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A Disaster for Women and the Environment

In Texas, Governor Rick Perry, the Religious Right, and their Republican allies, following Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis’scourageous filibuster last week, are literally working overtimeto criminalize women’s reproductive rights. Commentators correctly point out that a state that purports to be so “pro-life” it must kneecap women also happens to be the repository of the most efficient and voluminous state-sanctioned killing machine. There have been 500 executions(and counting) in the Lone Star State since 1982.

Like Texas, OhioKansas and other Republican-controlled states simply cannot contain their misogyny and have launched crusades to curtail women’s reproductive rights. In the so-called red states, the GOP, responding to the clout of the Religious Right, is hell bent on rolling back rights that a generation of women struggled for decades to win.

There’s plenty of blatant hypocrisy to point out with these moves – the most glaring, of course, being the political party that claims to be against “big government” wants the government to control as many uteruses as possible — but what is often most irksome about these right-wingers is the patina of religiosity they ascribe to their assaults on both women and LGBT people.

A Brief History Lesson

Ronald Reagan did the nation a lasting disservice by bringing into our politics in a huge way the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of this world. The GOP of the Reagan era looked to the Religious Right as a counterweight to the role labor unions played in the Democratic Party. Someone had to lick all those envelopes and knock on all those doors and it didn’t take long for Lee Atwater and his progeny to understand that along with a veiled “Southern strategy” of racial politics, being anti-abortion and anti-gay reaped political dividends.

Thirty years later this Reagan coalition is still going strong. You can see it in the House of Representatives and in Texas, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and elsewhere hammering away at the same misogynistic and gay-bashing agenda. We saw it in 2004 with George W. Bush’s re-election campaign strategy (ironically, overseen by a gay man Ken Mehlman), where Karl Rove et al. made certain their were anti-gay initiatives on the ballots in swing states to drive the faithful out of the churches and into the voting booths. That was pretty much Reagan’s strategy in 1980 and 1984 and it worked like a charm in 2004, giving the nation four more glorious years of the worst president in American history. Today, in large swathes of the country we’re still pretty much fighting the same culture wars that defined our politics back when VCRs were considered high-tech. That’s because the culture wars remain the perfect vehicle to get working people to vote against their own economic interests. The bitter fruits of that Reagan coalition are going to continue to play out until the Religious Right is marginalized from our politics.

The Flat-Earth Society

There are other areas where the rise of the Religious Right and the Republican politicians it elects means pending disaster. They never seem to tire of lecturing us about how abortion and gay marriage are against the laws of nature and God. Yet I never hear them utter a word about Monsanto and other poison/food corporations routinely ripping apart the DNA of plants and animals and recombining it to create life forms that never could emerge in the known Universe either in a state of nature or as an act of creation.

If there exists an issue that deserves the wrath of those believers I would think that corporations contaminating the DNA of the world’s food supply without giving a shit about the potential long-term consequences should raise a little alarm they normally aim at women and gays. Isn’t screwing around with combining the genes of a flounder with a tomato, or a bacterium with corn, an “abomination?” The world’s wheat supply might be succumbing to irreversible genetic pollution just because Monsanto’s executives wanted to boost their bottom line through increasingly reckless actions.

Like it our not, we’re about to have the long-term “study” about whether these new Franken-crops are “safe” for the environment and for people — studies the corporate food sector has avoided or quashed. The only problem is that by the time we understand the long-term effects of this genetic contamination it will be too late to do anything about it.

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Super weedssuper insects, super bacteria and other “super” organisms, which have adapted to genetically modified plants will grow stronger than ever and are starting to crop up. The nice folks at Monsanto are absolutely giddy about the prospect of selling more herbicides and insecticides to deal with the resilient critters they’ve unleashed. Like the fossil fuel industry and global warming, or Wall Street and the “real” economy, it’s a perfect example of corporate power and the maniacal drive for profits destroying the society their P.R. departments tell us they care so much about.

So if we heat up the planet for about 200 years by relentlessly pumping carbons into the atmosphere, and then unleash thousands of new species of plants and animals that contain DNA that never could exist in nature . . . Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for global environmental disaster? The brand new super weeds and super “pests” probably will be poised to flourish in climate zones that are constantly shifting and more volatile than ever due to anthropogenic climate change.

And the Religious Right apparently believes all of this unnatural destruction of God’s good earth is fine so long as the women folk know their place and them gays can’t get hitched?

The Republican majority of the Supreme Court, seeing that demography is working against its ideological brethren, legitimized voter suppression laws that everyone knows will adversely affect Latinos, African Americans, young people, and the working class. When coupled with the January 2010Citizens United ruling, which opened up the floodgates to campaign slush funds and unlimited corporate money to flow into our already money-drenched politics, the Shelby Countydecision fits Citizens United like a tight bookend. Both these egregious decisions will make it more difficult to dislodge the Bible thumpers from wielding political power.

Whenever the Roberts Court presides over a case that pits corporations against consumers, workers, or environmentalists you can bet that most of the time the corporations will come out on top. In working to stop Monsanto, or the fossil fuel corporations or Wall Street, from pursuing short-term profits against the long-term interests of planet Earth and its inhabitants the courts in the United States, at this juncture, seem to be rendered useless. That might not be the case with women’s reproductive rights and LGBT rights.

(The DOMA decisionoffers some hope by expanding the social rights of LGBT people, but we will have to see how the battles over gay marriage play out in the “red” states. The election of the first African-American president clearly energized the Republican base against him; the Supreme Court’s expansion of gay rights might have a similar effect. )

Joseph Palermo

Joseph Palermo

With giant, immortal corporations capturing regulatory agencies, our politics, and the judicial system, the only alternative is vigorous and prolonged citizen action against them. People who care about the planet are going to have to redouble their efforts, organize and demand that people and institutions divest their holdings from Monsanto, ExxonMobil, and other death-defying monsters. It will be a long and tough fight but there really is no alternative. The mobilization of people against the new attacks on women’s rights, like we have seen in Texas recently, points the way forward.

Joseph Palermo

Tuesday, 2 July 2013