Saturday, June 29, 2013

Under the Issue

Earlier on Facebook, I saw a comment posted by a young woman on a picture of Leticia Van de Putte, Wendy Davis, Senfronia Thompson, and Jessica Farrar. The comment said, "I have sex willingly and I don't need abortions. It's called responsibility." I sighed. You see a lot of this kind of commentary in these kinds of conversations, and while part of me just wants to write it off as trolling, I have no doubt that she really believes that to be a logical argument against the need for safe, legal abortions.

I kinda wanted to comment simply, "...yet," but I find it's best not to get into it with people who post glib comments about complex political issues. That's an instance in which someone could justifiably accuse me of asking for it.

When you're talking about politics -- when you're considering your political stance -- you're talking about the governance of a group of people, not just yourself. I have sex willingly, too. My husband and I are really, really diligent in our condom use. I'm hopeful that I won't ever again need an abortion. But even if I never do, other women might, and that's why I oppose the abortion legislation that's about to be reconsidered in a second special session in Texas. Because it's not all about me.

It's very easy to take a position of looking down on people you do not feel are like yourself. A friend was recently telling me about someone she knows who posted some disparaging remarks about LGBT people in the wake of the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions -- a person who lives in a different kind of glass house and should probably not be throwing stones. But she's not gay, and so it simply feels good to look down on "those people." It's always easier to do what feels good than it is to do what's right -- and it's very easy to convince oneself that looking down on others is right. It's so sneaky, and sometimes, even when we're doing what's right, we're only doing in wherein it might directly effect us.

I just read another quote from a white gay man who said, "Now that we have gay marriage there is nothing else to fight for." At an event for gay undocumented immigrants. There's a little bit of this stuff inside all of us, not just the Rick Perrys of the world. 

I have very strong views on the abortion issue and what's happening in Texas. I'm speaking up and out and showing up and calling my Senator. I'm not here to say, "OMG GUYS CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?!" Mostly I'm just thinking about the instinct to base beliefs only on one's own experiences and how dangerous this kind of thing can be. Throughout the course of the special session, I'm likely to run into more comments like the one at the beginning of this post -- comments that don't bring any compassion, factual information, or consideration to an issue that is extremely complex and even emotional.

I just hope I can refrain from driving myself crazy arguing with them.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Come and Take It

Tonight, the Texas state Senate is quiet. At 10 a.m. tomorrow, they'll reconvene to hear a smattering of bills on the last day of the special session -- one of which is SB5. There is a ton of information out there from people who know better than I what is going on. I can say this about the last few days: I've learned much more than I ever thought possible about parliamentary procedure. In fact, I'm kind of getting really into it. I'm thinking about running for office so I can raise points of order and shizz. You probably think I'm kidding, but I listened to TWO HOURS of blank noise on the Texas House live stream this morning before the body was called to order. 

Like I kind of felt like a person who just purchased a pair of dirty underwear out of a vending machine and was smelling them -- if one were into that thing. 

I've said too much.

That said, if you've come here for up-to-the-minute info on what's happening now, the current state of affairs is that nothing is happening now. Things will get going tomorrow. And God willing, the Texas state Senate Democrats will be able to hold the line and run out the clock on SB5. This is a conversation that's been going on for a long time, and I really just want to add my voice to the din of others who are rumbling that these aggressive measures attacking women's rights will not stand. On Thursday night, 700+ people showed up, most of whom where there to testify against the anti-choice bills that were at that point making their way through the House. And then 1,000+ pro-choice activists showed up at the Capitol in Austin on Sunday to show opposition as the bill hit the House floor. And they stayed through the night as Texas Representatives kept the debate going for as long as possible. Eventually the bill passed the House. But that was never in question. 

What was in question was how many people were going to show up to fight the good fight, and the answer we got was, "DROVES!" 

People say, "What difference does it make?" I still have hope that a filibuster will kill this thing, but even if it doesn't, I'm still heartened by what I've seen over the last five days. Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston pointed out that we can't get this level of involvement during regular session on anything. People who thought the Texas Democratic party was down for the count are feeling inspired, and inspired people actually get out and vote. When you stand up and say something, you empower all the other people who think like you do to stand up, too. 

So if you ever wonder whether or not you should stand up, I hope you err on the side of YES. And no matter what happens tomorrow, I'm so very proud of my pro-choice Texans who've stood up and said something. No matter the outcome tomorrow, we've won the power of knowing that we didn't just let them have our rights 

They had to come and take them. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

That's What SHE Said

Apparently Paula Deen said some racist things. And so we all tweet and status update about it, pointing and laughing and patting ourselves on the back for not being so racist. Am I the only one who feels like this is kind of missing the point? It's not exactly shocking that she said what she said -- and I don't say that because she's a southerner or because she says, "Y'ALL!" or because she likes to cook with a lot of butter or whatever. I say that because it's just not that shocking that people say racist things. A lot of us like to pretend that we live in a post-racial time, but we do not. And most of the people pointing, laughing, and calling Paula Deen a P.O.S. harbor hate in their hearts. This kind of, "Yay us! We're not that racist!" rubbernecking doesn't actually accomplish anything.

I'm not saying that we all say really ridiculous things like, "OMG I wish I could have slaves for real at my next big event!" That kind of overt racism is -- well, obvious racism is obvious, as the internet kids might say. But what about that racism where you get nervous when you see a black man on the street (which is partially about race, partially about gender, and partially about class -- but let's face it, black men make you more nervous than white men). What about the little jokes you tell in the office that are a little bit racist but you don't think it's a problem because "we're all friends!" and "people shouldn't be so sensitive and P.C.!?" What about the systemic racism you're not even seeing? Look around your office and take note of the racial diversity. Go for a walk in your neighborhood and do a little math on the percentages of people who look like you vs. people who don't.

The real important conversation we need to be having isn't, "How could someone say those things in 2013?" We need to each individually consider what we think, how we act, what we say. We need to look around and assess the real situation on the ground where we work and where we live. I live in Dallas, Texas, a place where liberal-minded white people live in neighborhoods surrounded by other white people -- myself included. We go out to clubs and bars where the people around us are mostly white. And we never think about this and we never talk about it and it's not national news. It's the daily reality. We're not horrible, awful people saying horrible, awful racist things. But what can we do to continue to encourage change? Spending a lot of time calling out Paula Deen and getting her show cancelled isn't the answer to that question.

Look, it's great when we DON'T talk like Paula Deen. Good for us. But these are no laurels to rest upon.