For all of its Snidley Whiplash swagger, of late, the GOP seems to have forgotten that the internet exists.
More to the point: they haven’t realized that the kinds of bullshit they used to be able to pull in relative secret–during game 7 of the NBA finals, as in Texas; or at 8 o’clock at night on the eve of Independence Day, as in North Carolina this week–will no longer have the comfort of the shadows.
No. Because somebody’s always watching.
And, as Edward Snowden was helpful enough to remind us (in the douchiest possible way), each of us is caught in a very particular kind of governmental gaze. (Ah, bonjour Foucault.)
As a liberal, I know I should be furious about this, about data farms in Utah and metadata and the autonomy that’s been taken from me. I’ll admit: I feel a bit guilty at not going full-on Rage Cat on this issue; my dreams are full of Howard Zinn shaming me from afar.
But I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years thinking about what it means to have a life online, to be leaving a digital trail all over the freaking place, and I’ve made my peace, mostly, with having little control over data that once was “mine” and that’s now free range on the Internet.
There are many among us, that is–especially outside of Northern Virginia, which Sarah Palin famously claimed wasn’t the “real” Virginia.
Here’s the best way I can explain the difference, as someone who grew up just on the cusp of NOVA and now lives way the hell down south and west of there:
The Civil War is considered settled in Northern Virginia. It’s not a liberal playground, to be sure–they’ve got lots of conservatives types, especially the rich folks out in Fairfax and Loudon counties. But it’s firmly grounded in technology, in government, in the future. For NOVA, the only way ahead is up; NOVA has no past, per say, as almost no one who lives in Alexandria or Arlington or even Prince William grew up there, is from there. No. You move to NOVA for opportunity: a new job, a college education. NOVA is the kind of place you leave your hometown for.
In the rest of the state–forgive the generalization, but I’m from here and I can paint with that broad brush–the Civil War’s unsettled business. The past is very present in places like Fredericksburg and Richmond and Hampton Roads and even out here in the western part of the state: the Civil War happened here and hell, for a lot of folks, it’s still raging. You don’t come to these parts of Virginia in search of the future; you come here searching for The Past, for the graves of Stonewall Jackson and the battlefields at Wilderness and the old home of the Confederacy in Richmond, so that you may fly the one true flag of that nation with pride, as do these gentlemen here:
That’s not to say we don’t have colleges and industry and technology way out here; we do, and a lot of them are damn good. But there’s also The Past here, present in a way that all the historical markers in NOVA don’t come close to. History, out this way, it’s in the soil. And there ain’t as much built on top of that soil to keep The Past from worming its way back out.
A brilliant colleague of mine studies this phenomenon: it’s called the Lost Cause, a deep sense of nostalgia for the War of Northern Aggression, for the way Virginia used to be, then. The way many feel is should be, now. And how this desire for what’s been lost–what was taken by the Yankees–reacts when it comes to contact with oh, you know, the narratives that much of the rest of the country holds about what the Old South was like, and why the War was fought, and all that.
This is a long way of saying, I guess, that Virginians, we have a history of hanging on to what’s already been lost.
Point of fact: our fair Governor, Bob McDonnell; or, as Rachel Maddow so aptly dubbed him, Governor Ultrasound. I’ll call him “GU,” in lieu of “dickweed.”
So good ol’ GU is just damn well determined to deny the existence of the past 40 years in America, of the nation’s passage well into the twenty-first century. Along with his fellow Republicans who dominate most of the statewide offices here, GU really, really wants to deny we women of Virginia access to abortion. You know, that pesky little medical procedure ruled constitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1972. That one.
Because GU, he just loves his God, and he’s convinced that his God–the ancient white guy with a beard and a serious hard-on for immorality–hates abortion; hell, hates the idea of women having any sort of control over their own reproductive systems, because surely that is the purview and the property of said God and his on-earth representative, man.
So, as Maddow so neatly demonstrated last night, in early 2012, GU and his cronies picked up a Texas bill that mandates that women seeking an abortion in the state have what’s call a transvaginal ultrasound performed upon them before they might gain access to an abortion.
Not a regular ultrasound, which would be bad enough; indeed, mandatory ultrasounds of the non-probe-y type have been routinely used by the Religious Right and their political counterparts in this country as a shaming tactic designed to “humanize” the fetus and browbeat women into submission for decades. But an ultrasound that requires that a probe be INSERTED INTO A WOMAN’S VAGINA against her will: all the better to scare you with, my dear.
Suffice it to say: GU and his cronies, unlike their counterparts in Texas, became the subjects of national ridicule over this legislation. Thanks to programs like The Daily Show, Maddow, and others, the story got out, GU earned his nickname, and the bill didn’t make it out of the statehouse.
But GU and company were undeterred! and, after a loud and angry fight this past fall, Richmond passed a law–once again couched in matters of “health”–that requires clinics that offer abortion services–or, as the Code now calls them, “abortion facilities”–to meet facility and personnel standards of hospitals.
Passed as “emergency” legislation in the fall of 2012, these regulations were approved by GU in the dead of the fucking night on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012.
There was no public announcement.
Only the posting below on the Virginia Town Hall website. Oh, but look carefully: you’ll have to weed through the repacking of crabmeat and summer camp regulations to see the “Regulation for Licensure of Abortion Facilities”:
I’m sure GU’s office would consider this public enough. Hell, it’s online, right? [For the record, I had a hell of a time tracking down the regulations themselves on said site, but I finally did so and you can download them here, if you like.]
These regulations have now only to be approved by the State Registrar before Virginia begins enforcing these laws, which would, in effect, put most if not all of the abortion providers in the state out of Code and out of business.
Never mind that the Supreme Court almost 40 years ago that women in this country have the right to access to a safe and legal abortion. No. That hasn’t been a deterrent in the past for folks like GU, so why start now?
Never mind that the GOP’s “war against women” in 2012–kicked off in part by GU’s attempt to pass transvaginal ultrasound legislation in Virginia–cost them big big time in November’s election. No. GU and his ilk, they know what’s better for we women that we know ourselves; and if we refuse to see it, they’ll be forced to do it themselves–for our own good, you understand.
GU and his friends, they’ve wrapped themselves up tight in another kind of Lost Cause. The 1960s and 70s happened, gentlemen, as much as you may resent them, and the resulting 40+ years have spawned thousands of women in the state–like me–for whom the right to an abortion is a settled question. It’s healthcare, a medical procedure like anything else, and yes it involves our ladyparts and we know you think your God owns those but, no. He does not.
I know it’s dangerous to say the culture wars are done–because gods know those wars have achieved undead status–but look around you, GU. Marriage equality? It’s coming for all the states in the Union. Medical marijuana? That, too. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is no more.
The world has changed, sir, and it’s fine that you’ve chosen not to change with it. But you don’t get to make that choice for anyone other than yourself.