Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Peter Espeut | Culture war is on

Published:Sunday | January 29, 2017 | 1:00 AM
A protester looks toward a circling helicopter as he demonstrates against President Donald Trump’s visit in Philadelphia last Thursday. Trump travelled to Philadelphia to speak to House and Senate GOP lawmakers at their annual policy retreat.

Anyone who has tried to organise a protest march anywhere must be impressed with the Women's March last Saturday that drew on to the streets more than two million participants globally. Branded as a March on Washington, it actually drew protesters on the streets in dozens of countries all over the world.

The target was Donald Trump, sworn in as the 45th US president just the day before after a campaign in which he made grossly insulting remarks about women in general, in which he insulted several women in particular, none of which were withdrawn or apologised for. In the campaign, Trump promised to withdraw federal funding from organisations that supported and provided abortions and contraception, and he promised to uphold "family values", interpreted to be support for the anti-LGBT, anti-gay marriage folks. He must have expected a big pushback.

It was not a spontaneous protest. It was very well organised by a committee of women determined to protest the threat to what they term their sexual health and reproductive rights. According to their website [see https://www.womensmarch.com], the national organising committee has four co-chairs (all women) - white, black, Latina, and Muslim - and the following officers: head of campaign operations, head of communications, head of logistics, head of web development, head of digital products, head of digital operations and data, a social media manager, a legal director, a volunteer coordinator, a youth initiative coordinator, two global coordinators, two state coordinators, a producer, a music director, and an artistic director. Each officer has a team of advisers and workers.

They also appointed five well-known honorary co-chairs - four women and a man: Angela Davis (black activist), Dolores Huerta (Latina activist), Gloria Steinem (white feminist), LaDonna Harris (native American), and our own Harry Belafonte (Jamaicans have to be in everything).

 

WORLDWIDE MARCHES

 

They had planned 408 marches in the USA and 168 in 81 other countries. The organisers report that 673 marches took place worldwide, including 29 in Canada, 20 in Mexico, and at least one on all seven continents (including Antarctica).

According to their official website, their 'Exclusive Premier Sponsor' is the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc, a US non-profit organisation that provides reproductive health services in the USA and globally (they fund such services in Jamaica). They are the largest single provider of reproductive health services, including abortion, in the USA.

Among their other official sponsors listed on their website is NARAL Pro-Choice America, a US organisation that engages in political action and advocacy efforts to oppose restrictions on abortion and expand access to abortion for all Americans.

Last Monday, on his first official day in the Oval Office - two days after the massive marches - President Trump signed an executive order prohibiting the US Agency for International Development (USAID) from granting family-planning funds to any overseas health centre unless it agrees not to use its own, private, non-US funds for abortion services, abortion-related advocacy, or abortion counselling or referrals. The following day, the US House of Representatives passed legislation that banned the use of federal funds for abortion services within the USA, thus defunding Planned Parenthood.

Trump is expected soon to nominate a conservative judge to the US Supreme Court who might swing the court towards reversing Roe v Wade and reversing the decision that made same-sex marriages legal in the USA.

The culture wars are on!

The USA remains a deeply divided society. "Obama is not our president," said hundreds of thousands of white racists in 2008 as they plotted against their first black president. "Trump is not our president," said hundreds of thousands as they protested against his election in 2016.

The present divisions are largely President Obama's legacy. He used his presidential power to advance the urban liberal agenda in the US culture wars, stirring up and earning the ire of the rural conservative right-wing and fundamentalist Christian segments of American society. The urban liberals will turn out for mass rallies. The rural conservatives vote at the polls.

- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.