Who Was David Kato and Why Should We Care?

David Kato got up on the net briefly following his murder in 2011. He knew that he walked with a target on his back every day he lived as a gay-rights advocate in war-scarred Uganda.

This may seem far-removed from American politics, but there’s more than Ugandan trauma and prejudice at play here. American Evangelical ministers and politicians see a fertile mission field for converts and allies. Ugandan politicians, on their part, see a chance to make connections with Americans who wield power in Congress.

And who loses? Just some Ugandan citizens and organizers who have less power than Jews in pre-war Germany. This comparison is not made lightly. Proposed laws would spark an internal war on gay Ugandans, their associates, and anyone who could be labelled as gay- whatever their orientation and lifestyle.

And this is not hypothetical. Uganda has not recovered from recent civil wars. This is a match to gasoline. The name of Idi Amin is familiar to some Americans, there are other disastrous regimes that afflicted Uganda.

To see more about David Kato and the American snake-oil preachers who set him up for the hit, see here.

If you’re wondering why a Kenyan witch-hunter blessed Sarah Palin in her Alaska church, there’s an answer. It’s a small world now.

Circular Firing Squad

I was gonna stay out of this, since I have to be at work in an hour, but incredibly, even Sarah Palin is piling on…

Sarah Palin slammed GOP Senate hopeful Todd Akin’s decision to continue his bid for the Missouri seat and suggested that she might back a third-party challenger in an interview on Fox News Tuesday night.

“He’s inviting himself back into this general election that’s coming up, and he’s going to get defeated. And that’s unfortunate,” the former Alaska governor said on “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” “That is why we have to think pragmatically about this, and we have to think, well, what’s another option? Is a third-party another option? If it is, let’s go. The status quo has got to go.”

Todd Akin’s real mistake was to put in crude terms what will most certainly become the official platform of the Republican Party– a personhood amendment that bans terminating a pregnancy from fertilization on, with no exceptions for rape or any other circumstances.

Since there’s no way to track the moment of fertilization, anti-abortion activists endorse a disproven belief that emergency contraception might prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Therefore they want to ban the ‘morning after’ pill. (see here for more on the science.)

Emergency contraception is the standard of care for rape victims who come to the emergency room. This standard is not always followed.

In 2008 I wrote a post, Crime and the Politics of Sexual Assault in Alaska, that demonstrates how politics corrupts legal and medical care for crime victims. I never said Sarah Palin wasn’t very smart, and it’s no accident that when she was mayor in Wasilla, AK, rape victims had to pay for their own forensic exam and emergency care. This would give Mayor Palin deniability if she should ever face a challenge from the anti-abortion Right.

There’s really no daylight between Todd Akin and the rest of the Republican Party. Akin disclosed his fantasy that a certain level of physical violence has a contraceptive effect, the Republican party says that’s crude. Both say that a woman’s personhood and agency come second to a pregnancy, or even a potential conception regardless of circumstances. Texas may succeed in closing down Planned Parenthood in the state, no aspect of women’s care matters more than banning abortion. Toward the goal of total purity on that issue, the most extreme would ban all artificial birth control.

This is far from the mainstream of the American public, and no Republican president has been able to fulfill this agenda.

But in Wasilla, in emergency rooms, in times of crisis these policies harm women and abandon those who deserve the protection of law. ‘We’ll pray for those people’ is not an answer.

AND ANOTHER THING: It’s clearly unfair to pile on Rep. Akin’s use of the phrase ‘legitimate rape’. He obviously meant that a woman has no right to claim rape unless she is visibly beat up or threatened with a weapon by a person who has no social status. That’s another outrageous statement, but a whole other blog post is needed to address it.

Sarah Palin Channels Archie Bunker

Am I showing my age? Remember how that blowhard Archie was always calling his decent, responsible and loyal wife Edith a ‘dingbat’? Now Sarah Palin is channeling her inner Archie applying that label to House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi. This comes right after President Barack Obama’s signature health care bill was upheld by the Supreme Court.

I saw Citizen Palin’s acceptance speech when she was nominated for the vice-presidency in 2008. She was quite scornful of ‘community activists’ and drew the line between those who lobby from the outside vs those who hold political office, with all the power and responsibility. Later she quit her office as Governor of Alaska halfway through her term, so she could be a full time gadfly and inspirational speaker to the Tea Party.

Does she ever miss being on the inside? I think she’s wicked jealous of Nancy Pelosi. After all, Archie’s default mode was a sense of grievance and a sense that there was a party going on and he wasn’t invited.

Special-Needs Adults

So, how about this weather? There are so many complex factors in weather, and in climate, that you can’t predict a scorching July will follow cherry blossoms in March. That goes double for Rhode Island, where it can snow in May.

Friday, I walked to Kennedy Plaza to catch the #42 bus. They say you have to watch out when you’re downtown, and they’re right. At Burnside Park I was confronted by a Unitarian who gave me a pledge card. With my sore back I’m not up for running, so I just told her that I hope to make good on last year’s pledge by the end of this fiscal year. I’m streetwise like that.

I just watched HBO’s ‘Game Change’. In 2008 I saw Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech in real time, it’s fascinating to see it as drama. I feel a kinship with Sarah Palin. Really.

Like when the wonks are in a huddle and someone mentions that Sarah Palin speaks in tongues. That’s fact, she does. I know why. I’ve been there and done that. At Apponaug Pentecostal Church in the 70’s, everyone who was anyone spoke in tongues. Though actually I had learned tonguesspeak from the Catholic Charismatics– long story.

I know that Sarah Palin has a large and powerful base. In my prior job I worked with an office manager who looked at me innocently and said, “I really like Sarah Palin, don’t you?” I would not hurt this woman’s feelings for the world, she was the nicest person. I wondered what she was hearing that made her feel Sarah Palin would stick up for her. Sarah Palin is not stupid– in fact she is brilliant at connecting with the pain of some Americans who feel ignored and disparaged, and making them believe that she is on their side– without actually committing to take any material action on their behalf.

In the film, a woman holding a Down Syndrome child looks worshipfully at Palin, saying that finally someone speaks for her. This is a part of America that cannot be dismissed, and to make snap judgements or condescend is not only wrong, it’s stupid.

Parents and families of special-needs children are fortunate if, like the Palin family, they are wealthy. Most are not. Where it really matters is not at the political rally, but in the allocation of resources. Tax cuts for the rich at the expense of families who depend on such services as RIDE and SNAP are dry, depressing, uninspiring realities. Jesus said that when you give, don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing. The Republican Party seems to have applied this to taking– talking about the children while cutting aid to the families who care for them.

Special-needs children, gods willing, grow up. Their needs change, sometimes increase. Parents grow old, money runs out. We can take care of our own, if ‘we’ includes all of us. We can provide not only material care, but inclusion.

I once worked in a building that was considered rather tough. At one time the VNA would not go into it without an escort. More than one mother with a special-needs child lived there, including the aging mother of a woman I’ll call ‘Tonie’.

Tonie was sweet-natured, energetic, outgoing and childlike. She hugged everyone. Her mental handicap was not apparent unless you talked with her. Wariness did not seem to be part of her nature. She was slim, boyish and nice looking. Her mother protected her always, until she had a heart attack.

While her mother was in the hospital, Tonie had to spend a long weekend on her own. We all worried. Did she know how to cook without setting her apartment on fire? Would she know to stay away from some of the known predatory people, inside and outside her building?

Tonie had more strength, I think, than we gave her credit for. She did okay, and I see her from time to time. She was not the only vulnerable person in that building who seemed to be protected by an unspoken code of honor. There were some tiny elderly ladies and gentlemen who lived there as long as age allowed. There were people whose illness caused them to be unpleasant and provocative, who were understood as impaired and left alone.

This rambling post is just to mention something that is obvious but often overlooked. Margaret Thatcher supposedly said that there’s no such thing as society– only individuals. We do not, however, live entirely in a world of strife and competition. We want someone to speak for special-needs children. Less often does anyone speak for their needs when they become adults.

We can take care of our own– all Americans. We are a great and wealthy nation. Special-needs children, like all children, are a lifetime commitment and beyond. They grow up, parents age, families reach the limit of their resources. That’s where community, and government aided by good laws, share the responsibility.

We are now at a point where we will decide whether the life-saving resource of medical care will be a public good, or a private privilege.

The future of Mary Beck, Trig Palin, Bella Santorum and all the children of ordinary citizens will be profoundly affected by what we decide.

Sarah Palin– Secret Democrat?

Grab the popcorn! Sarah Palin wants the show to go on…

Firebrand Sarah Palin told conservatives Saturday not to settle quickly on a Republican presidential nominee, but to let the candidates fight it out longer on the campaign trail.

Palin, in a speech at a three-day conference of conservatives, urged Republicans to ignore those who insist “we have to name our nominee right now. Wrap it up. No debate for you. Cut it off.”

“As if competition weakens our nominee. In America, we believe competition strengthens us. Competition elevates our game,” she said. “Competition will lead us to victory in 2012. I believe that the competition has to keep going.”

A few more weeks of Romney, Santorum and Gingrich hating each other only a little less than they all hate Barack Obama. I wish I could say that Ron Paul has stayed out of the mud, but he made about a million bucks palling around with white supremacists.

As much as he says he’s not with them, they continue to follow his campaign like they expect to take America back. Back to where, we well know. That’s why I worry more about Paul as a wild card than anyone else in this sad bunch.

I don’t think even Sarah Palin in her most grandiose dreams expects to be called as a running mate. She does know that her speaking fee will go down when the Tea gets cold.

I thought long and hard about what would be good for our country, and wished that Jon Huntsman had been able to stay in longer. No one else seems to have the nerve to stand up to their own ‘birthers’ and ‘Government, keep your hands off my Medicare’ crowd. All this disorganization helps the Democrats for the moment.

As far as Sarah Palin, her loyalty is to a party of one.

Thorns in Her Crown

I know I should leave this alone, but Talking Points Memo has a quote from an editorial about the blood libel of Sarah Palin in the Washington Times…

This is simply the latest round of an ongoing pogrom against conservative thinkers. The last two years have seen a proliferation of similar baseless charges of racism, sexism, bigotry, Islamophobia and inciting violence against those on the right who have presented ideas at odds with the establishment’s liberal orthodoxy.

The word ‘pogrom’ refers to a terrible episode in European history where Christians persecuted the Jewish minority by saying really, really hurtful things. And taking statements and tweets that didn’t mean anything and making a big deal out of it. And embarrassing Jews with tough questions in interviews so that they would get all rattled and mix up their Koreas. It was dark times.

Sarah Palin’s publicists are saying that she’s getting increased death threats, which is not okay. She should call the police, but it’s unclear whether she has. It’s unclear how many threats she got before, is getting now, from who or what or any details. But her people say she’s getting threats and the press reports this as fact. The Nation thinks the press should dig a little deeper.

I think that everyone in public life must be getting flamed all the time. And actual threats are all too common. Incivility makes it harder to sort it out. Also, crying wolf.

If our leaders can’t find it in themselves to embrace civility for its own sake, they need to think about the down side of raising the level of anger. They have to meet the public, and when everyone is yelling it’s hard to spot the one dangerous face in the crowd.

Religion and Politics

A quick post– no time to write today.

I don’t believe that there are no coincidences, but I do believe that politicians don’t pull out unusual turns of speech randomly. If they didn’t choose their words carefully they wouldn’t get the votes. Everything they do or say in public life either has an agenda or is consistent with who they are.

I attended Apponaug Pentecostal Church in the 1970’s, and absorbed the teachings for three years. This article from Huffington Post might seem like an extreme take, but it’s consistent with what I heard preached and how they connected with preachers and evangelists nationally and internationally in the mission fields.

Sarah Palin’s Jewish Problem.

She is just one of the more visible and ambitious politicians with an End-Times following.

We are free to believe as our conscience dictates. But it’s one thing to believe in prophecy as a citizen, and another when you have the power to help events along.

Don’t look for politicians to come clean about their real beliefs and their supporters. We are so divided right now that it’s hard to blame them for being cagy. Whatever they say, some constituency will accuse them of singing from the wrong hymnal. But don’t discount religion as a motivation, and thank the gods for a free press.