Archive for March, 2008

Iron Jawed Angels

March 30, 2008

I got this e-mail from a family friend a few weeks ago:

This is an amazing part of our history we know very little about.
These are true heroes.
 This is the story of our Grandmothers, and Great-grandmothers, as they lived only 90 years ago. It was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.
 The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty (40) prison guards wielding clubs and with their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic.”
 They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.
Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.
Thus unfolded the “Night of Terror” on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson‘s White House for the right to vote.
For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.
 So, refresh my memory. Some women won’t vote this year because–why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?
 Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie “Iron Jawed Angels.” It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.
All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.
 My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself. “One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,” she said. “What would those women think of the way I use–or don’t use–my right to vote?
 All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.” The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her “all over again.”
 HBO released the movie on video and DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.
It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.
The doctor admonished the men: “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”
Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote Democratic, Republican or Independent party – remember to vote. History is being made.
“When Injustice becomes law…
Rebellion becomes Duty”

I just watched Iron Jawed Angels, it’s an amazing movie and I highly reccomend it to everyone. And as someone who misses being able to vote in the 2008 presidential election by just four months, I urge everyone not to take the right to vote for granted.


This is why math is important

March 22, 2008


They let a woman out of prison a year early because someone screwed up some “especially difficult” calculations. Then they figured it out and put her back in jail.

Considering how arbitrary the sentencing seems to be, they should have just let her stay out, especially since it was their own mistake. And it hardly seems as if she would be a danger to the community by now, considering that after being charged, she got married and had three kids.

Theocracy is not about God

March 22, 2008

If you really believe that God is all-powerful, then why does God need the power of our government?

The obvious answer is that it’s not God that’s trying to gain power. The religious right uses God to get power. Politicians use God to try to get power. Theocracy isn’t about God at all- it’s about humans scheming for power.

Personally, I’m not religious. But other people’s religion doesn’t bother me. As Thomas Jefferson said, “it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”  I don’t mind if people say Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukha or whatever other religious holiday greeting they want to use. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you can still have a good day on December 25, which is what the greeting “Merry Christmas” means. Being against theocracy does not mean pretending that religion does not exist.

Even if you believe that God wants people to act a certain way, and that everyone who does not behave that way will go to hell, it’s still no excuse to inject religion into government and force people to behave the way your religion wants them to. If you believe, for example, that all gay people will go to hell, why should you ban gay marriage? You should be perfectly content to leave everyone alone to live their lives the way they want to on earth, safe in the belief that when you die, you will go to heaven, and everyone who you believe is wrong won’t.

There are some religious people that I really admire. People who believe in God, and help others, and are tolerant. These people do not try to force their beliefs on others. Their faith is strong enough that it does not need the legislature to back it up. There are good and bad sides to religion, and it is almost always the bad sides that meddle in government. Theocracy gives religion a bad name.

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