Report from the Field: Life-and-Death Kabuki
I realize that the title of my post is a contradiction in terms, but I can't think of any other way to describe what's going on with federal Republicans and Democrats these days. Burnt Orange Boehner pulls out all the stops by demanding something outrageously batshit fucking crazy - like, the total defunding of Planned Parenthood - and then he stamps his little feet and says he'll shut down the government if he doesn't get it. The Democrats bang their fists on the table in outrage and say there's no way the Republicans will get what they want. But somehow, the deals are made, the governmental shutdown is avoided, and some horrible "compromise" is reached which, mysteriously, amazingly, benefits the top 2% of society.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Remember how the House refused to allow unemployment benefits to be paid out until they got the Bush tax cuts extended AND a payroll tax cut defunding Social Security? Oh, and the 99-ers still got screwed out of their benefits! How the hell did that happen? Welcome to America, where our federal government runs life-and-death kabuki on its citizens. The whole push-and-pull between batshit fucking crazies and semi-intelligent corporatist lackeys is all an elaborate show to remind you Lefties who the guys in the black hats are (the Republicans) so you'll be sure to vote in the guys in the white hats (the Democrats) in 2012. The lesson is the exact opposite for those on the other side of the aisle, of course. After all, the bases of both Parties are unhappy with the leadership, and turnout might be low enough to declare that the new President does not have the consent of the American people! Better rally up the troops so we can get a good showing at the polls!
We know it's kabuki, but we can't ignore it. If the Republicans do get control of the Senate and the Presidency, we really will have a fundiegelical theocracy in this country. This isn't the era of Bush anymore; the Tea Party has changed all that. We now have the likes of Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee considering Presidential runs. These are not reasonable people - they are on a mission from God. Their God, of course, not yours. And they are determined to impose their version of holiness upon all of us. We can't let that happen; it's a matter of life and death. So, sometimes we grit our teeth and vote for Democrats. What else can we do?
In this conflicted and contradictory spirit, I attended the Planned Parenthood rally this past Saturday in NYC (with Widdershin emeritus LadyBoomerNYC and commenter Gmanedit). Despite the massive pro-union rallies going on at nearly the same time, it was estimated that we had 6000 people at the NYC rally. I got there 15 minutes late due to the fact that I had to sing in temple that morning; as a result, I ended up standing too far away to see most of the speakers, but the sound system was good, and I could hear them well. One of the briefest, yet most practical, was Kathleen Turner. "People don't believe what's happening. They don't know what's happening," she said. "Talk about the war on women. Talk about it all the time, everywhere. Talk about it in church. Talk about it at work. Tell your friends and your family. Let everyone know that we have to keep fighting for our reproductive rights." She was right. Talking about this stuff is not always easy, but it is necessary.
Meanwhile, the rah-rah for Democrats was on full display. The ever-fiery Representative Anthony Weiner was there, explaining how anyone who thinks the government should stand next to a doctor and tell a woman what to do with her body CAN'T be a conservative, so the Republican war against women was nothing but hypocrisy. Democrat Chuck Schumer claimed that he brought us good news: the Planned Parenthood cuts were DOA in the Senate. Almost every prominent New York Democrat showed his/her face to make sure we got the message, and boy, did we! If the Democrats did not have 40-plus votes in the Senate, all of this batshit fucking crazy legislation, including HR-3, the dreaded Smith-Lipinski, would be zipping through the Senate like poop through a goose. I don't think we can really argue that point, and even though my Socialist Democratic heart wishes like hell we had a better alternative to the current version of the Democratic Party, I did say in 2010 that I was going to vote Democratic for Senate for that very reason.
What lessened my conflict a bit was seeing all the young women and men standing out there, who really get how important it is for women's health services to be federally funded. Planned Parenthood is a big, big provider of those services - I didn't know this, but 1 in 5 women use it at least once during their lifetimes. Imagine 20% of all American women, potentially bereft of cancer screenings, STD treatment, pre-natal care, contraception and abortion services because Burnt Orange Boehner and his colleagues are batshit fucking crazy! The stakes are life-and-death indeed.
I also enjoyed the many creative signs people brought. If you clicked the link way at the top of the post, you saw some of them. Below are some of my favorites.
This person really got it. Side 1 of his sign:
Side 2 reads: "Obama, Commander-In-Chief of U.S. Imperialism. Break with the Democrats. Call for a Revolutionary Worker's Party! Spartacist [I think that's the guy's handle]."
And then, there was this one - extending a joyous middle finger to all the woman-haters out there.
I don't know what the future holds for America, frankly. More and more insanity seems to be bombarding us daily. On the other hand, more and more protests seem to be happening. Thank you, thank you to the people of Wisconsin for your amazing inspiration! My 73-year-old stepmother went to Richmond last week to stand in solidarity with the cheeseheads. Today at 12 pm, there will be a rally in support of Social Security. Last weekend, along with the SEIU and Planned Parenthood rallies, there were rallies at Bank of America to protest all their tax dodging. It seems like democracy could be coming back to America! I just hope the protests continue to grow until the power swings back to where it belongs - by, for, and of the people. Then, we will be in the position to make our demands: Create jobs, not tax cuts for the rich. Ratify the ERA and establish a Women's Reproductive Health Fund to make sure all women have access to free reproductive health services. Declare same-sex marriage legal at a federal level. Pass and implement H.R. 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All. Stop the assault on the public sector and start investing in it instead. Institute true universal health care. Institute public-only financing for elections and a much shorter election season. Revoke corporate personhood. Pick your favorite cause: all these things and more would be within our grasp.
Until that day when enough of us stand up and scream "We're not gonna take it anymore!", however, America is doomed to a political system that promises life-and-death kabuki for the bottom 98%, and unlimited resources and power to the top 2%.