Live turkeys, dead possums and a very vocal Tea Party

By Caitlin Kelly

Welcome to Virginia!

It’s most definitely not New York.

We’re staying with friends for a few days and exploring the area. Yesterday I drove 90 minutes to Richmond to visit the Tredegar Civil War Museum, on the site of the ironworks that supplied the Confederacy with munitions.

"Ruins in Richmond" Damage to Richmo...
“Ruins in Richmond” Damage to Richmond, Virginia from the American Civil War. Albumen print. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t know that much about the Recent Unpleasantness, as some Southerners still call it, but I learned a lot. I did know, and included in my 2004 book Blown Away: American Women and Guns, that women served in the Civil War as soldiers, being small and slight enough to pass for teenage males. I used a terrific history of this issue, They Fought Like Demons, in my research.

A One Hundred Dollar Confederate States of Ame...
A One Hundred Dollar Confederate States of America banknote dated December 22, 1862. Issued during the American Civil War (1861–1865). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Interestingly, and not surprisingly, I did not see a reference to this in the museum, although it might be there — it’s interactive and highly detailed. One of the most compelling sights was the green velvet lined surgeon’s kit, complete with amputation saw, and a battered metal post he would have used to prop up a leg before a soldier was to lose it to surgery.

Another artifact was a black striped silk dress and its wearer, in a daguerrotype, with her husband and baby — four years later she was dead in childbirth. And heavy metal shackles, worn by slaves.

It is one thing to read about this in books, or see it in movies, but to read the words of soldiers and their wives was also sobering.

Made in China, of course!
Made in China, of course!

I ate lunch at a great old diner, Millie’s — a pulled pork sandwich on a cheddar biscuit. I skipped the grits in favor of salad. Each table had its own jukebox.


Then I visited Carytown, the funky part of Richmond, and scored a handful of antique treasures.

Two of my found treasures
Two of my found treasures

It’s an odd place for someone like me. Every church — and there are many, many churches here — is United Methodist or Baptist, with a few Episcopalians. I have yet to see a Catholic church or synagogue.

The highways are lined with very large trucks driven by farmers in caps. We ate dinner at a local restaurant and 14 men, most of them Hispanic farmhands, came in for $4 taco night. The fields are filled with winter wheat, and the new corn crop is just starting to show.

As I drove, I passed two dead possums and many live turkey, in the fields, on the roadside. They’re big!

The Tea Party has many large signs in bright yellow posted just outside of Richmond — past the Battlefield Elementary School — asking “Are you a Patriot?”

In March 2012, the Virginia legislature passed a bill requiring women who want an abortion to have a sonogram:

The legislation has proved ideologically polarizing, with many Democrats decrying the bill as an invasion of privacy aimed at shaming women out of having abortions, and Republicans heralding it as a way to provide women with as much information as possible about their pregnancies prior to having an abortion.

“This law is a victory for women and their unborn children. We thank Gov. McDonnell and Virginia’s pro-life legislators for their work to ensure that women have all the facts and will no longer be kept in the dark about their pregnancies,” said the conservative Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a statement.

Any woman choosing an abortion is hardly “in the dark” about her pregnancy. She’s pregnant and doesn’t want to be.

I wonder where (if/when) we’ll retire  — and which part of the world we’ll choose.

Our friends have chosen this part of the United States, and it is lovely to look at. But politically and religiously, not my cup of tea.

American women’s reproductive rights face relentless attack

Flag of Virginia
Image via Wikipedia

American women are facing a barrage of attacks from the religious right and the elected officials who represent their interests.

The last time I looked, American women do have the vote. But you’d never know it.

Here’s a smart and lucid recent post about our current, increasingly embattled fight for access to contraception, with lots of helpful links.

The latest monstrosity?

A law in Virginia requiring a woman who wants an abortion to undergo a transvaginal probe.

From Dahlia Lithwick writing at Slate:

So the problem is not just that the woman and her physician (the core relationship protected in Roe) no longer matter at all in deciding whether an abortion is proper. It is that the physician is being commandeered by the state to perform a medically unnecessary procedure upon a woman, despite clear ethical directives to the contrary. (There is no evidence at all that the ultrasound is a medical necessity, and nobody attempted to defend it on those grounds.) As an editorial in the Virginian-Pilot put it recently, “Under any other circumstances, forcing an unwilling person to submit to a vaginal probing would be a violation beyond imagining. Requiring a doctor to commit such an act, especially when medically unnecessary, and to submit to an arbitrary waiting period, is to demand an abrogation of medical ethics, if not common decency.”*

Here’s a CNN story about the state’s move to declare embryos as persons with legal rights:

Women’s rights advocates say these legislative and ballot efforts around the country to establish fetal personhood are part of a move to place greater restrictions on women’s access to abortion.

“Over the past several years, we’ve seen more and more attempts to restrict abortion directly,” said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that describes itself as advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights through research and policy analysis. “These efforts around redefining ‘person’ are a little more of a back door approach, because they don’t use the term abortion. They’re not an outright abortion ban. Instead they’re using a less obvious approach in a way that does not exactly indicate exactly how far they go.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, new laws in 24 states in 2011 restricted access to abortion services, while according to the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America, the number of “anti-choice” measures being implemented in states has risen steadily over the past decade, from 303 in 2001 to 713 in 2011.

Let’s review….

The United States is still facing the highest unemployment since the Depression.

Income inequality is at a record high.

Millions of home-owners are in foreclosure.

And legislators are focusing their energies and animus on.…our reproductive freedoms?