Sunday, January 29, 2012

Roe v Wade - 39th Anniversary

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I'd do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal legations.

-right wing email forward, allegedly from an editorial in a Waco, TX newspaper

A friend of mine forwarded a right-wing screed today containing a bunch of punishments for people receiving state poverty assistance. There are several other ideas on how we can further punish the poor, but this one stuck out today. I'm glad I have friends with differing opinions. It's good for us all, I think.

It's the 39th anniversary of Roe v Wade today. My wife works at Planned Parenthood, so we're pretty well versed in the subject of reproductive health, and the surrounding controversy. There is an assumption on the part of many that all Roe v Wade did was legalize abortion.

I am reminded today that the case actually opened doors for women all over the spectrum. In some instances, women were forced into abortions without their consent. In many states, birth control was not available. Back-alley abortions were common, and often deadly.

The main issue in the case was the entitlement of privacy. These decisions are to be made by the woman involved, in consultation with her doctor. Her reproductive health is hers and hers alone to manage. This extends to abortion, contraception, tubal ligation, and every other reproductive right under the sun.

This author from Waco, and my friend, in tacit agreement, are arguing for either forced sterilization, or the administration of a drug (norplant) that was discontinued in 2002 due to terrible side effects.

So, to sum it up: if you lose your job, and need government assistance, please step into this line to receive your sterilization, or step into this line to receive your irregular menstrual bleeding, headaches, nausea and depression.

On this 39th anniversary of Roe v Wade, I'm happy to live in a country where this pipe-dream of forced sterilization and/or intrusion into the bodies of half of our working poor is in fact just a dream.

The irony is, my friend votes for politicians who would deny cheap contraception to women. This is where Planned Parenthood comes in. Planned Parenthood's main business is not in fact abortion, but pregnancy prevention. My wife works every day to provide safe, low-cost options to women looking to pro-actively manage their reproductive health. Her office in Eau Claire doesn't even perform abortions. And yet Planned Parenthood is under attack from Republicans across the country, at local, state, and federal levels.

On the one hand, they demand that women control their bodies. On the other, they deny them the ability to do so responsibly.

I can't use a word to define this type of thinking - the words themselves are degraded. Hypocrisy doesn't cover it - too easy. Irony doesn't hit it - it's not a Woody Allen film. Sad doesn't really begin to describe how I feel - I mean, Jesus, does my friend believe this stuff? I'm not exactly sure words really get to the immediate reaction I had.

But as I think about this, it's not all bad. In fact, this reaction is in part due to the successes women have seen in their fight. After millenia of struggle, women continue to break out into the world and take on roles that were all too often unreasonably limited to men. I'm happy to think that my eventual daughters will grow up in a world better than the one their grandmothers braved. It's a reminder that the fight continues.

Yes, there will be reactionaries, like my friend. But we'll be there too, hand in hand to stand up for the rights of all citizens. I look forward to all of these struggles with you, my new friends in Wisconsin. There is no sweeter victory than a victory on behalf of the people. And I mean all the people, not just the privileged, the affluent, or the powerful. Wisconsin will be safe if we stick together. Wisconsin will be OURS!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What One Million Says

In a sixty day period, one million people signed a recall petition to get Scott Walker out of office. Here's what our governor had to say yesterday:
“The real bottom line is, the national unions want their hands on the money,” Walker said in an interview with Fox News. “It’s all about the union money, it’s not about the workers’ money — they want those automatic dues, and they’ll spend just about anything to get that back.”
Let's address this point first: When a person can set up an automatic paycheck deduction to go to the United Way or to the Red Cross, but they can't set up an automated deduction to the organization that represents their interests in the workplace, I think we've got a flawed system. It starts to appear like you're singling someone out, Governor Walker.

But let me tell you this: If all Governor Walker had done was remove automated union dues collection, I wouldn't have signed a petition. I probably would have never started this blog. I might have never taken a single trip to Madison last spring. I certainly wouldn't have worked to force recall elections for Sheila Harsdorf or Terry Moulton.

I've watched all year as Governor Walker*:

*by no means is this an exhaustive list

When I watch these things unfold it's not a matter of union rights. We have a governor and a Republican party who is dead-set on governing on behalf of the haves, have-nots be damned. I'm not going to wait around to see what's next. I've heard a lot of people argue that we should wait until his full term is done. They say it's sour grapes.

I see it this way: I watched in 2002 as a corrupt president took us to war on lies. I saw millions of people demonstrating around the world against a war that was deemed inevitable by an administration hellbent on madness. I saw the government bamboozle its people into a conflict in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and thousands of American troops would die. Several of my friends had to go over and fight a war that was needless and did nothing to protect America or fight terrorism. If I could have recalled George W. Bush in 2002 I most certainly would have.

The same government decided that business could regulate itself better than people like the SEC, the EPA, and members of the judiciary. They shifted government away from performing its duties as watchdogs of our democracy, to the great benefit of the powerful. We ended up with a mortgage crisis that nearly threw us into depression. In the end, banks got a bailout, while a comparatively tiny stimulus plan meant to help average Americans was derided as socialism. If I could have recalled George W. Bush in 2002 I most certainly would have.

People in Wisconsin aren't fools. We're not going to wait around. We've seen this movie before. "Good government" is called "big government" and it's systematically destroyed to favor the powerful. Scott Walker is doing this right now, right under our noses. Say what you want about the Occupy movement, if there was ever a governor looking out for the 1%, it would be Scott Walker.

One million people is not a small, fringe group of fanatics. 25,000 people don't volunteer in the rain and snow because AFSCME wants some union dues automatically deducted from a few paychecks. I didn't start a blog to get brownie points with my old teachers (though if you are reading, THANKS!).

This is about our future as a state, it's about education, it's about environment, and it's about the balance of power in our society. One million people knew this. Scott Walker can buy the right spin this week. History is on our side if we keep working together. Wisconsin will be ours!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Million Strong

I received an email from United Wisconsin today:

Today, volunteers from every corner of the state are turning in over 1,000,000 petition signatures to recall Scott Walker.


Together, we have made history. Congratulations, you did it and deserve to celebrate today. You have sent Scott Walker a crystal clear message – our values will not be steamrolled, and our state will not be held hostage any longer. It is time for Walker to go.

This million-strong grassroots movement is an unprecedented achievement, and a resounding victory beyond any legal challenge. Through the cold, snow and rain over 30,000 circulators and volunteers took to the streets to insist that their government work for them.

Today, January 17, we celebrate, and tomorrow we go back to work. You have demanded a recall election and now we must work through the coming months to remove Walker from office.

I'm flabbergasted. From the beginning of this fight nearly a year ago, to the announcement today, I'm completely overwhelmed. I've met so many neighbors who rightly looked at this situation and decided to act. We've knocked on doors, written our representatives, submitted letters to the editor, voted, and volunteered all over the state. This moment is truly historic.

In 60 short days we found a million people looking to change directions in our government. We've taken the state back and exercised our fundamental right as citizens of this country.

Historically, the right tends to lay claim to patriotism. They love to say that this country is the greatest place on earth. They say this as they vote for politicians that tear down the fabric that made us great. They turn their backs as their water is polluted, their air is smogged, their land is sold, their money is taken from them, and their government is made less accountable.

While I witness our methodical destruction of this right wing fanatical leadership, one point is clear to me: This really feels like the greatest country on earth this afternoon. We live in a state full of good people willing to stand up to power in spite of an angry and violent opposition. No one who spits in the face of a recall volunteer deserves to be labeled a patriot. No one who threatens violence on an old lady with a sign truly loves freedom. Those working in opposition to this violent mob deserve medals - all 25,000 of our unpaid volunteers.

There's still more work to do. We have elections to win. Several senators and a lieutenant governor were also recalled. I'll be working hard against you, Senator Terry Moulton. You may be a nice guy and a church-going, family man, but I will fight your political ideas until my last breath is gone.

Good work folks! Celebrate tonight - pat yourself on the back! You've done something amazing here. Let's keep our foot on the gas pedal and keep moving forward. Wisconsin will be ours!