Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The knocked-up, blown-out Labor Day weekend (or "Juno" comes to Juneau)

Typically, holiday weekends are known for their lack of news. When America goes on vacation, things tend to get a bit quieter. But sandwiched in between two political conventions and a testy hurricane brewing in the gulf, we should have realized that wouldn't happen.

First up was Gustav, an unpredictable storm that's been accelerating and decelerating over much of the past week. Finally, Gustav decided to become a full-bore hurricane capable of equalling or exceeding Hurricane Katrina, which ripped apart the Gulf Coast exactly three years ago. President Bush, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, FEMA and all others who were blasted for their poor response to the storm in 2005 indirectly acknowledged their past blunders by pulling out all the stops this time around. For Gustav, they were ready to get down to business, though luckily, the hurricane's bark was much worse than its bite. Still, they were prepared. Bush didn't even stop to play the guitar and eat cake like last time around.

Meanwhile, another storm ramped up thousands of miles to the north, in Juneau, the capitol of Alaska, where Hurricane Bristol blew through the political landscape this weekend. Okay, Bristol isn't really a hurricane. But it could prove to be quite embarassing to the Republican Party, their presidential nominee John McCain and his newly anointed running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. You see, the storm we're talking about concerns 17 year-old Bristol Palin, daughter of the budding vice presidential nominee. See, Bristol got knocked up five months ago. Ouch!

'But she's marrying the father,' Governor Palin claims, in a half-assed attempt at damage control with the ultra-conservative base that is working overtime in affirming and convincing themselves that McCain didn't royally screw the pooch in his selection of a running mate. Considering that Palin is a member of the NRA, the presence of a .12-gauge at the wedding ceremony would not surprise me in the least. In airing this out in the public, they're trying to make like this is a touchy-feely real life version of "Juno," a very warm, well-written movie trashed by fundie types over its teenage pregnancy storyline. Of course, their solution for teen pregnancy is to stick their heads in the sand.

Ordinarily, this whole ordeal would and should only cause a minor ripple rather than a tidal wave, especially since so many high school children, sadly, are finding themselves expectant parents these days. Absurdly, right-wing pundits, bloggers and broadcast squawkers are currently trying to acheive a loftier plain by chastising their liberal counterparts who are ripping Palin apart over this, as if they are always the ones who wear the white hats and we're all just a bunch of cruel black-hatted bastards.

Likely, many of these same 'my shit don't stink' crybaby conservatives looked the other way in 1998 when McCain cracked a rather cruel joke about 'how ugly' the teenage Chelsea Clinton was. Rush Limbaugh once called 12 year-old Chelsea 'the White House dog,' but there was no outcry from anyone in that camp. Only guffaws from his right-wing lemmings. Remember when these holier-than-thoughs cracked jokes about Elizabeth Edwards' weight? Now, they're singing a different tune. The people that condoned or participated in any of this have no firm ground on which to take the high road.

To his credit, Obama has called for backing off of candidates' families, as he should. His objective has long been to concentrate on fighting McBush's politics, and digging in the dirt does him no good. His mother gave birth to him when she was 18, and he has two young daughters that will no doubt give him migraines a few years down the road. But I don't work for the Obama campaign, and while I respect that Bristol Palin didn't ask to be put in the spotlight, I do have some concerns about her predicament. Like it or not, this is a campaign issue for the GOP. Because the problem is, in their desperate attempts to suck up to the fundamentalist crowd and their stuffy, outdated and unrealistic views about sexuality, the official Republican Party platform for the 2008 election puts bedroom politics, particularly abortion and gay rights, near the top of the agenda. Part of this year's policy slate calls not for increased access to birth control and sex education, which would make sense but which they widely discourage, but rather for pre-marital abstinence.

Abstinence? No sex before marriage? Ha! Easier said than done.

The very fact that the teenage daughter of an up-and-coming ultra-conservative red state governor obviously did not take this long-standing GOP mantra seriously shows that a demand for all-out abstinence is just not part of everyday reality. It's just a plain stupid concept, and one that simply does not work. Shagging is part of human nature. In blunt English, we as people love to get laid.

Somehow, I'm not surprised by all of this. Right-wingers have long had no qualms about pointing fingers and telling others how to live their lives. Judging by the recent sexual antics of right-wing politicians and bloviators like Mark Foley, David Vitter, Larry Craig and Ted Haggard, this is yet another case of 'do as we say, not as we do.' Vice President Dick Cheney, perhaps the most conservative politician in Washington, has a lesbian daughter who married her partner a few years ago. There's absolutely nothing at all wrong with that. We should all be so fortunate to find the ideal person to settle down with. But did that change his stance on tolerance of the GLBT community? Not one bit. Is it too much to ask that right-wingers lead by the warped example they want to inflict on the rest of us, or at least be flexible in adjusting their narrow-minded pseudo-puritanical views to reflect the actual world that they live in? Let's face it, many of the very people who demand we conform to their idea of morality no doubt party like rock stars, fuck like rabbits and have done things in their lives worthy of bags of mail to Penthouse Magazine.

See, in right-wing America, you can't screw your girlfriend/boyfriend, but you can screw the working class. Taking a morning-after pill to get rid of an embryo smaller than the tip of a needle is wrong, but sending a mentally-retarded felon to the gas chamber is okay. Buying a box of condoms is a sin, but denying a young unwed mother and her child affordable health care is acceptable. Defiling your mind with pornography is frowned upon by the tighty-righties, but corporations defiling the earth and its atmosphere with pollution in order to make a quick buck is quite all right. See what I'm getting at?

Okay, the right-wingers still reading this will chastise me for not knocking people like John Edwards, who just recently admitted to an affair he had a couple years ago (with possible love child). But I don't remember Edwards calling for all Americans to keep it in their pants. He never made sexuality an issue in his political campaigns. It's not hypocrisy, though it most certainly is a personal problem he has to deal with, and he should have never put himself in the position to be his party's nominee for president (I say that as a former Edwards supporter). Bill Clinton never tried to define morality either in his campaigns or administratiton. Mostly, he was stupid and irresponsible as he tried to hide his sexual dalliances from his wife. Hey, what guy wouldn't want to avoid pissing off the missus?

Sure, Republicans don't hold a monopoly on hypocrisy. Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, in what sounds like a scene from The Sopranos, stashed huge wads of ill-gotten cash in a freezer chest while pretending to uphold the law. He is a crook. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who turned a nothing investigation he could have probably skated on into a personal quagmire that will eventually cost him his job, is an idiot. And disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who rode to Albany on a record of law and order, only to get caught up in a massive prostitution sting operation, is a hypocrite and an idiot.

Needless to say, it's all about walking the talk. And a political party or movement calling for absinence, when they are unwilling to practice it themselves or expect even their own family members to effectively follow suit, is just plain asinine.

Now, I will say that Governor Palin should be commended for positively supporting her daughter in this ordeal (though none of us have been privy to what family discussions have transpirerd behind closed doors and that's none of our business). Teenage pregnancy is obviously not a fun scenario for anyone involved. It's pretty difficult. This is really not about the Palin family, but rather the continued hawking of ridiculous laws to appease uptight prudes. And this is yet one more indicator that the Republicans should collectively grow a set and stop trying to legislate their own warped version of morality for America. If they want to discourage and stop people from obtaining abortions (and who doesn't?), they should advocate making birth control more widely available. They should encourage sex education and family planning education in schools. And they should also explain the consequences of pregnancy at a young age. Furthermore, a strong economy, as we've seen during the Clinton years, actually results in a lower abortion and teen pregnancy rate. But they'll never admit that. To them, controlling sex is an effective way of controlling the masses.

The McCain campaign should especially back off their mysoginistic idea of discouraging insurance companies from offering coverage on contraception, particularly birth control pills. Obviously, they're too out of touch to realize that this medication is often prescribed for non-birth control purposes, such as hormone imbalances, and are actually quite vital to the health of many women. But it's all about sex with these people, right?

All in all, the waging of bedroom politics and making mountanous wedge issues out of mole hills should stop once and for all. Prohibition in the 1920s has shown us that using the Constitution to take rights away, rather than affirm them, simply does not work. A party that proclaims itself to be all about 'small government' should practice what they preach. Get out of our private lives.

At the very least, let's hope that this Bristol Palin predicament will cause 'the loftier plain' folks to pull their collective heads out of their asses and learn what life is really like in ordinary America. At least we hope that Gov. Palin will see the forest for the trees.


Jill said...

Juno is a bad analogy. The protagonist in that movie recognized that she wasn't ready to be a mother and gave her baby up for adoption so she could continue to be a teenager with the baby's father. That's a far cry from a shotgun marriage.

ltr said...

Well, I could have made an analogy to an old Madonna song, but I thought it wise to use a more contemporary reference. Besides, "Juno in Juneau" kinda rolls off the tongue, dontcha think?

Besides, it was a pretty good flick. I really liked the dialogue. And there was that hilarious editorial cartoon I found.

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