By Barbara Levine, Co-Action Chair, The Democratic Women of Clifton and Northern Virginia
This question is for the legislators - local, state and federal - and for the judges. You are the people who have the power to decide this question. You are the folks who make the laws. You are the folks who interpret the laws and decide which precedents stand, and which you do not personally agree with despite your promises to adjudicate fairly and without favor. The rest of us have no choice but to live with your decisions. Yes, we have the “vote”, but even that is something you endeavor to control - by gerrymandering, by legislation, by lying, by fear.
So you get to decide what kind of country we live in. You get to decide whether religious freedom applies to all or just those who share your particular beliefs. You get to decide whether our laws are applied equally to all, or whether some remain above the law while others are always at its mercy. Most tragically, you actually get to decide who lives and who dies. Did we really cede that amount of power to you?
You want to “protect” the life of an unborn, non-viable fetus by taking away the right of privacy and self-determination of the woman in whose body those cells reside; yet rail against a simple mandate to wear a mask during an epidemic that took the lives of one million of our fellow citizens. In that case, the right to self-determination dominated over the health and safety of the community at large. No weeping and protesting over the millions infected by those who refused to mask and receive vaccines. But an 11-year-old girl, pregnant, raped by a family member - her decision and her family’s decision to terminate - that is something for the whole community to weigh in on. Fifty years of women relieved of the onerous burden of either bringing an unwanted pregnancy to term or risking their lives to a back alley butcher gone in an instant, because you don’t personally agree with abortion. The answer to that has always been - it’s a choice each woman should be able to make for herself. Your religious beliefs don’t apply here. The Constitution and our Founding Fathers you so revere were quite clear about keeping Church and State separated. What happened to that precept? And what happens to the sanctity of life argument when the death penalty is raised?
Finally, how do we reconcile this professed concern with the quality of life while at the same time refusing even the mildest of restrictions on firearms? We worry about the one raped child and want to make sure she lives through nine months of repeated trauma to “protect a life”, but care nothing about the thousands of children who perish from gun violence each year? We lead the world by an enormous margin in school shootings. Is this the leadership role we want to be touted for? Is this the country you want to live in? Where parents have to pray each day that their children will survive a day in school? Where going to the supermarket, a place of worship, a movie, a concert can all end in blood and death because you - our law makers, our judges - are too beholden to a bunch of rich folks who want to get even richer selling death and destruction to anyone they please? Because somehow you have decided that our founding fathers equated freedom with the right of any layperson to maintain an arsenal of military grade weapons?
Our ancestors worked long and hard to bring us forward from the early days of pioneers and folks living out on the frontier and hunting for mere survival. We built cities, and schools. Workplaces and places for prayer and recreation. We created communities and developed police forces and sheriff offices and firefighters to protect our citizens and relieve individuals from the burdens of protecting their homes and families. We are supposed to be a civilized nation. A world leader. How can we maintain that position when we lead the world in school shootings, when we take a fifty-year step backward and return the women of our country to second-class status? When we rail against human rights infractions in other countries while racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia run rampant in our country. While thousands languish at our southern borders begging for asylum and we turn our backs.
Do you really think those old frontier days were so wonderful? I doubt the folks who struggled and died back then thought so. So ask yourself: Is this the country you want to live in?