Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lundberg doesn't get to define 'child'

The misogynist culture warriors keep trying to impose their definitions on a world that wants to think for itself.

Kevin Lundberg is the latest culture warrior who wants to inflict his peculiar brand of fantasy on the rest of us. Lundberg, a state senator from rural Larimer County, is posturing in opposition to a bill that would fund contraception for poverty-stricken teen-agers in Colorado because said contraception would include the use of intra-uterine devices. IUDs are against Lundberg’s personal misinterpretation of a religion, so he wants to impose that interpretation on the rest of us in the form of legislation.

At the heart of the matter is this little fact: IUDs provide contraception with a backup. That is, on the rare occasion that the device fails to prevent sperm from meeting egg, it will probably prevent the zygote from attaching to the wall of the womb.

The problem for Lundberg is he doesn’t know the difference between an inarticulated cluster of cells and a child. Here are Lundberg’s own words:

“The IUD is a mechanical device that makes (the uterus) an impossible environment for a young child to implant in the uterine wall.”

That’s right, in the Neverland that Lundberg wishes existed, a fertilized egg (referred to in medical terms as a “fertilized egg”) is a “child.” Problem is medical science says differently. Mosby’s Medical Dictionary defines a child as “a person of either sex between the time of birth and adolescence.”

Lundberg wants to impose a radical religious definition on a medical condition. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if Christian clergy went to medical school, healed the sick, repaired the injured, researched new ways to cure and prevent diseases, delivered babies, and pronounced us dead. But they don’t. Doctors do. And because doctors are the people most intimately knowledgeable of human life and death, they get to say when life begins. Everybody else is just making shit up.

Lundberg’s defenders would argue that he’s just “voting his conscience” and that his conscience is guided by his religious belief.


Lundberg is among a growing number of middle-aged white men who see their power, and thus their privilege, slipping away. Power, you see, is a zero-sum game. If women and minorities are to gain the social and financial equality that is rightfully theirs, they need power, and that means taking it away from white men like Kevin Lundberg. And that scares the bejesus out of Kevin Lundberg.

His answer, then, is to deny women the power they need to become fully equal to men. The most effective way to do that has always been to identify them primarily by their ability to have children. Every civilization in history has hobbled women with an impossible choice: Subjugate yourself to child-rearing or face the disapproval of all around you.

Some women can afford a support system that allows them to transcend the usual duties of child bearing and thus achieve the equality that is their due. Others want to delay or forgo it altogether. There’s nothing Lundberg and his fellow misogynists can do about the former, so they focus on the latter. That means making up new definitions for, among other things, “child.”

But it's not just your garden variety misogyny that's at work here; it's a particularly cynical form. Lundberg knows as well as anyone that a good legislator keeps his religious beliefs separate from his work in the Legislature. Most of his Republican colleagues under the gold dome support the measure, and it’s sponsored by Rep. Don Coram, a Republican from Colorado’s 58th district. That’s in the southwest corner of the state. My wife and I both have family down there, and with the exception of a few tofu-serving restaurants in Durango, that’s as conservative as it gets in Colorado. Cultural reference: Novelist Olivia Newport, moved her Amish heroine from Colorado Springs to Coram’s southwest corner of Colorado in search of religious and moral purity. That’s how conservative those folks are.

As a social conservative, Kevin Lundberg is a poser. He pretends his “base” elected him to advance a biblical version of modern Colorado. The truth is, the Democrats regularly sacrifice innocents from Loveland in Lundberg’s 58th Senate District so they can hang onto Fort Collins and the 14th Senate District.

So Lundberg has the chance here to do the right thing, but he won’t. He knows the program to prevent teen pregnancy is going to be funded. He’s just trying to look good the folks at his church by defining a fertilized egg as a “child.” That doesn’t make him a good legislator. It makes him a cynic. I just hope Lundberg’s Republican colleagues aren't using the same dictionary.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Answering a son's thoughtful question

Dearest Aaron,

You asked a few days about my opinion on the Edward Snowden situation. What I see is a tragedy for the American people unfolding here, and not in a way you might at first think.

Snowden is your generation’s Daniel Ellsberg, and as I admired Ellsberg a generation ago, so I admire Snowden now. I’ll let you look up the Pentagon Papers (Wikipedia gets it mostly right, and it gave rise to one of the most beloved quotes in modern journalism.) TLDR version: Ellsberg was an analyst for a CIA contractor who compiled and gave to the New York Times and Washington Post several tons of documents proving that the U.S. Government (specifically presidents Johnson and Nixon) lied about almost everything concerning the Vietnam War. To his credit, Ellsberg relied on the common sense and “gatekeeping” of professional journalists to protect the innocent. He was prosecuted and at first the judge did all he could to secure a conviction, but when the extent of government wrongdoing came to light, even the pro-prosecution judge couldn't let the case go forward. Subsequent government attempts to brand Ellsworth a traitor or a nut case fell on deaf ears.

Snowden has done almost the exact same thing, but America today is a lot different than it was back in the 1970s, and that’s where the tragedy lies. He was thoughtful enough to hand the documents over to professional journalists for vetting and, yes, censorship to try to protect the innocent. Glenn Greenwald is, hands down, one of the finest journalists of our time. He has academic and field credentials few other journalists have; he is driven by an overpowering sense of justice, and he has an innate sense of what is fair and right. He will turn out to be one of the greatest journalists America has ever produced.

But three things have happened between 1971 and now that changed things for Snowden. First, of course, was 9/11/2001. For the first time since 1812, the United States of America was actually attacked by an outside force. True, it wasn’t an armed military attack by a recognized state, but it was a coordinated attack aimed at killing as many Americans as possible and, despite my previous protests about mere criminality, for most Americans it was as much an act of war as if al-Qaeda had stormed our beaches.

The second thing that happened is that our government has used that attack to convince the American public that we are constantly under siege (we’re not) thus bloating any number of little kingdoms under the umbrella of (shudder!) Homeland Security. More crimes have been committed by U.S. government workers against humanity in the past 14 years than in the previous 230. One of the worst of these crimes is making the media environment so toxic that Fox News and all of its attendant ass-hats could thrive. American peasants are like peasants anywhere – they have no problem believing that some shapeless, formless evil is responsible for the sad-ass condition of their lives, including their obesity, their shitty jobs, their lazy kids, and their leaky trailer houses. They also believe in God, but no one really knows why.

The third thing was Julius Assange  and WikiLeaks. Assange single-handedly destroyed vast swaths of American human intelligence-gathering (“humint”) capability just to show that he could. I won’t spend a lot of time on this except to say that Assange is in desperate need of the Seal Team Six treatment.

So when Snowden handed Greenwald proof that our government was illegally spying on us, Americans had pretty much had e-fucking-nough. We’d become so inured to government wrongdoing and we were so riven by peasant-pandering, gun-totin’, God-spoutin’, duck call makin’ jacknuts like Phil Robertson that anyone who even looked intelligent must the Antichrist. No longer does the United States represent the ideal that we could be – Americans are, by and large, so incapable of critical thinking that, to them, this greatest nation on earth is fuckin’ perfect, bigawd, and anybody that sez dif’r’nt kin jist GIT THE HELL OUT!! Sadly, I have only to look down the road I live on to see a half-dozen examples of this.

And that’s the tragedy of America. We refuse to believe when someone does something good for us. Ordinarily, I would like to see Snowden come back, face the music with Alan Dershowitz working pro bono to defend him, and show the American people just how deluded they are. But I won’t do that because if that happened, Clint Eastwood would probably try to resurrect Chris Kyle to snipe him. 

And that’s my take.