Summertime in Gilead: Will We Reclaim Our Opportunities?

For the first time in my entire life, July 4th was not a day of celebration for me. Over the past couple of weeks,  a combination of the news and real life has battered my natural optimistic nature into what I hope is a temporary state of cynical anger.

Between Texas, North Carolina, the United States House of Representatives, lost opportunities to rebuild this country’s infrastructure (thanks to conservatives), the Supreme Court, the zillion efforts to repeal Obamacare, the faux ‘scandals’ and the constant poutrage of the right wing in this country, I’m exhausted. Which is, of course what they want.

So on July 4th, as I was sitting at home watching amazing fireworks in New York and hearing testimonials put together by pricey New York public relations firms for Macy’s, all I could think was “bullshit.”

Opportunity is a word. Actual opportunity is a myth, especially for women.

I graduated from high school in 1976, the bicentennial birthday of the nation. I spent the better part of my senior year running from choir performance to choir performance, singing arrangements of America the Beautiful and God Bless America arranged especially for fresh young teenage voices to deliver to our elders so they would know the youth of America wasn’t really just a bunch of hippies protesting war in faraway lands. The women’s movement represented a sea change in how we viewed ourselves, our mothers, and each other. Women were fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment to pass, and for the most part, winning. There was a sense of potential, wrapped up and presented in Helen Reddy’s hit, “I Am Woman.” There was opportunity.

Only here, only in America…

Then Phyllis Schlafly happened. And Ronald Reagan. With three states left and a deadline ending in 1982, Schlafly and her well-funded band of conservatives whipped into a frenzy by Reagan managed to suck all of the air out of the ERA’s balloon. From an article published on July 13, 1983 — nearly 30 years ago to the day.

Leaders of the women’s movement had considered other presidents of recent years — Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter — insensitive to them on some issues and indifferent to them on many others. But Reagan is clearly hostile to their goals. He actively opposes ERA and abortion rights. He has turned back the clock in terms of appointment of women to key roles in government, despite the splashy choice of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court and Elizabeth Done and Margaret Heckler to his cabinet.

More to the point the Reagan administration has cut back sharply on such things as programs for day care and child nutrition that are of particular value to millions of women who work alone to support their children. And the President has reduced enforcement of federal laws against wage discrimination based on sex.

Fast forward 30 years and there is this reality: There is no opportunity in this country because Republican idiot men and the women who enable them have destroyed it.

If you are a woman living in poverty, you have almost no opportunity to get out of poverty and your children don’t have any opportunity either. The oligarchs controlling idiot conservatives are destroying their opportunity to get a good public education, to go to college, and to get a job.

If you’re a woman of color living in poverty, the odds are even worse.

If you’re a woman over the age of 50, forget about getting a job. The corporations used your talent and your (underpaid) work ethic to profit from you before they decided you were just too expensive to keep around. If you’re a man over the age of 50, you’re probably screwed too, but there’s still a chance for you, and if you’re lucky enough to get it, you’ll even get paid better than the woman who applied for that same job.

Now we have conservatives screaming for small government while they shove ultrasound wands into the vaginas of women who probably had no access to birth control because the clinic where they might have gotten it closed after it was de-funded by the conservative legislature in the state. Arrogant white men tell women that we can’t exercise our right to control our bodies without some Very, Very Big Government hovering over us. That’s right, little ladies, you can’t choose to have a safe, medically sound procedure that is perfectly legal because we want you to have that baby. And once you have it, don’t expect the state to raise the little illegitimate brat. You’ll have to throw yourself on the mercy of charity.

Because they do not regard women as equals.

Because they do not regard women as people.

We are, in their eyes, chattel to be disposed of as they please.

If you want to understand why women are dressed in orange and banging down the doors of the good old boys’ club in Austin, Texas, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a good place to start. Our protagonist agonizes:

I don’t want pain. I don’t want to be a dancer, my feet in the air, my head a faceless oblong of white cloth. I don’t want to be a doll hung up on the Wall, I don’t want to be a wingless angel. I want to keep on living, in any form. I resign my body freely, to the uses of others. They can do what they like with me. I am abject.

I feel, for the first time, their true power.

And in the postscript to the tale itself, where fictional scholars try to piece together the handmaid’s place in time and space, there is this:

…she was among the first wave of women recruited for reproductive purposes and allotted to those who both required such services and could lay claim to them through their position in the elite. The regime created an instant pool of such women by the simple tactic of declaring all second marriages and nonmarital liasons adulterous, arresting female partners, and on the grounds that they were morally unfit, confiscating the children they already had, who were adopted by childless couples of the upper echelons who were eager for progeny by any means.

Compare this to the tripe which actually escaped from Ann Coulter’s lips a couple of weeks ago:

Does it occur to these brainless wonders in the GOP that the Democrats wouldn’t be agitating for amnesty if it didn’t get them votes? That’s all it’s about. Liberals want the rest of the world’s poor to come here not only to raise their children, clean their houses, manicure their lawns and cook their meals, but to give birth to the Democratic children that liberals aren’t having.

Phyllis Schlafly rode her broom through the room, too leaving her stench wafting over the Latino population:

What she said:

Speaking with a Bakersfield, California, talk radio host last week, Schlafly further explained this view, claiming that Latinos don’t “have any Republican inclinations at all” because “they’re running an illegitimacy rate that’s just about the same as the blacks are.

She added that Latinos “come from a country where they have no experience with limited government. And the types of rights we have in the Bill of Rights, they don’t understand that at all, you can’t even talk to them about what the Republican principle is.”

That’s what they think of you. Schlafly is just a tool for white male oligarchs and dominionists behind the money and the need to subjugate women. With that in mind, I return to Atwood:

Men highly placed in the regime were thus able to pick and choose among women who had demonstrated their reproductive fitness by having produced one or more healthy children, a desirable characteristic in an age of plummeting Caucasian birthrates, a phenomenon observable not only in Gilead but in most northern Caucasian societies of the time.

Yes. We are fighting to retain rights we have had for years because white men want more white babies and they’ve managed to recruit some white women to help them with that, like Texas Rep. Jody Laubenberg, who is sponsoring the repressive anti-abortion bill. Laubenberg actually marveled aloud and on the record that there are “[things] called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.” For a minute I was waiting for an amendment to outlaw rape kits in Texas, too.

Texas. North Carolina. Ohio. Now Wisconsin. States ramming through legislation allowing legal forced penetration via ultrasound wand while closing all of the clinics that might actually perform those ultrasounds because ladies, listen: They do not give a shit about you. They stole the statehouses after they swept in 2010 and redistricted things to give themselves the majority and now they mean to use that majority to force the rest of us to pound an ultrasound wand up our vagina.

Lest we forget,  the states telling poor women they must have those babies are the same states that declined the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Do you hear what they’re saying? Not to sound repetitive, but if you are not as repelled by this as I, perhaps repeating it will help. They say to each and every one of us that we’re to accept full responsibility as the God-divined receptacle for men’s sperm to carry, birth, and raise a child the state has no use for and no intention of helping. Love the fetus, but don’t expect any help from us when it comes to raising the brat. They tell us, “Women, you are responsible. You’re killers or saints and there’s no in-between.”

No in-between and no opportunity. Keep us barefoot and pregnant and we can’t do much harm to anyone, right?

No opportunity. No compassion. No stepping-stones to a better life. They do. not. exist.

If we want opportunity we’re going to have to take it out of their cold, selfish, man-child hands. We’re going to have to stand up and take it. That means showing up in the statehouses and in the streets. It means showing up in the courthouses and the school board meetings and everywhere else they want to control and destroy.

They’re waging a war on you for your schools, your food, your air, your health, and your body. They want your soul in exchange for deliverance, whatever they think that means. They do not care about you and they do not want you to have any better roads. They have planned this for thirty years. Justices Alito, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas are getting old. They would love to overturn Roe v. Wade before heading into retirement. They were put there to overturn it.

I don’t want a winter in Gilead. I’m tired of being told I’m too old, too female, not useful, not useless, just extra. I don’t want my daughter and any future granddaughters to look back 30 years from now and think I accepted this as how things had to be. If I’m gonna fall, I’m gonna fall on the fucking battlefield.

These people are destroying the country. They want to destroy us. This is not hyperbole. They’re unashamed and unabashed about what they are doing. Whether they claim Jesus or money as their motive, they want to win.

We have to want to win more. Our lives and our futures are at stake.

As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes. Voices may reach us from it; but what they say to us is imbued with the obscurity of the matrix out of which they come…Are there any questions? 

 

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Author: Karoli

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