DUMMERSTON — In the last few years, so many women (and men) have shared horrific stories of being raped while young that I've seriously lost my belief in the possibility of the human race surviving.
Maybe some other kind of race, but not the human one.
The last event that made me wonder about the survival of our species - and of myself, to be honest - was when country singer Naomi Judd killed herself the day before she was to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In trying to parse out a reason, I read that she battled depression all her life because she had been raped by her uncle when she was 3 years old. Three! Who could even contemplate such a thing? What demented clod looks at a 3-year-old and thinks, “I'm gonna get me some of that”?
Then I started wondering if Judd's wasn't only another in a series of stories of awful men - not all men, just awful men - but it was also a lesson in the damage that the patriarchy can do.
After all, you rarely read stories of men being raped by women. (Although there are endless stories of boys being raped by men - Catholic Church, I'm looking at you!)
And just a day after the country music award ceremony, we got to read the U.S. Supreme Court's leaked draft opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade.
This brought out the pundits en masse.
“Not only is Roe v. Wade popular, but also it recognizes a constitutional right that Americans have assumed for almost 50 years,” wrote Heather Cox Richardson in her May 3 column. (She's brilliant, and she writes living history every day for free. Sign up for it at heathercoxrichardson.substack.com.)
“The Supreme Court has never taken away a constitutional right, and politicians rightly feared what would happen if they attacked that fundamental right,” Richardson continues. “Last night, a leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, revealed that the court likely intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, taking away a woman's constitutional right to reproductive choice. In the decision, Alito declared that what Americans want doesn't matter: 'We cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public's reaction to our work,' he wrote.”
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The decision appears to be written on “Constitutional” grounds, because - can it be a real reason? - the right to abortion isn't in the Constitution.
Although I'm not a lawyer or a Constitutional scholar, I believe this argument can lead us to reinstituting slavery, removing the right of women and non-white people to vote, prohibiting interracial marriage, prohibiting gay marriage (of course), and lead us skipping and dancing into the 17th century, where wealthy white men ruled and the rest of us served.
Can the U.S. Supreme Court require female genital mutilation? Certain justices must be kicking themselves that they probably can't and hating those Muslim countries when men really have all the power. Stoning women for adultery - an idea whose time has come?
Certainly, we women will have to turn in our credit cards and drivers' licenses. (Yes, I'm old enough to remember when we weren't allowed to have credit cards or our own mortgages.) And we'll say goodbye to contraception. (“Get barefoot in the kitchen, you slut!”)
Clearly, the despicable patriarchy is rising again. These men need to dominate. They need to control. They need to destroy. They need to hide behind Christianity. They need to protect themselves from admitting it might be wrong.
These destructive patriarchal tendencies lead us to sex trafficking, to war, and to the rape of the planet for wealth - among other things.
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The reaction to the leaked opinion has been immediate. Everything from cartoons to endless I-had-an-abortion stories to pictures of Ruth Bader Ginsburg are flowing from outraged women.
I have never had an abortion, although in the days before Roe v. Wade I helped my fiancé obtain an illegal one in Puerto Rico for the girlfriend of his best friend. I remember the thousand phone calls I had to make and the tension and fear of it all.
Also, I'm old, making my interest in the topic of abortion intellectual. I have moved from bewilderment at the number of rape stories I've heard to an understanding that, as they are being committed by men, they must be telling us something larger about the patriarchy.
These stories also tell us about a whole race of men who seem to feel that their sexual pleasure is more important than anyone else's fundamental right to exist in peace. That the desires of the penis override the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if that person happens to be born female.
The patriarchy is hard to kill. Every time you stamp it down in one spot it rises up in another. As a second-wave feminist, I have dedicated my life to escaping, challenging, defeating, and ignoring the patriarchy in order to live my version of a true and quirky (and interesting, and successful) life.
I want nothing to do with the politics of the faux-Christian right. I would probably die fighting for freedom of and from religion and for the freedom of expression. I don't want to be part of this kind of America, where the patriarchy is trying to drag us back into the Dark Ages.
So what is to be done?
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Millions marching in the streets didn't stop the Iraq War or the policies of Donald Trump. Marching may be fun, but it's not productive.
Instead, first of all, we should all write a few checks. Planned Parenthood, which duns me for money virtually every week, is already using this as a fundraiser.
Next, get on board with the movement to elect more Democrats into the Senate and the House of Representatives. They all need money. Send it to them, even if they're not running in your state.
Also send money to Stacey Abrams in Georgia; this year she's running for governor, but two years ago her organization was behind the election that sent two Democrats to the Senate and took away Mitch McConnell's majority. (Notwithstanding Sen. Joe Manchin, who erased the Democrats' ability to pass legislation.)
A relatively new nonprofit organization, Third Act, also has my attention. Begun by climate activist (and a Middlebury College distinguished scholar) Bill McKibben and many of his remarkable friends, the theory is that the activist boomer generation is retired and financially secure now and should re-enter the fray.
This is from the Third Act website: “'Experienced Americans' are the fastest-growing part of the population: 10,000 people a day pass the 60-year mark. That means that there's no way to make the changes that must be made to protect our planet and our society unless we bring the power of this group into play.”
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And lastly, if you are a Vermonter, help pass Proposal 5 this fall.
This proposal to amend the Vermont constitution, appearing on the 2022 general election ballot this fall, asserts “that an individual's right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one's own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”
If the vote passes, it means this language will be added to the Vermont Constitution.
Gov. Phil Scott, bless him, is a supporter of reproductive rights. He said, in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, “If true, this would be an enormous step backwards and damage civil rights.”
He added, “Vermont has prepared for this possibility. A few years ago we passed a law affirming that reproductive health decisions are between a patient and their doctor without government interference. In November, Vermonters will have the ability to codify that right in our state Constitution, when Prop. 5 is on the ballot. So at the end of the day the fundamental rights and liberties of all women will be defended, protected, and preserved here in Vermont.”
Overturning Roe v. Wade would have devastating effects on all civil rights, he said.
“What it does is create a mistrust in government in some respects, like, what's next?” Scott said, pointing out the gains for LGBTQ+ Vermonters in recent years in such realms as marriage equality.
“So I think that's a legitimate concern when we see a fundamental right taken away,” he said.
Vermont will be one of several states to protect reproductive freedom, while Texas, Florida and a host of other states where the Republican Party holds executive, legislative, and judicial control will gleefully destroy that freedom within their borders.
Back when George W. Bush was elected president by the Electoral College, a movement began in Vermont to secede from the union. It fizzled out, but it might be time to look at the idea again.
I'm not dumb enough to think that leaving the country will solve any problems. Wherever you go, you're still going to be an American. And the ultra-right probably wants us progressive types to leave. They probably want to kill us. A lot of the time, sadly, I harbor fantasies about killing them.
All I have to offer right now is the anger inside me at the unfairness of living in a patriarchal world and the conviction that my life is my own - and that I will defend the right to live it freely and openly.
In the immortal words of musician Fred Eaglesmith, maybe “it's time to get a gun.”