Vail Daily letter: Behind the shell game |

Vail Daily letter: Behind the shell game

Jim Cameron
Avon, CO Colorado

On a summer night in 1966, a couple of buddies and I were doing a pub crawl in the Soho district of London. The night was cold and drizzly and we were all wearing trench coats. We came upon 25 or so men gathered in a tight circle noisily cheering whatever was going on in the middle. We peered over shoulders to see a one-armed man running a shell game. Not surprisingly, he was getting beaten on every round by the “mark” who was enjoying the distress and disappointment on the face of the loser.

My friends and I stared at each other in puzzlement and disbelief as we drifted away. A local at the next pub clued us in. The game was a ruse. Pickpockets were working the crowd of men as they strained to get a better view of this folly. Our trench coats had saved our own wallets.

I have that same sense of disbelief as I watch the current version of the GOP in its efforts to trim the size of government and reduce government spending. I have that same feeling that I am watching that shell game all over again and the audience is being fleeced.

After watching all the political posturing about cutting a billion here or a billion there in our current budget year, the sticking points turned out not to be important fiscal issues but policy issues such as funding for Planned Parenthood and the United Nations Population Fund – about as important to our budget as pennies in a wish fountain. The religious right factions in the GOP/Tea Party were willing to shut the government down so that federal money wouldn’t be used to pay for abortions? Who knew? Never mind that federal money has been disallowed for abortions since the Hyde Amendment of 1976, the rhetoric was intended to brand Planned Parenthood as an abortion mill.

About 3 percent of Planned Parenthood funds are used to pay for abortions, and that 3 percent is funded by private donations. The vast majority of the money (including federal funding) is used for various cancer and sexually transmitted disease screenings for lower income populations. The Population Fund doesn’t provide abortions. Its role is family planning.

So what’s the gig? I think I have it. It has to do with the word “planned” in the organization’s title. See, pregnancy isn’t supposed to be planned. That would imply the use of contraceptives, and the religious right knows that the availability of contraceptives leads to sex outside of marriage. And you know what that means – it means that the religious right is compelled to get their noses in the lives of the rest of us.

Do you suppose deeply religious, socially conservative women enjoy sex? It’s not entirely a sarcastic question. The congressmen (of both parties) who get caught in lecherous affairs, toe tapping in public restrooms or sexually crossing the gender barrier are all too often the Bible-thumping, vocal champions of family values. Perhaps a little more enthusiasm in the bedroom on the part of their wives? Look, you don’t want the number of kids you have and the number of couplings you’ve had to be the same number. The enthusiasm doesn’t even have to be real. Fake it! Pretend you are Meg Ryan in the movie “When Harry Met Sally.”

I’m not totally unsympathetic here. If I were a woman and thought that every hump could lead to a bump, I wouldn’t be very receptive either.

Rest assured, the topic of abortion will be a major (but under the table part) of the upcoming debates about the national debt limit and next year’s budget. Not that it should be, but the religious crusaders who eschew government intervention in their lives have no trouble trying to assert it in the lives of everyone else when it serves their purpose.

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