Hate. Such a strong and loaded word. A word that has become more and more tightly woven into our political discourse over the past 20 years. A psychological characteristic that once was considered deeply negative, but has now become routine, mundane and acceptable. We hate rich people, we hate poor people, we hate gay people, we hate religious people, we hate blacks, we hate Muslims, we hate, and we hate, and we hate some more.
I often ask myself how we got to this point in our progression as a nation. I remember a time before this of course, a time when we may have hated, but we tried to suppress those feelings and we tried to avoid laying that hatred out for the whole world to see by publicly advertising our hate. Then somewhere around the mid 1980′s, people started putting air quotes around the term and “Political Correctness” was born as a pejorative. Until that time, people were politically correct to avoid inflaming negative emotions, to avoid upsetting people, and to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Now, we laugh at those concepts and being ridiculous….we put our “air quotes” up and we lash out, often leaving in the wake of our vitriol, innocent and good people, hurting and scarred. I LOVED true political correctness, but I’m a dinosaur. I LOVED sparing other people’s feelings. I LOVED saying positive things about others whenever I could. But that was a long time ago.
Now let’s speak about Rush Limbaugh. Why bring up Limbaugh in this discussion? For those of you who may have missed it, a few weeks ago there was a big discussion in Washington about the availability of birth control. Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA)was in charge and appointed a committee to address congressional committee on the issue. The panel was composed of five men and no women. The democrats requested that one female witness be allowed to testify. And that’s where this horror story begins.
Sandra Fluke, a third year law-student at Georgetown University, came to Washington that morning to talk to Congress about contraceptives and the availability of contraceptives. She brought with her detailed data regarding the use of contraceptives among young college-aged women. She was prepared to tell how many of those women use contraceptive purely as birth control, and how many of them also use oral contraceptives to treat a variety of medical conditions including endomytriosis, cervical cystic disease, and other painful and debilitating conditions. She came to offer a woman’s perspective on an issue that heavily affects women…contraception. She came to talk about how important having access to contraceptives is to a lot of women. She came to offer data on the number of abortions that never were, because of access to contraceptives. She came to speak about how important affordable access to contraceptives is to low-income women. She came to speak and she was turned away.
Congressman Issa refused to allow her to address the committee, because he wanted to talk about contraception as a religious issue and, in that narrow framework, her testimony wasn’t necessary. Ms. Fluke did go on to make her remarks before a smaller committee of Democrats (who apparently thought a woman’s point of view regarding contraceptives is relevant), and she made her remarks in a statement that was recorded and is currently available from many sources on the internet. She was bright, articulate, poised and effective.
So how does Rush Limbaugh come into this picture? On his nationally syndicated radio program on Wednesday, Rush suggested with a touch of glee in his voice, that Sandra Fluke cannot afford birth control because she is having too much sex.
“Can you imagine if you’re her parents how proud of Sandra Fluke you would be?” he said. “Your daughter…testifies she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills and she agrees that Obama should provide them, or the Pope.”
Fluke testified that without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman as much as $3,000 during law school.
“Three thousand dollars for birth control in three years? That’s a thousand dollars a year of sex – and, she wants us to pay for it,” Limbaugh said. He then suggested that “high school boys applying to college should consider Georgetown.” “They’re admitting before congressional committee that they’re having so much sex they can’t afford the birth control pills!”
But Mr. Limbaugh wasn’t quite finished. He went on, “What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.”
Yes, Rush Limbaugh, the titular leader of the Republican Party in America, called Sandra Fluke a whore. He did it in a mean-spirited way. He did it loudly and proudly and with no hint of shame. He called this young woman a whore. He did it with his “politically correct air quotes” figuratively held aloft because we no longer CARE if we demean someone with a differing viewpoint, but he did it.
That was Wednesday of course, so maybe he would find a softer heart today and apologize? No, on Thursday’s show, Rush became even more “air quote happy” and suggested that women who use insurance-covered birth control “should post sex tapes online.” “So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of hatred, or more specifically hate speech. This young woman, who by all accounts is a person of character and morality and who is highly respected by all who know her, was verbally attacked and libeled by a powerful media celebrity who should have known better. He would have said those things if he had been talking about my daughter or your daughter, if she had the temerity to express opinions that didn’t agree with his. His speech was hateful. His attitude toward this young woman was hateful. And you would think by now, that Rush would have lost his job, or at the very least, lost some of his popularity with the Republicans he purports to speak for.
But you would be wrong. Sadly…listeners of Rush Limbaugh (collectively referred by Limbaugh as “dittoheads”) have applauded him. His popularity has grown. His ratings are up. He’s “da man” again.
THIS is why I’m sick tonight. THIS is why I often feel I should move to another country. THIS is why I lack a positive prediction for the noble experiment called “America.” There are too many Americans who will accept and encourage this. There are too many Americans who will refuse to speak out about attacks like this.
I’ve been inspired by many people over the course of my 62 years. My Mississippi born father who gave me my very first spanking at the age of 5 for using the “N” word. My mother, my grandparents, my siblings, and even my children have made me the person I am today. But one of my heroes is a man named Elie Weisel. Mr. Weisel is a Holocaust survivor and is today a prominent defender of human rights. He famously said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
Rush Limbaugh was unjust to Sandra Fluker. Rush Limbaugh was pandering to the basest and most vile instincts of America and I, for one, am going to stand up and protest. Let’s stop the hatred.
About the author: Mike Walker, retired educator in the Montgomery Public Schools System, is living his golden years inspired by the words of Albert Einstein, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” He likes to stir up the status quo. Visit his blog: Southern Liberal Man.