abortion services, give a tax credit for fetuses (but not for children), and it would allow medical providers to deny any health care service they deem objectionable.
After careful analysis we believed this bill to be nothing but harmful to Michigan women, families, and communities.
Our first visit was with Senator Howard Walker. We started our meeting wholeheartedly thanking him for taking the time to meet with us. I talked about the importance of hearing both sides to an issue. I talked about ethical obligations- I believe social workers and politicians have something in common.
What a mental health professional says to a client has a different weight to it than if a friend or family member were to say something to them, the same goes for a politician. When a politician speaks, they speak for everyone in their district.
I told Howard that as social workers, in order to preserve the integrity of our profession we follow the National Association of Social Workers code of ethics. This code tells us in order to help our clients achieve self-determination we must leave our personal opinions at the door.
Howard Walker looked at us blankly. He glanced at his watch. He fussed with his phone.
We went on to talk specifically about how this bill will harm Michigan women, disproportionately women living in rural areas like ours. After we brought up a few of these points he put up his hands and said that he couldn’t really speak to those topics … he had not read the bill.
In front of him was a one paragraph synopsis I assume was from the Right to Life special interest organization who drafted the bill.
Howard Walker had not even bothered to read it.
We spoke with him for 20 minutes, the whole time he was dismissive, misinformed, and rude. When his handler told him, “5 more minutes,” I told him that I would never ask him to change his beliefs on abortion, I would protect his right to believe whatever he wanted, but I did want him to consider the harmful implications that this legislation would have on women and consider his ethical obligation to his field to leave his personal views at the door.
Before I could finish my sentence, he waved his hand dismissively and interrupted, “THIS ISN’T ABOUT WOMEN! THIS IS ABOUT PROTECTING FETUSES!”
We were all silent. Shocked.
I calmly put my palm down on the table, spoke gently, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Howard, you do know where babies come from don’t you?”
I went on. “Do not try to tell me that this isn’t about women, about families, about communities, and yes, about me, a woman. A woman you represent.”
We have elected lawmakers who do not care, who do not read bills, and who do not represent us. They admit this openly. Our representatives can’t even be bothered to be respectful when we travel from their home districts to offer an opposing view.
Our next stop was State Representative Wayne Schmidt’s office. After hounding his office with e-mails and phone messages for over 3 weeks we were finally able to get an appointment to meet with him.
What a different experience we had there.
Our group had just left the office of a man who ideologically believed in this bill … it was quickly made apparent that Wayne Schmidt is merely a puppet.
Right off the bat, as we sat down, Wayne told us that he did not want to talk about HB 5711. He told us it wasn’t going to come up in lame duck. “It’s a bad bill. It is not going to be voted on.”
Wait– a bad bill? He voted for it! We were stunned.
The man representing us gave his vote for HB 5711 and then openly admitted to our faces that he believed it to be a bad bill! He even went so far as to point out different aspects of the bill that he disagreed with- such as the one million dollars of insurance a doctor would be required to purchase in order to provide Emergency Contraception to a patient, yet Wayne voted yes!
I had to ask the question, “Why?”
He told us that it was “just politics.” He said that he needs the Right to Life endorsement, so he voted for it.
Again. We were shocked. Absolutely floored.
He admitted to five of his constituents’ faces that he supported a bill that he knew to be wrong because he needed a special interest’s endorsement.
This is criminal.
Before we left I told Wayne Schmidt that if he was a good politician he wouldn’t need a special interest’s endorsement to win. I looked him square in the eye and told him that he will never get my vote (should he run for office again). He has not earned my vote and he does not deserve it.
Those of us who took the time to make appointments to go and visit face-to-face with our lawmakers feel a true loss.
We are not being represented by qualified people. They are men who vote with their religion, men who vote with their pocketbooks.
These are men who don’t read bills, who don’t listen to us, who don’t trust women, or care what we think.
I sign petitions, I write letters, I make phone calls, I write articles, I mobilized a group of my peers to join me in the three and a half hour drive to talk to our representatives in person, and all I have learned is that they do not care.
I have learned that that we, the people they represent, the people in their home district, don’t matter to them. Our voices are not heard.
By showing their true colors they gave me a gift–
I am now inspired like never before to encourage qualified women to run for office.
Our current representatives modeled for me the type of person I never want to be.
They showed me that someday, I will have what it takes to be a real leader for my community.
Emily Magner is chief blogger and owner of Musings of a Lady
While seemingly outside of our wheelhouse, the issue of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities is so mind-boggling that I simply couldn’t let it go by without a comment. Treaty ratification requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, and lo and behold, there were just enough teabagger votes to scuttle it. “Why?” you may ask. Because screw the UN, that’s why. Apparently U.N. treaties of any kind, having to do with anything, undermine American sovereignty. “Since when?” you may be wondering. Since shut up, that’s when. ‘Merica.
Actually, it’s practically since time immemorial, or at least, as my nana would say, “The 40s”. While Glenn Beck and Rick Santorum are the latest purveyors of this dreck, it’s not like they invented it. So let’s take a spin through yesteryears to talk about why teabaggers are just the youngest descendants of this royal lineage of conspiracy-addled arch-conservatives. Though this bogeyman really stretches as far back as the kerfuffle over the League of Nations, which the U.S. initiated and then didn’t join because of these same paranoiacs, let’s start with the actual formation of the U.N.:
End of World War II: America’s tired of world wars. Some people think working with other countries to usher in a more peaceful phase of capitalism might be a good idea. So we create the United Nations, NATO, Bretton Woods, and GATT. Angry economic protectionists and business nationalists lose their minds.
Screw You, H.G. Wells: He takes the term “New World Order”, which had been only generically used by various politicians to mean a great political sea change, and appropriated it to mean a technocratic state and planned world economy. Thanks, jerk. Now the tin foil hats have a name for their unnamed fears.
The Red Scare: Oh look, it’s the Christian Right, crawling into bed with the business community to take their fears to a bigger audience! To sell it better, they festoon the terror of a planned economy with Freemasons, the Illuminati, and Jews who are coming to force atheistic communism down our freedom-loving Christian throats! Liberals and progressives with our creepy welfare-state programs, international cooperation, and foreign aid, are going to consolidate the world into a repressive, global Communist regime. Because it’s easy to get 196 countries to sit down, shut up, and all follow the same rules. But it’s even easier to get one overzealous Senator named Joe McCarthy to destroy countless lives and careers on a witch hunt for Communists in the State Department… and everywhere else.
The John Birch Society: Emerging as a force in the 60s, the Birchers are all about “an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.,” the promotion of Christianity, and fighting Communism. (Does any of this sound familiar?) Also, they hate free trade agreements, and the U.N., because these things are apparently evidence of the shadowy conspiracy by international bankers (read, Jews) to create a “One World Government” controlled by tyrannical economic collectivists (read, Commies). Never mind that their dire predictions fail to come true. They’re playing the long game. American writer Mary M. Davidson talks in 1966 about the establishment of the U.S. Federal Reserve System in 1913 as the beginning of the New World Order Conspiracy. Vladimir Lenin was just getting his Marxist groove on in 1913, but right here in America, them dirty Reds apparently already had a foothold.
The New World Order: Sometime beginning in the early 70s, writer Gary Allen, among others, starts promoting anti-globalist themes with books like “None Dare Call it Conspiracy” and other delusional tomes decrying corporate internationalism and yes, of course, the United Nations. And so, when communism falls in the 1990s, rather than proving the conspiracy fears to be bogus, it leaves these freaked-out lemmings an easy route to pivot to the New World Order as the “true” threat – like the actual psycho killer who stabs the guy you were running from who you thought was the psycho killer. This conveniently feeds right into the Christian myth of the End Times. The NWO, the bar code, the mark of the beast, boogedy boo! Pat Robertson’s book about this becomes a raging success among Evangelicals. And, this being a “Christian nation”, it’s the beginning of their brain fever going mainstream.
President George H.W. Bush, the focus of a few conspiracy theories himself, doesn’t help this any by actually using the phrase “new world order” in a speech about the U.N’s Agenda 21, which he signs near the end of his term.
Agenda 21: A non-binding U.N. resolution on sustainability in the 1990s becomes fascism/communism/pick-your-flavor-of-totalitarianism-du-jour. Bike lanes are the work of the devil! Don’t voluntarily do anything environmentally sound or the evil U.N. and its cadre of blue helmets will come to your town to suck the soul out of America! We see cross-country speaking tours whipping up useless fears about this, featuring John Birchers, and yes, our girlfriend Phyllis Schlafly. Somehow environmentalism will also turn everyone into feminists, I guess.
The Tea Party: At last, here we are. Think it’s about taxes? Hogwash. It’s about Communism, and Jesus, and freedom! The Obama birth certificate nonsense is just the current incarnation of the same old paranoid fears of infiltration by the “other”, the scary outsider, the shadowy conspirator come to oppress us from within. How do you think this mob sprang up so fast? It was already there, waiting to be unleashed.
This has been going on for a long time. Who is the enemy? Sometimes Communists, sometimes the gubmint, Jews, bankers, internationalists, the U.N., the Illuminati, the Freemasons, Obama, death panels, FEMA and of course SATAN! The rise of the Internets has given these tin foil hats an impermeable echo chamber, wherein it suddenly seems reasonable that everyone should be armed to the teeth and have six months worth of food and water stored in their basements for the impending U.N. Zombiepocalypsemageddon. It doesn’t matter that the Supreme Court has ruled multiple times that U.N. resolutions can not under any circumstances supersede U.S. law. It doesn’t matter that the disability treaty contained nothing that we hadn’t already been doing since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed twenty years ago. Our senate botched an opportunity for global leadership, and the only reason why is because these terrified sheep have sent enough of their own to Congress to shoot it down. So we can’t ratify a treaty that says we support something that we already do because then the U.N. might invade our town and force everyone to get abortions, or something.
The medium might change, but the message really doesn’t. And as long as it keeps working, it never will. But can we please keep these people out of our government?
If it’s December, it’s time for “year in review” posts and this probably will not be our last round-up but it is one we are pretty excited about. While publications like Time pick just one “Person of the Year”, we see no reason to limit our list of female news-makers of 2012 to just one woman. What we have assembled below is a list of just a few of the women who have inspired us this year. We believe many of them will continue making news, shaping policies, and representing us well, long after 2012 is over.
Malala Yousafzai – Until October of this year, schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was best known in the West for the blog she wrote for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule in her home in Mingora, Pakistan. She criticized the Taliban’s policies of denying education to girls, both in the blog and in a later documentary for the New York Times. Then, on October 9, Malala was shot in the head and neck by a Taliban-affiliated gunman as she rode the bus home from school. She survived the attack and is currently recuperating in a British hospital. The Taliban has vowed to repeat their attempt on her life calling her a “symbol of the infidels and obscenity.” Did we mention she is 15?
To the rest of the world, however, Malala Yousafzai has become a symbol of courage and determination, and of the need to demand education opportunities for all children, regardless of gender. UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown declared November 10, 2012 “Malala Day” in support of a UN petition that demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. In addition, Malala has been nominated for a International Children’s Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu and there is a petition for her nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. As of the time of this writing, Malala was third in Time Magazine’s online poll for its Person of the Year 2012 distinction.
Women of the 2012 Olympics – By the end of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, some in the media might have gotten sidetracked in covering the non-troversy around Gabby Douglas’ hair or the beach volleyball uniforms and missed some legitimately important milestones for women in sports. For the first time in the history of the modern games, every participating nation sent at least one female athlete, an achievement made possible by increased pressure on Saudi Arabia in the final weeks before the Games. For the Saudi women (and women in other countries where the government or religious leaders actively prevent women from participating in sports), participation in the Olympics was politically significant. Sarah Attar, the 19-year old Saudi athlete who ran the 800 meter track event in London, said she hopes her presence will encourage other Saudi women to become more athletic. If that happens, Saudi Arabia may follow a path followed by Western nations, where increased participation by women in sports happens in tandem with advancement in other areas. The Saudi government plans to allow women’s suffrage for the first time, starting in 2015.
For American women, the London Games were a time to celebrate the accomplishments of Title IX, the article of the Higher Education Act that demands equal funding and opportunities in college, including (but not limited to) sports. Nowhere was that more clear than in the makeup of the team. For the first time, female athletes outnumbered males on the team. Performance-wise, the women delivered as well, winning the majority of the gold medals and the majority of the overall medals won by the U.S. team. The best part of all, it happened with billions of people watching.
Women of the 113th Congress – Starting in January 2013, record numbers of female legislators will serve in the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and in state legislatures nationwide. While even these numbers of female lawmakers in the U.s still leaves us embarrassingly low ranked when compared to other nations and are far from gender parity given the U.S. population, it is a definite step in the right direction. (No shoe jokes, please. We’re already have enough on our hands clearing the traffic jam in the Senate ladies room!) Seeing the female candidates we supported break through, especially after the two years of misogynistic legislative Hell that began in 2010, made for an especially sweet election night. Beyond that, though, we view the 2012 election and the class of legislators it produced as something far more important than numbers. It was the logical next step in what should become the “new” normal. Now that there are 20 female United States Senators, and nearly 80 female members of the House, why should we settle for anything less? As recently as 1992, there were only two female U.S. Senators. Starting in January, the entire Congressional delegation from New Hampshire and its governor will be female. More importantly, female lawmakers are gaining power, influence and the ability to lift each other up and build a deep bench of candidates who could someday rise even higher. Why should we wring our hands wondering who will be the “next Hillary Clinton” when we have the power to develop the next TEN Hillary Clintons? Or more? Women are 53 percent of the American electorate! The answer is that we shouldn’t settle. The direction was made clear. We’re moving forward. Is our nation’s first female President a member of the 113th Congress? It’s impossible to know that now but one thing is certain, whoever she is, she will benefit from it.
So, Liz Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Tulsi Gabbard, Tammy Duckworth, Heidi Heitkamp, Kyrsten Sinema, Mazie Hirono and the rest of the Class of 2012, no pressure or anything, but it’s time to get to work.
Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood Supporters – The Susan G. Komen Foundation learned a costly lesson this year: Do not mess with Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood. In February of this year, the Komen Foundation, the big kid in the breast cancer funding sandbox, announced that it would stop giving financial support for cancer screenings performed at Planned Parenthood clinics, citing controversy over Planned Parenthood’s (unrelated) reproductive health services. Komen quickly learned that while it may own the pink ribbon logo, Cecile Richards has a pink army and that army was more than willing to go to work for Planned Parenthood. They took to Twitter, Facebook, online forums and the phones, calling their elected officials, signing petitions, and – most embarrassing for Komen – pulling out of its Race for the Cure events and donating that money to Planned Parenthood instead. In just two days following Komen’s funding announcement, Planned Parenthood raised over $3 million for its breast care screening program, more than three times the amount of funding it would have gotten from Komen. But it wasn’t about the money. By that time the backlash against Komen was too much, regional Komen affiliates were speaking out against the decision and at least 26 U.S. Senators had publicly called on Komen to reverse what they called a “politically-motivated” decision. On February 3, just three days after it announced it would pull funding, Komen CEO Nancy Brinker reversed course, and pledged to fund all existing grants to Planned Parenthood and to maintain the group’s eligibility for future grants. The incident proved politically embarrassing to Komen, and some argue that it has yet to fully recover its reputation.
For Richards and Planned Parenthood, the clash proved to be a key test of their political, media and social muscle. They were able to leverage their reputation with women, their social media presence, and their political power to score a victory on the national stage. (Actual quote: “Will Planned Parenthood please give Twitter back?”) Planned Parenthood would spend the rest of 2012 using these lessons in other funding battles with states and in the November elections. While their battles with states like Arizona and Texas wear on, the numbers from the election don’t lie: the Sunlight Foundation calculated that Planned Parenthood’s PAC got the highest ROI on its campaign spending of any U.S. PAC in the 2012 cycle – with 97% of its spending on races achieving their desired outcomes. Memo to Komen, Cecile Richards and her supporters are wearing the new pink.
Sandra Fluke – Of all the things that we learned in 2011 and 2012 from the war on women, none was more irritating than this: when misogynists are faced with an articulate, educated women who has facts on her side, they will fall back on the time honored tradition of calling her a slut. Some things never change. As part of W:RUN’s long-standing policy of not referring to certain media blowhards by name, we will not say who actually called Georgetown law-student (and now women’s rights activist) Sandra Fluke a series of derogatory names but you certainly know who it is. It’s not worth the keystrokes to type his name. It almost doesn’t even matter because ever since her Congressional testimony, and especially since her appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, most of the other right-wing media talking heads and even some candidates have piled on with their criticism of Fluke for…for….being someone they really don’t like, we guess. It’s hard to tell exactly what they don’t like about Sandra Fluke except that they think she’s got some nerve talking about birth control out loud like that. In the end, Fluke had the last laugh. Mitt Romney, who famously could not muster the energy to defend her against the worst slurs, lost big in November and took many of Fluke’s harshest critics down with him. And as for He-who-shall-not-be-named? The advertiser exodus from his show following this incident has the stations that carry it reporting heavy losses. And for the record, karma probably doesn’t like being called names either…but you get our drift.
The Moderators: Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz – After a twenty-year gap, the Commission on Presidential Debates finally selected two women to moderate debates this election cycle: awarding Martha Raddatz the Vice Presidential debate and Candy Crowley the (often maligned) town-hall debate. Jim Lehrer and Bob Schieffer were given the remaining Presidential debates. Leading up to the debates, former debate moderator Carole Simpson publicly worried that in giving women these “lesser” contests, they might still be marginalized, and others in the chattering classes shared that worry. Then we watched the debates. and gave each other giant estrogen fueled high-gives because – to be frank – Raddatz and Crowley Kicked. Ass.
Raddatz, charged with moderating the Vice Presidential debate between two high energy candidates (and after most observers agreed that Lehrer pretty much lost control of the first Obama/Romney debate) drew high praise. Seated onstage between Biden and Ryan, Raddatz was a calm yet decisive force between two notoriously explosive personalities. She challenged Biden on Benghazi intelligence and demanded “specifics” and “math” from Ryan on his budget. She didn’t always get straight answers but she didn’t back down. While we took issue at her framing her abortion question in religion, we can hardly think of another moderator – male or female – who could have kept order between these two candidates better than Raddatz did.
Crowley, in particular, took heat from the right for fact-checking Romney’s claims on Benghazi but it is often overlooked that she did not handle the President with kid gloves either. She challenged him on unemployment and several times sharpened the audience’s questions about the economy with tougher numbers. In short, she heeded Simpson’s advice and refused to allow herself to be marginalized. Both Raddatz and Crowley did what journalists are supposed to do: lead with the facts. That’s the whole point of giving the roles of debate moderators to journalists in the first place, isn’t it? This year, two extraordinary women got their chance to do it and they certainly made the most of it.
Rachel Maddow – In TV news, election night coverage – especially presidential election night coverage – goes to the “A” team. To the undisputed stars of the networks. It’s not a perk, it’s a right. You rise to the top of a given news team and that’s your prize. You get to tell the viewing audience the results of all the races, especially the top one. In 2008, MSNBC gave the honor of reporting that the nation had elected Barack Obama to Keith Olbermann, then its top star. In 2012, it was Rachel Maddow who made the network’s official call that Obama had been re-elected. Maddow, the first openly gay anchor of a prime time news program, readily announces herself as a liberal nerd – something that instantly endears her to the younger demographics that are increasingly hard to reach for cable news networks.
That Maddow is the now MSNBC’s top star says a lot about the network’s plan to reach a generation of Americans who’d rather get their news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. (Insert your own joke about the hipster glasses here.) To that end, Maddow’s biggest 2012 moment actually came after November 6, when her eloquent summary of the results and “other real stuff” went viral two days after the election. It was nearly impossible to be online without running into versions of the clip on social media, blogs, and even in liberal fundraising emails. It was popping up in our newsfeeds days, even weeks after the election. That clip did exactly what MSNBC is hoping Maddow’s geeky brand of gravitas will do: expand the reach of their news onto different platforms. In a quieter way, Maddow may be able to help MSNBC do what CBS tried to do with Katie Couric: win with a woman at the wheel.
Savita Halappanavar – Tragically, Savita Halappanavar did not live to see the end of 2012 but her life, and death, may become a watershed moment for the Irish government and its traditionally strong (some say, inextricable) tie to the Roman Catholic Church. Savita Halappanavar was a 31-year old dentist from India who moved to Ireland with her husband. This past October, when 17 weeks pregnant with her first child, she went to a Galway hospital complaining of severe back pain. According to Savita’s husband, the hospital concluded that she was having a miscarriage. Savita’s condition worsened steadily over but when she requested an abortion to end the pregnancy, the hospital allegedly refused, stating that Ireland was “a Catholic country.” Finally, when the fetus’ heartbeat could no longer be detected, doctors removed it but by then Savita had developed septicemia, and she later died. Her death prompted demonstrations throughout Ireland and England, outrage from Indian officials, demands that the Irish government clarify its abortion laws, and most recently, a possible hearing before the European Court of Human Rights.
Given that multiple inquiries are also ongoing in Ireland, it does not seem that the question of whether the hospital bears legal responsibility for Savita Halappanavar’s death will be settled anytime soon. However, the discussion about women’s reproductive freedom that it has sparked in Ireland and in other countries was clearly long overdue. Welcome or not, it now has to happen.
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