Thursday, October 08, 2009

What Brings Me out of my Flu Hibernation? Ok-La-Homa!

As I tossed around in bed this morning trying to weigh the relative merits of actually getting up against the vertigo and pounding in my head as the last remaining flu viruses sprint circles around my tired and cramping white blood cells, my thoughts stumbled onto a long-slumbering memory of a musical my grandparents wrote back in the 1970s. Zuh? Yes. My grandparents were career high school music teachers and leaders in a surprisingly vibrant community arts movement in our small southern Illinois hometown, and after decades of directing teenagers in sophisticated productions of other people's music and books, they decided to give writing a shot themselves and turned out something called Mississippi!

That's all I remember about it, and I spent a good many minutes wondering why in the fuck they chose that state. Granted, Oklahoma! was already taken, but Jesus on stage left, Mississippi? Because fewer complete sentences or multisyllabic words would be required? I do not know. I recall seeing sheet music strewn across the kitchen table, and possibly some promotional posters. The community college may have staged the production. Couldn't tell you.

Anyway, Mississippi! naturally leads to Oklahoma! and, coincidentally, my friend who points out all the good stuff I miss--and I have missed everything over the past 11 days--sent me a link to this bit of comedy coming out of Oklahoma, which unfortunately I cannot chalk up to music directors with their sights set on off-off-off Broadway:
A new Oklahoma law requires physicians to disclose detailed information on women's abortions to the State's Department Of Health, which will then post the collected data on a public website. The controversial measure comes into effect on November 1 and will cost $281,285 to implement, $256,285 each subsequent year to maintain.

Well, that's interesting. And expensive. What public good, exactly, does this achieve? Oh, but of course. It serves exactly the same purpose served by my (other, non-musical) grandmother's police scanner. It gives people something to gossip about and essentially serves as state-formalized fuel for informal social sanctions that will frighten some of the remaining women unbowed by 24-hour waiting periods, long drives, and crowds of shrieking protesters calling them murdering hell demons away from seeking abortions.

Police-scanner grandmother would sometimes take me to the schoolyard on Saturday afternoons, when I would scamper around and play and she would sit in a swing facing the school cafeteria. I didn't think much about it until my grandfather asked her, so, watching to see who comes out of the AA meeting today? The Oklahoma law will let anyone with internet access sit in a swing outside all the clinics in the state at once. Sure, no names will be attached to the data, but if small-town Oklahoma is anything like small-town Illinois, the legions of biddies will have a field day matching age, marital status, education, and nature of the relationship with the father to women they just didn't see around town on a specific date.

One of the legislators sponsoring the bill calls it "common-sense legislation," apparently so common-sense that his statement doesn't require any further explanation. I remain unconvinced; fortunately, so do a lot of other people with standing to file a suit that would block its implementation. Stay tuned for the future of state-sanctioned slut-shaming in the Dust Bowl.

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