The Backwater Religion I Grew Up With

Image source, Salon.com

I have a story to share about my childhood. I don’t know how it fits in exactly with the current debates and legal changes to the abortion laws, but think and feel that it is an important story to share.

Throughout my adulthood, I’ve thought of this afternoon off and on, never knowing exactly what to make of it. I now know, with certainty, that it was about politics. And even back then I knew it was an important thing to remember. So maybe I will make sense of it one day.

When I was about 10 years old, one afternoon, when church service was over all the men filed out of the auditorium, the women and adolescent girls were asked to stay. Or, as I remember it, were told to stay.

The church I went to from the time I was 7 until I was 14 was a white-steepled small town church. We had stained glass windows, but no air conditioning in the west Texas Church of Christ. This particular church is very likely still going strong. And I suspect has probably not changed much in the past 30-ish years.

Cardboard fans printed with pictures of the Last Supper poked out of the pew-back trays that held extra Bibles and song books.  We sweated with our preacher who preached in front of purple velvet curtains. Behind the curtains lay our salvation, a five-foot (or so) dunk tank, or as they liked to call it, a baptismal.

I was baptized there when I was 11, but at the time of this story, I was saved only from the burning hell fires under the exemption of being-too-young-to-sin. Apparently, I had  not yet reached the age of enlightenment where I was responsible for my sins. As far as I could tell, there was no specified age in our church’s rule books on that. But my mother assured me that I would know when I was ready to be baptized and that would mean I reached the hell-burning age if I didn’t just go ahead and request a dip in the salvation waters.

But back to the afternoon in question, why I was asked to stay for this presentation remained a mystery to me until recently when it occurred to me that a stage was being set. Not just for me, but for all the women-folk in my church, including my mother and sister. I imagine that we were not the only church-women being shown this video, as it was a presentation from an outside source.

Some people, whom I vaguely remember to be men, but I could be remembering wrong, set up a film for us to watch.

The entirety of the video is long gone from my mind, but flashes still haunt me to this day. It did not have the desired effect. Instead of leaving the impression of murderous mothers in my head, it just left a bad taste in my mouth for The Church.

The video was about abortion and how it was wrong. Throughout the video, blood-red, dismembered babies were splashed across the screen.

A cartoon image of a baby inside a uterus wondered sadly why its mother was killing it. And then the salt water bath burned its skin and it was suctioned out, ripping the limbs from the body while the baby screamed.

We left, with the firm belief that abortion was wrong. It hurts babies. Abortion = murder. Simple.

Simple is the right word. But not for this complex argument. Simple is what those people presenting images to small town women and adolescent girls believed us to be.

Whether we were simple or not is irrelevant though. I think it is a destructive approach, vilifying women who fear pregnancy and motherhood enough to make such a difficult decision.

It is never that simple. And to portray it that way dehumanizes all of us, the women who are having abortions, and the people who choose to view them without compassion.

This film and the perpetrators of the film, were (are?) horrible people distributing a political agenda to small-town folks. I know that for sure. I wish I could remember more about it. I wish I knew who they were and how they came to be in our church.

It is a sad story. And one I don’t know what to do with. But I wanted to share it.

As laws continue to be passed in our this country, turning women into murderers and victims at the same time, I can’t help but feel betrayal and anger as we march forward in time, but march backwards away from feminism and equality.

A Trio of Female Supporters is Not Enough Against the Slaughter of Women’s Rights

Two other female politicians have stepped up in the fight, along with State Senator Nina Turner (D. OH). As you will read in this story.

The other women are Senator Janet Howell (D-VA), who offered up bill that provided men who wished to get a Viagra prescription should get a rectal exam. Surprise, surprise, it failed.

State Rep Stacey Newman (D-MO) offered up a bill that said men could only get vasectomies if their lives depended on it.

Last week when I wrote about Nina Turner’s bill, I was excited as all get out to read about a bill that was as similarly ridiculous ones that are being passed all over the nation. But my heart fell flat when I began researching how far of a reach these bills have come.

I commend Turner, Howell and Newman for their efforts and I get what they are trying to do. I get it. I really do. But it’s not enough. Sarcasm, irony, jokes, these things get you airplay, but if the other bills are being passed and yours are just being laughed about and then failing, well, what good is it doing?

What disheartens me and scares the crap out of me about these various bill revisions, called “provisions,” is that they are gaining momentum. In a startling jump from 26 percent from 2010, in 2011, 68 percent of these provisions have been enacted. According to Guttmacher Institute:

Fully 68% of these new provisions—92 in 24 states—-restrict access to abortion services, a striking increase from last year, when 26% of new provisions restricted abortion. The 92 new abortion restrictions enacted in 2011 shattered the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005.

There are so many various forms of abortion restriction, it boggles the mind. If you want to get righteously pissed, or if you simply want to find out how far-reaching this is, I highly recommend that you read further and then go to your own state’s website and dig around.

What’s freaky to me about all of this is that it’s limiting choice and freedom for women. People quote religious freedom in this debate. It’s in the Constitution. So is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is that fucking simple folks. These bills take away women’s liberty.

Whatever your beliefs, do you have the right to impose them on other people? It’s not about murder, because if it was, the God-fearing Christians in my very own state of Texas would be complaining about the state-sanctioned murders we perform every year through the death penalty.

The very same Biblical quote, “Thou shalt not kill” applies to fetuses, but not living human beings?

Oh, but they deserve to die for their sins, we say.

Does God not say that we should not judge others, so that we should not be judged?

Does Jesus not preach tolerance, compassion and understanding?

I’m not a Christian, but I grew up surrounded by them. I know the Bible, although I may be a bit rusty, I know what I know.  And this restriction on the female populace is just not right.

I’m not a big fan of abortion. I truly am not. But punitive measures are not the answer. Women should not be vilified because they are faced with a terrifying decision and choose to enact something that is against someone else’s beliefs.

If we are truly a nation filled with Christians, should we not find another way to spread good works by finding positive solutions and embrace compassion and love, like the Bible says?

And if we can’t do that, then I say we go with the ideas of Turner, Howell, and Newman, and start limiting men’s reproductive choices. If the GOP wants more babies born, then let’s discuss how much seed is spilled during masturbation, just for starters.

International Women’s Day? Wtf

Today, March 8, is apparently International Women’s Day. I had no idea. Never heard of it. For years I said that women needed a day that was separate from Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. That was before I became a mom and I was full of spitfire and vigorously challenged all traditional notions.

Now, I’m just happy to make it through a day where my clothes are still clean and my kid is happy.

Having been a regular news junkie for many years and feeling like I could eventually get to a point where I might actually read the news consistently again someday, when I hear of things like this, I feel disappointed in myself for not having known it was coming and receiving my news from my Facebook newsfeed and mistaking IWF for IUD when I did read it, I am just annoyed with myself for not knowing that the non-uterus-challenged species has finally gotten their own day. Yes, I see the run-on. It feels justified.

So I looked it up.

Apparently IWF was originally a socialist holiday and only made it to the U.S. mainstream in 2010, hence, why I didn’t know it existed.

It’s kind of nice knowing that we have our own day and all. But really, it’s kind of stupid. Who’s going to get it except those of us who are too damn busy and/or tired to give a shit.

It only cemented my realization of that fact when the second post I saw on Facebook about IWD was from a guy who said in honor of IWD he was putting on his best dress. Thanks. Thanksss a lot.

Then there’s this, a man who actually wore dresses aplenty, and probably understood just how misunderstood women often are, was a man named Leslie, who ironically, has died today. He will be missed here in Austin, TX.Thank you, Leslie, for putting on a dress for us and forcing people to watch. You are truly one in a million and deserve your own day.

Leslie died in Austin TX
Leslie

Help Fund Some Audacity

You all know that I love audacity. If you don’t know this, then you must not have been reading my blog for very long. But I do. And when I ran across this Kickstarter project, I need immediately that I wanted to share it. FYI, I am not getting paid for this. I just like the project.

The Audacity of Louis Ortiz is a documentary in the works about an Obama impersonator. What makes this story interesting to me is not just his looks, but his perspective on this country. He hears things that regular people want to tell Obama. Yet, he sees it from the perspective of a typical American. Ortiz has multiple sclerosis, and no health insurance. Before becoming an Obama impersonator, he had lost his job. He is a veteran. If Obama doesn’t get elected again, Ortiz will still get impersonator jobs, but it won’t be as many. He is counting on another four years.

I emailed the director/producer, Ryan Murdock and he answered a few questions for me behind the scenes.

His inspiration for the story was seeing Louis Ortiz akin to a lottery winner with a timeline and also a price.

“I think Louis’ story is a quintessential American one – make the most of the opportunities that life hands you. But it’s also a story that’s completely unique. Louis has an unvarnished window on what our country has been through in the last three years. He hears from everyday Americans about how they feel about this country and President Obama, both positive and negative.”

Murdock is also filming this story from a cultural and political perspective.

“… this story is incredibly rich. It’s inherently visual and there’s so many complex themes to explore around identity, class, race, power. Louis’ embodies so much about America right now. There’s an abundance of opportunities for me to examine the true meaning of political rhetoric in America right now – how much of what politicians say is actually meaningful for people like Louis.”

But ultimately, this film is about irony.

“Louis is a great example of the kind of everyday American that politicians are always talking about – Louis the phone guy. He lost his job, his health insurance and is struggling to make it. It’s ironic that he can make his living by appearing as the most successful person in the world when in truth he’s the epitome of the 99 percent.”

To contribute to this project so that Ryan Murdock can finish making his film visit: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1484086161/the-audacity-of-louis-ortiz

Bring the N-Word Into the Classroom

The N-word. Whitewashing the latter half doesn't change how we think about it.

There’s this word that we can’t say. Papers have been written about it. Celebrities’ careers have been ruined for saying it. There’s continuous discourse about it in intellectual institutions where we dance around it. We talk about it without saying it. We chide one cultural group for using it, while others are berated for using it.

Obviously, I’m talking about the n-word.

I’ve been thinking and thinking about this. And I believe I’ve come up with a solution.

The n-word needs to have its own class in school where students can discuss it inside the boundaries of a safe and intellectual haven. Not just colleges either. I think it should start in high school. It’s a time when kids are way savvier about life than we give them credit for.

We are all supposed to hate this word. I’m supposed to hate this word because I’m a liberal and my daughter is brown-skinned.

I don’t really hate it though. Sure, it makes my blood broil and my skin crawl. But is that hate? I don’t think it’s hate. I think it’s discomfort. I think it’s embarrassment and fear. I think it’s anger. How can we hate a word?

We can hate what it means. We can hate what it reminds us of. But it’s just a word. Do we really hate the word itself? I don’t think so.

Collectively, as a society, I think we need to get to a place where we are allowed to say it. Not to use it. It should definitely be retired from commonplace vocabulary and conversation. But I don’t think we should try to scrub it from books, as some are doing with Huck Finn.

I don’t think we should punish people for simply using it. Focusing only on the word is just skirting the deeper and darker issue of racism. The word itself is not the feelings of anger and hate that run through the bodies and minds of racists. In fact, the use of the word in improper context, only brings to the surface the hidden feelings that people may not ever realize are existing inside their own minds and hearts.

Instead, we should educate inside the classroom.

Parents would be aware that their kids are taking the class, perhaps with a permission slip. Only teachers with special training would be allowed to teach the class.

And students would be able to discuss the origins, the meaning, and the hurtful uses we’ve seen over the course of history.

I think our country is begging for some fresh perspective on the use of this word.

There are stories all over the news. Recently a coach in Chicago was benched for writing the word on his Facebook page.

Later, he resigned because of continued death threats and harassment. While I would agree that this fellow is not an appropriate person to be a mentor to children, booting him out of the school doesn’t change the fact that he still seemingly a racist (although he denies that label) and probably simply cements any negative feelings he has towards minorities.

Another Chicago teacher attempted to discuss it with an intellectual perspective and was suspended for simply saying the word.

He had this to say as he left the school on suspension:

“It’s so sad — if we can’t discuss these issues, we’ll never be able to resolve them,” Brown said Thursday as he prepared to begin his suspension from the Hyde Park school just a few blocks from President Barack Obama’s Kenwood home.

He has since sued the school, saying his civil rights were violated.

I just don’t get how any of this is going to help our country heal and move towards a post-racist society. And while I have no idea if Lincoln Brown would have done a great job of having this discussion, I agree with him. We need to have a safe place to have these discussions without fear of repercussion for simply uttering a word, no matter the context.

When I was in journalism school at Wayne State University in Detroit, a required class for all journalism majors was one in which we discussed issues surrounding race, sex (gender) and culture. The point of the class was to teach us how to write with sensitivity about issues that we were not familiar with personally. One of our best classes was when our teacher asked us to bring in friends of different races. Our classroom filled with brown and white skins, gender differences and wide cultural gaps as we held a two-hour long discussion about race where nobody was allowed to get angry and we could ask any question we wanted to. A few people still got angry. But for the most part, it remained civil. Best of all, it brought to light so many questions and some really personal answers. It was fascinating and enlightening. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about some lessons I learned in that class.

I think it’s the answer.

Simply white-washing this word doesn’t get rid of the issue, as you will read in this story where a bunch of kids spray-painted it on the wall outside of a Black History month exhibit in Petaluma, CA.

The fact that we, as adults, simply tell kids not to say it only sends the message that they shouldn’t say it around adults and white people, as you will read in this story.

And finally,

This editorial from The Atlantic, explains how our society is so overtly concerned with the words themselves and bashes the notion that simply uttering the word is the same as using hate speech.

Someday, perhaps, the idiocies of equating critical references to epithets with malicious uses of them will be self-evident. Someday we may conquer our phobias and stop compiling a lexicon of words that may be known only by their initials, if at all, like the sacred Name of God, or Voldemort. In the meantime, we have to persist in arguing the obvious: Words are not incantations; they do not cast spells. Instead, they take their meaning and power from the contexts in which they appear.