Standing against zealotry

Rowan County, Ken., clerk Kim Davis. Photo by Huffington Post.

Rowan County, Ken., clerk Kim Davis. Photo by Huffington Post.

I apparently started a shit storm on Facebook today when I replied to the news that the Vatican confirmed that the Pope had met with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who is using her religion to deny people the right to marry.

I said, “Well, there goes my admiration for the pope,” which I will admit is a bit of an over-reaction. I still love this man’s words about caring for the planet and for the poor. I admire his humility. But I stand against any support for this woman.

Kim Davis has been married four times — so much for one-man, one-woman. Her twins were fathered by a man not her husband — so much for faithfulness to one’s spouse.

She has no right to stand in judgment over anyone. And yes, I am standing in judgment over her actions. I’ll admit that.

Kim Davis is trying to deny people their rights based on her view of God, which is unconstitutional. Our Constitution gives each of us the right to our religious beliefs but denies us the power to impose them on others.

I was called narrow-minded because I said people have a right to be married. It’s the poor fundamentalist zealots who are being persecuted, I’m told. All they want is for all of us to have to follow their narrow, bigoted beliefs. Gays are bad. Women are inferior because we are descended from Eve and therefore guilty of Original Sin. Addicts deserve to die. Mental illnesses can be prayed away because they are, after all, only demons.

I was raised being taught this crap, and I rejected it because those who believe this all too often ignore the needs of the poor. Because God will bless you if you’re a good person, so the poor deserve to suffer.

I also was chastised for calling someone out on his “pro-life” stand on another post, when he said Planned Parenthood needs to be closed. You’re not pro-life if you would deny women access to the health care provided by Planned Parenthood. You are not pro-life if you think women who want an abortion deserve to die. You are not pro-life if you would shred the social safety net.

If you want to call yourself Christian, read the red print. It says nothing about gay marriage or abortion. Take seriously the admonition to care for “the least of these.” And keep your thoughts on other people’s sexuality to yourself; it’s none of your damn business who I love or marry.

At least the pope gets some of it right. He has admonished us to care for the planet and for each other. He has denounced greed.

Still, I’m disappointed he apparently met with and supported Kim Davis, a woman who simply is refusing to do her job — which is to record (not approve of) births, deaths, property transfers and marriages.She needs to quit, be fired or land in jail for contempt of court. She is a hate-spewing zealot, not a hero.

Just expand Medicaid already!

Photo by the (Asheville) Citizen-Times There I am, holding Mike's photo, wearing my T-shirt and looking hardass.

Photo by the (Asheville) Citizen-Times
There I am, holding Mike’s photo, wearing my T-shirt and looking hardass.

I never thought I was a radical, but I can feel myself trending in that direction.

I took part in yesterday’s Medicaid Expansion Coalition’s Day of Action, but the action was a spate of press conferences. We were all over Facebook and the evening news. It raised awareness. But no one in the state legislature likely changed their minds about expanding Medicaid.

Dr. Shannon Dowler, medical director of Blue Ridge Community Health Services, was eloquent as she spoke about the people she cares for. It was heartbreaking to hear the stories. I wish legislators had heard her.

This event was not my normal way of approaching Medicaid expansion. I guess it made me realize how my life gave birth to a radical, albeit a nonviolent radical.

I didn’t speak at the event, and I’m glad about that. The event’s organizers know me. I am not one to mince words or speak in approved phrases. Most of the other organizations have programs serving thousands of low-income people. They have a lot to lose. I don’t.

So, I stood behind the speakers, wearing my “Expand Medicaid” T-shirt and holding a photo of my son.

Plenty of words have been spoken over the last two and a half years, and plenty of actions taken. Still, the governor and legislative leaders refuse to expand Medicaid, an action that would allow a half million people access to health care.

People are dying every day. In North Carolina alone, five to seven people die each day from lack of access to health care. The governor signed a law when he first took office that ceded his authority to expand Medicaid to the legislature, and legislators have made it clear they don’t care about these lives.

Perhaps if they had sat next to their dying child, holding his hand as he breathed his last and slipped away, these legislators would have more of a heart for these lives we’re losing.

Instead, they assume it can’t happen to them, that the people who are dying somehow brought their poverty on themselves and deserve their fate. Then they go to church and proclaim themselves “pro-life.”

Since I represent no one but myself here, let me say this:

If you aren’t in favor of saving these precious lives, you are NOT pro-life.

When you say people don’t deserve health care, you lose all credibility with me.

If your support for life ends at the end of the birth canal, you are anti-life.

When you call yourself a follower of Christ and then allow people to die just so you can make a mean-spirited, cynical political statement, you’d better stop and read Matthew 25:31-46.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is the passage where Jesus says, “Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do also unto me.”

It’s the text where Jesus describes Judgment Day, and it has informed my actions all my life. I’m not perfect at loving everyone. It isn’t always easy helping “the least of these” because their numbers are increasing so fast and their stories are so heartbreaking.

Some of my colleagues, whose life’s work is helping those in need, have to be very careful of what they say and do because they need the funding to continue their work.

I’ve already lost the worst thing anyone can lose; I’ve lost my child. Nothing can be worse than that.

 

 

 

The anti-life brigade

anti-lifers

I went to a rally last night in support of women’s health, reproductive and otherwise.

Let’s just remember first of all, that abortion is legal, and it needs to remain so.

When I was advised to have an abortion, I chose not to, with the operative word here being chose. But then his heart was stopped by a system that refused to give him the medical care he needed. When we fix that, we can start to talk about abortion.

After promising he wouldn’t sign any new restrictions on women’s right to choose, Gov. McCrory signed new restrictions into law, and now more restrictions are about to hit his desk. We’ll see if he breaks his promise again.

Of course, as soon as the anti-abortion folks heard about the demonstration, they showed up with their signs and intimidation tactics (they stood nearby, taking photos of us, I guess for their web sites). We responded by taking photos of them.

I decided to engage. I asked whether they supported the right of every human being to have access to health care. At first they didn’t want to talk because a television reporter was interviewing one of them.

I repeated my question.

“Well, that’s a matter of opinion,” one of them said.

“So’s your cause,” I said. “What’s your opinion?”

“But it’s about babies’ lives,” another man said.

“My son was a baby once,” I said. “He died at 33 because he couldn’t get care. He did nothing wrong. What about his life? What about the lives of the five to seven people who die in North Carolina every day because we won’t expand Medicaid?”

“It’s about the babies,” the man said.

Mothers’ lives don’t matter. The already-born can drop dead for all they care.

“Then stop calling yourself pro-life,” I said. “Life continues after birth, and if you don’t support it, you’re not pro-life.”

This isn’t just about babies. It’s about the lives of mothers and about the lives of grinding poverty many of these babies face after they’re born because their parents can’t find decent jobs.

These anti-lifers want nothing more than to force women to pump out babies. Many of them are also against contraception and support allowing a boss to fire an employee for using it. Some of them want to force women to carry non-viable fetuses to term; some also want to criminalize miscarriage.They say rape is wrong, but many support a rapist’s parental rights after they have forced a woman to have his child, keeping him — and the trauma of the crime he committed — in her life forever.

These are not reasonable people, but their out-of-the-mainstream views are becoming law in states across the country.

Many media people are trying to make them sound reasonable. In fact, last night the media paid more attention to them than to the demonstration.

When women’s clinics close, they’re labeled “abortion clinics,” even when abortion is only about 10 percent of what they do. I write a letter to the editor every time I see that, but the letters are’t always published, and I’m sure they’re not read in numbers as great as the original story.

Planned Parenthood was my health care provider for several years when I didn’t have health insurance. I don’t know what I would have done without that clinic. I had to walk through some screaming meanies to get to my checkups and cancer screenings because the media perpetuate the myth that everyone walking into a women’s health clinic is there for an abortion. Planned Parenthood helped me avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

I know some who oppose abortion also support helping poor families cope, feeding children, paying their parents a living wage, are anti-war and against the death penalty. Those people are in the minority of a movement that wants to subjugate women more than it wants to protect babies.

Unless you are willing to support life after it emerges from the birth canal, you are not pro-life and I will call you out.

It’s part of my mission to educate people.

 

 

 

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