An Open Letter to John McCain
By Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
Dear John McCain,
I missed the debate the other night, but from what I can hear, you were struggling quite a bit. Joe the Plumber? Or your double-take on hearing that Barack Obama will actually provide health insurance without a fine? I heard that you talked straight to the TV, but the evening was devoid of your famed "straight-talk." And even though you looked straight at the camera, I don’t think you were talking to me (although I vote in Virginia, so you should have been).
The fact is, I couldn’t watch your debate, because you have disappointed me beyond words. I’ve already voted against you, but I want to give you some sort of explanation, because there was a time when I admired you, even if I didn’t always agree with you. There was a time when I didn’t think that you would be a disastrous president. There was a time when I didn’t think you were a liar.
These are strong words, I know. But I feel strongly about a presidential candidate who refuses to treat women as if they are human. And this isn’t just about abortion, because (and this may be a surprise to you) I am not pro-abortion. I would be overjoyed if no woman ever had to undergo such a difficult procedure again. I would argue that I am, in fact, working harder than you are to make sure that abortion can vanish from the American landscape.
And yes, I’m pro-choice. But I am also pro-woman. I am not opposed to laws which would finally end pay discrimination on the basis of gender. I have an opinion about whether insurance companies should cover birth control (unlike you), and it’s one which gives women control over their own bodies, so that they don’t have to make the heartbreaking choice to have an abortion. I want sufficient maternity and paternity leave, so that having children doesn’t force women to sacrifice their careers. I want government-subsidized daycare. I want accurate sex education. I want the military, which you esteem so highly, to crack down on male soldiers who are raping their female colleagues, and getting away with it. And I want fathers to be committed enough to their families that they do not leave their wives across the country to raise their children while they pursue a political career. You talk about family values, but Barack Obama has valued his family more highly than you.
Does any of this make sense to you? At one point, I thought it must. After all, in 1999, you said that you would not support the overturning of Roe v. Wade, because it would cause too many illegal operations, which is true. But then again, you voted to gut the Family and Medical Leave Act. You opposed the Title X Family Planning Program, which would provide low-income and uninsured women with essential health services. You voted not to overturn the global gag rule, and you oppose accurate sex education programs. These are not the actions of a man who supports women. These are the actions of a man who wants to get elected at any cost.
A friend asked me recently if I thought that you cared about the fetuses whose “right to life” you so fervently pursue. I hesitated. I wanted to say yes. And after all, I don’t know you. You might wake up sobbing every night over the loss of that potentiality, the three-week-old fetus which was terminated by a young professional because her birth control failed, or the two-month-old fetus that was aborted by a high school sophomore who didn’t know that birth control existed. But really, if you are crying over those fetuses, remember that you could have helped them avoid their fate. You could have supported sex education. You could have pushed for better maternity leave. You could have fought for fair pay.
So I can’t feel sympathy for you, even though you are flailing, even though you have resorted to a dirty campaign in a desperate dive for the presidency. I don’t know what you believe, and I don’t think you care - about me, or an unborn child, or even about Joe the Plumber. I think you care about John McCain.