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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/9/12

Why Rush Limbaugh went off on Sandra Fluke - and what the hell is up with the GOP?

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We also have a hard time believing that anyone, outside of cults and the Middle East, still really believes that women must be kept under the control of the men in their lives, because women are not only weak, and are not only obligated to keep paying for Eve, but are also most likely not to be able to fulfill that sacred obligation if left to their own devices. Unless they are under someone's watchful, patriarchal eye at all times, who knows what mischief they might get up to? They might end up wanting the sexual license that using birth control encourages. Ask Rick Santorum.

As hard as it is for us to believe, that is at the root of the Evangelical mindset, and it is the mindset of those who are pushing these new attempts to get women back in their place, with men securely back in control as the godheads of their earthly families and communities.

This mindset is what Rush Limbaugh was appealing to when he attacked Sandra Fluke, the woman who testified before Congress in favor of birth control. He called her a slut. A prostitute. He said she was a woman who needs so much sex that she expects the government to pay her out of control birth control costs -- as if your pills cost more the more sex you have. Whatever. The point was to establish that Fluke is not a good girl. She is another weak, out of control woman, a slave to her desires, crying out from the depths of her moral depravity to either be controlled or disparaged. Another Eve.

Most people thought the outrage Rush was selling was, 'here's another liberal expecting that government should provide yet another entitlement'. But that was not why Rush attacked her sexuality. He was attacking her for not being willing to keep paying for Eve. He went all Old Testament on her in a way that looked completely off the chart to most of us, but which made complete sense to the literalists. A woman who refuses to willingly subjugate herself to the rightful dominion of men is a threat, and an abomination, and deserves whatever treatment she gets. She is a whore. She deserves to be put in her place.

This is also the mindset behind all the forced vaginal probe bills being pushed through Republican led state legislatures. The bills' sponsors call these forced vaginal probes necessary because they 'fully inform' the woman seeking an abortion. It doesn't take a big leap to understand the type of 'informing' these forced probes represent. Women choosing abortion are women out of control. If they can't be compelled to behave by law, or religion, then coercion and humiliation are acceptable tactics.

One of these bills says the doctor must position the computer screen so the woman must see the screen while she's being probed, although they stop just short of compelling her to actually look at the screen. She can turn her head away -- preferably in shame. The message is clear: if she doesn't like being unnecessarily probed, she shouldn't have had sex. But, since she did, she should expect to suffer the consequences of her sinful behavior. She deserves to be punished, even humiliated. She is supposed to suffer.

All of these tactics are acceptable because women are incapable of fully understanding what they are doing without guidance from those who know better - men. God said so. They believe it.

The good news is that American Evangelicals who actually believe in this literal interpretation of the Bible are a very small fraction of the population.

The bad news is that they are running the GOP right now, and they are completely driven by fear and superstition. They are motivated to regain control over women as if their eternal salvation depends on it, because they really believe it does. They are as adamant about their beliefs as ancient Mayans were about human sacrifice, as the Inquisition was about torturing people for God, or as the Puritans were about burning witches. God help us, they are sincere.

The likelihood that there was actually an Adam who had a trophy wife named Eve who was tempted by a guy who wasn't her husband, (and who was, after all, a real snake), not to mention the whole apple thing, is pretty unlikely as anything except metaphor. Will that stop those who choose to believe it literally from trying to force it on the rest of us? Nope. Won't even slow them down. But the vehemence of their certitude does not make them right, or obligate us to allow them to rule over us.

This is why arguing with Biblical literalists about the right of women to control their own bodies is utterly futile. First, because it is immediately perceived as an existential threat by them, but, more importantly, because of that huge cosmological communication gap.

After World War II, as late as the 1960's, occasionally a Japanese soldier or pilot would be found on some island in the South Pacific, still fighting the war. There was one man who steadfastly refused to believe that the war was over, that his side had lost, and, most importantly, that his Emperor was not divine. He could not engage in any conversation that was not predicated on those beliefs, everything else was just nonsense to him, or worse, a trick to deceive him. In the end, he refused to leave the island and rejoin the modern world. He chose to die alone with his belief system intact and unchallenged.

And, so it is with the Biblical literalists, only they aren't alone on an island. There are enough of them to provide an echo chamber that reinforces even the screwiest of their beliefs, and there are politicians and wealthy people willing to use them for more mundane ends, reinforcing their sense of persecuted specialness, and giving them a strength beyond that which is warranted by their actual numbers.

But, while it may be a waste of our breath trying to explain to Biblical literalists why women have inalienable rights to self-determination, we do still need to fight them about this. We need to fight them as if they were some militant American Taliban, trying to impose their fundamentalist religious law on all of us. Because that is exactly who they are and what they are trying to do. Forget trying to convince them -- we just need to stop them.

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Ruth Lopez is a painter living in the Seattle area.
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Why Rush Limbaugh went off on Sandra Fluke - and what the hell is up with the GOP?

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