Where are we headed?

I haven’t written here in a while as I’ve been focusing on my Gratitude Journal. However, recent events have me contemplating what is happening.

I can remember being denied a job because I was pregnant. I can remember jobs being listed in the paper under gender headings. I remember not being allowed to wear pants at school but only skirts or dresses. I remember being steered away from classes in the sciences because ‘girls don’t do science’. I remember being denied access to birth control because I wasn’t married. I remember being told I couldn’t get credit without my husband’s permission. I remember caring for women who had been raped and had a back alley abortion. I remember being told that there is no such thing as spousal rape. I remember being told I couldn’t walk in my high school graduation procession with my friend because she was black. I remember riots because blacks wanted equal rights. I remember women symbolically burning bras because they wanted equal rights. I remember hearing that mixed-race marriages would undermine marriage in this country. I remember ‘whites-only’ signs in many public places.

How far have we really evolved? Not very far. Many of the instances related above happened as late as the mid-to-late 70s; not so very long ago. I hear talk that the debate over contraception is a Constitutional issue. I think, and this is only my opinion, that the white men who are deciding whether religious institutions can decline to supply contraception to their female employees are hiding behind religion and the Constitution to suppress women. The GOP candidates talk a good game, but their intent seems to be that women have no say in their own lives. Religious institutions who accept Federal money are bound by the same rules as businesses that are not religion-based. Any company that accepts Federal money has to adhere to Federal guidelines. If those guidelines go against your beliefs, don’t apply for and accept it. They knew what the guidelines were when they applied for the money, but it’s suddenly a big issue? It’s not like they were blindsided by these regulations; they knew about them before they applied.

Several states are attempting to pass, and in some cases have succeeded in passing, laws that not only outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life, but also several methods of contraception. These laws in many cases also force a woman who suffers a miscarriage to prove it was not caused by her actions; and this isn’t easy because medical science can’t explain why many of these miscarriages happen. Same-sex marriage is supposedly going to undermine the sacred institution of marriage, the same argument that was used to outlaw mixed-race marriages.

Personally, I don’t agree with abortion as a method of birth control; but I believe that it is an intensely  personal decision that a woman has to make. I don’t want to go back to the days of back-alley abortions for the poor when the rich can go to a hospital and have a ‘medically necessary’ D&C, which is really an abortion. I don’t want to go back to the days when women were told their only place was in the home and raising children.

I am tired of white men telling us what we, as women, can and cannot do. I am tired of politicians spouting their faith and beliefs and belittling those of us of other faiths. I am tired of our laws being dictated by the religious right. The US was founded as a country where we are free to follow a religion, or not. Some will argue that this is a Christian country; but that is not what our Founders had in mind. There is no mention of God in the Constitution. Our motto was ‘E Pluribus Unum’ until the McCarthy hysteria of the 1950s when it was changed to ‘In God We Trust’. God wasn’t on our money; God wasn’t in the Pledge of Allegiance. It was fear that put it there.

We have been living in a climate of fear since the attacks on the twin towers, and some politicians are still stirring up that fear with their rhetoric. And I am sick of it.

Discrimination and prejudice

With all the hate-filled rhetoric filling the airwaves this week, I found myself thinking about prejudice and hate and bias and discrimination. I grew up with extremely prejudiced parents; and I have my own biases because of them. But I have spent a large part of my adult life fighting against my own prejudices.  I don’t subscribe to the mindset that people should be treated differently because their skin is a different color; their religion isn’t the same as mine; their culture does things I don’t agree with.  But it’s a daily struggle. I know people who will take the actions of a few to represent the whole religion/culture and tar everyone with that same brush. And I think that’s wrong. Imagine if all Christians were thought to be like Fred Phelps or Terry Jones.  (And there are some who think that!) Is this how we want Christians to be seen?

When I was growing up, I heard my parents belittling recent immigrants who lived across the street from us. According to my mother, they lived 20 people to an apartment and ate cat food. To my young, impressionable mind, that was disgusting. Later in life I discovered they had that many people living together because that’s what they were used to, and they didn’t know there was any other way to live. And because people didn’t want to rent to them because they were different. And because they were saving money to start businesses where they all worked together as a family. I might not agree with some of the tenets of their religion, but I admire the fact that they were willing to make sacrifices to get what they wanted.

I believe there is good in everyone. Sometimes we don’t see it, or don’t want to see it, because we are blinded by prejudice.

We hate some persons because we do not know them; and will not know them because we hate them. ~Charles Caleb Colton