Welcome to the 16th Century. Or one of those other centuries, one of the ones with an active Inquisition. It seems to me that there are a lot of people in the year 2012 thinking it was not such a bad idea. There’s been a number of indicators the last month or so, but the most flagrant are the members of the Virginia legislature lining up to insist that any woman seeking to exercise her right to make a legal reproductive medical decision be made to lie flat on a table and endure a medically useless invasive procedure. Lkay, so it is not actually required in the bill that she actually be strapped to the table, but I don’t think the supporters of the bill would mind.
The Virginia governor now claims he had no idea that the invasive part of the procedure was in the bill he had widely proclaimed he was ready to sign. How should we deconstruct that? That he is lying is one possibility. That he doesn’t believe the responsibilities of his office require that he read the legislation he signs and thereby makes law is another. Or, that he’s anxious to sign anything that rolls back the rights of women, sight unseen. There is no reading of this that makes him look good.
Beyond Virginia, we have a major presidential candidate who, despite a law degree from a respectable law school, claims that the separation of church and state has no basis in the constitution, and the very idea of the separation of church and state makes him nauseous. We have the crowds at presidential debates roaring their approval at every mention of the death penalty. Isn’t the word for that bloodlust? We have the Patriot’s Act rolling back hard won rights to privacy and due process. And, perennially, we have blatant religious nonsense thrust into children’s classrooms and taught as science.
So, okay, suggesting all this is a return to the 16th Century may be a bit dramatic. But these indicators, as least, are not a part of the vision I was holding for the 21st Century. What I’d been hoping for, and, to be fair, what I have also seen, is an increase in the use of reason and science in the conduct of our business, a broadening of the human rights for all our citizens, an increase in women and minorities in public life and a true religious freedom that assures a place for believers and nonbelievers alike.
What we know is that the human rights we affirm and the vision of a fair society we cherish are not at this moment shared by all. Despite the progress we have made, there are forces at the ready to push progress back. Centuries back. So, we need to keep working, keep speaking up, keep putting our values and our vision as humanists into the public sphere.
I’m pleased to able to say that my niece-in-law (there should be a better phrase for this) Rebecca Geller, has been instrumental in forming the Women’s Strike Force in Virginia. You can check them out here: In the News | Women’s Strike Force . Their goal? To replace every Virginia legislator who voted for this legislation to abrogate the rights of women with legislators who will support the rights of women and lead their state into the 21st Century.