SERIOUS LEGISLATION OR ANOTHER EMPTY GESTURE FOR THE BASE?
Chances are if you hang around this planet long enough, you’ll witness first hand the best and the worst that mankind has to offer. You’ll see messiahs - - mostly self-appointed - - come and go. And if you are really fortunate, you will arrive at certain hard-won convictions - - likes and dislikes, if you will - - which form the basis of who you are as a person.
For me, one such conviction is an intense dislike of anyone - - people in the public eye especially - - who use their position, whether earned or inherited, to advance an agenda that had it been forced to stand solely on it’s merits, would be rejected as illegal, offensive or otherwise unacceptable.
Perhaps, this is why I do not have a lot of use for most politicians, no matter the party as it seems they are unable to function without manipulating decent, hard-working, moral people, who in a great many instances also happen to be people of faith.
Of course there are always ways for disreputable people to make a bad situation worse. For politicians this is an alarming tendency to package their questionable activities in religious imagery, something that George Bush and his chief enabler, Karl Rove have consistently done, and done well.
By claiming to converse directly with God - - unbelievable as it may sound - - Mr. Bush has sold policies and course of action to the American public which under normal circumstances - meaning without the God sell - - would be rejected handily. With just the right religious packaging, Mr. Bush proved again and again that decent god-fearing American citizens could be convinced that it was permissible for our country to attack, without provocation, another sovereign nation, in this case the nation of Iraq; that it was not only alright, but advisable for paid American killers, known as sub-contractors, to torture, kill and steal from those declared to be enemies of the state, most of whom, not that surprisingly, happened to be Muslim; and that closer to home it was God’s wish, conveyed through his earthly spokesman, George W. Bush, that we suspend many of our precious freedoms while rewarding a new breed of corporate criminal - - the CEO - - with riches far beyond what they were entitled to.
And what did the people of faith get for submerging their principles and allowing all of this to take place? Not that much! Abortion still is legal. Gay people still have rights, among them, the right in two states to marry, and in many more the right to adopt children. Churches are still separate from state. The Ten Commandments, crosses and other religious symbols still canot be displayed in publicly owned facilities. And with the exception of a few scattered cities and schools, education vouchers are no more of a reality today than they were when George Bush first ran for president.
Sure, there have been the occasional concessions, most notably the bogging down in legal red tape of stem cell research. Then there was the rucus engineered by congress and the white house over that poor brain dead woman a few years back. But what else has George Bush done for people of faith? Can you tell me anything?
Looking to the future, it does not look like anything is going to change. Democratic presidential candidate, Barrack Obama, though a devout Christian, has a healthy appreciation for the separation of church and state, while Presumptive republican presidential candidate, John McCain has made no secret of his distain for mainline religious leaders, calling Dr’s Robertson and Falwell “agents of intolerance”, not that long ago.
Then there are the divisions among the faithful, themselves, most notably among the older, religious establishment and many of the younger congregations and worshipers. The latter do not have the same goals and desires as the former, being usually better educated and more politically savvy. Among the leaders of this religious new wave is The Reverend Rick Warren. Warren, the leader of one of California and the nation’s largest congregations, and a best selling author, incurred the wrath of establishment religious leaders some months back when he invited candidate Obama to speak to his congregation. Like many of the new breed of religious people, Warren has on numerous occasions spoken out against type on important issues of the day, not the least of which is the environment and the aids epidemic, which have won him the attention and respect of many otherwise non-religious Americans.
All of which makes the Bush administration’s attack last week on sexual freedom all the more suspect. For those who haven’t heard, and I figure that there are probably quite a few in this group as this was probably among the least reported stories of the summer, George Bush in what can only be a parting gift to his much maligned theological base, launched his last (as President), and perhaps most potent attack on sexual freedom,
which in the unlikelihood that it is successful, could severely limit access to birth control and federally sanctioned abortions in this country.
The initiative, currently being circulated in draft form after leaking earlier a few weeks back, will deny federal funding to hospitals, clinics and health plans unless provisions are put in place to allow staff members to opt out of providing abortions and other reproductive services, including: dispensing birth-control pills, IUDs and the emergency contraceptive, when doing so conflicts with that staff member’s personal religious beliefs.
It is the Bush administration’s contention, ludicrous that it is, that they are merely acting to safeguard the rights of health-care workers so that the men and women in question will no longer have to choose between providing services that they find morally reprehensible and the unemployment line.
Besides offering these protections, the initiative if it becomes law in it’s present form, will supersede state laws, many of which currently require health plans to pay for contraception - - including the infamous morning after pill - - and force pharmacists to fill prescriptions for birth control.
Needless to say, social conservatives are rejoicing at this latest violation of a woman’s right to choose, as they are at the initiative’s attempt to at long last LEGALLY DEFINE ABORTION. Sadly, the definition the administration proposes as “anything that affects a fertilized egg” has little regard for the science involved. Moreover, experts tell us, that such a broad, unscientific, ideologically based definition could inhibit medical research across a broad spectrum of areas including stem cells, infertility and even such seemingly unrelated fields as cancer.
But these all too real ramifications of his initiative mean nothing to George Bush. They are merely scientific realities and when it is a toss-up between science and religion, in this twisted administration, religion trumps science.
The fact that even most Americans who consider themselves to be religious, use birth control regularly, and would oppose its becoming more difficult to obtain, also doesn’t seem to matter all that much to Mr. Bush.
Were anyone else in the White House, this initiative would be seen for what it is, a stoke job intended to placate fundamentalists otherwise disenfranchised, and to energize them to come out and take part in the upcoming presidential election by voting for John McCain.
The fact that the initiative is an end run around our civil rights does not seem to matter to the Bush people, nor unfortunately, to those it was intended to protect. Similarly, the fact that this initiative has little, if any, chance of becoming law in the time remaining in the Bush administration, and is for all intents and purposes an empty gesture, doesn’t seem to matter either. There have been many such empty gestures the past seven years.
Those in charge of creating and maintaining George Bush’s legacy - - a thankless job, I’m sure - - hope that the message that the faithful take away from this whole experience is that George Bush was willing to go the extra mile for people of faith, that he tried his best only to have that best shot down by a cynical, atheistic political system. One can only wonder if they will be successful at imprinting this message on the consciousness of the faithful or if their poor economic situation, four-dollar gasoline and the prohibitive cost of food and other staples will drown it out?
To get back to the initiative, truth be told, my objections to allowing medical professionals to opt out of providing reproductive services that conflict with their religious beliefs are at best, half-hearted. I would be wiling to go along with this providing - - and this is a very important providing - - that there are other people on staff at ALL TIMES to provide those services. Should the objecting doctor or nurse be the only medical professional present at the time that such services are demanded, then that is too bad for them. Caring for the public takes precedence over one’s personal beliefs, always. This way no one will be turned away as has happened quite often recently, even here in California, perhaps America’s most liberal state, just because Dr. Josh or Nurse Jill objects to providing the services requested.
Now as to social conservative’s other argument, that mandating that all medical professionals provide reproductive services will become an obstacle to recruiting minorities to the medical profession, that’s just too damn bad. If we allow medical professionals to use their morality as a filter for what services they will or won’t perform, then the day is probably not that far off when some self-righteous medical professional will be claiming that it his or her right to refuse care to patient because of a historical slight between the doctors countrymen and those of the patient.
This sort of anarchy, we cannot stand for.