Ed. note: “In America” by Pete Mitchell normally appears every other Monday in The Times. However, since we produce a combined Saturday and Monday edition of Memorial Day, this column appears today.
One of the earliest philosophical quotes I can remember (which is printable anyway) is, “May you live in interesting times.”
Some attribute it to an old Chinese maxim from ‘Stories to Wake the World’ written in 1627, while others claim British Ambassador to China Hugh Knatchbull-Hugessen actually coined the term in 1936 in his memoir. .
Yet another story is that Austen Chamberlain, in a letter to a friend, related that there is an old Chinese curse that would be wished upon an enemy saying to them, “May you live in interesting times.”
Whatever story you believe as to the origins of the quote (and there are undoubtedly others), the truth is that we do live in interesting times.
And if I were a woman, I would be terrified.
On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, voted in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to allow employers, in certain cases, to deny birth control to their female employees through their health care plans. Hobby Lobby sued Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services, citing the First Amendment’s free exercise clause and the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act of 1993 (RFRA). They won, and millions of women gained access to birth control through their workplace health care plan, down the drain.
Poof. Now you see it, now you don’t (in a Kafka-esque twist, Hobby Lobby is paying for Viagra).
This loss of your rights does not happen overnight; it wouldn’t work. A little here and a little there and very soon you can no longer understand why you are no longer equal. It’s such a mild attack that you can’t believe it’s happening, because in many cases it doesn’t affect you immediately.
Or, if you’re over a certain age, it might not affect you at all.
It’s hard to fight for someone else on an issue that no longer concerns you. If you’re past childbearing age, it’s hard to commit to birth control because, well, it’s not like you get pregnant at your age, so why fight?
This is exactly how human rights are lost. If it doesn’t hurt me, why should I care? But it’s easy to forget that while you may never have another child, the generations of women who follow you need access to common sense health care.
Divide and conquer isn’t just military realism, folks. It works on so many levels. Separate a small enough segment of the population, and no one else will really care about their rights, because well, if it doesn’t affect you, why should you care?
And now a very right-wing religious court is going to take away women’s right to manage their own reproductive options.
Double hit. The Supreme Court says your workplace health insurance doesn’t have to pay for birth control, and now they’re telling you you can’t have an abortion. Anyway, what year is it?
Or maybe I should say, what a century.
In case you were wondering, the title of my article, “Barefoot and Pregnant”, was a term coined by Dr. Hertzler, an American doctor from Kansas who believed that when a woman is held down, or should I forced to say, in this position, that divorces never happen.
(I have a group of friends who live across North America and I send them my articles before they go to print. They are from different backgrounds and ideologies and are in no way agree with everything I write. Here are some of their responses.)
“I can’t imagine how difficult my journey would have been if abortions hadn’t been legal in 1977. Abortions won’t stop. They’ll just be dangerous…and the women will die. — name withheld at my friend’s request.
“They would like to take us back to the Middle Ages. They do a “great” job of taking away people’s right to vote as well, which prompted me to join the League of Women Voters. They rely on people who don’t care. – Lisa J.
And this answer from Sandra C. in Florida was perhaps the most disturbing and thought-provoking of them all:
“How long before I have to wear a burqa in public?”
(By the way, I’m going to add a note to my article on religion. I find it appalling that people invoke the Bible as an excuse for their intolerance and ignorance. And, let’s not forget, the other side of freedom of religion is the equally important aspect, “the absence of religion”.)
Pete Mitchell’s “In America” column appears every Monday. He lives in Geneva. Contact him at [email protected]