This week’s list maker: Christopher Newgent. Christopher lives in Indianapolis where he runs Vouched Books to promote independent literature in his city. His work has appeared in PANK, Everyday Genius, Freight Stories, and other journals.
As each day’s headlines become more easily confused with The Onion’s headlines, I’m feeling the need to try to make some sense of some things or at least get them off my chest.
1. Women’s Rights Are Still Being Questioned. People. Why is this still an issue? Why are the bodies of women still in question, still being regulated into wherebys and heretofors? Every week it seems I come across another headline about new laws limiting or stripping women of their rights to simple things like choice, privacy, and health care.
Did you know Arizona introduced a law (endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee) to allow business owners in Arizona to ask women why they are on birth control, and if they don’t agree with her reasons, to deny her health insurance? This bill would effectively allow employers to make the sex lives of their female employees their business. It’s bad enough that women still have to justify their sex lives on a personal level, now we’re trying to legislate it into the professional level?
Or how about Congress justifying an all-male testimony on the contraceptive mandate by saying, “This is not about contraceptives. This is not about women’s health. This is about religious freedom.” Except that it is about all of those things.
Or Mitt Romney going on record to say he’d put an end to Planned Parenthood, even though the vast majority of what PP does is regular women’s health care, not abortions. Both of these issues reveal a short-sightedness as terrifying as it is self-serving.
Don’t even get me started on the Personhood movement. Or Limbaugh.
Thank God for Roxane Gay, who has amazing things to say regarding these issues at The Rumpus.
2. Despite What The Help Would Have You Believe, Racism Is Still a Problem. You heard about Trayvon Martin, right?
I’ll be the first to admit we’ve come a long way since 1960. In fact, I think it’s pretty amazing that my dad remembers “colored” restrooms and watching the Civil Rights Movement on the news. And now, though inequality still exists on a large and systemic scale, my dad also remembers witnessing the first black president take office. All that happened in a lifetime—pretty incredible when you think about it. But we’re not out of the woods yet.
I’m glad the Trayvon Martin case has sparked a public outcry, that some sort of justice might be done. But just because it’s not socially acceptable to be a racist anymore doesn’t mean racism is a solved problem. While the more overt racism highlighted by the Trayvon Martin case has (for the most part) become a social taboo, latent racism like whites-in-shining-armor Hollywood tales and New York Times bestsellers is rampant and even lauded as progressive by some, and systemic racism is still alive and well in the schools and court systems.
Hispanics fight the same struggle. Asians face a fierce, embedded racism that gets very little airtime unless Saturday Night Live spoofs reporting about Jeremy Lin. That a writer at ESPN could use the term “chink” in a headline regarding an Asian basketball player and what’s more, that it could get past an editor before it hit the copy room is telling of a much larger issue here. Matt Salesses tackles this issue in yet another fantastic essay at The Rumpus. (Let’s just say you should probably be paying attention to The Rumpus, too.)
3. What Beautiful Weather We’re Having. I don’t completely know where I stand on global climate change. I mean, I recognize it’s happening, but I’ve not completely made up my mind as to the underlying causes, and generally believe it’s a murky soup of reasons, one ingredient of which is human carbon emissions.
I don’t understand the people who deny it’s happening at all. The science is there. The heat is turning up. Where the science gets muddy is why, but here’s the thing: regardless of why the temperature is rising, it’s never a bad thing to conserve. Turning off the lights when you leave a room is as good for your electric bill as it is for the environment. Riding your bike to work is great on your heart, your wallet, and your planet. I mean, if we’re having such good weather, why not ride your bike?
4. You Know, the Economy Is Actually Pretty Well On the Mend. I know it’s a hard thing to swallow for those out there still looking to find work, but the economy has come a long way in the past few years. I’m not the biggest fan of a lot of Obama’s economics, but I also can’t deny the facts. The Dow Jones closed at 7,949 on the day Obama took office, and as I’m typing this, it’s currently clocking 13,187—up 5,238 points since he took office. That’s a 66% rise. Also, consumer confidence is the highest it’s been in four years.
The big kicker is unemployment, which is still higher now than it was when Obama took office (7.8% when he took office; most recent data marks it at 8.3%), but it is on the steady decline. It’s election year, and it helps those trying to get into office to make things look bleak because of the people already in office. So you’re going to hear a lot about high unemployment rates and a lot of stories about people out of work. That gets votes and ratings. But put simply, you have to admit it’s getting better.
5. The GOP Primary Royal Rumble. What fresh fuckery is this? Santorum believes theocracies aren’t so bad if they’re Christian, college exists to indoctrinate people with liberal ideologies, and that there’s an official requirement that Americans speak English. Romney is perhaps the most negative politician in the history of American politics. Gingrich just won’t shut up. Nobody seems to believe Ron Paul even exists. And that’s just counting who’s still out there swinging. That doesn’t even touch on the people who started out in the ring: Palin, Cain, Perry, etcetera.
This election year has illustrated the term “political theater” better than I’ve ever seen, and to be honest, I don’t believe it’s any better on the other side of the aisle. The only reason we’re all staring aghast at the GOP this year is because it’s their primary year. If the Dems had the camera on them scrambling around for the Presidential bid, it’d be much the same. This is what our politics have become. Are we mad as hell yet?