Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nancy Pelosi and Sexism in American Politics

Here's something I forgot to post a while back -- a few years back, I believe. I wish I'd done it then but I've made some alterations so that I can speak of my respect, admiration and affection for my particular Hero, Nancy Pelosi, as she prepares to leave center stage as the FIRST woman Speaker of the House of Representatives. I think we Democrats, caring as we always have for the weakest among us -- are the heart and soul of American politics. I offer this piece as tribute to Madame Speaker of the House -- Nancy Pelosi, one of the Greats in American politics.

It has been amazing to watch her in the last few years -- her graciousness, her command of her caucus -- the accolades of her fellows, who say that her kindness is unflagging and her spine is made of steel. I do not doubt that, as she has passed an astonishing quantity of GOOD Legislation in the House that has gone off to die in the Senatorial Graveyard of GOP obstructionism -- despite the welfare of the American people they claim so often to speak for.

She has been a target for these last few years, this good and brilliant woman, in such an ugly fashion that only the attacks on the President have been worse. She has been demonized for her looks, her clothes, her values -- yes, those San Francisco values of caring for your fellow men, and that has been what her term as Speaker has been about -- trying to accomplish the wishes of the President. She seems a much stronger figure to me than either the President or the Senate Leader, Harry Reid.

At the beginning of her term, the first lashings she received were when she stated that the CIA had misled Congress. For months she was the target of every Republican I can think of. I can still remember the phony, sanctimonious outrage of John Boehner! And then we learned that she was right. We find that the C.I.A. DID mislead Congress by order of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and President Bush signed off on it. Everybody, it seemed, lied to Congress.

Hello out there in GOP-Land -- Speaker Pelosi was correct, and I don't believe I've heard any apologies about that or any other smear you've painted her with. And in fact, when all this was happening, those who knew she spoke the truth let the lies stand as they continued to jump up and down, screeching and flinging their ideological scat on her.

These are the moments when I hate politics -- when people with ideas become ideologues, when those who know the truth remain silent in service to their particular political Party, no matter the cost to the rest of us and the Country as a whole. This country was NEVER meant to be built on a base of lies and corruption -- how far we have fallen.

American women have spoken often and for decades about the difficulty of overcoming sexism in our political theater. The barracuda-like feeding frenzy that occurred around Ms. Pelosi a few years back when she stated that the saintly brotherhood of the C.I.A. had misled Congress about torture, or "enhanced techniques" in Bush-speak is certainly a case in point. The sanctimonious outrage that flared up around the Speaker of the House was hot enough to light the kindling under the stake she had been tied to.

My god, what was that compared to what Dick Cheney has done while in office, and after, until his evil heart broke down and prevented further political interference, except through his wretched daughter? Where is the outrage against Cheney or Bush for bringing this country to the brink of ruin?

Where is the outrage against those who involved us in bank-breaking, heart-breaking, body-smashing endless wars because THEY WANTED TO??? For torturing in our name in order to get the information they wanted to justify a war they had already waged? For continuing to JUSTIFY torture to the point where a huge percentage of our population believe it's okay?

Somehow, in the confused, hostile logic of some Republicans, all the crimes of Bush-Co were as nothing compared to the possible perfidy of Pelosi. Such nonsense. And I do think the attack has been stronger because she's a woman. I'm throwing this out as a possibility though I didn't consider it at first -- and then I woke up and started noticing various attacks on political women.

There is a feeling that nobody is addressing the sexist aspect of the attacks. This has been deeply disturbing to anyone who can see that Nancy Pelosi is a relative angel in the middle of all these power-mad, corrupt men who aligned against her.  The attacks on "fancy Nancy' (Mike Huckabee) have to do with botox and her clothing, mainly, as there's not much else they can think of.

Here's another example -- think Hillary Clinton and her run for the Presidency -- every bloody anchorman in the States (including most of the MSNBC guys) laughed at her voice and freaking pantsuits. How people tried to trivialize that formidable woman! Even Sarah Palin must be mentioned, because she was brought down in a particularly savage fashion (errr -- thank god), although she continues to annoy!

To really regard the level of animosity directed at these women is to comprehend a virulent stream of particularly American sexism that is ignored because it is commonplace. But this was a spectacular witch-hunt, and I thought I might point it out.

Despite all the negativity, there have been of late a few montages of Madame Speaker pounding the gavel and beaming while everything her President asked for passed. She did her job, and she did it well. Too bad about the dinosaurs obstructing progress. Part of progress is letting the women in to clean up the mess you boys have made, and not burning them at the stake for it.

I have heard and read it said that she will be regarded as one of the most powerful Speakers in generations, and I believe that. Can this show us that power can be wielded with grace and gentility, and by a woman? I think so. Madame Speaker, I consider you a truly heroic figure, and I am so grateful for all you've accomplished. You have my complete admiration and utter thanks. Someday your dreams will be not only vindicated, but realized. You are, unfortunately for us all, far ahead of your time.