All is (Not) Lost

 I had a revelation on a recent trip out of town. I’d lost my way and had turned into the parking lot of a convenience store to calm myself down. First, I asked myself why I want to cry when this happens? Why does it feel so devastating? I’m not in danger, I always have water in the car, and a lunch for long highway drives. What’s the big deal?

Sitting there in the car, I finally figured it out. When I was a child, I hated getting into trouble. In school, struggling with math that involved more than one set of brackets made me panic. I still remember how anxious I felt, which only created more difficulty. When I’m traveling, even to places I’ve been to once or twice before, I often feel like I’m living in a different world. As if the buildings and roads rearrange themselves every night. But on my trip to Calgary, I finally solved the puzzle. 

In the movie, Elf, Will Farrell tells children how he got from the North Pole. 

When I’m going somewhere, I can’t always trust my GPS, so I speak to myself in an ‘Elf’ voice. For example, driving from Route 90 to Osborne Village, I say things like, “Past the big Co-op gas station and the large temple with the golden domes, and then the defunct biscuit factory! I’m addressing the child in me, because that’s who gets upset whenever I’m lost. 

But I’m not sure how to navigate all the changes in the world. I don’t think using a gentle voice will help me get over the recent reversal of Roe vs. Wade in the USA. As a Canadian, why is it my problem? Because I’m a woman. This is every woman’s problem. The saying, ‘women hold up half the sky’ is only partially true. In many places in the world, women hold up far more than half. And yet, rights for women are shrinking. The irony of it is that my people–Christians–are the ones most responsible. I attend a mainline church but consider myself a born-again Christian. And I can’t figure out how people (especially women) think this gives them the right to dictate what half the planet should and shouldn’t do with their bodies. 

I’m particularly irked by organizations like Focus on the Family, because here’s the thing. They want you to have that baby, but they’re not going to help you raise it. When my children were young, they had advice such as this: ‘When your child reaches 18 months of age, cut a switch from a tree and whip their legs with it when they misbehave.’ Seriously. But these people have worked to make abortion almost impossible to get in many US states. Yet the US is the only developed country in the world where infant mortality is rising. And it’s not from abortion. An interesting fact is that countries that provide free birth control have the lowest abortion rates, and others like the US and Pakistan, have the highest. 

Other troubling things going on with our neighbor, besides the war on women, is the war on children. Gun restrictions are loosening even more, in spite of the large number of gun related deaths. Since 1982 only 3 of the 184 mass shootings have been carried out by women. Doesn’t this say something about the nature of women? Yet we’ve been penalized regarding our rights since Adam first pointed to Eve and said, ‘She made me do it.’ 

Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas wants to pass a bill preventing gay marriages. The state of Tennessee had a bill proposal in April suggesting common law marriage be considered between a man and woman only, and wanting to erase age restrictions for the couple. Want to marry off your nine year old daughter? Move to Tennessee. 

When I got married, our phone bill had to be in my husband’s name. Same with our bank accounts. Clarence never entered a bank except to sign mortgage papers, and never paid a bill in his life, because he hated doing that. I did it. In 2012 I was booking our flights to Mexico and he had to give his permission over the phone, because he was the primary card holder. I wasn’t allowed access to the points without his permission. We fixed that, but it was unsettling at the time.

People wonder how on earth Justin Trudeau is still in power in Canada. He’s often misguided, certainly annoying and barely takes his left foot from his mouth before sticking in the right one. But here’s my best guess. His environmental protections are laughable, but they’re better than Conservative candidate Pierre Poilievre’s, who threatens to remove all environmental protections, if he wins.  That means that if Jason Kenney were to return to power in Alberta, he could blow the tops off the rocky mountains to mine coal like he wanted to do a year ago. Justin Trudeau is still in power because he supports the rights of women. It’s not fair to compare the Conservatives to the Republicans, but there is a powerful arm of the party that wants to do away with abortion in Canada. They’re also the ones who want to ban books like the Handmaid’s Tale.

Margaret Atwood’s book  seemed so far fetched when I read it back in the eighties. Not anymore. First they come for your womb, and then watch the rest of your rights fall away. But here’s an idea. What if only women got to vote on issues concerning women?  What if women were the ones in charge? Setting aside those on the rabid right, there’d be less violence and more common sense. I know that women were part of the truck Convoy to Ottawa in February, but they were definitely in the minority. Boo-hooing because the rest of the country wouldn’t pretend that Covid wasn’t real isn’t the same as trying to raise a child you can’t afford and didn’t want in the first place. The thing is, I don’t know men who operate like this. My husband, our friends, none of them have this sense of entitlement. So to these other men I say, try being a woman in Saudi Arabia before 2018 when they were finally allowed to drive. Scratch that. Try being a woman in the US, trapped in an unwanted pregnancy. That’ll teach you what a lack of freedom really looks like.

All is not lost. Not while people with compassion and common sense still have a vote. So, fellas, time to man up and raise your voice on behalf of women. It takes courage, but not as much as it takes for a young teenager giving birth to her grandfather’s baby. Yep, that’s allowed under the new abortion ban, too. It’s time for women to get angry and support our sisters in the USA. The need to support American women living with this tyranny is too important to ignore. If we do, then we might be next. And there’s no self talk that will help me find my way out of that mess.

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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