Friday, July 19, 2013

Tokens, Talismans, and... Tampons?

Curmie has long argued that there’s nothing like the Republican Party in Texas to make anyone with an IQ over room temperature into a card-carrying Democrat. It certainly worked for me. A lifelong Independent who moved to Texas in 2001, I saw about enough of George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, and similar politicos whose stupidity was matched only by their immorality: even my distaste for political parties in general was ultimately overcome. I became a Democrat in 2008, and even voted in a primary for the first time in the nearly 35 years I’d been registered to vote (N.B., this period included one presidential election in New Hampshire and two in Iowa, where voting in primaries or caucuses would have had an impact).

Of late, the parade of GOP charlatans has included Rick “Governor Goodhair” Perry, Loony Louie Gohmert (Curmie’s very own Congresscritter), and the insufferably inane Ted Cruz. In this company, conventional party hacks like John Cornyn look positively enlightened by comparison.

For all this, however, I’d never witnessed anything quite so—what? arrogant? stupid? tone-deaf?—as the recent display in Austin when the carefully gerrymandered Republican supermajority was in the process of cramming through an unpopular, unconstitutional, and unnecessary (even if you agree with them) bill in the second completely wasteful and self-indulgent special session of the legislature this year to restrict not merely federally-protected abortion rights, but women’s health in general. After all, shutting down the majority of the state’s abortion clinics is one thing, but those facilities are also the only place many Texas women could go for contraception, pap smears, mammograms, and similar services related to women’s health.

As the ultimate vote loomed—the GOP having been too inept twice to pass a bill they all, in typical mindless lockstep fashion, agreed to—citizens (women) had tampons and maxi pads confiscated before being allowed to enter the state capital to witness the vote that would deny them and their colleagues across the state access to basic reproductive health care (again: yes, abortion rights was one issue, but frankly only one among many). They’re potential “projectiles,” you see. Meanwhile, those with conceal carry permits were still allowed to bring loaded weapons into the chamber. Curmie fancies himself reasonably creative, but he couldn’t make this shit up.

This makes sense to Texas Republicans, even if to no one else. The fact is, it is even sillier to regard a tampon as a potential projectile than it is to treat allergy medicine as meth in potentia. More to the point, anything can be a projectile, including the bullets in one of those oh-so-legal handguns. To be blunt, if someone is going to throw something at me from the balcony, I’d much rather it be a maxi pad than a battery, a bullet, or a quarter.

Never ones to succumb to the powers of logic, however, the Texas GOP, led by Idiot in Chief Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, set about to secure their misogynistic credentials by choosing a particularly gender-specific set of prospective “projectiles” to forbid. After all, the legislation under consideration might possibly (albeit disingenuously) have been construed as the product of legitimate moral concern about abortion and/or sincere interest in the medical well-being of women seeking abortion services. And Texas Republicans simply cannot allow for the possibility that they might not be regarded as woman-hating monsters. Nope. Confiscate those feminine products, irrespective of whether some of those citizens might… you know… have a completely innocent, gender-specific reason for carrying those items in their purses. So, according to a report from the Associated Press/Huffington Post, “Troopers tossed tampons, perfume bottles, moisturizers, pencils and other things into the garbage.”

Now, Gentle Reader, don’t get me wrong. Had any of those women indeed used those items as projectiles, they would and should have been subject to removal and/or arrest. That’s as it should be. But to forbid carrying a feminine product, some moisturizer, or a pencil, in the absence of any indication whatsoever that the citizen in question intends to hurl it at a legislator, is stupid in the extreme… roughly equivalent to arresting one of those gun-toters for contemplating armed robbery despite a dearth of evidence to support the claim.

The GOP, then, unsatisfied with being perceived as misogynistic merely by the liberal women assembled at the Capitol building, chose to screech their hysteria (yes, Gentle Reader, Curmie is aware of the irony of that particular term in these circumstances) from the rafters. One is also bemused at the prospect of a State Senator otherwise oozing with pseudo-machismo cravenly cowering in the corner lest he be struck by a maxi pad hurtling towards him at nearly 20 mph.

Of course, the right-wing blogosphere was abuzz with allegedly corroborated reports that pro-choice advocates attempted to bring jars of urine, feces, and paint into the gallery. If true, obviously, this would be serious, and Curmie is not so naïve as to believe that those who share his views on a particular issue are inherently above doing something stupid. Trouble is, that whereas there are pictures of the Great Tampon Confiscation, there’s not a shred of actual evidence that anyone really did try to disrupt the proceedings in this manner.

Needless to say, with about a gazillion news reporters and twice that many activists on both sides of the issue on site, the chances that somewhere amongst the “one jar suspected to contain urine, 18 jars suspected to contain feces, and three bottles suspected to contain paint” allegedly confiscated by DPS (the state Department of Public Safety), there’s not a single photograph, not a single statement from an officer that he or she had personally made such a confiscation.

Rather, numbers of officers expressed surprise that such rumors had circulated, noting that they were in the Capital that night and had heard nothing of the kind. To justify the lack of evidence, DPS proclaimed that it hadn’t really confiscated anything, after all, and noted that because “no crime had been committed… it would be unreasonable to document names of visitors based on what they might or might not do.”

Chief among the disingenuous GOPsters was Senator Kevin Eltife, from right up the road from Curmie in Tyler, who somehow, apparently, was able to maintain a straight face while intoning that “nobody has a reason to make up a story about this.” Well, no one but lying little weasels like you, Senator, who would cheerfully fan the fires that enable the likes of Freedom Outpost to decry the “Degenerate Pro-Abortion Supporters,” a term, of course, implicitly applied to all opponents of the bill, whether or not they were guilty of the slightest impropriety (remember, DPS excuses the complete lack of evidence for its assertion based on the fact that no crime was committed).

But the salient point is this: even if there were some over-zealous opponents of SB2 (the erstwhile SB5), no one committed a crime—perhaps because they were prevented from doing so, perhaps because they never intended to do so. The fact is that thousands of Texas women—and men who think women are people—gathered in Austin last week to protest a bill they knew they couldn’t stop. That, my friends, was the spirit of the defenders of the Alamo: a defeat that rallied supporters after the fact and ultimately brought about a new age in Texas history. We might just be seeing that again. If so, the GOP’s smirking pride in its misogyny is far more responsible for that revolution than either Wendy Davis or the protesters at the Capitol. One day, they may awaken enough to proclaim, à la Pogo, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.”

1 comment:

Steve Grossman said...

The Mary Poppins of blog posts: practically perfect in every way