Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting more than a little tired of seeing headlines about women’s most private body parts and hearing people (mostly men) discussing them as if they were the latest item on the NASCAR circuit. Or ham sandwiches. Really!
How did we get to this point, in which the political airspace is jammed with increasingly careless and disrespectful chatter about such once-private matters as “transvaginal scans” and unseemly fights over the deeply sensitive issue of breast cancer support and some old guy talking about “gals” holding an aspirin between their knees as the “only form of birth control” a woman needs.
Yikes! Even Thin Mints are in trouble. Indiana Republican Bob Morris has written a scathing letter denouncing the Girl Scouts for having some kind of radical agenda. In my years of camping out with the Girl Scouts, the most disturbing thing I ever experienced was letting a gigantic bug crawl up my arm in order to get a badge. Ugh! Closer to home, a church in Virginia has banned the Girl Scouts because of alleged ties to Planned Parenthood, which, even if it were true, would be a terrible reason to prohibit girls from wearing their badge vests proudly and participating in one of the healthiest young women’s educational programs in the world. Here again, guys are making decisions about women’s stuff in a total vacuum of knowledge and experience.
It’s one thing to defend religious liberty, which I certainly support, and to make sure that the moral teachings of the Catholic Church are crystal clear, which is the reason why religious liberty is so important.
It’s another thing to participate in mass hysteria and downright insulting official conduct toward women.
The important cause of religious liberty, which had some shining moments in the last few weeks, becomes decidedly weaker when religion becomes a political weapon. Many people of faith who can ardently support and live by religious teachings on life and social justice feel turned-off by the increasingly strident and pugnacious quality of the discourse. Women of faith, in particular, want to be loyal to their church, but in return, expect the Church to show some respect for their rights and personal concerns. Men who opine on women’s health issues without having women present at the table run the risk of losing some of the very women who could help make their case more effectively.
Church and State are separate in this country for a very good reason: individual liberty includes the right to practice religion freely, but religion also must respect the right of citizens to live in freedom — even when such freedom means that individuals might make choices contrary to religious teachings. That risk is the price we pay for living in a free society.
Church leaders are certainly doing their jobs when they proclaim the moral teachings of the faith, and no one should begrudge or belittle their important responsibilities in this realm. However, those teachings become so much harder for people to hear or take seriously when the teaching methods are harsh, threatening, politically intimidating or downright disrespectful of individual rights. Wise, effective teachers try to bring their students into the discussion with sensitivity and respect. “My way or the highway” is generally a failed teaching method and an ineffective governance strategy.
In the same way, political leaders who display utter disregard for the people they serve invite equal disregard and even contempt for the policies and regulations they attempt to enact. The Obama Administration’s handling of the birth control insurance regulation revealed a shocking disregard for religious interests. Congressman Darrell Issa’s refusal to include women at the hearing he called about the Administration’s proposals was equally shocking. The Virginia legislative proposal, now somewhat moderated, to force women to have extraordinarily invasive medical procedures was appalling. The worthy goal of protecting life cannot also abuse life. We can hardly advance the interests of a sensible, harmonious society of 300+ million living and working together when politicians on both sides of the aisle take actions that favor the extremes at the expense of the common ground where most Americans live.
We need leaders of uncommon dignity and genuine common sense to restore some perspective to the current debates over the right to life, religious liberty, sexual conduct and the entire realm of secular law and policy governing civic life on those important issues. It’s very clear that Americans cannot agree on much of this, and at some point, moral challenges will defy political solutions, instead, relying on private personal conscience to make the right decisions.
And, by the way, Guys? Show some respect for the Gals!
I’m going to find some Thin Mints.
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