Sunday, August 19, 2012

Something's rotten in the State of Missouri

What is wrong with Missouri that they should send a bum like Todd Akin to Congress?  Are that many folk in the “show-me” state that dense?

It hurts me even to ask that question, since some of my nearest-and-dearest live in Missouri.  I’m feeling for them right now.  Don’t want to even bring the subject up of this would-be senator of theirs.

Todd Akin, in case you missed the news, was recently asked in a television interview whether he was against abortion in cases of rape.  His immediate answer was to argue that “if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Get your mind around that one.  A legitimate rape.  Won’t bother to ask how many classifications of rape this guy runs around with.  (Fellow-Republican Ryan uses the term forced rape – as opposed, maybe, to the nice kind.)  It would seem he’s trying to distinguish between unwanted assaults and cases in which women tell you they were raped when they actually weren’t.  Like how many of those have you experienced lately?  As Ilyse Hogue points out in The Nation, we need to be aware of what’s behind the very concept of a “forced” or a “legitimate” rape – the fact that there is another kind.  Statutory rape, for example.  If we only punish “forced” rape, then thirteen-year-olds seduced by their twenty-year-old boyfriends cannot get medically treated and the crime goes unpunished. 

Then there’s the body-shutting-down business.  Close your eyes and think of England, ladies.  It’ll all be over in a minute or two and we can get back to more pleasant things – no need to make a big deal out of this.

How in the name of heaven does this man’s mind work?

No need to panic.  The body shuts down. 

So there’s no rape?

The guy gets asked a question about abortion and misses the point that it’s also a question about rape.  He minimizes the abortion part and ignores the rape part entirely.

You know why, of course.  If you are driven by a right-wing absolutist ideology in which you commit to the idea that all life is sacred from the moment of conception, this is the outcome.  Akin isn’t mad.  He’s following an ideology the Roman Catholic hierarchy and most evangelical born-agains among us push day and night to its only logical conclusion.  He is mainstream America – what mainstream America has become, that is.

This man Akin is a rotten son of a bitch, in my opinion, for inflicting this ideology on women (and through women to the men who care for them as well, remember), an ideology that encapsulates – if not the abstract we know as evil – a patriarchal mind control notion straight out of the Middle Ages that leads to misery and needless untold suffering.

The man has a master’s degree in religion.  A Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.    He has an A-rating from the National Rifle Association.   He opposes stem cell research.  Last Thursday at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, he said he didn’t think the federal government should fund school lunches.  He’s against the morning after pill.  

Why am I not surprised he’s a master of religion?
Because we live in society we have to contend with each other’s ideologies and make room for them the best we can.   I walked into a room once where a Roman Catholic archbishop was being fussed over.  I remember well wondering if I had the capacity to walk up and slap his face.  I decided I did, and it gave me the chills.  I also decided I wouldn’t (I actually thought it through), not because he wasn’t in the same category as a drug-pusher for his stance on birth control, abortion and homosexuality – he was – but because I am committed to the notion that we have to change hearts and minds, not blow people away.  Not even slap them.  Not even spit on their shoes.

But it’s hard.  It’s really hard to listen to racists and homophobes and anti-semites and men who put women down.  And it was really hard getting through the movie, The Help, recently, and watching how Americans in Mississippi came home from fighting Hitler in Germany to abuse their black servants in a manner that would make a Nazi proud.  You really want to slap people, and not be constrained by social convention, sometimes.

We live in a time and a place where we are not challenged morally by such things as concentration camps.  We don’t have to compromise with evil to survive, don’t have to be enablers of genocide, or slavery.  Not us.  Not here.

But we do have to listen to men like Todd Akin and think of all the women who have been raped and not go all ballistic.  One out of six women in America.  Think of the statistics, the fact that women who are raped are three times more likely than other women to suffer from depression.  Six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Thirteen times more likely to abuse alcohol.  Twenty-six times more likely to abuse drugs.  Four times more likely to contemplate suicide. 

And we have to smile, and say, “I differ with you, Congressman.  May I freshen your drink?”

We have to smile and not spit at those who hold that their hands are clean when bullies beat you up because you’re gay because they were urging them to “love the sinner,” and are “as shocked as you are” that some people can’t distinguish between the sinner and the sin.

Akin, like any politician, speaks for millions and not just for himself.  He was re-elected to Congress six times.  And six times to the Missouri House of Representatives before that, if Wikipedia has their facts right. 

The fact that people like him get this far, instead of being run out of town on a rail, tells you how desperately retrograde American society has become.  He won the Republican primary by a comfortable margin.  He’s also clearly the evangelicals' great hope.  At least 100 pastors endorsed him in that primary.  When you say “Christian” in the American context, this is what you mean now.   Akin’s their man

Akin has taken note of the uproar his statement made, and has made the usual politician’s bullshit substitute for an apology:  “I misspoke.” 

Really, Congressman?  You misspoke?   If that’s the case, how come you don’t specify what part of what you said fits the notion of “mis-speaking?”  The part where you suggested women shut down and don’t get pregnant when they are raped?  Did you mean to say the opposite?  I don’t think so, somehow.  I don’t think you misspoke at all.  It sure looks for all the world like what’s really going on it is that you just wish you hadn’t said what you really think.

Rape, Congressman Akin, in case you hadn’t thought about it before, often involves something other than vaginal penetration.  It involves anal penetration.  Penetration by a foreign object.  Some rapists wear condoms to avoid DNA detection in case the victim has the savvy to get a rape kit immediately after being attacked.  Some victims are too old to get pregnant.  Often rape victims are on the pill, or are not fertile, so the fact they do not get pregnant can often be due not to “the body shutting down” but to other things going on.  Their trauma, in any case, can be just as real. 

How come you don’t know that?  How come you don’t think of these things before you speak, instead of preaching the word of your toxic religion first and taking the coward’s line – you “misspoke” ­– when all other options close down?  (And if you don’t think he’s a coward, consider his dismissal of those remarks as “off the cuff” – even though he was on television, speaking on a topic he has addressed countless times before.)

Todd Akin, according to Nate Silver in this morning’s New York Times, has had the edge until now against Claire McCaskill to win the senate race in Missouri.

Let us hope Silver is right in suggesting this foot-in-mouth event showing Akin’s true colors gets Missouri voters off their butts to throw this bum out. 

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