Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, November 2, 2012 5:56 pm

“The Handmaid’s Tale,” our kids, monsters, and writing in blood

Just a little too late (and, boy, there’s both a pattern and a metaphor) for Banned Books Week, a woman named Lisa Reid has arisen here in Greensboro to complain that students at Grimsley High School shouldn’t be allowed to reid Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” She’s afraid high-school-age students will be harmed by the book, and she claimed that the Guilford County Schools have no standards for determining appropriate reading material for children.

Well, I take second place to no one in my hatred for the disorganization and clutter of the GCS website, whose search algorithm seems to have been written by developmentally disabled chipmunks, but, that hatred notwithstanding, I found such standards in less than 30 seconds. If Reid wants to argue that the standards are inadequate, we can have that conversation, as long as she’s willing to discuss what an objectively quantifiable definition of “adequate” might look like. But, sorry, she doesn’t get to lie.

Over at the collection of right-wing nut jobs playing journalist at the Greensboro Guardian, Joe Guarino, who, as a book critic, makes a pretty good physician, claims that the book “has numerous sexual references and graphic passages.  It repeatedly depicts promiscuity and multiple partner sexuality.  It contains cultural messages regarding sexuality and relationships that are potentially harmful to adolescents during their formative years. The book also glorifies drug use and dwells on suicide.  There is considerable profanity found throughout the book– which also contains unfavorable depictions of Christianity.”

Well, no. It doesn’t contain “unfavorable depictions of Christianity.” It contains the things he mentions as hallmarks of the kind of patriarchal, authoritarian crushing of liberty that Jesus Christ himself explicitly condemned. That condemnation  notwithstanding, that’s precisely the kind of religion to which Guarino adheres. He’s free to do so, but he’s not free to try to use the power of government to impose his beliefs on the rest of us, which is what he endorses.

I won’t go over the whole plot of the book here, but the conservative critics’ main problem with Atwood’s book is that although she wrote it as a cautionary tale about a dystopian future,  they want to use it as a freakin’ government instruction manual, as guys like Todd Akin, Joe Walsh and Richard Mourdock, and every single GOP national platform since 1980, already have demonstrated.

And with all due respect to Lisa Reid, if her own children are fine and healthy and unmolested, she’s blessed, but many of their peers, even at a “good” school like Grimsley, aren’t so lucky. As Sherman Alexie, author of the young-adult book  “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” writes:

 I can’t speak for other writers, but I think I wrote my YA [young-adult] novel as a way of speaking to my younger, irredeemable self.

Of course, all during my childhood, would-be saviors tried to rescue my fellow tribal members. They wanted to rescue me. But, even then, I could only laugh at their platitudes. In those days, the cultural conservatives thought that KISS and Black Sabbath were going to impede my moral development. They wanted to protect me from sex when I had already been raped. They wanted to protect me from evil though a future serial killer had already abused me. They wanted me to profess my love for God without considering that I was the child and grandchild of men and women who’d been sexually and physically abused by generations of clergy.

What was my immature, childish response to those would-be saviors?

“Wow, you are way, way too late.”

My daughter, who, by the way, also attends Grimsley, is 14. She doesn’t know it, I don’t think, but for one of her good friends, the Lisa Reids of the world are already “way, way too late” — and, by the way, banning “The Handmaid’s Tale” wouldn’t have saved her. And that’s just the one I know about; statistically speaking, there almost certainly are others. For Reid to be worrying about this at this late date … well, that, in the immortal words of Charlie Pierce, “is a horse that has left the barn, run over the hill, sired twelve A-level stakes-race winners, and is now buried with honors on the backstretch at Keeneland.”

Moreover, one of the many outstanding characteristics of the kind of free country we imagine ourselves to be is that we do not let the most rigid pecksniffs dictate how everyone else gets to live, particularly when those pecksniffs have demonstrated an abiding inability to distinguish between “glorify” and “mention in any way, shape or form, even to caution against.”

We live in a country in which our high-school freshmen may be 18 months  from being sent to fight and die in Afghanistan or Iran or God knows where else. You want to argue that it’s not time to talk with them about life and death, in all their blood and suffering and glory and redemption and passion and reality? Good luck with that. That’s the kind of thinking that’s standing around this week wondering why the New York subway tunnels, dry these last 104 years, are now flooded, and it’s not just stupid, it’s an existential threat to itself and all the rest of us. I’ll give Alexie the last word:

Teenagers read millions of books every year. They read for entertainment and for education. They read because of school assignments and pop culture fads.

And there are millions of teens who read because they are sad and lonely and enraged. They read because they live in an often-terrible world. They read because they believe, despite the callow protestations of certain adults, that books-especially the dark and dangerous ones-will save them.

As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.

And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons -– in the form of words and ideas — that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.

 

Thursday, March 8, 2012 8:13 pm

It was a JOKE, you farking morons

The inestimable TBogg once joked — and I can’t find it now — that Republicans want to withhold all medical care from women of childbearing age because otherwise they might survive to have abortions. Now the Arizona Senate has taken a big step in that very direction:

It’s called a “wrongful birth” bill and it’s all about preventing women from having an abortion, even if it kills them. The Arizona Senate passed a bill this week that gives doctors a free pass to not inform pregnant women of prenatal problems because such information could lead to an abortion.

In other words, doctors can intentionally keep critical health information from pregnant women and can’t be sued for it. According to the Arizona Capitol Times, “the bill’s sponsor is Republican Nancy Barto of Phoenix. She says allowing the medical malpractice lawsuits endorses the idea that if a child is born with a disability, someone is to blame.” So Republicans are banning lawsuits against doctors who keep information from pregnant women so as to prevent them from choosing to have an abortion.

This bill is actually more disturbing than the Republicans seem to realize. Giving doctors such a free pass risks the lives of both the expectant mother and the fetus she carries. Prenatal care isn’t just for discovering birth defects and disabilities. It is also for discovering life threatening issues such as an ectopic pregnancy which often requires an abortion to save the life of the mother. With rare exceptions, ectopic pregnancies are not viable anyway, but Republicans are allowing anti-abortion doctors to keep life threatening information from pregnant women all because they are obsessed with stopping any and all abortions. Women may not know they have a life threatening condition until they die on the emergency room table. And the doctor couldn’t be sued.

And as nearly as I can tell, the American Medical Association is just fine with this.

And then there’s this:

Leticia Parra, a mother of five scraping by on income from her husband’s sporadic construction jobs, relied on the Planned Parenthood clinic in San Carlos, an impoverished town in South Texas, for breast cancer screenings, free birth control pills and pap smears for cervical cancer.

But the clinic closed in October, along with more than a dozen others in the state, after financing for women’s health was slashed by two-thirds by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The cuts, which left many low-income women with inconvenient or costly options, grew out of the effort to eliminate state support for Planned Parenthood. Although the cuts also forced clinics that were not affiliated with the agency to close — and none of them, even the ones run by Planned Parenthood, performed abortions — supporters of the cutbacks said they were motivated by the fight against abortion.

Now, the same sentiment is likely to lead to a shutdown next week of another significant source of reproductive health care: the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which serves 130,000 women with grants to many clinics, including those run by Planned Parenthood. Gov. Rick Perry and Republican lawmakers have said they would forgo the $35 million in federal money that finances the women’s health program in order to keep Planned Parenthood from getting any of it.

Although Texas already bars clinics that take such money from performing abortions, the new law is intended to prevent any state money from benefiting Planned Parenthood. “Planned Parenthoods across the country provide abortions, are affiliated with abortion providers, or refer women to abortion providers,” said Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Mr. Perry.

Wayne Christian, a Republican state representative said, “I don’t think anybody is against providing health care for women. What we’re opposed to are abortions.” He added, “Planned Parenthood is the main organization that does abortions. So we kind of blend being anti-abortion with being anti-Planned Parenthood.”

The situation in Texas is mirrored in several other states that have tried to eliminate various methods of financing Planned Parenthood.

Re-read that bolded paragraph again. So, yeah, a lot of poor women may die for lack of health care that had nothing to do with contraception or abortion, but hey, at least we prevented a few abortions.Except that none of those agencies actually, you know, perform abortions. This is just people being dicks and punching defenseless women because they can.

And these are the people who call themselves pro-life.

Now somebody mansplain to me how there’s no War on Women.

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