Saturday, June 13, 2009

American Taliban

A long-standing campaign of intimidation, terror, and killing ... forgive my anger about it.

Much was made of the "American Taliban"- Silver Spring and Marin county-raised John Walker (now Hamza) Lindh, who in a fit of teenage spiritual seeking wound up in Afghanistan fighting with the Taliban. He joined a fundamentalist movement clothed in religious garb dealing death and oppression to all who came in contact with it. Lindh was a part of the Taliban, but not part of an American Taliban. For that, we need to look at the anti-abortion movement.

Of all the fixations of the right, this is surely the most fixed and relentless. Just as the Taliban sought a re-norming of society in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan, including the definitive oppression of women, adherence to a fantastical interpretation of Islam, all covering a lust for absolute power, fundamentalist Christians seek a renorming of American society, extensive regression in women's rights, schooling in accordance with a fantastical interpretation of the Bible, all covering a lust for absolute power, signaled by their formula that ours is a "Christian nation".

For all its talk of love and life, the right is tellingly served by its media, which massages its erogenous hate-zones with talk radio and FOX news, including numerous incitements to attack abortion providers such as George Tiller. How different is this from the mosques in Europe and elsewhere that stream denunciations of the kaffir, hatred of the societies that host them, and all those opposed to the triumph of Islam? Where democracy demands reasoned debate premised on pragmatic grounds of mutual understanding and forbearance, the right cleaves to authoritarianism and absolutism, yearning for an emotionally secure hierarchy of God in his heaven, (Republican) president in his White House, pastor in his church, and father in his family. Patriarchy is central to the emotional needs of traditionalists, leading to their various fixations- on executive power, on the imagined absolute morals of religion, and on the "proper role" of women.

The quiverfull movement is a fascinating example of this mind-set, going far beyond home-schooling and stocking the basement for the apocalypse, to a complete subjugation of the women to be barefoot and pregnant, to spend their lives raising children, satisfying their men, submitting to his every decision, and "opening" their wombs to the lord's desires, be He celestial or domestic.

But it is with abortion that the right has found its most potent issue- a club with which to bludgeon the larger secular culture. If framed solely around the fetus, it is a heinous act, expecially if one posits that conception conjures an everlasting soul which will meet and reprove its mother in the hereafter (fathers, well, they get off scot free, I believe). But what of the mother's frame- a mother who may not want, or can not have, another child, who had accidental sex, who may want to plan for children farther in the future, who in any case is far more sentient and morally valuable than the fetus she carries? (Or is she? The right might say otherwise.) The extremists insist on seeing the dilemma through one frame only when it suits their political agitation, though when their own daughters get into difficulties, it suddenly becomes a personal choice.

The moral calculus is not black and white. Life is increasingly valuable as it is developed, raised, educated, and conscious. Making a fetish of fetuses that have meager or no consciousness or ability to suffer is to create a peculiar imbalance in the moral order. And the point of this imbalance is as clear here as it is in Afghanistan- to disempower women. Rightists want to treat women as vessels, as fields planted with the male seed, as wombs whose most serious purpose is to carry children.

If the principle were truly to preserve and multiply all human life, it would in the first place be abhorrent, since there is already an excess of human life on the planet, from which we need to find some way to climb down as humanely as possible. Generating 12 billion, 24 billion, and more people as we are on a natural path to do will be catastrophic for humanity and for the biosphere- an unsustainable path that ends in monumental suffering. In the second place, rightists tend to be wildly inconsistent, cheering on killing in the form of death penalties and wars, (and apocalypses targeting the unrighteous), even while imagining themselves adherents of an iron-clad, absolute commandment to not kill.

As with the subtle workings of the muslim hijab, the anti-abortion movement has even enlisted women in their own disempowerment, playing on their compassion and love as a front for asking the state to tell all women that once they are successfully impregnated, they must lose control of their bodies and destinies. Why the boundary must be at the point of conception, and not the production of eggs, or sperm, is somewhat mysterious- they are all potential life, all vulnerable to heartless disregard. Now it turns out that all the cells of our bodies are potential new life, by the miracle of cloning technology. Is it immoral to discard skin cells?

The status of women evokes deep-seated feelings. Indeed if any feelings can be said to be "deeply held", it would be these. The Catholic church makes a fetish of Mary as inert immaculate mother, while denegrating women's capacities for spiritual experience and leadership, indeed banning them from office, and not only opposing abortion, but also opposing condom use, as if breeding like rabbits (or sheep) were the highest lay aspiration.

In the US as elsewhere, opposition to abortion is a stalking horse for misogyny and patriarchy- the devaluation and oppression of women in the guise of saving innocent life, tradition, and nature itself. That is why the killing of George Tiller is not an isolated incident. It is part of an extremist effort to turn back the clock of the modern world using religiously cloaked campaign of intimidation, terror, and killing to send the women of America back into the shadows of hearth and home. The movement may tepidly distance itself from this particular killing and killer, but it has spent decades inciting his actions as it has terrorized and intimidated women, doctors, and politicians who disagree.

The status of women is one of the most important global issues of our day and of the future. It is women who scare the heck out of the Afghan Taliban (and the Saudi monarchy, and the Iranian mullahs, etc.) and will break its back politically if given the chance. It is empowered women who care for their children enough to have few rather than many, advancing both human development and environmental protection, and it is empowered women who bring peace to world politics, putting compassion and sustainability over competitiveness and conflict.

No comments:

Post a Comment