I was going to call this post “My Republican Neighbors” but it is really about more than them.

During the election, and the rest of the time, I work very diligently to keep a hard line attitude about free speech. It only works if everyone has it so I support and protect your right to spew whatever illogical nonsense tickles your fancy. Few republicans, or tea party patriots, seem to appreciate what a tough stance this is.

In order to live by my values I have to make sure that Republicans/religious right/tea party yahoos, are able to work within the societal and political systems to undermine my civil rights.

For 72 hours this month I lost my ability and desire to do that.

I worked all day Sunday the 4th so I didn’t get back until after dark. The next morning I saw that my republican neighbors, courtesy of the Catholic diocese, had put another sign next to their Romney sign – “Protect Religious Freedom”. That felt like the final straw, the last insult, the point of no return. I lost my mind and descended into 72 hours of venom laced swearing and vitriol.

The idea that republican catholic religious freedom was somehow in jeopardy when in reality their version of religious freedom means imposing their religious views on me – well lets just say that frosted my cake.

I know it’ss business as usual to accuse the other guy of what you’re guilty of, but this seemed especially egregious. I have a personal dislike for the Mother Church with its special political status, unlimited funds and hypocritical, damaging policies crafted by men, in the name of God.  So to have the catholic contingent act as if the democrats would limit their rights (the flat out lies about the ACA contraception rules) made me lose all patience.

I remember saying to my husband. “I can’t talk to them ever again, they have crossed a line.” All I could focus on was the fact that my political views and values do not force anyone to do anything, but support every ones right to make their own choices.

Have an abortion or don’t! Use contraception or don’t – hope you can afford all those “rhythm method babies” without government assistance. Marry who you want – or don’t! Ain’t none of my business!

My neighbors values however want to impose on, limit, or remove my rights.

  • Their religion does not believe in abortion, therefore no one should be allowed to have access to an abortion.
  • Their religion does not believe in gay marriage, therefore no one should be allowed to have gay marriage.
  • Their religion does not believe in separation of church and state, therefore everyone should have to pray and acknowledge God.
  • Their God of course.

Thankfully Obama won the election and the neighbors took down their offensive signs the next day. I calmed down a bit and by the following weekend I made a point of making neighborly chit chat with them.

I helped the man carry his wood rack to the porch and inquired after the health of the wife. We made nice for a bit and went back to our yard work when the husband came out and asked if we wanted any fresh herbs from their garden. I thanked him and said we would use some parsley which he picked and left in a bag on our front swing. It felt very much like  a peace offering and I am back to my high road tolerance of their opinions.

Unfortunately, other people in the neighborhood have left their religious freedom signs in their yards so I still have to look at them. They are allowed. Because my side won.

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Had an interesting conversation yesterday with someone I don’t know very well. This woman was coming to me for advice on a sticky situation and so spent some time defining herself and giving me a thumbnail of her personal narrative.

This is always fascinating.

I have a habit of sliding into a meta analysis of what and why people reveal certain kinds of things in conversation. Probably should have trained as a therapist or done less Lit Crit in college. It is also a trick I used to use at parties when I wanted someone to go away:

Them: “What do you do?”
Me: ‘I study feminist epistemology as it intersects with ancient Greek philosophy.’   Them:  “I need to freshen my drink – can I get you anything?”

Works every time.

So a key part of this woman’s narrative was how she came from money on the Upper east side of New York and rejected her WASP roots by converting to Catholicism and joining Catholic Worker. Both the action and the telling of it spoke volumes. Because I have run around the edges of the lunatic fringe I knew all about Dorothy Day and understood what the woman was trying to convey about her perspective on the world. Serving the poor and oppressed is how she defined herself.

She was both surprised and delighted that I was familiar with Catholic Worker which also told me, a) what opinions she had formed about me and, b) that she generally expected this to be “outsider territory”. I refrained from sharing my rejection of Catholicism and embracing of Atheism as this wasn’t about my belief system.

The part I don’t get – and its not the first time this has come up – is rejecting inherited money in order to stand in solidarity with the poor. I am not attacking her choice, but having been poor and knowing poor people, I am flabbergasted when I hear something like this. The person seems to expect to be congratulated because of their sacrifice for solidarity.

Every poor person I have ever known would love to get out of poverty, the bad neighborhood, the deadend jobs, and here is someone who had all that and rejected it. Makes no sense to me. Why not stay rich and use your money for good? No one needs to know you can write big fat checks, you can be an anonymous donor and still serve soup at the shelter.

This idea that poverty is somehow noble, or poor people have such dignity because of adversity, smacks of objectification if you ask me. I am not implying she has no true regard for poor people or that she is faking her commitment to social justice, but I do wonder if her act of rejecting her wealth planted a corrupting seed of self-righteousness.

Like I said, I find it fascinating to consider what people tell you and what they leave out.

It might be useful for folks to remember that the moral high ground doesn’t come equipped with safety rails or any other protections. Those cost extra.

I am so disappointed in the way the Supreme Court case over Affordable Health Care Act is playing out. There is nothing good coming out of this discussion.

As is my habit when national events are irritating me I try to pull back and do something local so I can pretend I have impact as a citizen. Today I went to a policy lecture on Sex Ed in public schools. This semester my daughter is subjected to Health at school. This is an annual “mandatory” and progressive 6-week curriculum that they start in 5th grade with the news that you body is about to change in disturbing ways.

Nothing they have discussed in health comes close to what we talk about at home. And I would bet that the text they use is much less explicit than “Our Bodies, Our Selves” or even the cartoon-ish “Care of Me” books from American Girl (that is a Cult for a different post). What I was hoping to hear from the policy wonk today was why sex ed is so polarizing. And I did.

Seems I have been misreading all the political polarization lately. Contraception, abortion, health care, sex ed, its all about he same thing. Identity. Who are we as country, what is our morality. I chewed on this for a while, as he presented arguments and research, and thought well this is true for the religious right and conservatives in general, but liberals and progressives are not about morality. But I’m not so convinced anymore.

When you look at it from the point of identity liberals (using the label for a widely variable swath of US population) and conservatives (ditto), want the same thing – to define who we are as a country.

We are a country that takes care of its citizens is the core idea that supports health care, welfare benefits, re-training, disability, immigration policy, Pell grants, you name it. Its all about defining ourselves as doing the right thing collectively.

We are a country that protects the morality of its citizens is the core idea that supports the authority of God, prohibiting the “homosexual agenda”, protecting the unborn, dismantling social programs so people will stand on their own two feet. Its all about defining ourselves as doing the right thing individually.

That is why it fails to make sense to me why anyone would want to restrict contraception, which helps prevent babies, AND eliminate abortion because it supposedly kills babies. The position is perfectly in line with protecting morality of citizens who are obviously too stupid to do it themselves. But my world view does not work that way, so the position does not appear to have any internal logic.

In my world abortion is a medical procedure that is part of a woman’s reproductive health just like contraception, pap smears and mammograms. My morality is as tightly wound into my position as any protester outside a clinic with a nasty sign. I just don’t bring any God into it.

So I ended up thinking about national politics today anyway. I can feel the meta idea of moral identity (especially the liberal duo Equity & Care) burrowing into my brain in a new way.

To the library!

I really thought Newt Gingrich would be gone by now.

I also thought the loony-bird called Santorum would have flown back to PA by now (btw typing rick santorum is batshit crazy into google brings up 195,000 results). But here we are.

Still listening to people debate – and I use that word very loosely – things like evolution, the personhood of sperm and whether or not god hates fags.

Maybe Jon Stewart can start a campaign “Opinions are not Facts!” to help people understand that just because you believe something it doesn’t make it true. You can clap your hands until they bleed and the fairies will not arrive to take you to Neverland.

Every time I think the political dialogue can’t possible sink any lower, I am proved wrong. I no longer believe the class divide the Occupy folks are bringing to consciousness is the biggest problem in the US. The intellect divide is more troublesome because it cuts across socio-economic lines. Not intellectual, which often implies academic and abstract, but intellect, the ability to use the mental process of reasoning. Emotion is trusted more than reason. And the rhetoric of emotion plays well in sound bites.

Why do we allow emotion driven opinions to dominate every political discussion? Is logic anti-religion? I must have missed the moment when logic was denounced like science as an evil tool of the liberal, elitist New York Times reading, NPR listening, atheists.

We need a new political system. A year-long presidential campaign is surely cruel and unusual punishment.

Because I can barely contain my rage/outrage over what is clearly and without apology a War on Women, meaning the current House Oversight Committee hearings on regulations requiring insurers to cover contraception, I will instead focus on the the Ohio Crazy House, I mean State Legislature.

Oh so many f’d up things going on in Ohio, its hard to narrow it down. Today’s mini-rant features one prominent and one sneaky move. Yesterday a bill (HB 284) intended to expand the scope of what a physician assistant can do, suddenly included removing their current permission to insert or remove an IUD.

Physicians Assistants can be trusted to prescribe controlled substances like opiates and cannabis, issue a Do Not Resuscitate order and pronounce someone dead, but they can’t be trusted to touch an IUD. No wait its not about trust or medical skill, this provision was included because a State Rep believes that a fertilized egg is a human and an IUD prevents fertilization. Can’t get in the way of how many children the Good Lord wants you to have now can we. Nope. Not in Ohio.

Another piece of pending misguided legislation is House Bill 191. This piece of brilliance would restrict public schools from holding classes before Labor Day or after Memorial Day.

Am I the only one who thinks its insane to reduce the number of school days when we already require fewer than any other industrialized country? There is no federal requirement but most schools are in session for roughly 180 days. That 80 days of vacation not counting weekends. This might have made sense once upon a time when we all had to help out on the farm in order to eat come winter, but that has not been the case for a very long time.

We also have the shortest school day of any country – 6 1/2 hours compared to 7 1/2 or 8 hours in the EU. US kids seem to need a lot of free time to fish in the creek and play stick ball, or play video games and run the streets. One or the other.

The sponsors of HB 191 say it is about stimulating the economy by increasing the amount of summer we have for tourism.

So from my perspective the State House plan is to keep women from using contraception so they get pregnant, and then because summer vacation is so long they have take their children to King’s Island multiple times. And then when they are older, those same kids can work at King’s Island because they have been So Poorly Educated They Don’t Qualify for Anything Else.

Forward thinking – thanks State Reps!

My parents had a unique sense of justice.

Pain, humiliation, defeat, failure – these were all gifts from God that were bestowed on you because of something that you did in violation of parental wishes. Fall off your bike and get bloody knees? – God getting you back for being a smartass to your mother. Lose at cribbage against an adult? – proof that you shouldn’t act like a know-it-all. Stood-up for your senior prom? – God is telling you that I was right that he’s a loser. (This one happened to my sister.)

No one should wonder why my “personal relationship with God” devolved into “there isn’t one.” Faeries are easier to believe in than a God who spends time smiting kids to help parents with child-rearing.

On the other hand, success, accomplishment, winning – were all flukes according to my parents. Accidents that would be righted in your next attempt at whatever. Got an A on the test? – you’ll just flunk the next one. Etc., etc., etc. My father had a more delicate touch when deflating a puffed-up kid. He specialized in subtle attacks on the value of the award, hints that the skills were so minimal it barely measured anything. Now I think he was jealous. Each success of his children shined a light on what he failed to attain, the accomplishments he lacked. He was probably a bitter man but it was hard tell because he was always so stewed.

My mother was cruder in her attempts to “rightsize” your pride. She went for the quick, pull-the-rug-out comment so you went down fast. I guess I preferred her style over my Dad’s. With Big Alice her comment smacked you and that was that. You get knocked down, you get back up and thumb your nose. My Dad’s comments infected, made you feel sick and lingered in the back of your mind.

Tricky stuff parenting.

I used to feel sad that my parents are both dead, and wonder if we would not have reached some better relationship as we all aged. But now, as I figure out how their warped ideas have influenced my choices ever since, I’m not so sad. At least with them dead there is a finite end to their nutty behavior.

How I choose to let the past push me now, that’s all my doing. That’s my justice.