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.

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.

“I Pray for Them” is Not Good Enough

Congressional candidate Rep. Todd Akin has put a religious spin on his pseudo-science about women having some biological powers that protect them from getting pregnant if they are victims of ‘legitimate rape’. In an appeal to Christians who value forgiveness, he tries to distract from the plain meaning of his words, backed up by his actions in Congress. He has made a campaign commercial for the base…

“Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them,” Akin says. “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims.”

Akin continues: “The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”

I would ask Christians to consider that forgiveness doesn’t require voting this man back into Congress. I would ask them to consider that denying a woman emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy after rape is respecting her life. Giving her compassion and praying for her is not enough.

Talking tough is not enough. We have a long history of justice denied for victims despite harsh laws. We have a long history of harsh laws being used to imprison innocent men. Rape has many victims, yes, and one casualty is our peace of mind. If the only answer is death to the rapist then society will refuse to prosecute the husband, the brother, the son. Rapists are not usually so outwardly criminal that they don’t have a circle of people who see them as ‘a nice guy’.

It’s an evil act, yes, and an ugly truth. As long as we cling to a past that separates the virtuous women from the impure, the ones whose humanity is lesser because they deserve it, we will give cover to crimes. Predators in society, like predators in the wild, choose the unprotected. It’s necessary to face facts we would rather bury, and defend the rights of people who make choices we would not make. It’s necessary because we are fighting a crime and putting a few individuals in prison is not the whole answer.

Promoting respect for women, because we are equal human beings, is the answer.

I wondered last night if I was making assumptions about Rep. Akin’s religious pandering. Today shows that he’s out there claiming the blessing of forgiveness to hang on to religious voters.

There’s a segment of the religious Right that dwells on forgiveness, but overlooks repentance. It’s like the Ted Haggards who get caught in immorality but think they can reclaim their pulpit and collection plate after a few expressions of remorse. It’s like the many religious groups who found it expedient to cover up sexual crimes in their own community while exhorting victims to ‘forgive’. Anything can be used as spin in politics.

Todd Akin does not intend to change his actions or votes against a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, or even to prevent conception after rape. But he has compassion and will pray for those people. He feels real sorry for them.

No woman wants to think that they will ever be in a situation where this will be personal. But if we let law for women be made by men who don’t know and don’t care about reality, and who confuse condescension and pity with respect, we will abandon the women who need real help and the standard of medical care.