To say that this present debate over contraception moves in circles is an understatement.
There are more twists and turns than a third-rate action movie. The transient faces and figures of all those involved move erratically as strophe and antistrophe across the stage of media. Dancing erratically in the center spotlight like Thom Yorke on ecstasy are the right-wing pundits, whose oversteps frequently elicit bipartisan disdain and occasionally extort total outrage from any American who has the gumption to possess an enlightened consciousness of individual rights or a vagina.
This is what happened last week when conservative radio host and dangerous psychopath Rush Limbaugh called third-year Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.” These slurs are supposed to be in some way connected to Fluke’s support for optional contraception insurance coverage policies in President Obama’s healthcare reform package that has been the law of the land since 2009. Limbaugh later suggested Fluke’s parents ought to “be embarrassed” for their daughter.
“I’d disconnect the phone,” he said. “I’d go into hiding.”
I can hardly fathom the contortions of reasoning and morality that a being such as Limbaugh would have to entertain for a user of contraception to equal a prostitute. Really, I desperately welcome a mathematical proof for this equivalence from any who are so inclined. But I sincerely hope for the sakes of all those on the right who, despite whatever medieval pieties are shared in their megachurches or whatever moral pornographies are broadcasted from their news channel of choice, find protected sex an altogether good idea, that the explanation does not suppose this sort of sex makes for “immoral, baseless, no-purpose-to-her-life” women.
For that would run the risk of hypocrisy.
While it is already nigh-impossible to make head or heels of the flurry of rhetoric around this matter — now with fake apologies and bogus retractions bubbling up through the thin ice that contraception users now seem to stand upon — I do know for a fact that Obama made a phone call to Fluke last Friday as she waited in the MSNBC green room for an interview with Andrea Mitchell. Obama was evidently able to offer some real consolation to Fluke, who choked up a bit during her subsequent interview, telling her she should “tell (her) parents that they should be proud.”
Above all, Obama’s call seemed most concerned with making sure that Fluke was OK, that a merely politically-active college student, who had been arbitrarily and maliciously harangued by right-wing politicos on a national stage, was bravely mollifying the undue feelings of shame and astonishment that plague the victims of insults as flagrant and bigoted as hers. This phone call, not by any means necessary to Obama’s political agenda, seems to me rather endearing and uplifting, a lonely gesture of compassion at the center of a most disgusting whirlwind.
That this issue has now somehow demoted the President of the United States to a sort of parent figure — commiserating with the poor child’s injuries and chastening the wicked child’s violence, each in the name of a non-issue — is equally disgusting.
Contraception is used by a vast majority of Americans, and nearly as many believe it ought to be even more accessible than it is now. So it is hard for me to believe there is any real substantive issue at the heart of this debate, nothing beyond childish election-year bickering among tragically related siblings.
America will always shelter a vein of loud-mouthed Puritans, who have for centuries preached the fallacious association of sex and immorality and whose present-day rhetoric shows no sign of stopping before Jesus and Quetzalcoatl return this December. These people ought not to be taken seriously.
The real dangerous voices in this debate are those who know better, those who make a career of injecting distorted religiosity into our already paranoid mainstream forum, those who marry reckless overstatements with worthless apologies. This country is worse off if women have to hear in their heads, even if for a shadow of a moment, the pathetic voice of Limbaugh calling them a slut as they pay for contraception.
It’s not about social order, Rush. It’s not about the scope of government. It’s about personal dignity, one of those precious commodities which even these days can be given out so cheaply.