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"I get mad, I get mad, I get mad"

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

The point of this blog is for me to write to think new thoughts. This doesn't really fit with that but whatever. This is an op-ed I wrote in a fit of anger and my half hearted effort of submitting it a couple places didn't work out so I'm slapping it up here to mentally file under closed. (Post title is a reference to the great I Spy, btw. Sometimes you just gotta yell about stuff.) Iowa Abortion Ban’s a Travesty that Democrats Literally Can’t Fix Fast Enough

The state legislature here in Iowa just banned abortions after the 6th week of pregnancy. That unpopular policy will lead to more unsafe abortions, some of which will kill women. As one Iowan said at the special session, this harmful, discriminatory law – like similar legislation attacking transgender people – seems driven by Iowa Governor Reynolds’s career aspirations. There’s precedent: former Iowa Governor Branstad harmed the poorest Iowans by privatizing Medicaid and later landed a diplomat job under Trump. The powerful play games and we the pawns just get played.

People of conscience respond to these attacks on vulnerable people’s lives by insisting that we need to stop Iowa Republicans, who have no line they will not cross. I couldn’t agree more, but typically people who say this follow it up with “vote them out!” When I hear this, I think of a friend, a cigar-smoking athlete who fractured a bone and tore a ligament in a bike accident. My friend’s health would benefit from dropping the cigars, sure, but right after the collision he needed fast acting medical care more than he needed the long term benefits of stopping smoking. Our lives under Republican government are an ongoing car crash, one that will only get worse due to the global climate disaster. Calls to vote are responding to a car crash by suggesting we quit smoking.

Some people of conscience will reply by pointing out that some Republicans are getting what they want out from the government, like the abortion ban, so why couldn’t people of conscience get what we want if we elected different politicians? After all, past legislation like Social Security and the minimum wage improved people’s lives, didn’t it? That’s a very slow process. Furthermore, voting out Republicans means voting in Democats, who are simply not up to the challenge before us. Nationally, they’re often not just inadequate but actively worsen things, as with the Biden administration’s policies and priorities regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, we could have better Democrats than the ones currently running the party (it’d be harder to do worse). Part of the issue, though, is that the government’s power to worsen our lives can be used much faster – and is more easily used at a local and state level – than its power to improve our lives. Furthermore, the government only tends to use its power of social improvement when confronted by massive protests.

Ultimately, the Democrats’ many failings aren’t the real issue. With even the best possible political party, we just can not handle the serious injustices immediately before us through the slow and limited electoral system. That system is as much a means for governing over us – and so keeping us headed toward a car crash – as it is a means for us to govern ourselves and get off the terrible path we are on. Part of how that system serves to govern us is by getting us to accept its slow pace and relatively polite, impersonal procedures despite the urgency and the personal nature of the suffering forced onto us by this car crash of a society. People of conscience who argue, with the best of intentions, that we must turn to the electoral system to solve the current car crash we are forced to live through are ultimately going to keep us away from more effective and faster-acting responses. Think of the Civil Rights Movement and its victories against racist segregation. Those didn’t come by election but by disruptive civil disobedience.

I close with the words of the activist Mario Savio in 1964: “There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus – and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it – that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

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