There is something special about a mother and her love.
We seem to know it innately. We tend to reflect it in our laws, at least family law. It's one reason "women's health" rhetoric, of which we've heard so much lately, resonates to the point of drowning out the details of any policy, controversy or testimony.
But such purported respect for women, and mothers, can also ring hollow.
Take, for instance, on a superficial but jarring level, the upcoming Radio and TV Correspondents dinner. Invited this year to the Washington-meets-Hollywood gala is comedian Louis C.K., brought in, we are told, to give the event "a bit of an edge."
And with that invitation, decency fell off a cliff.
I can't even relay some of the obscene things this man has said about former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. While he contends she would "Hitler up" Washington (this, about a woman who often wears a Star of David to express her solidarity with the Israeli people), most of his venom about her has to do with a crude obsession with her most intimate body parts. He also dubs her youngest child a "retard."
This has less to do with politics than with misogyny, unless politics itself has become nothing more than a sexual power play. If it has, you might be surprised to learn that it's not the GOP that has led the way.
The current White House mandate debate is not so much about birth control as it is about effectively shutting religious citizens and entities down when it comes to contraception, sterilization and even abortion. The government is saying, "Sure, you can believe that crazy stuff, but you can't practice it in the public square." The debate is an existential threat to liberty as we've known it in America.
Meanwhile, Republicans are said to be waging a "war on women" by doing such supposedly radical things as proposing bills that would protect conscience rights (by restoring them to where they were the day President Obama was inaugurated) and offer women a look at the ultrasounds that are often a routine part of the medical preparation for an abortion. It's ironic, isn't it? In both cases, legislation is about protecting choices. Isn't "choice" what self-proclaimed women's health advocates are all about? Or is it just one main choice -- treating pregnancy as a disease -- that is really of value?
At some point, the "women's health" shouting has got to stop so that the cries of women can be heard -- cries about the immiseration of a generation that bought into the false promises of a pill's lifestyle revolution. That pill's supposed freedom really meant an unhealthy subservience to a new creed of convenience and non-commitment in the name of professional success and independence.
This is something women allegedly wanted, and are now stuck with; so are men.
A New York Magazine cover story has not been alone in laying out some of the unmistakable side effects of the contraceptive revolution on women's fertility. We're all free to make our choices, but are we sure we know what we're walking into? Are we doing it because we want to, or because it's now what is expected?
When you walk up the steps to Calvary in Jerusalem, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, your eyes are quickly drawn to a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, her heart pierced in pain. Whatever you think about the divinity of Christ, the man -- her son -- died. On a cross, after a brutal scourging. And she watched the whole thing. We honor that woman, we honor her sacrifice, her love, her pain. Free from theological debates, there is something special there. And the day we forget about her is the day something of our humanity is lost.
It is hard to walk away from her depiction here without seeing a message for our times. We are now being led to believe that widespread access to abortion and birth control is what motivates women, politically and otherwise, and that any impediment to their public funding and accessibility constitutes oppression. Pay no attention to the dissent among women. Palin? She's a c-word. And that's when she is not simply being dismissed.
The president of the National Organization for Women accuses the U.S. Catholic bishops of being "violently anti-woman" in "demanding that the government step in and use the force and ... police power of the state to prevent women from taking birth control because the bishops have failed." That statement is a violent disservice to the truth. Does she really want to stand by that? Does every member of the Democratic Party want to have to defend that comment?
The Catholic Church only proposes to honor its own morality. NOW, on the other hand, insists that politicians impose its values. That's exactly what the mandate does.
Our politics today is a sorrowful mystery. But we can change that -- by expecting more, as a start. "Transparency" is a buzzword; how about insisting it be an operating principle instead? If you want to shut Catholic and other religious believers out of the public square because you think true believers are actually troglodytes who are not to be tolerated in polite or legal company, say so, already. Or do you think that might be a step too far, because it would make your ideological intentions all too clear to people who might not be with you?