It’s ok not to be ok. It’s not just a Mental Health meme, but something I’d like you to think of more broadly, especially given the violence our culture keeps pumping out as if there is no end in sight.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing a common theme about all of the violence being meted out by the Religious Right and White Supremacists against women, people of color, and the poor. While our media has done a decent job of helping cover some of the most troubling and theocratic aspects of this violence, often done in the name of being ‘pro-life.’ But they aren’t asking the right questions of themselves, nor the people they are covering, and they are absolutely failing to see and show us as readers how dangerous, fringe ideas are becoming mainstream.
One of the first articles I’ve found to start (but not finish) making some of the connections is a Time Magazine article that came out May 21st called “What the Buffalo Tragedy Has to Do With the Effort to Overturn Roe” by Jasmine Aguilera and Abigail Abrams (Where the Buffalo Gunman and the Anti-Abortion Fringe Meet | Time). I’ve posted it in our ECSM facebook page if the link doesn’t work for you, but I think it is important to highlight a few things from the article.
The article gives a definition of the so-called “Great Replacement Theory” conspiracy theory. While other journalists have pointed out how the conspiracy has been explicated by Tucker Carlson on Fox News, encouraging the mass shooter in Buffalo to view his own twisted views, this article points out how some in the ‘pro-life’ world could use this conspiracy theory as a way of recognizing that white women may use abortion to decrease their birth rate, which they believe needs to be resisted, even if it means they force white women to have children they’d rather not carry and care for.
“The anti-abortion movement was born in the 19th century of white fears of a declining whit birth rate, says Jennifer Holland, assistant professor of history at the University of Oklahoma. The idea was that by allowing white women to receive abortions, lawmakers were leaving white populations vulnerable to demographic “replacement” by non-white or immigrant groups with higher birth rates. In the 1870s and ‘80’s, the fear was primarily focused on Jewish and Catholic immigrants, especially those from Italy or Ireland, who had higher birth rates than white Protestants at the time; now, white power organizations that embrace “replacement theory” focus on Black and Latino communities that have higher birth rates than whites.
While the Buffalo gunman did not explicitly mention the word “abortion” in his manifesto, he references birth rates more than 40 times, according a TIME analysis, and repeatedly expressed his belief that “white birth rates must change.”
Of course, there’s been a recognition by many that such thoughts – while not a part of the rhetoric of the ‘pro-life movement’ itself – are definitely both inside the right-wing religious movement as a whole, despite the protests of those who wish to distance themselves from the racist portion of the political right. As the article notes, “Nearly one in three American adults now hold a belief that is in line with the “replacement theory.”” The article then goes on with a history of this theory in the anti-abortion movement, reminding us that “Prior to the Civil War, abortion was legal with minimum restrictions in the U.S.” Please see the article for the whole history, though it is fair to say that post-civil war legislatures used abortion restrictions for demographic purposes, with some on the far-right being against immigration and abortions for white women only.
Now, if you have never heard of the U.S. history of forced sterilization of Indigenous women, Black women (especially immigrants), and other women of color, then I’m afraid I have bad news about American history. The horrors of women having their ability and right to give birth on their own terms taken away from them by their own doctors, or those serving immigrants is often white-washed. Over 67,000 women were ‘legally’ sterilized between 1907 and 1963 during the heights of the “eugenic legislation era.” According to Wikipedia, 1981 was the last year in which Oregon performed the last legal forced sterilization in the US (even California legalized them – Forced sterilization policies in the US targeted minorities and those with disabilities – and lasted into the 21st century), though there have been accusations that the Trump Administration may have allowed doctors in the ICE refugee camps at our border, or the doctors just did it without letting their patients know, without permission, while under anesthesia for other health procedures (Immigration Detention and Coerced Sterilization: History Tragically Repeats Itself | News & Commentary | American Civil Liberties Union).
We must recognize that “early” Democratic support for “Roe v. Wade” – before Nixon had his “Southern Strategy” – wooing the southern racists to the Party of Lincoln away from the Democratic Party when they switched sides on many issues related to race, slavery and civil rights. But since then, the newer Democratic coalition has been more supportive, but as with any politicians, they’ve not found a real resistance to the forces that have come together to make life harder for the poor and people of color. I personally have been quite disappointed in their response to the pressure multiple forces are having on the viability of our Democracy.
I see the bills in Texas and Florida accusing parents of Trans youth of child abuse if they allow their own children to have the health care of helping them address their gender identity and expression. The bills written here are right now serving to threaten the loss of children from any families receiving such health care. The “Father Knows Best” philosophies behind these bills are similar to the patronizing way the SCOTUS has been discussing whether women have the rights to make decisions about their own bodies and when to have children. It is right out of the Dictators Playbook to not accept election results that you don’t agree with, so as to condition the people for an overthrow in future elections. Setting up laws that allow state Secretaries of State to overrule the actual elections that we have trusted for decades.
When we add these components to the shooter in Buffalo who went to another community to shoot Black people in one of the only supermarkets in the neighborhood where they live, we are seeing a pattern of violence coming from the Religious Right. When a ‘pro-lifer’ bombs an abortion center, or kills a doctor, we see the pattern. When we watch juries let teenagers who shoot people off the hook for self-defense, we are seeing a pattern. When we see the same kind of actions used by the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazi party and South African Apartheid, we see a pattern. When we see party platforms that include the phrase “Return America to its rightful owners,” we see the pattern of white men attempting to enforce their privilege once again. When we see polls that 40% of Republicans expressing an openness to political violence under certain circumstances, we see a pattern, and it’s beginning to look like the beginning of another civil war.
They are trying to overthrow this country for their own power, that’s why they feel threaten by the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, want to ban books, and even attempt to ban ideas like Critical Race Theory, which is usually only taught in Legal and Social Work graduate programs. As I’ve shared in preaching about the threat of the Dominionists in the Religious Right, many have been teaching a revisionist history that America has always been a Christian nation, rather than the secular, pluralist representative Republic that rejected state-based official religions in Massachusetts and Maryland as safe havens for Protestants and Catholics when we ratified the 1789 constitution we now live under. When the states ratified that constitution, it was with a separation of church and state, as our founding parents wrote, because they didn’t want to risk the same kind of religious wars that killed hundreds of thousands in Europe. In a majority rules country, when it didn’t work to push their ideas through Congress, they have reverted to taking over the courts and as many state legislatures as they can to meet their goals through minority rule.
Sadly, many of these actions are being enacted in the very name of the Christ we call upon every Sunday. I’m fearful for our nation. If you are too, it’s time for us to talk about it. They must hope they have conditioned us not to respond, as many continue to respond by not reading the news. They may be counting on the stress of these current times immobilizing the many, but for the sake of our friends who are literally in the cross hairs of these people, its time for some real conversations and some real action of our own.
Together we serve,
Photo credit: M. Levy for TIME from the first article quoted in this blog.