Reproductive Rights Discourse

There is a war going on. It is being fought on the battlefront of women’s’ bodies. Our uteri have become organs to be legislated and fraught over. We have been deemed too feeble minded to make decisions about when we will engage in sexual activity and with whom. Women making decisions about their sexual lives is coming to an end in the United States. Even though all of this is taking place in another country make no mistake Canada is affected. Pierre Trudeau once astutely pointed out that we are the mouse living beside the elephant and if the elephant rolls over, well you get it.

Many Canadians avidly follow American politics. Given that their elections go on for years[1] they get a lot of airtime and ink (both real and electronic) spilled about their positions. When you factor in blogs and other social media the discourse coming out of the Republican Primaries is powerful. Just look at Sandra Fluke. I am fairly sure most people have either read or heard about what Rush Limbaugh said about her and the subsequent call that Barrack Obama made to her.[2] Even though advertisers have pulled their sponsorship from Limbaugh’s show the damage to women has already begun.

I am sure you are wondering why this matters to us in Canada. It is simple, as regressive and oppressive American politics make their way into the dominant discourse thoughts and opinions are formed. Many Canadians may well believe that women have it pretty good in this country. Abortion is legal and accessible. Contraception is just a visit away from a family doctor. Most Canadians believe that making women’s reproductive health accessible is the right thing to do. The separation of morality from medicine is more common in Canada than in other countries.[3]

If your only source of knowledge about women is the US primary race your view of women would be skewed. According to Republican presidential candidates, women are not to be trusted with decisions about their own reproductive health. Want an abortion? Almost half of States have some kind of legislation that impedes women’s access. These barriers can range from a waiting period, to an ultrasound in which the doctor must ‘explain’ exactly what the fetus looks like and its stage of development. Some states have gone so far as to mandate a ‘trans-vaginal’ ultrasound. Many feminists have correctly identified this as state-sanctioned rape. Women are also seen as the ‘gate-keepers’ to sex and that if sex happens out of wedlock or in other situations it is somehow her fault. It is as though all of women kind is expected to modulate the behavior of men. Last time I checked that didn’t work out so well.[4] And, as any woman knows, if some men really want to rape them it will happen.

What is interesting in the reproductive rights fight in the US is that there is little to no mention of men’s role in sex and reproduction. We all learn in school that it takes both a woman AND a man to create a baby. Men have pretty much unfettered access to drugs to ensure they can have sex long into their later years without any kind of intrusive exam. This is what is so absolutely galling about the Republican candidates positions on reproduction. Sex should be a negotiation between a consenting woman and man. Both should experience the pleasure and the pain of their actions.

Even though women enjoy more reproductive freedom in Canada it does not mean we should rest on our laurels. The presence of US styled misogyny can affect politics here. There are some extremely right-wing Christian religious groups in Canada who try to flex their political power. Often they receive funding from their compatriots in the United States. In fact, our current Conservative government may be receptive their messages – especially at the polls.

The political consequences of the Elephant rolling over are easy to delineate for Canada. What is more disturbing is the affect this has on the dominant discourse. Canadians are being indoctrinated with this negative view of women regardless of the political bent of our current government. As these ideas take hold it becomes easier for people to view women through this same lens. Canadians are the most wired country in the world. Internet penetration here is greater than any other place. This means that we are being exposed to this misogyny at a much greater level. Don’t be surprised if some of these ideas penetrate into our politics. We can only hope that Stephen Harper sticks to his decision about not re-opening the abortion debate in Canada. It would be disastrous for women if he did.

For an excellent overview of the ongoing disaster that is the Republican Primary please see Shakesville.

[1] The primary system whereby each state’s party members have a vote in selecting the candidate for president.

[2] He called her to thank her for standing up for women’s reproductive rights which, ironically, have been steadily eroded under his presidency.

[3] This is true for many things. However, when faced with a fat person, some doctors will attribute everything to weight. Got a hangnail? It’s because you are fat. But I digress…

[4] Foster Friess – who is associated with the Santorum campaign made this suggestion to women.

There’s Something Happening Here

The western world appears to be on the brink of something really important happening. After witnessing so many people from different countries creating meaningful change in their lives through courage, protest and persistence, it would seem that the rest of us are waking up to our corporatized lives and not liking what we are seeing. After all, if the Egyptians can oust Hosni Mubarak then what could we do if tried?

Over the last 20 years the American middle class has been steadily eroded. Peoples’ dreams of working hard and getting ahead are completely gone; they have evaporated in the pursuit of corporate profits. This is why we no longer have well paying, union jobs in North America. After all, if the shareholders aren’t happy and don’t get a bigger dividend every year heads will roll.

The American government (and to some extent the same is true here) is completely out of touch with what is actually going on in America today. If the rich and the corporations don’t have to pay taxes that leaves just working Americans to shoulder the tax burden. As wages have declined and the cost of living has risen, there is no longer money left for discretionary spending. Hell, for many Americans there is nothing left; they have lost their house, their cars and most of all their pride in being American.

So here’s the thing: if you’ve got nothing to lose you might be prepared to do things you might not normally do. Desperation pushes people out of their comfort zones and forces them to grapple for solutions. Of course I am referring to the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests. If you go here, there is actually footage of people drinking champagne above the protesters on Wall Street. Can you say out of touch?

It is my fervent hope that in fact something is going on here. Rioting youth in England and protesters in the United States are all pointing to the same thing. We have governments, which are completely out of touch with their citizenry. We have corporations in control in Canada, the US and Europe. We are all slaves to the mighty profit whether we benefit from it or not. When you take things away from people they will tolerate it for a while but there will come a time when you have taken so much away that they have nothing to lose. And people with nothing to lose are very powerful – just ask Hosni Mubarak.

There’s Something Happening Here

Buffalo Springfield

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

The Murder of Osama bin Laden

The United States, in seeking vengeance for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre (WTC) and the Pentagon, have committed a terrorist attack. They crossed into a sovereign country and carried out a well planned, government sponsored terrorist act when they killed Osama bin Laden. The jubilation in the streets of several American cities was shocking to witness. Americans celebrated exactly that which they claim to abhor: terrorism.

Ostensibly the reason the Americans (and Canadians) have been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan was the pervasive belief that Osama bin Laden (OBL) was being given safe harbour. However, OBL was not found in Afghanistan but rather Pakistan an ally of the Americans. Certainly, the relationship between Pakistan and America is not infused with honesty as the Americans completed their ‘mission’ ‘Geronimo’[1] without informing Pakistani officials. It is really no different from a terrorist attack, planned and executed by foreigners, in another country. It also seriously calls into question the efficacy of the relationship between Pakistan and America.

An entirely different scenario should have been played out once the Americans knew where OBL was hiding. Officials in Pakistan should have arranged to have OBL arrested and sent to the International Court in The Hague wherein he would be charged with crimes against humanity. The argument that his arrest rather than his assassination would have resulted in the continuing existence of Guantanamo Bay is not relevant. Many countries lost citizens in the attack on the WTC and an international court would have been the logical place to send him.

Instead, we shall never know if in fact it was OBL who died that day in a compound inside Pakistan. The Americans will not produce photos and his body has been apparently buried at sea. The other issue is that the Americans have now lived up to all of the stereotypes about how they do what they want in sovereign countries and there are no consequences. OBL has now been martyred for the cause.

I am completely disappointed in Barrack Obama as president of the United States. He acts like others before him and his promise to bring hope and change has just been four more years of the same American arrogance. The United States has no more rights than any other nation. Violating a nation’s sovereignty was once an act of war. Pakistan only needs to look at Iraq and Afghanistan if the country wants to complain. I am sure if they do the US would only be too happy to invade them and free the women, find the terrorists and blow up the place. It does seem to be what the US does best.

[1] Completely and utterly offensive!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘why the fuck are we bombing Libya?’ edition

•    So the UN has declared a ‘no-fly’ zone over Libya. What the fuck does that mean? How does a no-fly zone translate into us being part of the US-led coalition ‘Operation Odyssey Down?’ I thought the whole point was to keep Ghadaffi from bombing his own people. Why on earth would we want to bomb the country and cripple what infrastructure there is in Libya. Besides, no matter how hard they try or how good the ‘on the ground intelligence’ is they will hit civilians. What makes it worse is that Canada has now sent our warplanes, which means we will also be bombing the shit out of Libya. What happened to our peacekeeping way of being in the world?
•    My fatigue has been of control all weekend. I have been sleeping until 2 in the afternoon. It is absolutely ridiculous. I am trying to figure out how the hell I am supposed to get through the week. I see the doctor on Wednesday, hopefully she will have some answers for me.
•    Our ducks are gone from our pond. It is probably not the most delightful place for ducks to be. I am sure that a lot of the grey water from the septic ends up in the drainage ponds!
•    I had to help my mom with one of her computers today. I have a Mac but I can log into a Windows virtual machine. I forget what a pain in the ass windows can be. I tried to launch windows live messenger but it wouldn’t let me because I had to download a newer copy. After I did that, the computer then needed to be restarted. When the computer finally came up it took several minutes to get control as it went through all the new windows that it wanted to open up as a result of the new installation. It was very frustrating to say the least. I am not sure how I used to survive in a Windows environment.

What to blog about…

Blogging daily requires a great deal of thought and engagement with the world. You have to always be thinking about what you might want to blog about plus figuring out what your position is on any given topic. When life takes over it is easy to forget to do this! I have been stupid busy so I have not been really paying much attention to politics and other things today. Then, miraculously, after 5 minutes of listening to Dan (master of upspeak[1]) Matheson on CTV news, I suddenly had 2 topics, which I exploit use as blog topics.

The first one is about the Arizona shootings. The funeral was held today for 9-year old Christina-Taylor Greene was held today. I am sure everyone knows she was born on September 11, 2001 or ‘nine-eleven.’ For some reason, someone decided it was important to bring the ‘nine-eleven’ flag to her funeral service today. Why? I don’t get the connection. I am sure other people were born on that day – is that flag going to be flown every time one of them passes away? I get that she died in a violent manner but really it had nothing to do with that infamous day. Had it been some sort of terrorist act, and then maybe there is a connection – tenuous at best. Instead she was a victim of a deranged individual who was able to purchase a Glock 19 allowing him up to 30 rounds in one clip! Why would someone ever need such a weapon?[2]

In my opinion, the flag was flown simply to ramp up the political rhetoric already flying. Instead of looking at the root causes of this incident they play to the emotional discourse surrounding nine-eleven. Clearly right-wing political rhetoric from Sarah Palin and her ilk they only succeeded in ramping up an already volatile situation. I think it is seriously time to for Americans to reconsider their right to bear arms.

The other thing that got my blood boiling was a story about a BC woman, in her 80s, who was inappropriately searched at the Calgary International Airport. She was a cancer survivor and had a saline-filled breast prosthetic. This was picked up by one of the new body scanners after a pin in her leg set off a medical detector. She was asked if she was carrying any liquids to which she answered no. According to her, the airport security officer accused her of lying. They then subjected her to an ‘enhanced’ pat down that further humiliated her. What I really don’t understand about all of this is the lack of common sense. Seriously, what threat does an old woman with a great prosthetic pose? If we really want to improve airport security common sense is a great place to start.

It is not the specifics of this case that I want to address, it is her demand for an apology. I have never really understood why someone wants an apology when it is not freely offered. If an apology has to be solicited what does it really mean. Is the person really sorry or are they only saying that to please someone else or to reduce the consequences they may face for their actions. Unless an apology is freely and sincerely given I do not want any part of it as it is completely meaningless. I am far more interested in action. I would much rather see that a person or in this case a governmental institution understands that they were in the wrong and pledges to change. Sadly I don’t see this happening any time soon.

[1] Personally, upspeak makes me mental!!!

[2] Interestingly, I heard an interview on As it Happens with the owner of a gun store in Tuscon. There had been a 2-300% increase of interest in Glocks since the shooting. Apparently, all one needs to buy such a gun in Arizona is a 4-minute background check of federal databases. Unless someone has been convicted of a felony. However, had they run a Google search they might have found some of his disturbing writings.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘have I been living under a rock?’ edition

  • First up, this member of the Swamp would like to thank the media for scaring most everyone off the roads today. I left home at 10:20 am and there was literally no traffic. I got to the on-ramp to the #1 westbound and there was no line-up whatsoever. It was clear sailing all the way to the doctor’s office. Even going home was great! Bring on the snow.
  • Clearly, I have been living under a rock. I did not know about Sarah Palin’s[1] website that had the Democrat congress people with cross hairs over their names. My mother told me about it yesterday. I then heard about it today on CBC. What the fuck is this woman thinking? Then her speech today was completely over the top and only incites more hatred. When are the Americans who support going to wake up and smell the hatred?
  • Deb took Sawyer, the youngest of the Swamp-rats to get licensed today. We weren’t sure where his neuter certificate was so she plopped up on the counter and said, “Look, he is neutered.” They still called the vet’s office.
  • We got a fair bit of snow last night but it did not really impact things here. The dogs love the snow. They love to go and frolic through the snow. Kiefer looked so cute when he came in all covered in snow.

[1] I am not linking to her site. I would not want to be guilty of driving traffic to her website.

Hurricane Gustav

With hurricane Gustav expecting to hit on Monday a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans has been ordered. Now, one would think that given the experience of Katrina and what people went through they would be clamouring to leave the city. Well, sadly, that is not the case. Check out this post at Shakesville. Apparently some people don’t want to leave because they lose their jobs – as dishwashers. Even more ominous are the people who feel they can’t leave because they are undocumented illegals in the US. Authorities day that no identity papers are required to get on the buses provided by the city but apparently officials from Immigration will be there. What a horrible choice to have to make – stay and risk death or injury or leave and risk deportation.

There is something seriously wrong in the US when people feel they can’t flee an area because of their immigration status. If New Orleans was serious about saving lives there would be no immigration officials present on these buses. But as we all know it is the poor who will need the transportation provided by the City and it seems they are going to use this opportunity to punish the poor yet again. Is it not enough that much of the subsidized housing available in New Orleans has not been rebuilt yet as a result of Katrina?

I came across another post at Shakesville about what has not been accomplished since Katrina. It is truly scary. Clearly, Katrina has been used as a vehicle to remove poor people (most likely women and people of colour) from the city. The run up to Gustav indicates that it is Act II. I feel sick.