Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pro-Life, The Sanctity of Marriage, the Death Penalty and Corporate Crime

Every time I hear some Republican candidate or right-wing spokesperson talk about being pro-life, and the sanctity of life, and the sanctity of marriage, bla, bla, bla, I want someone to ask them the next logical question. Does that mean you are anti-death penalty? This political conversation we are having with the politicians running for the highest elected office in our land is not about being pro-life, it is about being anti-abortion, anti-choice for women. Anyone who is willing to kill another human being in the name of the State, cannot claim to be pro-life. Pro-life is code for traditional, religious right wing roles for women. And role number one is to be obedient to some male authority—husband, pastor, priest, politician, certainly to God, who Christian’s seem to believe everybody knows is male. Quite an assumption.

It is a feature of all mainstream fundamentalist religions that woman, the female person, must be controlled. This is often framed as something for her protection, but it's really the desire to control, not protect, that motivates all suppression of the female. The religious right in this country has much in common with religious fundamentalism in all cultures. I remember being taken to a Catholic Church when I was a child and I noticed that all the women wore hats or scarves. I asked the family friend who took me to church with her, why, why all the women but none of the men? Her answer was, “Because of Eve, and the tempting of Adam, all women are believed to be unclean and a temptation to men, and therefor should cover their heads so as not to offend God and not to tempt or be a distraction to man.” This answer did nothing but raise more questions for me— a girl who would grow up to be a woman. “Unclean?” I took a shower every day, sometimes twice a day. And if a man finds me a temptation, isn’t it his responsibility to control his impulses? These were my first lessons in sexual politics.

Why doesn’t the news media ask these questions of politicians on the right who want to limit the freedoms of all of us regarding choice and reproductive freedom, family planning, choices about sexual partners and identity and on down that dark path toward the death penalty? Why does the issue of reproductive freedom and sexual preference threaten the religious right so much? Are you guys on the right afraid that if we women were allowed to choose, we’d always choose to live with women, and you’d be left out? Alone and having to do your own laundry, clean your own toilets? Or worse yet, forced to pay someone to do this unpleasant labor? Do you assume that because you lust after almost all strange women you rest your eyes upon, that we we women, in turn, respond to that anonymous lust favorably? You would be mistaken. Your lust isn’t any woman’s responsibility. Your lust is your problem. Don’t ask me to give up my rights, my freedom, because your lust makes you feel powerless and insecure and tempted.

Let’s talk about homosexuality for a moment. You on the right say that gay marriage threatens the sanctity of your marriage. I’ve seen research that indicates that homosexuality occurs in all cultures over the long span of human life in recorded history in pretty much the same small percentages. It’s kind of like the statistics on left-handedness. I don’t think long-term, committed gay relationships threatens marriage or ever has. But I do admit that marriage, as an institution, is threatened. It’s threatened because women have other options now. Women can actually get paid for their work now, even if that means cleaning someone else’s toilet. The choices women have today make traditional marriage look like a bad deal to a lot of young women. And if, when her biological clock’s ticking starts to make her think she wants a child, she can pick a partner, get pregnant, without benefit of clergy, she can raise her child alone, or with her extended family. She might be able to afford good child care, a career, a partner who really is a partner, and not a Master. She just might choose freedom over servitude. Marriage seems like an anachronism to me. The word sanctity is almost alway used to justify preventing freedom, choice, autonomy, even thought, in the name of God.

Now for the death penalty. I’m a little ambivalent on that one. So, I can’t really call myself pro-life. There are crimes that do seem so horrific to me that I want the perpetrator punished in a comparable way. Primarily these are crimes against children. Pornographer’s who use children as sex slaves—I’d like these bastards castrated and then executed. Men who use their own children, or children they adopt, or children they acquire access to through marriage, to satisfy their own twisted lust—these men should do very long terms in a prison population that hates the pedophile. Serial rapists and murderers where there is DNA evidence along with a strong evidentiary chain and good clean police work probably warrant the death penalty. Any kind of trafficking in women and children as sex or domestic slaves should get life in prison or the death penalty. Hate crimes should carry much stronger penalties.

Crimes against humanity, the genocides, rape used as a policy of war, the ones who order and support torture, the war crimes, these deserve the death penalty. But we murder people who are mentally retarded, or actually crazy, or under the age of eighteen, with such gusto on flimsy evidence almost everyday. It makes me sick at heart for my cruel and often stupid nation.

Corporate crimes ought to get much stiffer sentences than they do. Like the “energy” companies who have “accidents,” spilling oil in the oceans of our world and ruining the life aquatic and the economies on land affected by these “accidents.” Remember the Exxon Vallldez and Prince william Sound in Alaska? Or the “chemical and plastics industries”? Remember Union Carbide and Bhopal India? That mishap caused an “official” death toll of 3,589 human beings, caused serious and lasting injuries to 50,000 people. Not to mention the damage it did to the environment. This amounts to a genocide, but was an “accident.” There were fines levied by courts, but as of yet they have not been payed. These fines amounted to very small compensation to the families of the dead and injured. Remember that wonderful invention called napalm used with such gusto in Vietnam? It’s back in Iraq. I could go on and on. The companies whose products kill thousands at a time and the governments who employ them for this purpose have committed crimes against humanity. Monetary damages are not enough. These should be capital offenses. These crimes warrant the death penalty for anyone who knew the impending danger and looked the other way, said nothing. And these crimes require the forfeiture of the right for the offending companies to do business. Ever. Anywhere.

These musings are just my opinion. But I’m curious about yours. Leave a comment, start a dialogue.