Sunday, July 7, 2013

When Butterflies Die

A haiku: I don't know the lifespan of a butterfly.
But when I see one dead
I feel sad.

My apartment complex is on a very busy street in Fort Worth, TX. There is a mall about three blocks from where I live. It has been there since I was in high school, and it has gone through some major renovations over the years; adding some stores, removing some, added food shops, etc. The last three years it has added free standing restaurants to the perimeter, all chain restaurants, though not some of the worst ones. They are adding a new one now, and since I don't know the rules about naming names in blogs, I'll just say that it's a place that specializes in hamburgers. Big, over-stuffed, (juicy or greasy, depending on one's point of view about burgers) burgers. Since we have lived here there have been two other big name burger chains that went up in the same area. Mind you, I'm not talking fast food burgers. I'm talking about burgers where the sandwich itself is about eight dollars or more, let alone a whole combo meal price! My question is...why? Does America really eat that many hamburgers? Can any one of these places really show us anything different? My brother waxed poetic about one of the places, and so I tried it, and it really didn't do all that for me. I guess I've reached a point where a burger is a burger. So...why?

My state, Texas has been in the national news spotlight a lot lately. Not for particularly good reasons-our state government is set to severely limit a woman's reproductive rights, and to close all but a few of the places in which a woman can get a legal, safe abortion. Our governor, Rick Perry, who has held that office longer than anyone in history, crosses between joke and jerk in the national mind. But he's a hero to a majority of Texans. The people I talk to in Texas can't stand him, but we are a minority here. Even with a huge national hoorah over one of our female state legislators, Wendy Davis, who filibustered this bill for eleven hours, and is now considering a run for governor in 2014, in a poll conducted last week, Gov.Perry wins by 14 points. The thing is, when someone asks why Perry doesn't recognize the unpopularity of his position nationwide, the answer is that governors don't have to. And Perry knows this very, very well. He tried a run for president last year, and made a serious fool of himself. But often governors do well as presidential candidates. This can possibly be boiled down to having run a state, or having been an "executive." Senators don't often do well as presidential candidates; they must compromise in order to "get things done," and so it is easy to paint them as "flip-floppers," anathema for a president. But governors must make big decisions on big things, and even if they are wrong, they did what they believed is the minds of those who would package them as national candidates. So if Rick Perry (I'm working so hard to be respectful here, and not use the nicknames that my tiny cadre of liberal Texans use for him) is eyeing another presidential run, he is doing exactly what often works for former governors; standing by his "principles." However odious those principles may be.

Speaking of the big issue that has thrust Texas into the national spotlight, reproductive rights, it occurred to me this week that all these white, male governors who are signing these laws restricting women's freedoms keep using terminology that says things like "protecting women and children." Have forty years of advances since the women's movement of the early 70's gone unnoticed by men? Women get more college degrees than men, and in many cases are the primary breadwinners in the household-not only when they are single parents, but sometimes when they are married. We don't need their "protection." We certainly don't need this kind of protection. Reproductive choice should be the decision of the one whose life is forever altered by carrying a child and raising it. I'm not pro-abortion-but I am anti-a bunch of middle aged, white men telling me what my decision must be about whether to have a child or not. I am anti-seeing women killed by unsafe, illegal procedures, as has been the case throughout history until the Roe vs Wade case legalized abortion in 1973. I work in a doctor's office, and we bend ourselves into pretzels to protect patient privacy; privacy was the clause that the Supreme Court used to affirm that a woman's medical choices are between herself and her doctor. Why do we now, suddenly, need men to "take care" of us again?

Speaking of SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States,) after their ruling two weeks ago regarding the voting rights act, I can't help but wonder if they ever regret decisions they make. And if one of them did regret a vote, would he or she admit it publicly? What they did was strike down the provision of the voting rights act saying that states with a history of discrimination must get federal approval before making changes in voting laws, such as voter ID laws, moving polling places, etc. Within two hours of this ruling, my Great State of Texas showed its gratitude by initiating voter ID laws, and moving to redistrict (or gerrymander, depending on one's point of view) so that minority representation would be reduced. In many ways, my beloved state makes a mockery of social evolution and "Justice for All." Now, I'm sure that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would never, ever, ever admit to mistakes. But would a more humble justice, with nothing to prove to white America, perhaps say, "You know, looking back now, I should have voted differently."

Lastly today, in this mostly political post, I must ask about the farm bill. This is the bill that our congress could not bring itself to pass a few weeks ago, because they want so badly to reduce food stamps for the poor, which are attached to said bill. The farm bill has not failed in decades, and this is something that voters on both sides should look at carefully, as it includes what can only be characterized as corporate welfare because of the subsidies included for giant agri-businesses. I lived for over eight years in a farm state, in a heavily farmed region of the state. My husband worked for an ECG there, and he had considerable contact with some of the farmers who used seed from that company. These are large family farmers, and all of them had crop insurance. When they had a bad year, they could file claims on that insurance. Do they need government subsidies on top of that? Even many family farmers are under the thumbs of agri-business anymore, and many of these subsidies go to those giant corporate farm interests; this is not new. I remember stories in news magazines from the 80's regarding corporate welfare for agri-businesses, especially corn, soy and sugar cane. The republican complaint against the farm bill had to do with cutting food assistance to families, not cutting subsidies to farmers and their corporate overlords. Why, why, why does corporate welfare continue to be okay with republicans, and some help in buying food for families is so loathsome to them? Are there people gaming the system for food stamps? Yes. Does the fact that the small minority of cheaters mean that a program that helps people who work put food on the table should be cut? I daresay, the answer is no. If a few cheaters mean that a program that helps so many should be cut, what will we do with bank and oil subsidies? And what if the taxpayers could get all that corporate welfare money back? Can you say "budget surplus?" I knew you could!!!


Anonymous said...

Darn Vonnie, these just keep getting better. :)

Vonnie Shallenberger said...

Thank you so much, A!

Steve Bumgarner said...

Good morning, Vonnie. At least one former justice of SCOTUS has kicked herself for her vote on an issue. Of course, it comes over 13 years too late to do any good.

Vonnie Shallenberger said...

I remember that now, Steve. But I couldn't find any other times when a former justice has said that. O'Conor was always the "good kind" of conservative, IMHO.

Madeleine Begun Kane said...

Beautiful written.

I think that in general the egos of the Sup Ct justices are way too big to have room for regret.

Vonnie Shallenberger said...

I'm afraid you may be right, Madeleine!