A Different Code

“He has created a false public sentiment, by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated but deemed of little account in man.”Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Declaration of Sentiments 1848.

Nurse Margaret Sanger related an experience that inspired her career in family planning. Called to a depilated tenement building, Sanger found a pre-teen girl in the throes of childbirth. 

Attempting to assist the girl, Sanger soon recognized the child was slipping away, bleeding out on a filthy mattress. Indifferent, the girl’s family crowded nearby in a small parlor appearing indifferent or resigned to the drama playing in the next room. 

Soon the bloody battle ceased, as both girl and infant were no more.

A mother herself, Sanger found her life’s work in promoting a woman’s right to choose if or when to bear a child. 

As for Sanger, she found herself arrested in 1916 for advocating sex education and birth control. The charge sheet read indecency. Still, despite legal obstacles, Sanger’s clinic, Planned Parenthood, found its beginnings that same year.

Today the Court decided women no longer have any choice. The government claims an overriding interest in American women’s reproduction. Plainly females are once again considered second-class citizens, leaving men free of any culpability for their actions. Justice Alito, in his majority opinion stressed moral judgement over legal. 

In fact, in overturning Roe has literally stripped women of self agency, holding true Mrs Stanton’s phrase in 1848, that “a different code” is alive and well. 

That Planned Parenthood offers so many other services is not the point. This is about equal protection. That neonatal disorders portend a fatal, and agonizing death for newborns isn’t the point, either.

One of the most precious American underpinnings is a right to privacy. And remember that Prohibition, too, attempted to police private practices. That fiasco ended in futility, because like it or not, people have the right to drink. 

The Supreme Court has not ended abortion in America. 

This isn’t over.

*Justice Thomas indicates he would go after birth control next. Does he realize he opens a pandora’s box that could threaten overturning Loving V. Virginia

A Scandalous Life

Through open doors down a long hallway, reminiscent of The Shining, a cacophony of noisy televisions competed. Soap operas, news reports, and talkshows spilled from empty uncleaned guest rooms. It was the summer of 1974 that I began a brief stint as a hotel maid in Spokane, Washington. Through the course of that summer I began to notice each maid had different approaches to their routine. Some girls stripped the beds, or beelined for the bathroom, but all, to the last dust mop, first switched on the television. 

And the biggest news that summer, outside of Expo ‘74, was the Watergate hearings. Chairman Sam Ervin, Senator Howard Baker, Congressman Pete Rodino, and others became my new favorite TV personalities. Watergate Burglar, Alexander Butterfield spilled the beans on Nixon’s White House taping system, and John Dean spoke of a ‘cancer on the presidency.” For me these hearings were riveting as I placed fresh towels on the rack, and changed toilet paper rolls.

By the end of that summer, August 9, 1974 Richard Nixon resigned the presidency. 

Fast forward 13 years later, and I had just given birth to my second baby, a girl, and she and I cuddled as the television introduced a whole new set of “off the books” operatives. This time the scandal concerned the Reagan Administration’s convoluted plot known as the Iran-Contra Affair. American arms were illegally sold to Iran, our sworn enemy, to continue their war against Iraq. The proceeds from those sales were funneled to anti-Communists fighters battling in Nicaragua. Both efforts violated the Boland Amendment, passed by Congress, explicitly prohibiting American meddling in Central America.

Reagan operatives had hoped that selling Iranians weapons would soften them up because the White House needed a favor. Would the Ayatollah Khomeini help encourage Lebanon’s jihadists to release American hostages secreted around Beirut? The Reagan people gambled that trading illegal arms would secure Tehran’s help. 

While rocking my infant I learned a litany of new names: NSA chief, Robert McFarland, Marine, Oliver North, North’s secretary, Fawn Hall, and the recently deceased mastermind, CIA director, William Casey. My take, as I patted my girl’s little back, was that the Reagan White House had privatized foreign policy in defiance of Congress through renegade agents.

In 1988 Ronald Reagan, in a video deposition, admitted he had done just that, but due to his failing memory, couldn’t recall. 

That brings me to my golden years. I tuned in to the January 6th hearings, as a retired grandma. My husband and I watched and listened to the evidence regarding the violent attack on our nation’s capitol. To say this hearing was electric would be an understatement. Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Capitol Police Officers, particularly Caroline Edwards, left me spell bound. Representative Liz Cheney owned the evening, making clear the person responsible for the attempted coup-the former guy. 

Donald Trump is the first sitting president in American History to be impeached twice.

So what element ties all three scandals together? For one, the course of a single life-from college kid, to motherhood, to grandmother. And I suppose one could conclude I’ve watched a helluva lot of television. 

But for me the message means something else. 

The modern Republican Party has undergone a long death spiral marked by greed, rot and decay. As Liz Cheney said, “there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

For nearly 50 years, from 1974 to 2020 the Grand Old Party has cast off its once, principled moorings, slowly imploding before our eyes. As my generation grew from young students to senior citizens the party of Lincoln silently died. 

And like Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining, there is no redemption, nor any future, only relief these mercenaries can do no more harm.

Gail Chumbley is the author of a two-part memoir, “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight.” Chumbley had also completed to historic plays, “Clay,” regarding the life of Senator Henry Clay, and “Wolf By The Ears,” an examination of slavery and racism in America.