In 1839 Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, French critic, journalist and novelist, became editor of Le Figaro, to which he had been a constant contributor; and he also started a monthly journal, Les Guêpes, of a keenly satirical tone, a publication which brought him the reputation of a somewhat bitter wit. His famous epigram is frequently quoted, usually translated as "the more things change, the more they stay the same," (Les Guêpes, January 1849). The news out of Washington in the last 48 hours once again has proven that to be true.
Once again, our Supreme Court has managed to bitch-slap women back into the last century. By finding in favor of the Plaintiff, Hobby Lobby, owned by hard-core fundamentalist Bible-thumpers (who also happen to be multi-millionaires), the Court once again failed to separate Church and State by allowing business owners whose alleged religious beliefs do not support contraception and/or freedom of choice for women to opt out of the provision of Obama Care that requires insurance coverage for birth control. The cost of birth control pills in this country ranges from $50 to $150 a month, depending on manufacturer, dosage, etc. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg noted that "It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month's full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage." Since the majority of employees of Hobby Lobby are women, it means that these employees, already having difficulty supporting themselves (and in many cases, families) on minimum wage, will now be forced to pay for contraceptives to avoid pregnancies (and the resulting children) that they certainly cannot afford.
Having been on the front lines in the ‘60s and ‘70s during the Women’s Rights movement, I am having trouble processing the idea that we have come full circle back to the beginning. Worse, I fear that today’s young women do not grasp the fact that what they have always believed to be their rights, having been born after the fight, could very possibly have just taken the first backward steps to returning them to chattel property status. Barefoot and pregnant, ladies. And in the kitchen, not in the business world. If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.
And on the other side of town, President Obama issued an Executive Order to send an additional 300 troops into Iraq, bringing the total to 750. As advisors. And observers. This is frighteningly similar to the first U.S. advisors sent to Viet Nam in 1959. By 1962, the number had increased from 700 to 12,000. We all know how that turned out. This case is almost worse, inasmuch as we have already been there and done that, and the V.A. system is already overwhelmed by the ongoing result of a war fought for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The entire Middle East is in chaos, and just to add insult to injury, Israel will probably flatten the entire Gaza Strip in retaliation on Hamas for the murder of three teenagers who went missing two weeks ago.
It has occurred to me that my entire life has been lived in a state of war. World War II was underway when I was born, and segued neatly into Korea. The first rumblings were already being heard in Indochina as the “police action” in Korea wound down. In 1954, and by the time the name changed (to Viet Nam, both North and South), we were once again embroiled in someone else’s business, which went on until 1975, when we left Saigon in shambles and ran for our lives. Since then, we have rattled sabres in Grenada, Lebanon, the Congo, the Dominican Republic, Libya, Panama, the first Gulf War, the second Gulf War, Somalia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. In doing so, we have killed and/or maimed hundreds of thousands of people, good and bad, innocent and guilty. The Marines have a saying: “Kill’em all and let God sort’em out.” Really? My favorite poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, had a saying of her own. “Peace,” she wrote, “is the temporary beautiful ignorance that war somewhere progresses.” True dat.
The final blow to our collective moral conscience is in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, a man much maligned and terribly burdened by an office that did not realize his worth at the time. On July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed into law an Act that is still under attack from various and sundry elements at every opportunity. Racism is as alive and well today as it was in Mississippi in 1964. There is as much discrimination now as then; it has simply changed its methods, not its basic philosophy. Hate crimes continue to occur, and the haters have developed various and unique means of taking away the voting rights of minorities and cloak them in the guise of defeating voting fraud. Boss Tweed must be laughing in his grave. Our inner cities are crumbling in crime and economic decay. Children still go hungry. Guns rule.
And every news program has led with the one story that seems to trump all others: World Cup Soccer. Priorities. Not our strong suit. Never was. Never will be. Bring on the asteroid. We won’t see that one coming, either.