America Nears The Women's Hour


Witch hunters fight to prevent an historic breakthrough.

The ancient Celts considered this the time of year when the border between our world and the next is most permeable. Witches and goblins move among us. Most of us make a game of this, but some Christian conservatives are seriously haunted. Combining this tradition with their conviction that humanity's "fallen state" was caused by Eve's temptation, it is a short step to blame their miseries, real and imagined, on women they treat like witches.

Biblical literalists hit women with several verses: Exodus 22:18, "Do not allow a sorceress to live." 1 Timothy 2:12, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord."

It is thus hardly surprising that the first woman presidential nominee of a major party is not merely opposed but demonized by Christian conservatives. Self-styled prophetic minister Jennifer LeClaire asked in August, "Is Hillary Clinton the Antichrist or an Illuminati Witch?" Such libels have an old pedigree: Menstruation follows a lunar cycle. "Hysteria" is from the Latin for uterus. Independent women are sinister.

On an October evening six days after the Hunter's Moon, I dined with a Wiccan friend. Honoring the season, I raised my glass to the preservation of witches, the 17th Century hunt for whom in Salem, Massachusetts was echoed three centuries later during the postwar Red Scare. As with immigrants, I find real-life witches more companionable and decent than many of their detractors.

Secretary Clinton is actually a Methodist. Her shortcomings could be discussed without resort to otherworldly speculations, but her haters cannot resist. With her opponent manifestly unfit and threatening not to recognize the election results, and with decades of anti-Clinton smears gaining little traction, Republicans needed some renewed skullduggery. With help from FBI Director James Comey, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who already threatened years of investigations against Clinton, set off a media frenzy on October 28 with the equivalent of a campfire ghost story spun into a real spider's nest.

Comey wrote a letter to the chairs and ranking members of various congressional committees suggesting that an unrelated investigation might shed light on Clinton's emails. According to Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, Attorney General Loretta Lynch "expressed her preference that Comey follow the department's longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise."

Chaffetz immediately released the letter publicly, his spin supplanting its vagueness. Though Comey stated that the FBI "cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant" (he hadn't yet obtained a warrant), he had to have known that Chaffetz would exploit it.

Trump learned of it in time to delay a rally so he could deliver another hasty condemnation of "Crooked Hillary" with no evidence. Over the weekend, Comey came under fire for politicizing his agency, while Trump brazenly talked of Clinton's "mounting legal problems" despite facing fraud and child rape charges of his own.

The unrelated investigation mentioned in Comey's letter is the Anthony Weiner sexting case. He is already estranged from wife Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide. Punishing women for men's transgressions is another injustice with biblical precedents.

Speaker Ryan urges intelligence officials to cancel Clinton's classified briefings even as his own party's nominee boasts of the constitutional protections he will sweep aside. Republicans' political nihilism and sexist double standards drive them to ignore the real Kremlin spooks aiding Trump while they punk the media and try to scare voters with ectoplasm from their scandal factory. They would wreck our republic to restore an exclusive white Christian patriarchy. But they are standing on its rotting coffin.

Women helped build this country. They are equal citizens. Secretary Clinton is well qualified and, unlike her opponent, has a temperament suited to the job. It is long past time to excise our culture's prehistoric contempt toward women. It will not be easy, but we can take a big forward step on November 8 by tearing down the "boys only" sign from our nation's highest office.

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Blade and Bay Windows.

Copyright © 2016 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.