Wednesday, October 02, 2019

St. Donald Gives A Press Conference With the President of Finland

So I watched the press conference Trump and the president of Finland, Sauli Niinist√∂ gave today.  It is wonderful comedy*.  If you don't have time to watch all of it, I have picked one clip from the very end for your entertainment.

Are you sitting comfortably?  Now take your mind back to how US presidents used to act in public at press conferences shared with visiting world leaders,  and then click on this:

Another wonderful clip would have covered the Finnish journalist asking Niinist√∂ what favors Trump had asked of him.  When I realized that she had actually said that out aloud I laughed so hard that the objects on my desk shivered.

Trump tells us (including in many places at this press conference) that he is the most unfairly hounded and harassed of all world leaders, ever.  In fact, he has been so pure, perfect and pious in his actions that he will be sanctified while still hale and orange.  St. Donald.

Orange just might be the new shade of narcissism.
* In a world where cynical humor is the best crutch on this long road to hell.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

The New Coalition of the Willing: Against Reproductive Rights

The United States has created another "coalition of the willing," though this time it's not about occupying Iraq but about occupying (or keeping the occupying forces in) the  bodies of women and girls.

This coalition-building took place more than a week ago at the United Nations General Assembly in New York where the US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar spoke against reproductive rights on behalf of the US and eighteen other countries:

"We do not support references to ambiguous terms and expressions such as 'sexual and reproductive health and rights' in U.N. documents, because they can undermine the critical role of the family and promote practices like abortion in circumstances that do not enjoy international consensus and which can be misinterpreted by U.N. agencies," Azar said.


"There is no international right to an abortion, and these terms should not be used to promote pro-abortion policies and measures," Azar added. "Further, we only support sex education that appreciates the protective role of the family in this education."
 The bolds are mine.

The central point of Azar's speech is that the nineteen countries in this new coalition of the willing do not believe in reproductive rights or even sex education.  They believe in "the family" as the alternative solution, I guess.

"Family" is one of those words like "freedom" or "fairness" which can mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean (1).   In this context it clearly means the traditional patriarchal family in which the father/husband rules and makes most of the final decisions.  Thus, Azar advocates that the right to make decisions about women's and girls' bodies should belong to others inside their families.

Nine of the nineteen countries in the coalition are predominantly Muslim countries ( Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Mali), and five others are predominantly Roman Catholic countries (Poland, Brazil, Guatemala, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo).  Neither Islam nor Roman Catholicism is especially famous for its egalitarian views about women's roles and rights (2).

The  coalition also includes three countries which rose from the ashes of the era of the Soviet Union like rather sooty phoenixes:  Russia, Hungary and Belarus. (3)

Now what do those three share?  I think it's dictatorship (4).  Belarus is an old dictatorship, Putin runs Russia pretty much like a dictator, and Orban tries to be the dictator of Hungary.

The message of this post is that countries which are against reproductive rights tend to be hierarchical ones, and that those hierarchies tend toward patriarchy.

That's the company the US today keeps.
(1)  And "family" is not a living, breathing human being.  It's a social institution with many good uses. 

But when we give the "family" rights and a role to play, we are not spelling out who the decision-makers inside the family might be.  Take a young married couple, a man and a woman with no children yet.  Should she want an abortion,  Azar's family ideology suggests that he should have the power to stop her from having one.

(2)  All three Abrahamic religions are far too easily used as a justification for the subjugation of women, especially when the holy books are read literally, what with them being created to reflect the social norms which prevailed some thousands of years ago.  A fundamentalist reading of any of those religions is bad news for women, and terrible news if that fundamentalist reading is state-sanctioned.

(3)  Poland could belong in that grouping, too, though mostly I see the roots of Poland's dislike of liberated women in its Catholicism.

(4)  Do you notice how complicated things get here?  Brazil might better fit this group, too, given its new autocratic right-wing leader.  And the good ole USA!  Trump wants to be a dictator, he does.  On the other hand, this coalition would have been created by any Republican administrator.