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Too Much Expediency

April 20th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Hard choices lie ahead for our country. For years, working at a feminist news service I helped to found, I would have couched the choice in gender terms: A woman would do better. Now, I am not so certain.

As women in America, we have still not achieved equality on a lot of fronts. Anyone who disagrees need only look at her Social Security benefits statement. We can vote, we can mobilize, we can run for office. A majority of the population, we still do the majority of the housework and the low-paying jobs. We still bear the children. And some of these—the poorer ones especially—still go to war.

My husband served in Vietnam. He, like many who experienced that war, is left chilled by Republican John McCain’s joking response to a student’s question about his age. The 70-something candidate is quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 16th as responding in part: “Thanks for the question you little jerk …You’re drafted.” I, too, am chilled by this.

A woman could do better, I always told myself. A woman would prize community over its destruction. A woman would understand that it takes a peaceful village to raise children. A woman would not see war as the solution. A woman would make the connection between excessive spending on war and the squeeze on household budgets.

But perhaps that understanding is no longer a shared feminist one. While initially elated by Hillary Clinton’s spirited run for the White House, I was still troubled by the fact that her vote was among those which enabled George Bush to launch a war on Iraq based on fraudulent information. I did not like Saddam Hussein. I do not like the situation now. On the Internet, I see women mourning their dead children in the street. I see figures indicating millions of refugees–families, children.

I voted for John Kerry in 2004, despite severe discomfort with his own vote authorizing the war. Despite his lengthy clarifications, it still sounded to me like complicity. Feeling helpless, wondering whether any of those in Washington consider the consequences of their actions, I attended a candlelight vigil called by MoveOn.org. In following months, I stood in a village center close to home on Wednesday evenings with others from my rural community, protesting the war. Just before the 2006 election, I brought along the flag which had lain on my father’s casket, and we held it up as traffic passed us.

My father was no pacifist. A very private person, he served in World War II. He did not die in battle. A New Deal Democrat, he had worked to mitigate the impacts of the great depression before the war; later, after it, he labored for the success of farmer cooperatives and crop insurance. He did not live to see these times, so I cannot know what he would say today. I know that he valued his country, as do I.

I must speak for my family now. Holding up my end of the flag in 2006, I spoke to my community, to the commuters’ cars, to the bus and delivery drivers, to the headlights. Then a fellow demonstrator, who had held up the other end—for these casket flags are really long and heavy– helped me fold the flag correctly back into a triangular package, as he had learned to fold so many other flags during the Vietnam war.

Last week, a report in the Huffington Post included a tape of Senator Clinton blaming the “activist base” in her party for state caucus losses, and disavowing MoveOn, specifically. This may have seemed an expedient move in the wake of Super Tuesday defeats, but it was unwise. It made caring people into things.

The Irish poet, William Butler Yeats wrote in his iconic poem, “Easter, 1916” that “too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.” I believe that too much expediency can do things to the heart as well: It can cause a candidate to harden hers. It can fracture mine.

It can split a party wide open.

Shelley Buck lives in Northern California. She was a founding editor of Her Say News Service. Copyright, 2008.

Tags: It's about time!

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Margaret // Apr 23, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Well said! You have given a tempered, compassion voice to my own reservations about Hillary Clinton. Yes, Hillary does have a spotty, ambivalent career to answer to. The tone of this post inspires me to look to what is possible when a woman reaching out to other women might actually stand for. I don’t know if Hillary will deliver on values most women practice every day as faithfully as mantras in a meditation practice, values like nurturance, endurance, care-giving. I could go on and on. The question is, who will deliver if not us?

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