When I heard 40 days before Election Day that the "No on 26" folks were trying to hire a spokesperson, I just knew women didn't have a chance. Thankfully, I was wrong.
What we all watched happen to turn back the cocky Personhood folks—many of them men and women too old to have children—was nothing short of amazing. And I don't mean because a progressive stance won an election handily in this state—that, too, of course—but because a diverse group of people rejected the right-left political standoff and spoke out for the best interests of our people. It was a revolution of the informed middle.
We live in a state, and a country, where this just doesn't happen very often. Our corporate-financed two-party system doesn't let "the other" get through, even when it's the most evidence- and fact-based position. And bolstered by media corporations that don't want to rock their own corporate boats, the truth gets lost in fake objectivity that divides every story in half, often "balancing" actual facts with lies.
The worst part is when folks who are supposed to be on the side of "the people" hide in the corner rather than speak out against something considered controversial in Mississippi. Or when so-called progressive leaders are so afraid of being called names (I'm used to that myself) or losing state funding that they won't dare go to the wall on behalf of our citizens.
The Mississippi Democratic Party, of course, is Exhibit A in this hall of shame. Nearly every Democratic candidate—what there were of them—decided that they had to come out for Personhood in order to get votes. This even included Johnny DuPree who has a grandson due to in vitro.
Put another way, very few people believed Personhood could be stopped. It kind of tickles me now to hear the Republican meme that it was Planned Parenthood that stopped Personhood. I call B.S. on that notion; we were lucky if we could get anyone from Planned Parenthood or any official No-on-26-er to freakin' call us back for our stories. Local doctors and what we are lovingly calling the "grassroots mamas" were the ones with the courage. And, apparently, the belief that they could bridge differences to stop this assault on our citizens' rights to make their own health decisions.
(Look at the "Healthy Mississippians" signs against Personhood. You can barely find the word "No" on there, it's so small.)
I fully believe that, without the grassroots efforts, the national groups that conservative politicians love to hate would have continued to treat Mississippi as "flyover" country—a place they might as well just forfeit because there was no way we could organize and defeat anything that would outlaw abortion. From our front-row seat, what we saw from the grassroots movement gave us guarded hope.
My prayer now is that enough Mississippians saw what can happen when people come together and use social media and word-of-mouth to spread real information that unlocks the dumb right-left political standoff and gets to the grit of what these efforts mean to everyday people. In (one of) the nation's sickest and poorest states, I want to see this happen with other issues, such as health care, job efforts, education funding, quality sex education and birth control, and tax cuts, to name a few.
These are all issues that have been co-opted by "leaders" bought by corporate dollars willing to engage in dishonest race-baiting (such as "welfare mother" scares) to make many voters think they're being screwed when they are actually being helped. But let's face it: Those corporate dollars aren't going away anytime soon, nor are the candidates they bankroll. It is up to individual people—the grassroots—to really think these issues through, and demand factual information, much as the majority of Mississippians did with Personhood.
Let's take one of so many examples: How many people actually know what health reform (branded "Obamacare" by corporate politicians) does? How many good-hearted middle-class people are willing to ignore the yelps long enough to figure out just how it would really affect small businesses (such as mine)? How many are interested in how many more jobs can be created by companies that aren't constantly strapped by people out due to health concerns? How many want to know how health reform can save us costs because taxpayers end up paying in the long run for poor medical care for fellow Americans?
Same with tax cuts: How many people are willing to consider a viewpoint not parroted by cable TV hosts and bloggers they believe they already agree with? Or, to get even more local, how many of you are willing to consider the negative effects—on crime—of media and community obsession with crime? Are you willing to seek out and consider evidence-based solutions that politicians just ignore?
Most of you—especially in Jackson, bless y'all's hearts—did just that on the Personhood Initiative. Perhaps you did it because you're a parent and know the difference between a campaign to save a zygote and the need to protect the future of your daughter who was date-raped by the big man on campus.
But we can all apply this level of thought and evidence standard to every issue before us, if we will. Just imagine the possibilities.
I also urge you to grow a couple, as the grassroots mamas might put it, and be willing to speak up and stop being so afraid of what some radical-right wingnut, whether from Tupelo or Colorado, might think. We-the-people allow jerks to control the dialogue in this state; just because Phil Bryant says you're Satan for voting against Personhood doesn't mean it's true. Speak out and question, using your name and armed with facts.
Don't be mean-spirited and fall into the All-________s-suck trap when you're speaking out. Not all Dems or Republicans or anyone else suck—many are too busy, or scared, to find good data and speak out about it.
Think about it this way: A major reason our state is known as a bastion of race hatred is not because we had fools running the asylum. It's because too many of the rest of our people didn't speak up or do anything about it, and kept electing them based on bad information.
We can lead, not roll over and play dead, no matter what anyone says. All those mamas who defeated Personhood proved that.
Let's start with unwanted pregnancy. What are you going to do today to prevent it?
Tweet your ideas to me @donnerkay on Twitter. Read the JFP's full Personhood coverage in this archive.
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