Dismantle the Master’s House

Hello, Sisters and Brethren,

We got too much anger, hurt and snark coming at our Body Politic, which is running out of bandaids and wishes everyone would stop throwing darts. FYI, most of the US is not following the fine points of what our elected representatives are up to, and this is too bad. Because most of the US just wants simple justice and common sense. But if you were born into a Democracy, it is your responsibility to be one of the People the Government is Of. And if you elect fools you will get stupidity. And even worse if you don’t vote at all.

What, exactly, is stupidity?

One definition from Merriam Webster Online Dictionary is-

: dulled in feeling or sensation : torpid

Here is a related word, ‘stupor’–

: a condition of greatly dulled or completely suspended sense or sensibility ; specifically : a chiefly mental condition marked by absence of spontaneous movement, greatly diminished responsiveness to stimulation, and usually impaired consciousness

Of course, some people are really dumb, and many more just don’t care. Some are impaired by bad choices or bad luck. But some very smart people can be misled by deception and distraction…


Matthew Scheidt’s attorneys are trying to prevent a 3-hour-long tape from being played during his upcoming trial. He is accused of impersonating a physician assistant and even treating patients.

The 17-year-old even admitted to performing CPR on a patient to fill in for a doctor.

“I swear to God I did not do nothing. I would not have done. I felt so uncomfortable even doing that. And, you know, the only reason why I did do it was because there was nobody else in there. And I’m not going to let her die,” Scheidt said during the interrogation.

During the hours of interrogation, Scheidt admitted that he should not have worn the physician assistant badge and that he did deceive doctors at Osceola Regional Medical Center.

How did very smart professionals get punked by a 17 year old? Distraction, deception. They were probably all maxed out busy, juggling a thousand competing priorities in their day, wondering how they would cover all they were responsible for. They probably did not focus their attention on the young-looking guy in the white coat with the badge. A visitor walking through would be more likely to have the eye for something not right in that guy. They might look past the white coat and see their teenage son’s punky friend walking by.

You don’t brake at every intersection at rush hour. You have to assume that when the light is green you should go.

We trust our lives to life as usual. We base our social life on half-conscious assumptions. It’s woven into our shared reality. If you love English you appreciate and work with the spin and slant that can be worked into the most innocuous-seeming sentences. It’s unspoken assumptions. Some of us are very sensitive to words, others have a different lens for seeing the world.

We are in an election where a deeply divided America struggles with competing visions of what our common reality will be.

Sometimes the differences are thrown into sharp and painful contrast.

Rep. Todd Akin’s phrase, ‘legitimate rape’ was too honest for the Republican Party. I’m not of the ‘no rape is legitimate’ rejoinder that focuses on that one unfortunate word. I do think I understand what he meant. He meant that any woman who was forced into sex should be able to show dire physical injury comparable to what he imagines he would suffer if he had to fight off sexual assault. This type of reasoning goes back to ancient times, as when the good Patriarchs of Israel wrote The Law…

Deuteronomy 22:23-24

English Standard Version (ESV)

23 “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

For the Good Patriarch, it’s common sense that a cry for help would bring rescue. But for the less powerful, it’s clear that violence, deception, coercion and seduction could be fatal. The world of the Old Testament was a world of purity and execution by stoning, a world of slaves and servants and wives whose husbands held the power of life and death. The wisdom of the Old Testament is that human nature has not changed much in 5,000 years and we can learn from the past.

It’s a huge cultural shift to acknowledge that sexual violence, bullying, coercion and humiliation are crimes against personhood. It’s a huge shift to take it on faith that there is worth and dignity in every person, and we don’t gain by excusing the abuse of power. It’s a huge shift to defend the rights of people who do not act the way we wish the righteous would– the woman in the city too scared to scream, the child afraid of getting into trouble.

So snarking at Todd Akin won’t change hearts and minds. Too much focus on his too-explicit words distracts from the fact that there is no difference between his agenda and that of the Republican Party except style. Underestimating the power of the unspoken assumptions woven into our culture leaves us open to being punked. You cannot dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools.

The problem is, the master’s tools are most of our toolbox. We are products of our culture. We have to reach into the box for Justice, Civility, Dignity and Freedom. We won’t use those tools to reinforce the old inequalities. At best we will be living in the People’s House under construction. Sharing rooms with people we didn’t expect to have to deal with.

This is a plea to remember where we came from, and not to underestimate the hold of the past, or the power of the people who fear the dismantling of the old world.

Unnecessary Risk

This is a good example of why we need an FDA, and why nothing is risk-free…

New Jersey-based Pharmaceutical Innovations Inc. manufactures Other-Sonic Generic Ultrasound Transmission Gel. The gel is used by medical professionals in ultrasounds, a procedure involving high-frequency sound waves to look at patients’ organs. Samples of the gel taken by the FDA in February contained two strains of bacteria.

“This ultrasound gel presented serious health risks to patients, particularly vulnerable ones,” the FDA’s Dara Corrigan said in a statement. Additionally, the FDA issued a safety alert to health care providers about the bacteria risk and possibility of dangerous infections from the gel.

We have politicians playing doctor, demanding that women get unnecessary vaginal ultrasounds before an early abortion. This is based on two faulty assumptions– that women don’t know what they are doing, and that any medical procedure is risk-free. Not least is taking medical resources from where an ultrasound is needed and beneficial, and applying those scarce resources with the intent of causing emotional harm. It’s unexpected that the contaminated gel has caused patients physical harm, but medicine is all about the unexpected.

We have politicians calling for deregulation. A government agency like the Food and Drug Administration is our line of defense against negligent manufacturers who sell a dangerous product to the public.

So, this morning, two thoughts that came to my mind reading about the 16 people who got sick from contaminated ultrasound gel.

Sons of Terror

For a while, it looked like assassin Scott Roeder might get away with murder. His defense lawyer Mark Rudy tried to get the charge reduced to manslaughter. Roeder’s victim, Dr. George Tiller, had been threatened and slandered for decades for providing late-term abortions to women at his clinic. Rudy continued along the same lines.

Rudy tried to convince the jury that Roeder was a martyr for a righteous cause. It took them less than an hour to find him guilty.

One of the most outrageous aspects of the defense argument was a comparison of Scott Roeder to the late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

During closing arguments earlier Friday, Rudy urged the jury to reject the murder charge, saying, “no one should be convicted based on his convictions.”
Rudy mentioned leaders who stood up for their beliefs, including civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. They were “celebrated individuals (who) stood up and made the world a better place.”
“They leave their marks based on their words and deeds,” Rudy said.

Is our collective memory so short that we could forget that King, like Tiller, was murdered by an assassin’s bullet? Have we forgotten that King was a leader of nonviolence, in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and America’s own Henry David Thoreau? Was the jury supposed to overlook that fact that Roeder had broadcast his convictions all his life protected by the first amendment– that he was on trial because he sneaked up on an unarmed man and shot him in church? That the deed for which he will be remembered is the cowardly murder of a doctor, father and grandfather in front of his family and friends?

But following the logic of the anti-abortion movement, Roeder’s action makes sense. Real life is full of trouble and difficult moral choices. If you believe that the woman concerned is best able to make that choice you will not be trying to make abortion illegal. You might organize support services for women with a crisis pregnancy, you might use persuasion, you might counsel young men on responsibility and respect for women. You might support education and availability of contraception.

The anti-abortion movement, as opposed to individuals who have moral objections to abortion, has taken an extreme stance, declaring that women who have abortions and doctors who perform abortions are committing murder. By this logic, Roeder was acting consistently.

“I don’t condone what Scott Roeder did, but I cannot condemn the consistency of his logic,” said Randall Terry, a founder of antiabortion group Operation Rescue. “George Tiller killed 60,000 innocent human beings in barbaric ways, and Scott felt the way to protect more babies from a grisly death was to kill Tiller.”

The anti-abortion movement is not the first extremist group to claim a moral stance to justify violence and terrorism. All of them do. Roeder’s spiritual home is not the Civil Rights movement, but the Ku Klux Klan.

At times the women’s Klan sought to portray itself as an organization of social work and social welfare. One national WKKK speaker announced that she left social work for the “broader field of Klankraft” because of the Klan’s effectiveness in promoting morality and public welfare. Many chapters claimed to collect food and money for the needy, although these donations typically went to Klan families, often to families of Klan members arrested for rioting and vigilante activities. A powerful Florida WKKK chapter operated a free day nursery, charging that Catholic teachers had ruined the local public schools.
Some WKKK chapters ran homes for wayward girls. These homes served two purposes: to protect the virtue of Protestant women who were tempted by a life of vice and to underscore the danger faced by delinquent girls placed in Catholic-controlled reform schools.
‘Women of the Klan’, by Kathleen M. Blee

Most members of the Klan did not directly commit acts of violence. The Klan was not seen as a terrorist group. They infiltrated government, church and law enforcement. They claimed to answer to a high moral standard and to protect the innocent. Their violent rhetoric allowed the assassins among them to hide in plain site, uttering threats and spreading terror in the name of free speech.

When speech did not suffice, there was the gun. That is the truth behind the rhetoric of the anti-abortion extremists today…

The Rev. Donald Spitz, of Chesapeake, Va., who runs the Army of God Web site supporting violence against abortion providers, said the rejection of that argument has upset those who view Roeder as a hero.
”I know there is not a lot of good feeling out there — everybody is pretty angry,” he said.
Spitz was the spiritual adviser to Paul Hill and was with him at his 2003 execution for the killing of a Florida abortion provider and a clinic escort in 1994, an event that led to a lull in violence at abortion clinics. While saying he knows nothing of impending plans by others against abortion doctors, Spitz scoffed at suggestions that Roeder’s conviction will have a similar effect.
”Times change,” Spitz said. ”People are not as passive as they have been. They are more assertive.”

When argument fails, there is the gun. Terrorism is most effective when it disrupts the most with the least violence. When armed militias claiming to be the only true patriots march in plain sight, not even bothering with hoods, it’s sure that individuals will decide to embrace martyrdom.

Martin Luther King loved his life and his family. He led Americans who had been deeply wronged in a movement of nonviolent resistance.

Good people can disagree. Dr. Tiller was murdered in church, where he served as an usher. Anti-abortion activists don’t represent all Christians. Abortion is not an easy moral issue. People of conscience who oppose abortion can aid women in need and children in poverty, they can use their freedom of speech to persuade, they can vote as they choose. They should reject the criminals who are using this issue to continue the tradition of domestic terror in the name of patriotism.

UPDATE: A convicted arsonist and shooter is promising more violence in emails from prison.

On Demand

I was visiting a nice elderly lady and she had a poster on her wall soliciting donations to stop ‘abortion on demand’. It’s the kind of phrase like ‘strident feminist’ that bursts into the conversation ready for a fight.

Let’s be realistic. You don’t get your teeth cleaned ‘on demand’. If you don’t believe me, try stomping into a dentist’s office demanding to get your teeth cleaned and see how far you get.

There’s other propaganda points. The use of the word ‘convenience’ as if the decision whether to have a baby is not a profound and permanent one, with consequences that affect generations. ‘Just give it up for adoption’ as if that decision is no more important than distributing a litter of kittens.

And ‘unplanned pregnancy’. That’s most pregnancies. It’s an unwanted pregnancy that is a crisis.

What got me on this track is a post where Frederick Clarkson makes some important points about loaded language in the abortion debate, especially as it has taken over the health reform debate.

The anti-abortion Congress members have succeeded in getting themselves labeled ‘pro-life’ by all the press, including NPR. There’s not even a moment’s thought. Their concern for life might not exist in any form except making abortion illegal, but they get to wrap themselves in the mantle of life-lovingness no matter how many Americans die needlessly for lack of access to medical care.

The supporters of the public option, Medicare expansion or single payer have gone from being part of the discussion to being the ‘liberals’ to ‘the left wing’. It’s amazing how far to the left you can move when the rest of the party shifts to the right.

Does anyone care that Americans line up around the block to get into a free clinic– and it’s not a disaster, just another day in a broken system? Is it politically correct to say we need to fix this, or is that being strident?

Conscience Clause Part II

I grew up on tales of civil disobedience, I absorbed the belief that we answer to a higher standard than man’s law. I admired the Freedom Riders and Conscientious Objectors. They put their comfort, and sometimes their lives on the line.

Everything that goes around comes around. While there are many people who will follow their principles no matter what the cost, there are those who use conscience as a justification for pushing their standards on others. They feel pure, the people they are trusted to serve are subject to their judgment and bear the consequences.

The Bush administration, with its fondness for vague piety, gave cover to any pharmacist or health care provider who decided to refuse service, as long as they claimed religion. Oh, excuse me–I meant Faith. Religion is too specific, let’s not be clear when we can be evasive.

I’ve been watching this court case move slowly through the system. A nurse is being sued because she pulled out a patient’s intrauterine device without permission, and then lectured her. An IUD prevents fertilization and alters the uterine lining to make it less receptive to sperm and implantation. This is what some define as abortion. In fact, some believe that the birth control pill is abortion, and there are legal strategies in progress to separate contraception from other health care and remove it from insurance coverage.

The Freedom Riders faced dogs and fire hoses, the Conscientious Objectors went to prison or served in the hardest unwanted jobs. They stood up to power and faced the consequences. This new definition of conscience is all about the person in power exercising their conscience at the expense of the person who trusts them to provide a skilled service. Unlike the Freedom Riders and the C.O.’s, the providers are well protected by the law. But this nurse may have pushed it too far.

She could have told her employer at hire that she had a list of birth control methods she personally found unacceptable, and would not cooperate in providing care that violated her standards. She could have refused to see the patient with the IUD, and claimed conscience and let another nurse or doctor see her. She’ll have a chance now to say whether she was acting on principle, or was just clumsy. Here’s some testimony…

“[Nurse] Olona then stated, ‘having the IUD come out was a good thing.’ She asked (the plaintiff) if she wanted to hear her ‘take’ on the situation. Without receiving a response, Defendant Olona stated, ‘I personally do not like IUDs. I feel they are a type of abortion. I don’t know how you feel about abortion, but I am against them. What the IUD does is take the fertilized egg and pushes it out of the uterus.’
“Defendant Olona stated, ‘Everyone in the office always laughs and tells me I pull these out on purpose because I am against them, but it’s not true, they accidentally come out when I tug.’

The thing about conscience is that good people can disagree in important matters. I do think that medical people have a right and necessity to follow their conscience, but they have an obligation to be truthful to their patients. They do not have a right to impose their beliefs on people who are trusting them to provide care. If they need to opt out, they should make sure the patient has an alternative. Because she has a conscience too. And it’s her life and body on the line. Doctors and nurses have no right to sabotage medical procedures from some notion that they know better than the patient.

UPDATE: Apparently the case was settled out of court. Darn. I was wondering what Nurse Olona, (or Physician’s Assistant Olona in some news accounts) would have said with her hand on the Bible.