Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Sometimes Private Matters Have Public Relevance
I really can't stand Republicans. Well let me correct that. I can't stand the Republican Party. There are some perfectly fine and kind people who for reasons beyond my comprehension think that's the way to vote. That's how democracy works and I'm glad they have that right.
The thing that bothers me about what the Republican Party has become is that it seems to preach a kind of Democracy in which only their rights and beliefs count, a democracy in which if I disagree with them, I don't love my country. In the Republican Party's democracy, they get to legislate my values and assess my spirituality as "lacking." What makes this even more irritating is that when they themselves fail to live up to the values they are trying to impose on me, they get all huffy and say such things are private and not up for discussion. They get to have it both ways.
In principle, I agree with Barack Obama about Bristol Palin's pregnancy being none of anybody's business. It isn't. At least not in a personal way. Bristol Palin is a teenager. She shouldn't be fodder for gossip. Being 17 and pregnant is hard enough in the "privacy" of your own community. Being 17 and pregnant on a national/international stage has to suck in spades. Personally, Bristol's life and decisions are none of my business.
But on another level they are my business, because they are a reflection of how well the social policies that the Republican Party want to impose on the rest of us work. If Mrs. Palin and the Republicans only wanted to shield their own children from options like sex education and abortion, Bristol's pregancy would be absolutely none of my business. But Mrs. Palin and the Republicans want to teach Creationism in everybody's school. Mrs. Palin and the Republicans oppose educating not just their own children about the dangers of unprotected sex; they want to keep everyone else's children ignorant as well. So the success of this approach to education in her own child's life does have relevance in the larger debate.
As a mother, Mrs. Palin has every right to thinks her own pregnant-at-17 daughter should have a baby that she probably doesn't want and be pushed into a teen-age marriage to make it "tidy." The thing is, Mrs. Palin and the Republican Party want to force that same "values" system onto my young neighbor and my great niece and everybody else's sons and daughters. I have a problem with that. Mrs. Palin's idea of good parenting isn't the same as mine. I don't think pushing teenagers into marriage because they got knocked-up is wise or loving. I think it's expedient and potentially spirit-killing.
Mrs. Palin's daughter and her prospective young soon-to-be husband will undoubtedly have lots of family support - especially given that it's an election year and what was once a private family matter is now being played out on a national stage. Interestingly, Mrs. Palin's compassion for unwed mothers doesn't apparently extend to other people's children. She used her line-item veto pen to significantly slash funding to a program designed to offer housing and counsel to young unwed mothers in Alaska. Hmmm. Mrs. Palin and Mr. McCain both oppose funding for sex education in our schools and they oppose spending money to cope with the results of such policies.
I'm not delusional enough to think that sex education in the schools will prevent all unwanted pregnancy. I'm also not delusional enough to think "just say no" will work either. Clearly it didn't work with Mrs. Palin's daughter. One of the things that really bothers me about someone like Mrs. Palin who wants to keep everyone else's children as ignorant about sex education as she keeps her own, is that she then had no compassion or sense of responsiblity about cleaning up the mess that her own policies create. Unborn babies are treasured. Other people's knocked-up teen aged daughters, not so much. And I guess that while it's important to Mrs. Palin and her ilk to keep unwanted babies in teen (and adult) wombs, they draw the line at providing support and education to their mothers so that when the beloved precious foetuses pop out of the womb and start needing love and attention, both they and their parents have have a chance at a decent life. I just don't get that kind of selective sacredness. How can the life of a non-viable egg be more sacred than the life of a real, flesh-and-blood young adult?
I'm finding much of the Republican spin about the wonders of Mrs. Palin entertaining. Bristol's pregnancy isn't a reflection of failed parenting or the pit-falls of not educating your children about unprotected sex. Nope. They're marrying the kid off and not kicking her out of the house, so it's a sign of the strength of family values. And apparently just living in Alaska makes people foreign policy experts because part of Alaska borders the Soviet Union. Wow. Who knew! And then Mrs. Pailin's year-and a half as governor trumps everyone else's experience. Simply by living in Alaska, she apparently has more foreign policy - this is a Republican talking point - than Joe Biden after 33 years in the Senate much of it serving on the Foreign Relations Committee, currently as chairman. It also apparently trumps Obama's 8 years in the Illinois Senate and his 4 years in the US Senate. Something about Alaska, I guess, and that intense border proximity.
But I'm digressing from my theme. Bristol's private life is and should be private. But since her mother wants to legislate my private life and that of those I love and care about - the success or failure of how her policies work is profoundly relevant.
That's it for now.