Don’t you dare tell me about “God’s plan”

pp rallyI helped organize a counter-protest this morning to an anti-abortion protest in front of Planned Parenthood, and while I was able to keep my cool for the most part, the level of misinformation and the lack of critical thinking skills left me shaking my head in dismay (and muttering the F-bomb under my breath).

We set up across the street from Planned Parenthood and they began to trickle over to stand in front of us to hide our signs. I stood my ground in front of one man as he tried to push his way past me and threatened to call the police because I was standing my ground. He pushed me again.

“Sir, what you just did is classified as assault. If you don’t move away from me right now, I will call the police and I will press charges.”

He pushed again.

“I’m trying to save babies,” he said.

I stood firm. “I’m trying to save women. Now, move away or I will call the police and I will have you arrested for assault.”

I stared him down and he moved on.

I stood in front of another woman and she started yelling at me.

“I’m 73!” she said.

“I’m 63,” I answered. “What does that have to do with anything?”

I asked her if she’s for universal access to health care. Naturally, she said something about the poor babies.

“What about the poor women?” I asked.

“I’m a Christian,” she said.

“So am I. What about the already-born?”

I told her I chose not to have an abortion when I was advised to, and then my son was killed by a health care system that wouldn’t take care of him because he couldn’t get health insurance.”

God took your son,” she said. “God has a plan.”

I lost it. Fortunately, my rabbi friend, Wolff was standing there and folded his arms around me.

“What took her son,” he said to the woman, “had nothing to do with God. Her son was killed by greed, not God.”

Meanwhile, I was sobbing and mumbling, “fuck off,” into his chest so she wouldn’t be able to hear me.

“I used to be an agnostic,” she said. “I tried every religion there is before I was born again.”

Wolff tightened his arms around me and glared at her silently.

The woman backed off, and the next time she tried to talk to me about how God took my son, I excused myself, turned around and walked away. I don’t need to talk to someone with the critical thinking skills of a rock.

“I wonder why it’s God’s will when greed kills your son, but not when a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy,” Wolff said.

Great question.

Another man carrying a Christian flag tried the God thing again. He had overheard me speaking about my son.

“Bless you for choosing life,” he said. “God will bless you because God has a plan.”

I glared at him and said, “God didn’t kill my son. A greedy doctor did by choosing to let him die rather than save his life. Please just leave me alone.”

Then another woman asked why I seemed so angry because she, after all, was so loving with her anti-abortion sign.

I told her I’m angry because my son died and she and her friends didn’t seem to care about that at all.

“Oh, you’re angry because you couldn’t kill your baby,” she said.

I couldn’t even imagine where that had come from, so I explained that I had chosen not to have an abortion, but that our broken health care system had killed my child.

“So, you wish you had been the one to kill him?” she asked.

“Fuck off,” I said and walked away. That was when I had to leave. I can’t stand having someone think it’s OK that people are dying every day from lack of access to health care, that if you close women’s clinics, women die, and then turn around and call themselves “pro-life” or “Christian” because they want to limit women’s choices.

A few of the people I spoke to  wanted to see alternatives to Planned Parenthood open up, wanted to see everyone have access to health care, were anti-death penalty and anti-war. I really liked talking to them, even though we disagreed on abortion.

But the vast majority of people I encountered were ready to hate me without knowing anything about me. All it was about was their view of God and trying to force it on me. The Romanian man I met said it beautifully.

“God is there to love us and help us through the worst of things. We honor that by loving each other, even if we don’t agree.”

As we were speaking a teenage girl said to me, “God has a plan.”

“Please don’t tell me about God and plans,” I said. “If you ever lose a child, perhaps you’ll understand where I’m coming from here. God had nothing to do with my son’s death; it was a greedy corrupt system where he couldn’t get insurance and he couldn’t get care. Planned Parenthood took care of me when I was uninsured and they gave me contraceptives. When I got sick, they treated me and probably saved me life. They helped me prevent an unplanned pregnancy, so you could say they helped me prevent having to have an abortion.”

A young man stepped forward and tried to tell me something about pregnancy, speaking over me as I spoke to the young woman.

“First of all,” I said, “Never talk over me. That’s just rude, and it won’t save the lives of any pre-born children, OK? And since you’ve never been pregnant and never will be, you have no place lecturing me on pregnancy.”

Let me just say it one more time for emphasis.

God did not take my son from me. God had nothing to do with it. My son died from greed. He died from a broken health care system. He died from negligent homicide.

If we take women’s clinics away, women will die, and while they may not matter to you, they matter to me and to all the people who love them.

In the name of “God,” I abuse thee

Here she is, apple in hand, listening to the snake. That's Eve, the cause of all women's problems.

Here she is, apple in hand, listening to the snake. That’s Eve, the cause of all women’s problems.

I grew up as a “daughter of Eve,” in a fundamentalist church.

Daughters of Eve (all women in the church’s view) are unclean because they share Eve’s “sin.” Because of their propensity to sin, girls and women must be closely guided, lest they fall prey to the lure of sin.

None of that made sense to me, especially since my parents weren’t fundamentalist Christians. On the one hand, my father was telling me I could be anything I wanted.

My mother was telling me I should learn to type “In case anything happens to your husband, you’ll have a skill to fall back on.”

The church was telling me I existed to be a “helpmate” to a man and a mother to his children.

Women held no power in the church. We couldn’t be ministers; we couldn’t be deacons; we couldn’t serve communion; we couldn’t even teach Sunday school to children older than 12 because the Apostle Paul said so.

I rejected all of that as I grew up, although I married an “old-fashioned” man the first time out. Once I realized I didn’t want or need a boss, or an owner, I moved on to healthier relationships.

I kept my sons away from church because I didn’t want them to become the kind of men who would treat women without respect.

I finally discovered that there are churches where women are equal; churches where even the men were feminist. In my childhood church, these were called “Dens of Satan.”

The people in fundamentalist churches feel persecuted because they can’t make everyone believe God is a punishing father figure, and they can’t force all of society to live according to their Medieval tenets.

They are the driving force behind laws that withhold health care from poor women by closing women’s health clinics. They are the people who filed the Hobby Lobby suit that exempts “Christians” from covering women’s contraception.

They’re also the ones behind that proposed laws that would allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples or fire someone on the basis of sexual preference or gender identity.

They are pulling us all backward with their so-called values, as though women’s lives are less consequential than men’s.

Now comes a bill in Georgia that would exempt these good “Christians” from domestic abuse laws because they believe the man is the head of the household and should be allowed to administer whatever discipline he chooses for whatever displeases him.

“Yeah, I smacked her. She burned the toast. I have a deeply held religious belief that I have to correct her.”

That’s what it’s often called, by the way, “correction,” as though women’s desires are meaningless and wrongheaded and therefore must be corrected.

So, what comes next, public stonings of women who have been unfaithful? How far do we allow ourselves to be pulled down this road?

The day the so-called Hobby Lobby decision was rendered by the Supreme Court, I found my local chapter of the National Organization of Women and re-joined.

The Asheville/Buncombe County chapter holds meetings the second Sunday of each month in the Community Room of the YWCA in Asheville.

Wherever you live, if you’re a woman, you need to become active. You need to register and vote. You need to raise your voice.

When I was a young feminist, I thought we were winning these rights for all time; not I know we have to keep fighting.





How stupid does it have to get?

fix stupidA child in Oklahoma who insists humans existed alongside dinosaurs can still get an A on a science test under a newly introduced bill. Creationism is allowed to be taught as fact in Tennessee schools, and Missouri is still trying to pass a bill.

In Kansas, a bill has been introduced allowing teachers to refute climate science.

A legislator in Missouri has sponsored a bill to make it a felony for anyone to propose any new gun safety legislation.

A legislator in Alabama, a woman, has called the fetus “the largest organ in the body.” Uh, that would be the skin, honey.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg denies that any homeless people are sleeping on the streets.

This doesn’t even include the petty, vindictive bills and laws that would deny millions of people access to health care through Medicaid expansions or reduce Social Security or Medicare benefits, slash taxes on the rich while increasing them on the working class, slash unemployment benefits for people whose jobs are shipped overseas …

I’m just talking stupid here, not immorality.

I thought we had reached the depths of stupid when Senate candidate Todd Akin from Missouri insisted that in a “real” rape a woman could just “shut that whole thing down” and avoid pregnancy.

It seems we’re still descending, though. Denying scientific fact has become the fashionable thing for the Right to do. It doesn’t matter what kind of proof there is, science is wrong and they feel disrespected when you tell their their religious belief might be metaphor and not fact.

We have come to the point where claims of religious freedom are allowed to trump science in schools and in legislatures. Where does it stop?

Your religion is called faith, and the definition of faith is a belief in something you can’t see or touch or even prove. I understand faith because I’m a Christian.

But I also believe in science, and the two exist nicely side-by-side. The creation story is metaphor. God has no sense of time, so each “day” is an era in the evolution of life. See? It fits, unless you insist God didn’t inspire the Bible but wrote it.

“Well, evolution is just a theory,” they say.

So is gravity. Get over it.

As for the fetus as organ thing and the magical lady parts, I just don’t know what to say except that when someone says something that stupid no one should ever vote for them again.



You can’t argue with fools

My husband took this shot of me standing next to a young woman who was protesting the hate being spewed bu so-called Christians at Bele Chere.

OK, I probably shouldn’t have dropped the F-bomb.

But there they were, telling me I’m going to hell because I have a beer in my hand.

I’m walking along, minding my own business, looking at the merchandise in the tents at Bele Chere, and I hear someone with a megaphone (because shouting doesn’t irritate people enough, I guess) saying the woman with the beer is a hopeless sinner and headed to hell.

My first thought was that this person knows nothing about me. He doesn’t know I’m a Christian, he doesn’t know about my work advocating for people in need, he doesn’t know anything about me.

I snapped.

“You are SO F*%(ing obnoxious!” I yelled in his general direction.

“Well, if you don’t like what I’m saying, you can move on,” he answered. “But I’m talking about your soul!”

Yeah, right. You’re seeking attention, hoping to offend people so someone will say you can’t use your megaphone to spoil people’s day. Then you can pretend to be persecuted.

I hollered back: “I can move on but these poor merchants can’t. They have to listen to your crap AND lose business because of you.”

These guys are effin’ obnoxious.

They aren’t even from Asheville; most of them travel from place to place trying to make trouble so they can say Christians are persecuted. They crave attention and there’s nothing Christian about their actions.

I guess part of why it annoys me so is that I grew up among their ilk in a very fundamentalist church, where hatred was practiced every week.

When my best friend got pregnant out of wedlock and lost a set of twins in her seventh month, she was told, “See? God punishes.” Her father was chastised for not being able to control his daughter.

They hated gays, of course, and they hated the “godless gooks” (right from the pulpit) in Vietnam. They hated everyone who didn’t agree with them.

They sent children out into downtown areas to hand out religious tracts and “witness.”

That’s what this harassment of festival-goers is about. It’s called “witnessing,” which they do because Jesus told his followers to be a witness.

You can be a witness by allowing people to witness you behaving in a manner that befits followers of Christ. Help the poor. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemy.

I would say standing on a street corner telling people they’re going to hell by screaming it through a megaphone isn’t exactly Christlike.

And normally, I wouldn’t even acknowledge their presence, but I’m tired of them.

Two years ago I was with my niece and her two kids when we approached Pack Square, and there they were, screaming about illicit sex. My 3-yer-old grand nephew wanted to know what he was talking about.

Really? I came out for a fun family day and I had to try to explain this nut to my little grand-nephew.

Last year, I stopped at a merchant and wound up leaving without buying anything because I couldn’t stand the hate coming out of the megaphone set up right next to the merchant. I apologized to her as I left and she said she understood.

So, these clowns are costing local merchants business, but they have a right to use a megaphone to spew hatred while families try to enjoy a day at a downtown festival.

It’s not the beer making this event unpleasant for families. I’m just sayin’.


Court affirms gays’ rights

Elizabeth Eve and Kathryn Cartledge have been together for 30 years and raised two daughters. Why can't they marry?

A Federal Appeals Court in Boston issued a ruling this morning that the Defense of Marriage Act denies gay couples their Constitutional rights to the same federal benefits straight couples enjoy.

In all, straight couples enjoy more than 1,000 rights and benefits that are denied to gay and lesbian couples, even in states where such marriages are legal.

The Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, was passed by Congress in 1996 when it looked like Hawaii was about to legalize gay marriage. Of course, since then a couple dozen states have followed suit and either passed laws or amended their constitutions to outlaw gay marriage. Eight states have legalized it: Massachusetts, in 2006, followed by Connecticut, New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Washington’s laws aren’t enacted yet and still could face popular votes.

In those states that have legalized marriage between any two consenting adults, gay couples are being denied the same federal benefits straight married couples enjoy. That, the appeals court said, is unconstitutional.

The decision won’t go into effect until the US Supreme Court rules on the case, which I find worrisome, considering the current domination of the court by conservative activists.

Part of the problem here is that anti-gay religious people have been able to mobilize the popular vote better than we who support the right of all consenting adults to make the legal contract we know as marriage.

I’ve known all along that the courts and/or Congress are going to have to step in and assert the rights of GLBT people to marry; states aren’t known for expanding the rights of people on their own. Look at the history of the Civil Rights Movement or that of the Women Suffrage Movement. The majority of people seem to want to preserve their own rights rather than extend equal rights to a minority.

When I ask people who oppose same-sex marriage why they think gays should be denied the same rights they enjoy, they invariably quote religion. But if it’s a religious issue, why is it codified into the laws of a nation where the church is supposed to be separate from the state?

They usually either don’t answer or they use the slippery-slope argument. You know, the one: “If we do this, the next thing you know, people will want to marry their dogs.”

But dogs aren’t consenting adults, nor are farm animals, birds, insects — or children. So don’t start with the pedophilia argument either.

If you have a religious objection to gays being married, then you don’t have to allow them to be married in your church. And you don’t have to marry someone of your same gender.

But you can’t deny people their rights because your religion says they’re sinners.

I’ve had this discussion with plenty of “love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin” types. My argument is that people are born to be who they are.

How can you separate someone from the person they were born to be?

I think we’re all on a continuum — we all have tendencies within us. I’m straight. Some people are bisexual; others are gay or lesbian.  It’s how we’re meant to be, and we all deserve the same right to choose our life partners from among consenting adults.





Cry tonight, fight tomorrow

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this frustrated.

A minority of North Carolina’s registered voters just robbed hundreds of thousand of people of their rights.

Our state constitution has been amended to discriminate against people who aren’t legally married all in the name of “family values.”

Now we don’t just have a law discriminating against gays and lesbians by denying them the right to marry, we have enshrined it into our constitution and in the process robbed everyone who isn’t married legally of their rights and benefits.

People who were insured by the employers of their domestic partners will lose their insurance benefits and their rights to any say in the care of the people they love.

Parents will lose rights to their children, and children will lose health benefits.

People who suffer domestic abuse will lose their protections because they aren’t legally married to the person who’s beating the crap out of them. Sure, they can charge their abusers with assault, but they won’t have the added protections they had this morning. No order of protection, no arrest if he comes back to the house, unless he beats her senseless again or succeeds in killing her.

Let’s be clear about this: Amendment One will cause people to die — from lack of insurance, from domestic abuse — all in the process of mixing religion and the law. Because nearly everyone who objects to LGBT relationships does so for religious reasons.

We in North Carolina have taken a huge step back. We have placed hate and bigotry into our constitution, and people will die because of it.

I’m sick to my stomach tonight. I’m going to have a stiff drink and a short pity-party, then I’m going to bed because I’ll need my energy in the morning when the fight begins anew.

I want justice, and I can be damned tenacious.

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