Wednesday, March 09, 2011

To the Next Generation

I had an interesting discussion with a woman close to my age today. She wrote to me after I posted a comment on a facebook discussion about needing to step up the fight against the Republican Party's War On Women. I said that while I would continue to actively play a role in the battle, it was no longer my generation's fight, and that it was up to each generation to choose their battles.

At the risk of sounding like one of those tedious old folks blathering on about young whippersnappers who just don't understand the sacrifices we made for them, I still feel it's important to do a bit of generational back slapping for what we did accomplish and explain how all of that is at risk now.

As archaic as it may sound, I grew up in a time when birth control was limited and not very affective. For women who don't even think twice about filling their prescriptions for the varieties of protection available out there, here's something to think about.

When the pill first came out, women couldn't just go and get a pack or two for themselves. They had to be married and in far too many cases, had to have their husband's permission to get a prescription. No, this wasn't the dark ages. This was the late 60's, early 70's. We wrote notes for each other pretending to be each other's husbands saying yes, we give our permission for our property to get something to put in their bodies.

Can any of you imagine doing that today? But we did and we also began to object, to protest, to demand the right to get our own prescriptions, to take charge of our own bodies. It wasn't easy and yes, some of us lost our jobs over it, were considered no better than prostitutes if discovered that we had a prescription without being married. And today, any woman has the right to get any kind of birth control she wants. It's so easy, most women just take it for granted and ignore there's politicians in office right now who consider birth control as a form of abortion.

And speaking of that topic that is guaranteed to stir up heat in any discussion, try this one on. Women of my generation and before either gave themselves abortions that often killed them or left them torn up so bad many of them never had to deal with an unwanted pregnancy again. Or they went to some backroom butcher that did the same thing, only he/she charged them lots of money to do so.

Or they did as my mother did and went to Mexico to some dirty little clinic just over the border that was a short bus ride there and what can only be described as an horrendous bus ride back. I was about nine or ten when a cab pulled up to the house (an unheard of luxury as they were expensive and rare) and the driver half carried my mother to the porch and left her there bleeding. She wouldn't let us call an ambulance because she'd probably end up in jail for having an illegal abortion. I became pro-choice that day and along with other women of my generation, fought hard for the right for women to have safe and legal abortions.

And now we live in a time when women can find a safe abortion, even though they may have to travel to another state. They really don't think about how they may not be able to get one, or that they can't afford it, or that it could kill them or leave them seriously infected or butchered.  Thanks to my generation they know they will not have their insides ripped up, infected, destroyed, and then left bleeding on a doorstep.

But we also live in a time when immoral bastards on Fox News and hate radio promote the active killing of Abortion doctors. If this doesn't get women's attention and compel them to action, then maybe it's time they woke up because those same crazy politicians that consider birth control as a form of abortion, want to classify  abortion as murder. So the next time you pop that pill in your mouth, remember that some vicious little tyrant is plotting on how to charge you with murder.

And even though racism and discrimination against women, gays, and minorities exists, it was our generation who took to the streets and demanded change, who protested and got ourselves arrested, and walked arm and arm with each other until equality for all people is the norm instead of the exception.

But we aren't there yet. There are still far too many people who use all kinds of blatantly transparent bullshit to cover up their racist hatred of Obama. There are still parts of this country where Gays and Lesbians get beat up and murdered just for being born homosexuals. There are still places in this country where women are second and third class citizens and who are routinely beat up, raped, and killed.

And far too many people look to their friends of color, their Gay and Lesbian friends, the women who hold public office and positions of authority and think not much has to be done anymore. This is where my new email friend said she felt like we did almost too good a job in changing the mindset of our culture away from racism and bigotry and toward tolerance. Because it's no longer so blatant, it no longer seems like such an important thing to fight.

But even as I write this there are people in power who are working to find ways to take away the equal rights we fought so hard to make ordinary. There are people fighting to roll back all the work we marched in the streets for, made phone calls to politicians for, wrote books for, composed music for, made art for so that equality and tolerance and acceptance of each other as human beings would seem ordinary.

Which brings me to my biggest complaint, my biggest whine as a 60 year old aging activist: how dare you not vote! I get really angry when people tell me there is no difference between the two parties, that they don't even bother voting anymore. To these people I say they need to go read up on the women who took to the streets, who got beat up, who got shunned and had their families destroyed so you unappreciative little shits could say voting was meaningless. And oh yeah, it wasn't exactly ancient history. Women in America got the right to vote in 1920. It's a good chance your grandmothers had baseball bats taken to their heads so you could stay home on election day.

And finally on that there's no difference between the parties's not the Democrats who are trying to take away the rights my generation fought so hard to make sure you could take for granted. Educate yourself and find out who the real dangerous party is right now in America and get off your ass and vote them out or everything my generation worked so hard for will disappear.

But as I told my friend, maybe that's the way the cycles move. Maybe you don't want those rights. Maybe they mean less to you than other things. Maybe the concern with the state of our planet is so dire that you can't afford to take time to fight any other battles. I have to admit I partly agree with you on this. It is a battle that must be fought.

You also have to continue the work we put into peace because it sure didn't work out too well. We still have stupid wars, stupid bought and paid for by defense contractors politicians, and too many ways the wealthy get even richer from war.

So yes, I can see there's a lot to choose from but I'd sure hate for all the work the women of my generation put in to go to waste. It's much more valuable than that and hopefully you will realize that and fight to keep it for the next generation to take for granted.


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