The “war” word is getting a bit too much play. It’s entirely too easy to attach it as a descriptor signalling a coordinated attack on someone or something when one of the primary features of real war is omitted: Respect. General George Monck phrased it this way in the 17th century:
“You ought not to despise, and think too meanly of your Enemy; for that will not only beget negligence in your own Army, but care and diligence in your Enemies Army. And it is most sure, the valor of a few may surmount the numbers of many: and if you be broken by your Enemy that you despise, you double your own disgrace by your rash and indiscreet arrogance.”
Any student of military history can offer examples of actions taken which were ultimately unsuccessful because of “rash and indiscreet arrogance” born of disrespect for the opponent. The difference between the Republican Party’s “war” on women and a real military conflict is that in the latter there must be Respect between the combatants. The Republicans have demonstrated no such respect. However, there is a surfeit of arrogance. And, arrogance breeds contempt.
There is arrogance bred by ignorance. The current controversy created by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) when he opined that rapes didn’t produce pregnancy are simply one example. The fact that approximately 32,000 pregnancies are created annually via rape was outside the Congressman’s field of vision. The Congressman’s contempt for women is substantiated by his ignorance of female reproductive processes. That he believed it was acceptable to voice his ignorance leads to the conclusion he didn’t believe he would be challenged. Not accepting the notion that one’s opinions can be challenged is arrogance.
There is arrogance bred by ideology. When Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) states that “rape is just another form of conception,” he’s not just expressing a fact, but also offering an opinion. [C&L] Technically speaking, conception can come from either voluntary or involuntary intercourse — the “process is the same,” from the male perspective. From a woman’s perspective rape is not a sex crime, it’s an assault; and the nature of the intercourse matters very much. The ramifications of the involuntary conception matter very much, and the emotional impact of victimization matters very much as well.
What also matters very much is the contempt, the dismissal, of the woman’s side of the issue when a man decides that no matter the nature of the assault, no matter the ramifications of the conception, no matter the emotional impact on the woman — the “baby” HE created is the ultimate point of consideration.
In order to reach this level of contempt it often seems necessary to believe that the woman is merely the vessel of the man’s progeny, that “his child” or “his life” is paramount. By extension, the Man As Hunter mythology comes into play. HE is to be stronger, he is to be the decider, the ultimate authority, the maker of all decisions. His is the decision that matters.
There have been volumes published concerning the social and psychological origins and implications of sexism, but our focus here should remain in the political realm.
It is the Politics of Contempt
It’s contempt which informs the decision to enact legislation to remove the interests of the woman from discussions involving the children she is to bear and raise. Life is life, and the woman has “no choice” in the decisions regarding it. Not having any say in the question, she should be quiet, submissive, and cooperative. Her input is unnecessary. Her objections unwarranted. In other words, those are contemptible.
It’s contempt which informs the arrogance sustaining the religiosity of the issue. There are adherents of many religions who do not hold the same definitions of what constitutes life, and when it can be said to exist. There are even rifts among members of the same religion. In most realms of human activity we don’t value the “my way or the highway” attitudes of contemporaries. However, the religious radicals in Congress would have us adopt their contempt for the definitions and tenets of other faiths. Those people are without the freedom to choose because their highway doesn’t follow the same tracks as the radical religionists.
The radicals stand the 1st Amendment on its head. They must be “free” to practice their religion, meaning that everyone else has to adopt the legislative extrapolations of their tenets. Those who would dare to challenge their doctrines must be “UnChristian,” or even “UnAmerican.”
Should a woman die from the complications of a pregnancy, even one caused by rape or incest, then so be it. Fatalism intervenes to create a rationale — it has to be God’s plan — as if God meant for children to be orphaned.
Should members of other faiths, which do not share the tenets of the True Believers, be restricted by the legislation enacted by the radicals — so be it. Arrogance creates the rationale — MY faith is the only correct one. It is perfectly acceptable to believe in the veracity of one’s faith, but it is not helpful to believe in the exclusion of all others. That’s what freedom is, after all, the willingness to accept that we may all have different ideas, and that we should tolerate the beliefs of others.
We may disagree, we may challenge, we may argue, but in the end when it comes down to articles of faith we don’t judge — lest we be.
What we cannot do is to hold others in contempt. If for no other reason than: “… if you be broken by your Enemy that you despise, you double your own disgrace by your rash and indiscreet arrogance.”