Super Bowl weekend was a one-two punch. First, there was the announcement of President Obama's proposed policy the New York Times wrote would mean "churches and religious organizations that object to providing birth control coverage on religious grounds would not have to pay for it," notwithstanding the needs of their employees. Next, was a picture of the president skeet shooting at Camp David. (Who knew!)
I couldn't help myself: Super Bowl Sunday I found myself mulling over the state of the union.
And there it was, right there on the TV screen in front of me: A union preoccupied with violence and sex: on the news and in the game. A union beset by trumped-up political and policy battles, ostensibly about preserving life, but really about power and control. A union requiring a peace-loving president to show himself shooting a gun -- in the very week neighborhood innocent Hadiya Pendleton was shot to death blocks from his Chicago home -- in order to demonstrate his bonafides for espousing policy to end the slaughter of innocents. A union requiring a feminist president to advocate for "religious liberty" for institutions that advocate nothing of the kind, in order to demonstrate his bonafides for espousing policy to improve women's health care.
While it professes to love, a union consumed by hate. Hatred of women who want to decide when to bear children and who seek to live autonomous lives. Hatred of those who are different. Hatred of those who disagree. Hatred of those who don't like guns. Hatred of those who call for an end to violence for play.
A union in chaos, in "A (Bowl) of Confusion" this Super Bowl Sunday.
I turned from the New York Times to the Chicago Sun-Times. Its front page proclaimed "Chicago under fire." This headline appeared above a picture of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, covered by a second headline in do-not-miss-yellow crime-scene tape: "crime scene -- do not cross." The stories and editorial that followed discussed what Emanuel might do to put the (gun) fire out and clear the crime scene. What to do now that his city has become the reigning symbol of this hate-full union? What to do when even Hadiya dies?
Chicago gunfire kills at least a person a day. Each of those days, several babies, mostly unplanned, are born to teen mothers, mostly living in Chicago's neighborhood killing fields. These are neighborhoods infused with hopelessness; with images of this union's culture glorifying guns just for the fun of it; with images of sex with whoever, also just for the fun of it. Hadiya got past all this, but only for a while. What to do when even those who overcome are prey?
Is it really any surprise that Hadiya's neighbors succumbed to the desire to kill? Is it really any surprise that residents of American neighborhoods everywhere do when hopelessness about our future is pervasive; when that hopelessness is confirmed by every day's experience; when the messages we see and hear are so relentlessly and single-mindedly violent and hedonistic? Is it really any surprise when our union's political leaders fight more about (more) access to assault weapons and (less) access to to birth control than about more access to jobs and health care?
Wisely in the circumstance, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards said of the president's proposal regarding access to birth control:
This policy delivers on the promise of women having access to birth control without co-pays no matter where they work... This policy makes it clear that your boss does not get to decide whether you can have birth control.
But, if such a proposal is adopted, access will be circuitous and cumbersome. By contrast, in the run up to Super Bowl weekend, Independent Women's Forum spokeswoman Gayle Trotter proclaimed that mothers need quick and easy access to assault weapons. (Who knew!)
In my senior year of high school, the football team's quarterback was killed one Saturday afternoon when his neck snapped during a game. Football lost whatever attraction it had had. Guns had already lost their attraction when I learned what my World War II infantryman father had suffered. I had learned earlier what happened when a girl classmate got pregnant. She was expelled. Summarily. No word on what happened to the perpetrator. Meanwhile, football continued.
While I succumb to Hollywood sex and guns and the Super Bowl spectacle like most others, I'm not fooled. My life in Chicago has taught me guns beget tragedy not glory, indiscriminate sex begets poor women and poorer children, and violence on whatever field is good for no one.
"It's a mess I tell you," in the words of the old Chicago blues song.
What lesson can we learn to get us out of the mess? Since it's not only Super Bowl month, but also Black History Month, I turned to Sojourner Truth. "It is the mind that makes the body," she said. Time to make up our minds to live in the time of love, not hate. Time to change the ending to Hadiya's sister's story.