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The good ol’ days

June 8, 2010

Yesterday I was listening to a Kojo Nnamdi show where a woman from the Independent Women’s Forum (I know you’ve never heard of them and frankly, I’m a little sorry to be introducing you) talked about how conservatives adopting feminist rhetoric is legitimate because fiscally conservative strict construction Constitutionalists can be feminists, too.

Let me preface my next set of comments with the proud declaration that I am one of those freaky pro-life feminists.  I think that one can be “anti-choice” and a feminist because most of the first women calling themselves feminists were themselves opposed to abortion (for women’s sake, as well as children’s).  While there has been a plurality of strategies employed by the women’s movement over the years to accomplish their mutual goals, the goals themselves never changed, nor did they shrink back from attacking the systemic discrimination and injustice inherent in American laws, markets, workplaces, and homes.

IWF does not recognize systemic anything.  It lobbies against equal pay measures.  It goes beyond denying pregnancy discrimination and calls it good business when employers make decisions based on whether or not a woman has an occupied uterus.  IWF wants all of us to return to a simpler time, the good old days, when we all had sweet little nuclear families and tidy little bomb shelters.  IWF claims the war for equality has been won, even while it continues to support the side that has historically opposed the cause of woman.

But IWF isn’t alone.  Unfortunately, among my people (the evangelical people), there is a lot of misplaced nostalgia for the “good ol’ days.”  Pastors talk from the pulpit  (or the podium if you’re in one of those hip, we-meet-in-a-high-school churches) of the years of American family values and domestic tranquility.  Romanticizing American history this way isn’t just painting a scene while wearing rose-colored glasses, it’s like donning blinders and declaring only those well-to-do white people we see in the middle there are the whole story.  Even Norman Rockwell painted with a broader brush than that:

Norman Rockwell, "The Problem We All Face" with Ruby Bridges

During the discussion on the Kojo show yesterday, Kojo said he was leery of people who talked this way about the past because for him, the good ol’ days weren’t really good.  Family values and the “sanctity of marriage” only applied to certain kinds of people.  As I read about the women who fought for suffrage and envision their struggle—standing outside the White House of a war-time President, being spat upon, being hit, arrested for political protest under the guise of a traffic infraction, thrown into work houses, fed maggot-filled chow even force-fed that food at times—I think for me, a well-to-do white woman, the good ol’ days wouldn’t be so good, either.

One of the better modern applications of that verse, IMHO

My Facebook friends post status updates about how Lady Antebellum’s latest song got them through a tough morning, all the while ignoring that the period that the band is honoring with its name would be more accurately portrayed in dirges and elegies than top 40 ditties.

It might seem as if I’m being too sensitive here.  After all, as Juliet asked, “what’s in a name?”  To her I say, “a lot, sweetie.  Enough to make you dead if you have the wrong one in certain times and places (as you will find out in the last act.  p.s. watch our for friars moonlighting as pharmacists).”  Words are important.  Jesus told us that our hearts are revealed in the things we say.  As people of truth and justice, no matter what our political leanings, we cannot afford to look back with longing.  When we do, we not only lie to ourselves, we lie to the world.

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