This week, I was invited to a tea party.
We hadn’t planned to go near the center city during the convention and during this foray we learned quickly that the jokes Jon Stewart and The Daily Show folks made about the tight security in uptown Charlotte during the Democratic convention weren’t far off the mark. Police officers in droves, many on bicycles.
These guys–a swat team from the Clayton County GA Sheriff’s Department– had to be a crowd favorite. They were a hoot!
Nevertheless, Dearly Beloved was able to drop us off right at the hotel entrance. I had been invited by a South Carolina delegate and since this wasn’t her first convention, I knew exactly what to do: I simply followed her around.
There were some extraordinary women in that room.
Sandra Fluke and my arms. The rest of me is cropped from the photo because I looked as if I’d accidentally impaled myself on a frozen corn cob.
That is Sandra Fluke, who was thrown into the spotlight after being denied the opportunity to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Democrats on the committee had been told they could have only one witness and they chose Ms. Fluke, a Georgetown Law School graduate, to speak about the importance of requiring insurance companies to cover birth control. (You know, the same companies that cover Viagra.) The others testifying in that first round of witnesses were a Catholic bishop, a protestant pastor, a rabbi, and a couple of professors… all men.
Sandra Fluke, however, was the one who was rejected by Republicans on the committee as being “unqualified” to speak.
Needless to say, a lot of people didn’t see it that way and after Rush Limbaugh attacked her in a lengthy diatribe on his radio show, calling her a slut and a prostitute, the pushback from the public was so great that Rush lost some of his major sponsors.
I was delighted to be able to talk briefly with her. When I watched her speech at the convention on TV a few hours later, I was amazed that this eloquent speaker was the same soft-spoken, almost shy young woman I’d met earlier.
Disheartening, after Fluke’s speech, Ann Coulter tweeted a comment about her so vile and disgusting that I won’t repeat it here.
If you’re wondering about the accessory on my left arm, it’s the magic bracelet by which I gained entry.
Who else did I meet?
Hmmm. You may have a little trouble recognizing anyone in this shot. It’s me, with Nancy Pelosi, just as some dude turned on his mega flash while my friend was taking the photo with her iPhone.
Maybe you’ll recognize her here.
Yes, that’s Nancy Pelosi, minority leader of the House of Representatives.
The most unforgettable woman I was privileged to meet there was Tammy Duckworth, who is running in Illinois for a seat in the House of Representatives.
She was in a wheelchair that afternoon, having lost both legs and severely injuring her right arm in a helicopter accident in Iraq. (Ironically, before she was deployed to Iraq in 2004, she had been working on a Rotary International project to provide wheelchairs for the disabled in developing countries.) Every step she takes–literally and figuratively–is an example of her extraordinary courage. She walked on her artificial limbs, using a cane, to deliver her speech that evening.
Her opponent is Representative Joe Walsh, who just a few days ago made this statement about her:
“Ms. Duckworth has continued to show more interest in rubbing elbows with big name party insiders, then [SIC] staying home and tackling the tough issues facing voters in the district,” he said in a statement on his website. “It has become abundantly clear that at this point the only debate Ms. Duckworth is actually interested in having is which outfit she’ll be wearing for her big speech.”
I watched her “big speech.” I don’t remember what she wore, but I won’t forget her passion, or the dignity with which she walked onto the stage.
Lest you think that Rep. Walsh’s remarks were taken out of context, here is another example, this one when he accused her of not being a ”true hero” because, he said, she made her military service central to her campaign. What she has actually done is make military veterans, especially the disabled, a centerpiece of her campaign message.
“I have so much respect for what she did in the fact that she sacrificed her body for this country,” said Walsh, simultaneously lowering his voice as he leaned forward before pausing for dramatic effect. “Ehhh. Now let’s move on.”
“What else has she done? Female, wounded veteran … ehhh,” he continued.
Tammy is up against a wall of money, since big money PACs such as New Prosperity (Sam Fox, the swift boater) and the Koch Brothers like the Joe Walsh style and are pumping large influxes of cash into the campaign against Mrs. Duckworth.
It seems that we aren’t past attacks on “uppity women” after all. Can a Congress which is about 85% male represent women properly? In an atmosphere where men rule–state and national legislatures, the media, corporations, churches, etc., is it coincidence that good looks and cleavage are required to work on TV news alongside paunchy, senior men? What kind of example is that for our daughters and granddaughters? For that matter, what does it tell our sons and grandsons? In 2012, are women who want entry into power circles on the basis of their intelligence and abilities still considered “ball busters” and “fema-nazis”?
Nancy Pelosi celebrated 25 years in Congress this year. At the event I attended, she stressed the need for less money influencing Congress and more women in power. If we want our daughters and our granddaughters to be able to dream of making changes for the better, shouldn’t we be supporting the women who are already trying to do that?
Here, here. Now… now.