Here‘s a little blog I wrote for the Lake Region Writers Network. Thanks to my friend Jess Larson for putting me on to the great Chuck Close quote!
I had coffee with Lila yesterday. She’d been reading the news and was all steamed up. “Fit to be tied,” she said about herself.
“You must have read the story,” she began, “about the fellow running for senator in Missouri, who said ‘if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.’” What he was getting at was that maybe some women would pretend to have been raped so that they could get an abortion. Don’t that beat all?”
I admitted that it did.
“According to this fellow Akin, rape is the sort of claim a shirker would make. Like the third grader saying ‘the dog ate my homework.’ Or the tardy employee claiming a train held up traffic. No big deal. Now you can get an abortion. That’s what he meant by legitimate rape.
“I’d like to sit down with this Mister Akin and talk to him about rape. About how it is perhaps most women’s greatest fear. About how humiliating it must be to go into a police station and then submit to an examination and questions and to the possibility of someone hinting that it was perhaps your own fault because just look at that short skirt you’re wearing, or just look at where you’d been, didn’t you know better?
“Sure. Sex, babies, we women take these things lightly. We need men to follow us around and decide what’s legitimate and what’s not. ‘Were you really raped, or do you just want an abortion?’ That’s what, in Mister Akin’s world, women will be asked.
“We’ve seen this sort of paranoid paternalism before: poor single mother? You’re probably taking those food stamps and selling them just so you can buy meth (or a television). We’ll have to put a stop to this.
“Never mind Mister Akin’s sheer stupidity about the human body. Follow his reasoning and boxers who’d been hit legitimately would have self-healing broken noses. Old people who’d legitimately come down with cataracts would have cataract-removing mechanisms in their eyeballs.
“Now that’s something I could get behind.”
I had a cup of coffee with Lila yesterday. It had rained in the morning, and the grass stood at attention. I told her about how I’d just returned from a family reunion.
“Family reunions are interesting things,” Lila said. “Now my dad was one of twelve children. You might deduce that I was Catholic but that’s not so. My people were just prolific. Anyways, with twelve children you’ve got the makings for quite a reunion, especially considering that all but one of those twelve, my Aunt Edith, had children. I’m one of 43 cousins. Don’t that beat all?”
I admitted that it did.
“And, until recent years, all of those cousins, or pretty near, came to the reunion. Some years we simply burst the seams. When I was really little, now that was a good long time ago, we all gathered at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house over east of Eau Claire. Some people slept on the front porch, some on the back. My little brothers would make a tent by running a rope between two trees, throwing a sheet over it, tying the corners to rocks or sticks or whatever they could find. Then they had shade in the heat of the day.
“The thing that so amazes me about the reunions, and they still go on every other year, is that people who in their normal lives might not have anything to do with one another, why they come together for a few days. Hug on each other. Laugh a lot. Share the good news.
“I read recently that more and more, folks only congregate with folks like themselves. If you’re a Liberal, the people you know are Liberals. If you’re a fundamentalist, you get with other fundamentalists. But at a reunion, at least my family’s reunion, we’re all in there—Democrats, Republicans, those who like Travis Tritt and those who like Miles Davis, ones with advanced degrees and ones who didn’t finish high school, old ones and young ones, a couple hippies and a preacher. You get the idea.
“Now don’t you think that’s a good model for how we should be in our normal lives? Hugging on folks who aren’t like us?”