Monday, October 04, 2021

A Bad Person Does A Very Good Thing

Al Capone reportedly opened a soup kitchen. Ted Bundy worked a suicide hotline, and Saddam Hussein implemented compulsory public education.  Adolph Hitler pushed an end to smoking (for the wrong reason, but still).

Bad people do good things. It's usually not often and it doesn't outweigh the bad they do, but every human is a complex being. And so it was that in a House Oversight Committee hearing assessing the impact of Texas' forced birth bill, Representative Cori Bush of Missouri

recounted how shortly after graduating high school, she attended a church trip to Jackson, Mississippi, in the summer of 1994. She was 17 at the time.

While on the trip, she met a 20-year-old man, a "friend of a friend." The two flirted and he asked to visit her room. She invited him in, believing that they would talk and laugh.

"But the next thing I knew, he was on top of me, messing with my clothes, and not saying anything at all. 'What is happening?' I thought. I didn't know what to do. I was frozen in shock, just laying there as his weight pressed down upon me. When he was done, he got up, he pulled up his pants, and without a word -- he left. That was it. I was confused, I was embarrassed, I was ashamed. I asked myself, was it something that I had done?" Bush recalled.

A few months after the trip and then a year older, Bush tried to contact the man after noticing she missed her period, but she never heard from him.

"I was 18. I was broke, and I felt so alone. I blamed myself for what had happened to me," Bush said.

Bush later found out she was nine weeks pregnant and that's when "panic set in," she said.

"How could I make this pregnancy work? How could I, at 18 years old and barely scraping by, support a child on my own? And I would have been on my own," she said, also explaining how she feared being kicked out by her parents or disappointing them....

Bush said "choosing to have an abortion was the hardest decision I had ever made, but at 18 years old, I knew it was the right decision for me," adding that it "was freeing knowing I had options."

Representative Pramila Jayapal, chairperson of the Progressive Caucus, and Representative Barbara Lee of California (the sole vote against the AUMF in 2001), also described their personal experiences obtaining an abortion. 

The exceptional courage displayed by these women did not go unnoticed but received far less attention than warranted.  Once people came to realize that homosexuality was not uncommon, that your friend, your friend's neighbor, or even a close family member is gay, a face was put to the abstract. The groundwork had been laid for acceptance of same-sex marriage.

And so, Cori Bush et al. have performed an important public service which needs to be replicated by other public figures, especially in the entertainment industry.

Cori Bush is no Adolph Hitler, Ted Bundy of Al Capone.  However, accountability for criminal behavior, unless "state violence," is nothing she even considers. She makes no effort to hide her hostility toward police and equates incarceration and policing with slavery, policing and criminalization with "yet another system of bondage." Trivialization of slavery is truly a remarkable thing to behold.

Bush is privileged to have access to media, and a fairly safe congressional seat, to make an important public statement. Undoubtedly, there are other public figures who have a platform and whose career would survive, even continue to thrive, were they to speak out similarly. They have not done so, which makes the remarks of Bush, Lee, and Jayapal only one, but an important, step on the way to reproductive rights.

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