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Alabama—not sweet, not even home if you’re planning a family

Once again, the time is ripe to resurrect the old Lynyrd Skynyrd/Neil Young debate over Alabama—whether it really is a "sweet home" or still struggles along with one wheel in the ditch.

Based on recent history, sign me up for Mr. Young.

Any populace ill-informed enough to ordain Tommy Tuberville their senator is immediately suspect. And Tuberville, once elected, has not disappointed, punctuating his term with asinine crusades and laughable commentary as he dutifully drags his state back toward the era of reconstruction.

Unfortunately, Tuberville is not a one-off; for now the Alabama Supreme Court (three words that should not even be in the same sentence) has declared frozen embryos to be babies. In a concurring opinion, its chief justice, Tom Parker, wrote, "Even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory."

The headline Alabama Declares Frozen Embryos are Babies is nothing new to people of my age who grew up reading Mad Magazine, National Lampoon, or the Onion. We grew accustomed to the absurd and the ridiculous, and for many of us, such incongruity defined comedy. But to see a headline like that in a prominent national newspaper like the New York Times is more than disheartening. It's baffling. More than that, it's scary. And though Judge Parker's rationale wouldn't pass muster in an eighth-grade debate, the ruling will inflict suffering on an untold number of Alabamans, most of them not embryos.

First off, he's begging the question, assuming that frozen embryos are humans (something at the very least debatable) and that he knows the image of God. These are premises, not conclusions. Neither is provably true using rational methods. I wonder if he realizes that those drawings in the Bible or staring back at him from some church tryptic are not really pictures of God but only artists' representations of this being no one has seen. That does not mean God doesn't exist, but it does mean that references to Him or entities in His image ought better to remain matters of faith than of legal precedent. As for the reliance on scripture and its misreading, I spent many years in the classroom teaching Arthur Miller's biting play, The Crucible, the playwright’s response to the Red Scare of the 1950s, but whose overarching theme is the utter corruption that develops when religious fanaticism overtakes logic and sensibility. People suffer. People die. Lives are ruined. Has anyone in "Sweet Home" Alabama read that book? Read a book? I might have taught with more earnestness had I thought for a second that such idiocy would return. But here we are.

Second, and if possible even more contemptible, is the shamelessness of this attack on women. We tend to look at Dobbs as a game-changer, but it wasn't. It was, to use sports terminology, merely one inning in a nine-inning game in which women's rights are gradually drained away by a male-centric theocracy—like the one Miller writes of in seventeenth-century Salem. (I would direct you to an article by Charles Blow—New York Times, 2/21/24) in which he deals with this on a more granular level.) 

Nowhere is the “maleness" of God more apparent than in Miller's play, where God-fearing men and some bitter and vengeful women collaborate in the destruction of anyone who dares to believe in personal freedom. Driven by fear and ignorance and the presumptuous belief that they alone understand God's will, they willingly take the lives of anyone they declare a heretic. Seventeenth-century New England was a blueprint for 20th-century Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and on and on. Dobbs was inning one—there's lots of game left.

Blow's editorial also cites a new report from Pew Research, which found that although men and women 18 to 34 "are about equally likely to say they want to get married," 57 percent of young men say they want children one day, compared to just 45 percent of young women. Given those statistics, what are men to do? In Alabama, at least, they can erode women's reproductive rights and health care in every way possible; in the long run, they can ultimately elect a president and a Congress that will subjugate women completely...and legally.

The next time you hear some fanatic declare that Trump is here to do God's work—or that he is the second coming—don't dismiss it as more ignorance and stupidity. Though it may be both, remember that Trump is merely the buffoon orchestrated by a cadre of rich and powerful people whose arrogance allows them to claim knowledge of God that the rest of us can never attain. 

I am not anti-religion; people derive comfort and reassurance from the belief that a higher power governs our universe. It is only when that belief becomes legal doctrine to the exclusion of science and freedom that thinking people object. 

As is always the case with men like Trump, Parker, and Tuberville, the concept of empathy is beyond their grasp. In their world, they bank on the fact that the idea of declaring embryos babies, silly as it is, may have little direct effect on most Americans, who won’t realize it is another degrading of personal freedoms. But it is—it’s another bad inning in a game that is quickly reaching its end.

But in sports, we all love the dramatic comeback. Voting some of these scoundrels out of office would be an important first step.

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