Another Installment of Crazy, and some Hope

The other day I arrived early to the assessor’s office here in my Arkansas county. It was time to get my new red hybrid registered and taxed. Nobody was waiting in line, so I approached the window. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a security guard sitting at a desk in the lobby. He was talking to another employee. I overheard the end of their conversation. “Well,” said the security guy, “everything is spelled out right there in the bible. The end of time. It’s all happening in plain sight, just like the bible said it would. All the signs are there.” Then, as an after thought, he added, “Dagumit.” Dagumit sounded like a throw away term. Righteous knowledge of biblical truth animated his tone. The actual end of the world —not so much, worthy only of Dagumit. When you live in Arkansas you learn to live with biblical fundamentalists opining in state buildings. It’s uncomfortable for those of us who are non-Christian, but I accept I’m out numbered here. At least, that’s what I think in normal times.

Today, it’s unsettling. Religious zealots make up one part of the 30% of the country that have become more powerful under Trump. Let me take a moment to list some of the lunacy within this 30%. You’ve got flat earthers, anti-vaccine conspiracy nuts, anti-maskers, election deniers, white nationalists, and QAnon types who believe democrats are non-human pedophiles. Are we looking at mass psychosis? These people are the Trump Base, and they appear to be cult members. They besieged the Capitol next to armed militia members. These are the citizens sending death threats to politicians, judges — or anyone who does not believe Trump won the 2020 election.

Across the country these unhinged people are voting in primaries for people who say Trump won in 2020, for Trump apologists, and for candidates who believe in forced births and forced pregnancies.

You might think —yes, but they are a minority. True. But the Republican leadership has caved to this Trump cult. They will not stand up. Indeed, the best example of how far the Republican Party has strayed from its roots is to look at the most recent Conservative Political Action Committee — CPAC— meeting. They welcomed Victor Orban, Hungary’s authoritarian leader, to the stage. His speech validated the manufactured culture wars. “We need less drag queens and more Chuck Norris,” he crowed, to loud applause. Culture wars are the main platform of today’s GOP. Above the stage the emblazoned words spelled out “We are all domestic terrorists,” a reference to solidarity with January 6th insurrectionists —now deemed martyrs. Outside the convention hall a makeshift cell had been constructed. Inside the cell sat a man in an orange jumpsuit, tears falling down his cheeks. Marjorie Taylor Greene knelt in front of him, holding his hands, and attendees prayed outside the cell. He represented the January 6th defendants. He was the symbol of the unfairly imprisoned victims of left wing radicals —who stole the election. Or so they want you to believe.

What’s their cause, exactly? “I’m a Christian Nationalist,” quipped Marjorie. She thinks all Republicans should call themselves Christian Nationalists and be proud.

Just this week Marjorie’s rhetoric heated up. She’s selling t-shirts that say “Defund the FBI.” Fox and other irresponsible right wing blowhards have been referring to the FBI as the Gestapo. Why? Because they executed a search warrant on Trump’s Florida home. Turns out, their liege Mogul kept various documents —including some top secret and classified. This is after the DOJ subpoenaed the documents, spoke with Donald’s lawyers, and politely made visits to retrieve them over the course of the last year. When the warrant was released to the public, however, it listed three possible crimes including the Espionage Act. It seems the focus of federal investigation was not just about borrowed documents.

Still, the right wing media warned of imminent leftist authoritarian takeover. “If the FBI can do this to a former president, they can do it to you,” said a prominent Fox entertainer. as she pointed a finger to the viewers. Trump riled his followers with talk of a raid, invasion of his house by federal law enforcement. Again, violence was unleashed.

Freshly activated, a January 6th rioter shot into a Cincinnati FBI field office, armed with an AR 15 and a nail gun. He got chased down and killed after he brandished his weapon in a corn field. In Phoenix a group of armed Trump supporters stood outside an FBI office. Far right pinheads are calling for death to FBI agents.

Liz Cheney, an anti-Trump Republican, could not safely campaign in Wyoming to save her house seat due to death threats. The Trumpist won instead.

True conservatives have left the party or have been side-lined. Some have switched to being Trumpist for money and power. Adam Kinsinger calls the current Republican Party “creepy.” Trump says if he wins in 2024 he promises to pardon all January 6th defendants, enforce speedy executions of drug dealers, and fire all non-loyal civil servants in the federal government. Lauren Boebert, one of many Trumpy house members, says she does not believe in the separation of church and state. Election deniers are winning primaries. And the supreme court will decide on a case soon that would put control of federal elections in the hands of state legislatures (not courts or civil servants). Trump could win if he goes unchecked.

The news gets worse. A woman in Louisiana is carrying a baby with parts of its skull and head missing. She is not allowed to have an abortion in Louisiana. A 16 year old in Florida was deemed insufficiently mature to have an abortion, so she will be forced to carry. A mother in Nebraska gave her daughter an abortafacient pill. They both now face charges. Women are checking into emergency rooms with pregnancy complications and not receiving treatment because doctors are afraid. The Idaho legislature decided that saving a woman’s life is not reason enough to allow abortion. Biden had to sign an executive order to facilitate medical decisions in emergencies. The DOJ is suing Idaho.

Now for some hope. Donald Trump is in trouble. The louder the bluster, the more scared he is. The DOJ is moving in, the state of Georgia has him in their sights for election fraud, and NY is looking at his business dealings. Even in the face of potential violence, justice must prevail or we lose democracy.

The best news came out of Kansas. Abortion is protected in the state constitution. A post-Roe referendum appeared on their primary ballot, the first since the supreme court overturned Roe. The voters had to choose whether to take out the abortion protections from the state constitution. The Catholic church and the anti-choice movement sent out texts to voters with the intent to confuse. They said women’s reproductive rights were in danger, so vote yes to protect women’s right to choose. Actually, No was the vote to keep the constitutional amendment in place, in other words, “No, I don’t want to change the state constitution.” And in the red state of Kansas, in the face of obfuscation, in long lines and 100 degree heat —women, independents, and conservatives voted overwhelmingly to maintain abortion rights. “No,” they said. Loudly.

We need more No voting in November. No to Christian nationalism. No to Trump and Trumpism. No to medieval religious laws against women. No to vacillating fearful Republican politicians and fringe cultists who vote for them. No to the Republican Party in their current cruel dystopian form.

Maybe we can vote yes as well. Biden will go down in history favorably. Surely people will approve of the first bill addressing climate change, a bi-partisan infrastructure bill, an executive order to protect women’s reproductive healthcare, a bill to help veterans get the care they need for burn pit exposure, a bill to make computer chips here instead of in China. That’s only a partial list of Biden’s accomplishments. Already we see Democrats (now the only pro democracy party) winning seats in the senate. Can we also keep the house? Can we get our country back on track? I don’t want to keep bearing witness to fascist madness descending on our United States.

Please vote. Unfortunately it’s a binary choice at this point in history. In the future, let’s have a parliamentary system, or four parties. But in November, the only way to beat Republicans is to vote Democrat. Let’s send the Trump cult wing nuts right back to the fringe of society where they can lurk, shunned and powerless. My hope is that one day I can walk into my county courthouse and not feel unsettled by a Christian droning on about the end of the world. “At least Christian nationalists don’t run the country,” I’d say to myself, and smile.

Laurel Owen

August, 2022

Thoughts on Roe and Beyond

My cultural anthropology professor in college told us about a conversation she overheard between two men from Africa. One was from a patrilineal tribe, the other from a matrilineal tribe. The matrilineal man explained, “Of course the baby belongs to the mother. She carries it, births it, and it’s only right that her family name and inheritance should come down through her.” “Oh no!” said the patrilineal man, “you are wrong. If you have a bag of coins, who owns the coins —you or the bag?” This sums up the different perceptions concerning women in matrilineal and patrilineal societies.

Our society has changed slowly toward more rights for women over the centuries. The musings of the tribesmen seem lightweight compared to what the new radical right has in store for women here in the US. A Supreme Court zealot named Justice Alito has written a draft to overturn Roe v Wade, which would outlaw abortion. The draft was leaked.

If passed, half the country will immediately ban abortion. And because the Republican party is no longer benign, the red state Trumpists are falling all over each other to see who can be more cruel. Some say no abortions with no exceptions. The Texas law encourages vigilantism. Missouri is writing a law that would outlaw travel to a neighboring state to have an abortion. Also in Missouri, the original law made no exception for ectopic pregnancy, which is fatal to the mother. A representative who helped pen the law admitted he did not know what an ectopic pregnancy was. Texas pharmacists, as of this writing, are afraid to fill abortifacient prescriptions for ectopic pregnancy for fear of reprisal from SB8-empowered vigilantes. My guess is a lot of the extremist republicans don’t know or care that, for instance, pregnancy can be fatal to breast cancer survivors. The flush of estrogen needed for developing a fetus is poison to a woman who has had estrogen-receptive breast cancer. She may not survive after that pregnancy.

The ugly onslaught of repressive laws now pivots to birth control. A low IQ senator from Tennessee said out loud that birth control should only be allowed for married couples. A Florida politician wants to outlaw IUDs –he also wants to join Missouri in barring women from interstate travel for abortions.

Alito’s leaked draft references a 17th century English misogynist named Mathew Hale. Hale did not believe rape could happen in a marriage. Women, Hale opined, were formed from Adam’s rib as helpmates to men —how can men rape themselves? In the US, rape in marriage could not be prosecuted until the late 20th century. Oh yes, we have a history with Hale. He also convicted two women of witchcraft and had them hanged. Shades of The Handmaid’s Tale. In the eyes of this man, and his current fanatic followers, women are not fully human.

Mathew Hale, Justice Alito’s words, and the merciless laws being written in the red states leave me with the same queasy feeling as the patrilineal tribesman left me with; women are bags to carry something belonging to men, or the state. We are not more important than what we carry in our wombs.

Let’s dispense with the term pro-life to describe the new right. Forcing a thirteen year old rape victim to carry her rapist’s child is not pro anything. It’s flat cruelty. To forbid travel to another state is authoritarian. Putting the fetus above a woman’s life is misogyny. Announcing that life begins at conception, then imposing laws to enforce this belief is fundamentalist Christian theocracy —not democracy. Once the theocracy takes hold, women, non-Christians, non-heterosexuals —we are all in danger. Whatever the Republican Party is today, it’s not pro-life. A minority of nihilists and fascist friendly right wingers want to hold power. And they will do anything to grasp it. When extremists come to power, women’s rights go out the door. Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler outlawed abortion. Indeed, limiting women’s rights is one of the markers of fascism. During the Trump era, fundamentalist Christians ascended to a majority on the Supreme Court. Under the Trumpist Republican Party, the ultimate goal is a coast to coast ban on abortions.

It’s hard to describe the level of anger, sadness, and fear many of us feel right now. It’s our country. And Roe was a right we grew up with. So was democracy.

So I meditate. Every day. And I relish that moment when all fleeting thoughts recede. And at the end of fretful thinking and regret —all that’s left is goodness. Love. Joy. The act of connecting to that ultimate love exists in every religion. In my own spiritual path we believe this earthly life is sacred. The gods and goddesses are loving aunts and uncles, warm and close. I’m a pagan. Every season offers a reason for joy, for reverence, for acceptance of change. Every celebration ties us to the earth, to land spirits, to our ancestors, and our gods. We revel in the magic of it all. The multiverse is beautiful.

All world religions provide guidelines for being a better person. Even people who aren’t religious can find deep meaning and points of light. One friend, an atheist and alcoholic-in-recovery, pictured her dog as her higher power. Good choice. The judgement-free love of a dog has no equal. Another friend dances to find oneness with the ether. Some people look to philosophy, reason and science for well-being and illumination. A man on death row told me he had never been moved by a religious feeling — until he read Plato.

Now we can talk about the real meanings of pro-life and pro-choice, which are not mutually exclusive.

If your inner wisdom guides you to believe that life is serendipitous, and if you find yourself pregnant unexpectedly, you may want to choose to bring that life into its full mystery and meaning. Or perhaps your love for life informs a decision to end that pregnancy for self preservation. Both are OK. Each is life affirming. Either option may be hard. And women must be trusted to decide. We are not bags.

Right now, at this difficult juncture in our country, we need to embrace what inspires us to love life and make clear choices. What’s at stake here is not just fetuses or a woman’s right to self determination. Our democracy is in danger. The rising tide of callous power-grabbers on the right want to turn us into a fascist-friendly country. Climate change legislation, private choices, access to books and honest history in schools, freedom of the press —all in danger.

Remember the flitting thoughts –those distractions during meditation? The left/right conversation is one. It’s false because it assumes the Republican Party is normal. The pro-life and pro-choice arguments also distract from the task at hand. I have shown that one of the two main political parties is not pro-life. What matters is good people meeting a dangerous moment with grace and determination.

We should harness ourselves to whatever higher power we aspire to. Then we must step forth into the fight of our generation. Vote these fanatics and Trump cultists back to the fringes of society where they can lurk, disgraced and shunned. Other actions may include marching for women’s rights, growing flowers for bees, volunteering for an animal shelter —anything that nurtures life and makes our world better. If the red states turn into authoritarian laboratories, some of us may help women get to friendly states for their healthcare. Maybe all you do is treat others kindly and with respect —and tell the truth. It’s all good. As long as we are aware and engaged.

Post Script:

On June 24th, 2022, Roe versus Wade was overturned by the rogue Supreme Court of the US. Discounting almost fifty years of precedent and against the opinion of the majority of Americans, they forged ahead with a theocratic minority rule by edict. Christo fascism has arrived. Most every woman I talk to feels like I do: half burning anger and half devastated. Men share our sorrow and our outrage. I will continue to write about events as they happen. Will we slip into authoritarianism or will we claw our way out? Nobody knows right now. I hope for the best.

Laurel Owen

July 1st, 2022