Monday, December 06, 2004

Right Wing Fantasies, Including Abstinence-Only Education

While those on the left are often characterized as being the starry-eyed dreamers, with visions of peaceful cooperation across societal and national boundaries dancing in their heads, I think the neo-cons have taken political fantasy to heights undreamt of by liberals.

For instance, there is the right-wing fantasy that American-style freedom and democracy is both the thing our enemies hate about us, and also so obviously Good (capital G) that no one who is not Evil (capital E) could possibly disagree with it.

First off, it utterly ignores the reality that nations, insurgents, and terrorist groups don't hate us for our freedom or democracy, though they dislike it. Ideologues such as the neo-cons and the Bush regime want to frame the conflict in ideological terms that they are comfortable with, but it bears no relation to reality (of course, they aren't part of the "reality-based community" by their own admission...) The truth is that America isn't hated for what it is, but for what it does. It doesn't matter if the guy who you think burned down your house is a fascist or a communist: It matters that he burned your house down! But the ideological explanation works better as a facet of the fantastic worldview the neo-cons have created for themselves, so it is the one the Bush regime repeats endlessly.

Also, using the above neo-con fantasy logic, all Right-thinking (capital R) Iraqis would naturally see us as liberators and the Middle East would see a democratic Iraq as a beacon of democracy and freedom. But anyone with an ounce of sense knew that wasn't going to happen. Some people, as difficult as it is to fathom for those of us who cherish the imperiled freedoms we enjoy in America, don't believe that democracy and freedom are good. And not all of them are Evil. I would agree that they are wrong and wrong-headed (of course, I think the same of many conservatives), but not Evil. And there are lots of those people in the Middle East. Enough to ensure that the transition to freedom and democracy in any nation there will be a tough road. But once again, ideology rules the worldview of the neo-cons, and since democracy and freedom are Right and Good they could not accept that there was any possibility that the Iraqi people would see it as anything less than a blessing from God.

Another fun right-wing fantasy is that you can stop kids from having sex with "abstinence-only education." Because, by not teaching kids about safe sex, they won't have sex at all, like in the Fifties! Except kids did have sex in the Fifties. And the Forties. And the nineteenth century. And the eighteenth... I think you see where this is going.

Christian-influenced Western society has always taught abstinence to its kids. Until recently, of course, there wasn't much choice. If kids were going to have sex, there weren't any contraceptives (at least, effective ones) nor effective means of preventing STD transmission. But now there are. And since 2000 years of Christians preaching abstinence hasn't worked until now, obviously it hasn't been given enough time. Or so the neo-cons would have us believe.

But you're talking about teenagers, who often haven't developed a great deal of willpower or self-control, being able to resist one of the most basic urges programmed into us by evolution (or by God, if you're not big on the whole "science" thing, in which case you should shut off your computer right now before Satan sees you!) In fact, strong desire to procreate is the most basic of traits that we would expect evolution to select for. We are all the descendents of those who weren't abstinent. The ones who were had no descendents.

So, here in the real world, teenagers are going to have sex. But in neo-con fantasy world, to acknowledge this reality is somehow to support or condone it. Only by pretending that teenagers won't have sex if you don't give them any useful birth-control and STD prevention information can "abstinence-only" programs make sense.

But there's a problem with reality, you see. As Philip K. Dick once said, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Teenagers aren't going to stop having sex just because the neo-cons really really want them to. As such, it is irresponsible to withhold from teenagers information on how to protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs, since we know they are going to have sex. Teens will get pregnant (leading often to abortions, which the right claims to want to prevent) and get STDs that could have been prevented if not for our recalcitrance in teaching them what they needed to know.

I suspect, however, that in neo-con fantasy land teens having sex are Bad (capital B) and therefore anything that happens to them is their own fault (or God's punishment, whichever fantasy you prefer).

So, now that the neo-cons are implementing a policy based on fantasy, it should be no shock that the program itself teaches fantasy! As reported in The Washington Post, a study issued by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) found that teens in "abstinence-only" programs have been taught such gems as that sex leads to sterility and suicide, that sweat and tears can spread HIV, and that a woman can get pregnant from touching a male's genitals. As reported by Media Matters, the report also "found that 'over 80%' of the curricula of federally funded abstinence-only education programs 'contain false, misleading or distorted information about reproductive health.'"

Also reported by Media Matters, a spokesperson for an Orwellian-named pro-abstinence group called Project Reality that has put together some of these "abstinence-only" programs has actually been going on FOX News ("your source for evil") and promoting such lies as "the popular claim that 'condoms help prevent the spread of STDs [sexually transmitted diseases]' is not supported by the data," a claim that is clearly untrue from the most cursory look at the available data. A simple Google search reveals many studies in which condoms are found to be extremely effective. The data, in fact, suggest exactly the opposite of what this pro-abstinence group is saying.

So, either the Project Reality spokesperson has never seen the data, or is simply ignoring it and lying in support of his or her organization's pro-abstinence agenda.

Fantasy, either way.


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