Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Change and the Hope of Possibility

iStock_000012181084XSmallGreat things happened this past week. The Affordable Care Act was upheld, gay marriage became a legal right, and the community of Charleston, South Carolina taught us about the power of forgiveness, Grace and unity.

In recent years, I have grown cynical. Never in my lifetime have I seen a President of the United States treated with such disrespect, a thinly veiled and ancient cancer of racism alive and well in Washington and modeled for the rest of the country.

I will never forget the image of Governor Jan Brewster sticking her finger in the President’s face. Whether you agree with President Obama’s policies or not, the rudeness and the ugliness demonstrated by so many in government has been a disgusting display. And our leaders do, in that regard, hold some culpability for what happened in Charleston.

Mr. Mitch McConnell did not care about serving the people, which he was elected to do. Instead he shared with us that his number one priority was to get rid of the black man in the White House. That remains the lowest point of his legislative career. And let us not forget that just recently Ted Cruz was heard to remark (on tape) that there was a “n*gg*er in the White House.” But yesterday, the sun came out and the Mitch McConnell’s and the Ted Cruz’s of the world seemed sadly out of touch, and moreover, insignificant.

For those who watched the President unite a grieving country as he eulogized Reverend Pinkney, was to bear witness to the greatness of a man and the greatness of a nation ready to move forward and evolve.

As the tragic event in Charleston, a full frontal ugliness of racism that sought to divide unfolded, the black community most deeply effected by a young man’s evil act, showed us a dignity of spirit, and a Grace of faith unsurpassed. And you had to be numb or stupid not to be moved by what these individuals taught us as one by one they stood in the light of their truth and uttered the words “I forgive you.” In an instant, leaders from that area of the country led by taking down the Confederate flag, a long time symbol of slavery.

Against this backdrop, the Affordable Care Act took root thanks to a Supreme Court who did their job. This is a cumbersome law, granted, economically unsustainable in its current form. Yet as its roots strengthen, this piece of legislation has the potential to morph and change into a health care system that is less about profit and more about humanity. This law planted the seeds of health care reformation so that one day profits will not be built upon the backs of the sick and injured. Just as President Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights act of the 1960’s had few teeth in its beginning, its results showed this week in Charleston where a black President comforted a nation and a black church that has had more than its share of attack, demonstrated to the entire country what it is to be decent and good.

While the President spoke of equality for all people in his eulogy, the Supreme Court again acted correctly by making legal marriage for gay people the law of the land. It was a week about equality. It was a week about freedom. It was a week about the power of love and it was a week that cracked the armor of  hearts and minds gown cynical by a court that in the recent past corrupted our democracy with its definition of “speech as money” and “corporations as people.” Maybe now as we drink in these past few days, we will find the strength and the voice to undo Citizen’s United and continue to make strides back to the intention of “a government of the people, for the people and by the people.”

The take-away from this week’s news cycle is this: Love is stronger than fear and forgiveness is uniting. All people, regardless of color, sexual orientation, financial status, or political leanings, are at their core, as Anne Frank once wrote, “basically good.”  I feel blessed to have remembered that this past week. For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful. And in hope there is possibility.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

My Corporation Is A Person!

iStock_000012993634XSmallShe came to my creative writing class twice. After that, she went to a home for women like her; a place where hope against hope, she and her baby might have a chance. I met her in a jail where I taught creative writing each week. I doubt that she decided to get pregnant and then said to herself, “I think I’d like to be pregnant in jail and then have the baby in a lock down facility so that my child can know institutionalization from the first days of its life.” Jail is not a good place to be. Your neighbors are all meth or heroin addicts who don’t know how to live life without being immersed in self-disdain. And it’s certainly no place to have a baby.

But life is precious. Life is sacred, right? I agree with that. Still, the emotional, spiritual and financial cost of unwanted children does not paint much of a precious or sacred picture. If you believe that birth control is some form of abortion, then don’t take it. I believe that accessible, no cost birth control is more of a public health issue than it is a religious issue. The question of when life begins is a theological one, best left to personal religious convictions and not meant to be crammed down the throat of someone who does not think like you. It has no place in politics. I think about that young woman in jail, and I wonder if her life or her child’s life is any better than the day I met her in my class at Jefferson County. I know that her life is probably more complicated.

The mandate in the Affordable Care Act to cover birth control was a sliver of a universal care policy that women in other industrialized countries don’t even have to think about. It’s only the religious right here in America that pushes back on something that is good for women and good for the society. Planning the size of your family is a responsible thing to do, and a woman with health care insurance should be able to have that option rather than forgo birth control and pray that she doesn’t wind up with too many mouths to feed. For some families, the cost of birth control can and does make a difference in their day-to-day life. It can, as the saying goes, “take food off of the table.”

Why is it that we are so eager to talk about the religious freedom of denying birth control, but we cannot start a national dialogue about over population? Why is it that  while the Christian right is yelling and screaming about the sacredness of life, adoption laws remain complicated and impossible? And from a purely fiscal perspective, isn’t the cost of contraception less than the cost of unwanted children? Doesn’t the cost of unwanted children cause us to run an ongoing spiritual deficit?

My little business was set up as a corporation many years ago and my corporation pays taxes. The message that I keep getting is that my corporation has a strong political voice. Evidently it is a person, and though I have never taken my corporation to church, it has religious freedom and rights that cannot be denied. So this year, I want to include a letter with my tax return saying that war is against my moral and spiritual beliefs; war does not recognize the sanctity of life. Therefore, as a corporation with religious rights, I will not be paying taxes this year because it is against my religious beliefs to pay money that will be used to kill innocent civilians with drones or guns.

At the end of the day, corporations don’t actually reach into their pockets and pull out the check book for birth control, but rather have insurance policies that privately assist women who want birth control. In the long run, birth control costs are far less expensive than pregnancy costs, and far less than unwanted pregnancy costs. The creeping sense that dogs me is that this  horrible decision, made by men, is less about a corporation’s religious freedom and more about power over women, who the religious right, it seems, would like to keep barefoot, pregnant and in their place!  Don’t want big government in your business–how about this:  I don’t want big religion in mine!

Young men and women are going to have sex. That’s a given. That’s hormones. A public health care policy that mandates no-cost contraception for women is in the best interest of society as a whole. What’s really interesting about this extraction of no birth control from a health insurance policy is that Viagra and vasectomies are still part of health insurance plans. So, let me get this straight, if you are a man you can have a procedure that prevents you from impregnating a woman, but that is not considered contraception. And if you are a man, your almighty, all-powerful boner is going to be protected, because, after all, boys will be boys. Viva Viagra.

The Supreme Court decision of yesterday sucks for a myriad of reasons: corporations aren’t really people, so they don’t have the cognition to have “religious rights.” Secondly, birth control IS a public health care issue. We don’t want babies being born in jail, and we want men and women to responsibly plan their family size. Do we think it’s a good idea to have unwanted children growing up in a society that constantly cuts benefits to such children? The Christian right’s politics seem to be all about protecting the fetus but screwing the toddler.  I don’t want to give those little “takers” food stamps after all!  And finally, this Supreme Court decision underscores the fact that Christianity is a man’s religion that holds women as second-class citizens and chattel.

I believe in the constitution and the separation of church and state. The religious overlay of self-righteous Justices who place their personal beliefs before objectivity is what has made the Roberts court the worst Supreme Court ever. I cannot help but feel that we march toward our own Sharia type of Law with these bozos running the show. In the meantime, yesterday’s decision patted corporation’s on the back and told them “there, there,” and told women to go home, get pregnant and shut up. I still think that laws are supposed to be written and upheld for the good of the people and not the benefit of religion or corporations…but, oh I forgot, “corporations are people too.” I guess I will take my corporation to church this Sunday and together we can pray for our deliverance from a building theocracy that seeks to undermine our democracy.