Another Kind of Lost Cause

Confederate Capitol in Richmond, 1865

Virginians, we love us some Lost Cause.

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.”

GU, nee 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”:

really?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.

This Week In Male Hetero Fail (Thus Always To Tyrants Edition)

This is my boomstick! Not my transvaginal probe. Swear to god.

A friend and I were in a local restaurant/bar last night, eating, talking, trying to get some shit for school done. It was pretty quiet, being a Sunday night, I guess, save for one boisterous exception: a group of aggressively moronic dudes playing darts right behind our fucking table.

Now I have no problem with the individual elements here: dudes, darts, and beer. Fine. But this group took the elemental combination to new heights by tossing homophobia into the mix, which. Awesome. They’d divided themselves into two teams for their game, and their team names? The “gays” and the “lesbos.” Yes, in fact, they were so proud of these monikers that they not only repeated them [loudly] at every possible turn but also inscribed them on the wee chalkboard on which one of their ilk was keeping score.

So I don’t know for certain that these men were exclusively hetero; indeed, you could make a pitch for such aggressive posturing as being a cover for some sort of latent anxiety related to their own sexual identity, much less that of others.

Still. I strongly suspect.

So their dickishness [and my inability to formulate any sort of real-time response, vocal or otherwise], got me thinking about all of the male hetero fail that’s swirling around my home state of Virginia these days.

It’s not fair to consign all of heterosexual maledom into a universal. So take that as my caveat. [Indeed, a friend recently rapped my virtual knuckles for referring to him as “hetero” in a way that he took as a bit of an insult, which, ok, it may have been, but only unconsciously so. Hence me performing my bias so openly here.]

However, a handful of white, heterosexual men–many of whom ostensibly represent the fine people of Virginia–have been doing their damnedest over the past few weeks to make that truism harder and harder to uphold. So to speak.

Most of this idiocy centers around our state government’s attempts to pass a law that would have required any woman seeking the LEGAL medical procedure of abortion to have a transvaginal ultrasound. Oh, yeah. You’ve surely heard about this by now, thanks to the efforts of Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and The Rachel Maddow Show. Thus always to tyrants, indeed.

Currently, Republicans control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion in our fair state. And although the person who drafted the state-mandated penetration bill is a woman, many of the bill’s loudest and most prominent supporters were the white men who dominate Virginia’s House of Delegates and our Senate.  Our right-wing social experimentalist governor, Bob McDonnell, had been touted as a potential running mate for the GOP’s eventual nominee [*cough*Mitt Romney*cough*].

However, once the transvaginal nonsense broke into the mainstream–both in Virginia and in the national press–McDonnell backed down from his heretofore vociferous support for the bill [and its equally insidious cousin, a so-called “personhood” bill that would redefine human life as beginning at conception. Good times!].

Now that the state-mandated penetration bill has been killed and the “personhood” bill has been sent back to committee [effectively tabling it for the rest of this year], you may be asking: of what new male hetero fail do you speak?

I speak, dear reader, of Delegate David Albo, who ostensibly “represents” district 42 in Fairfax, VA. Let me allow the gentleman from Fairfax to speak for himself–and it’s worth quoting in full, via Gawker:

I got Rita [Albo’s wife] some red wine, sat next to her, used my patented cool move. I invented this, it’s a United States patent. I went, “Ohhh, I’m so tired!” I then turn on the TV to find the Redskin channel. I know you think that’s weird, but my wife loves the Redskins more than she loves me. Got my theme music going, my red wine, looking at the Washington Redskins and I start flipping through the channels. And through the channels you have to get through the news stuff. And all the sudden on my big screen TV comes this big thing and a picture of a bill that has “Albo” on it. I went, “Wow! Holy smokes, it’s my name as big as a wall!” And the very next scene was a gentleman from Alexandria’s face as big as my wall going “trans-v-this” and “trans-v-that” and “they hate women!” and “we’re gonna—in that bill—she’s crazy!” And I’m like this with my wife. And the show’s over, and she looks at me, and she goes, “I gotta go to bed.” So if the gentleman’s plan was to make sure there was one less Republican in this world, he did it.

[If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the video of this display of rhetorical impotency here.]

As the commenters on Gawker’s story point out, Albo can’t even SAY THE WORD VAGINA, yet he professes a desire to legislate how and when the state should have access to it.

What’s almost as bad, I think, is his apparent assumption that if he wishes to have sex [shudder–why am I thinking of tentacle porn?!], then his wife should [by right] be in the mood. And I also love his assumption [a peek into his figured world, perhaps?] that it’s the talk of the transvaginal probing legislation that gets his wife “out of the mood,” as if she was already in said mood, given all of his careful preparation for seduction. Hey, at least he recognizes that talk of state-mandated penetration is, you know, less than alluring–as might be, dare I suggest, her knowledge that he supports such legislation of women’s bodies. Might not really make her want to, you know, give you access to her vagina, dude, knowing that you spend all day thinking up way to virtually worm your way into those of women all across the state. Just a thought.

And, to top it off, the Daily Caller website threw a video tantrum today over Rachel Maddow’s coverage of Governor Transvaginal Probe and his buddies. Seems the good people of the Caller don’t like Rachel using the word “vagina” on the TV machine. Loudly. Repeatedly. And in the context of GOP policies. [Also, note the totally squeamish way in which the blogger from the Washington Post presents this video. Can’t even bring himself to comment on it beyond a coy: “That’s as much detail as I’m willing to provide on this affair.” And the use of the word “affair”? No mistake there.]

So let’s add “vagina” and “transvaginal probing” to the list of words with which the dominant discourse is very, very uncomfortable–to the list of words I vow to now repeat early, often, loudly, and occasionally even in context–in a way that’s totally different, I think, from the heebie-jeebies that words like “anal” and “sodomy” give to said discourse.