Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

So it’s a fall morning, and I’m sitting in one of our three local diners, eating my scrambled eggs, french toast, and sausages. I sit alone at my table; most of the other tables are filled with codgers of various ages in John Deere “gimme” caps and slightly-past-prime bib overalls. The air smells like bacon, maple, and coffee. The waitress, who is also the owner, rushes from table to table, serving pancakes, pouring coffee, and chatting up the codgers. Outside the steamy windows trees are bright red, yellow, and orange blurs.

Inside, the codgers chat about things of interest to codgers–beef prices, machinery repair, apple harvest, and, of course, politics. Always politics. At the table closest to me two codgers are nearly incandescent over the iniquities of a local county supervisor. I am new to the area and it turns out the supervisor is  from over the border in the next county, anyway, but this in no way diminishes the codgers’ ire. The supervisor is a woman.

The waitress/owner swirls through and drops pancakes, sausage, syrup, and coffee on their table, and the codgers trade conversation for happy mastication. And then, into the silence, the younger of the codgers says this. “Yup, wimmen and power…wimmen and power…turrible combination…turrible combination…” The older codger bites a sausage savagely in agreement.

And there I sit, a woman. A single mother. A business owner. I realize that I am one of the women to whom the codgers are referring. It’s a strange feeling. I grew up around here, in farm country, on a farm–a place where chauvinism is tolerated on the basis that “women aren’t as strong as men.” As the daughter of a father for whom that excuse buttered no parsnips, to use a localism, I learned early on that jobs needed to be done, and if I didn’t have the shoulder strength to turn a wrench I’d just better hustle my butt over to the scrap pile and find myself a nice long pipe to slip over the wrench handle to increase my leverage. Or get the air wrench. Or put a spinner wrench on and stand on it and use my body weight to do what my shoulders couldn’t. For a man who til the day he died believed that women needed to accept second-class status, my father was unswerving in expecting more, not less, from his daughters when it came to job performance.

There are arguments to be made about the dangers and disadvantages of growing up like I did, but the truth is that all those years of having to face my irritated, impatient father taught me that first, being female was no excuse for not getting the job done, and second, that if I didn’t have the physical power to accomplish a task I’d better use my head and find or invent a lever or a bigger wrench. While it would be perhaps nice to be able to see myself as a woman in some circumstances, life is full of circumstances where gender should play no part.

I consider speaking my mind to the codgers, and discard the idea. Because they are codgers and I am a stranger they would listen more or less politely, pay their bill, and then walk out, self-righteous in the knowledge that I had just proven their point–women have gotten above themselves, and the world would be a better place if the laws against smacking the little woman were a little less stringent.

I am perhaps doing the codgers an injustice, and this would be just a funny/sad story if it weren’t for what’s happening in the United States today. A look at the reproductive rights legislation under consideration in Washington D.C. and across the nation is frightening for a common thread behind much of it–the belief that women and power are a ‘turrible combination.”

Why? Because legislation that limits free access to the most reliable means of birth control, and deprives us of the tools we need to determine if and when childbearing should happen, deprives us of equal opportunities across the board. The truth is women and men are not biologically equal. Men are bigger and stronger. Men don’t create new people out of their very blood and bones. Men don’t experience morning sickness, loosening ligaments, labor. Men don’t have to worry about milk leakage. None of this is their fault. It’s biology in exactly the same way that it was biology that determined that my shoulder muscles would not have the mass and power of a man’s shoulder muscles.

And in exactly the same way that I was only able to do my job on the ranch because I had access to the tools that would equalize the playing field, we women of reproductive age need unfettered access to the tools we need to determine if or when we are in a position be bring a child into the world. Without access to reliable birth control and safe abortions women are literally at the mercy of their bodies and of every man they encounter, simply because of biology. Without that access women cannot hope to compete equally in the labor force, in the executive suite, in marriage, and before the law.

Lower wages for women have long been justified on the basis of biology–women “take time off when the kids get sick,” “miss work when they have their periods,” “aren’t strong enough to do the jobs men do.” The glass ceiling is justified by arguing that women cannot be both parents and executives, and that they will of course choose their parenting responsibilities first if they are any kind of mothers at all.

Here is the truth: it IS hard to both parent and pursue a career. Children DO require time and energy that we women might otherwise devote to our careers. But the solution isn’t simply barring women from competition–it is in providing them with the tools they need to take biology out of the equation, where it needs to be, and make competition about skill, creativity, and motivation.

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I voted yesterday. The Magic Dog and I sat down and considered the ballot carefully, but it really wasn’t necessary; we already pretty much knew how we were going to vote on the various races happening in our neck of the woods.

Voting’s supposed to be private, like sex and pooping. For years I didn’t do it at all. I reasoned that there was little real difference between candidates; I believed–and I still believe–that it is impossible to win national office without making some pretty unsavory compromises. So I opted out.

The last election changed that for me. Maybe I was swayed by rhetoric. Maybe I had just matured. Maybe, like many, I was seduced by the idea that broken things might be fixable. At any rate, I registered as an independent, because I believe good ideas and people are possible in either party, I did my homework, and I voted.

I voted for the Democratic ticket, but I voted less for the party than for the ideas it represented. I voted for the idea that middle classes are important, that giving money to rich people and expecting them to give it away is too much to expect. I voted for the idea that we needed to get out of the business of war. I voted for the idea of affordable healthcare–even for people like me–for the idea that what I pay for my house should to some degree reflect its value, and for the idea that our financial  and healthcare institutions need to factor in the good of their customers as well as bonuses.

I still believe in all of those things. And two years later, I still don’t have healthcare. I just got word–via a foreclosure letter–that my application for mortgage modification has been denied (I’ve been in the system for nearly two years now), and my credit card interest rates are through the roof. To say I am disappointed in the pace of change is putting it mildly, and being told by the President that I need to suck it up and stop whining, that we all knew this was going to be hard, isn’t a lot of comfort. Nor is it really helpful; I can’t offer that to my bank in lieu of a mortgage payment. I know. I tried. I’m starting to wonder if President Obama as disconnected from what’s happening in the lives of people like me as all the presidents I didn’t bother voting for. I hope not, because I still believe in the ideas he expresses.

Doubts and alll, I voted again–and this time I went farther than I did last time; I voted for the straight Democratic ticket. Here’s why.

1. The Party of “No.” If I had to name the one thing that has caused me more fear and anger than anything else in the last two years, it would be the Republican party’s single-minded determination to bring down the current administration. The policy has resulted in ineffective legislation in many cases, crippled policies and discarded ideas in others, and a climate in which it is virtually impossible to accomplish anything. And now, at the end of two long years in which we have been floundering while the banks, aided and abetted by their pals in office get obscenely rich, we have the Mitch McConnell’s of the world stating that the thing they’re really worried about is making sure President Obama is a one-term President.

I don’t know how you want to spend your time for the next two years, but personally, I’d like to see the folks in Washington doing something besides indulging in something that, at best, is a personality clash, and at worst, is the kind of xenophobia that brought us hoods, nooses, and crosses burning on lawns. If the GOP is so out of touch with the nation that they consider such dangerous, puerile behavior tolerable, they shouldn’t be running an iron-wheeled wheel barrow, let alone the nation.

It’s more than just racism, though–increasingly the GOP candidates are espousing positions that deny basic rights to women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBT community. The standard for qualifying for equality has become very very high in the GOP tent. I don’t want that standard applied in my life.

2. Jonathan Swift once said, “A nice man is a man of nasty ideas.” This election, I voted for the only people who seemed to have any ideas at all. Over and over, when asked for their agendas, the Republicans have offered up The Plan: Undo This Administration. This is not an idea. This is not constructive. This is not even possible. This is delusional thinking. For me, the vote came down to a simple question: Do I want to move forward, or backward? Voting for the Democratic candidates is no guarantee that things will get better; voting for the Republican Tea Party candidates–is a guarantee that they will get worse.

3. Crazy is as crazy talks. This is probably the biggest reason I found for voting, if not for the Democratic candidates, certainly voting against the Republican candidates. Any sort of examination of the Republican party at this point in time reveals one overwhelming fact: The lunatics have escaped, and they are now running the asylum. Opinions expressed are bizarre, outlandish, and held only by a tiny, but incredibly noisy minority so far to the right they’ve almost fallen off the cliff. And yet, for reasons of political expediency, much of the Republican party has, if not embraced the ideas, done their very best to appear as if they do. That means that we still have the ridiculous “birther” nonsense floating around, as well as the equally idiotic idea that gumption, a perky smile, and the ability to say fifty impossible things before breakfast make up for education, reason, and experience. If you just believe in the Lord, he’ll take care of the deficits. It means that we have bizarre tales spun about legislation, and guns being carried to presidential appearances–and the gun-toter claiming he is simply exercising his constitutional rights.

I voted against the Republican party because I believe in reasoned debate, not in shouting down opposition. I believe in the rule of law, rather than “second-amendment remedies” if the other guy wins. I believe that it is important to have accurate, clear information available about the laws under consideration, and that it is not helpful to invent boogeymen like “death panels.” I believe that once a person has proven a point beyond reasonable doubt, and has gone to the trouble of posting a validated birth certificate on the internet, that it’s time to stop saying that there are “lingering questions” about his citizenship. I may not agree with his policies, but I can no longer claim that he is unfit because of his birth. And like him or not, he is still the President, and given the world in which we live people who show up with guns at his public appearances are seeking to intimidate or worse, and should ejected from the event and certainly questioned about their choice of accessory.

I voted for the Democratic candidates because the Republican candidates seem to have a universal inability to grasp the realities of our situation. We are in the midst of a financial crisis. It is becoming all too apparent that all too many of our elected leaders have been bought and sold by the mortgage, financial, and energy conglomerates. We do not have the luxury of behaving like children throwing tantrums at having to take turns. I voted the Democratic ticket not because I liked all of candidates, but because this time around, the the few adults in the room who aren’t scary, scary people seem to be in the Democratic party. I voted because like it or not, we are in a tug-of-war, and our economy, homes, civil government, and maybe our souls are on the line, and I wanted more people pulling us forward than holding us back.

If you agree, vote with me. If you disagree, vote against me. Just don’t say it doesn’t matter, because it does. It matters terribly.

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