Some amazing things happened in public life the past few days. Here are a few of my picks:
Imagine that: Democrats came up with a brilliant political slogan.
I’m not sure that’s happened since “Yes We Can” burst on the scene with Barack Obama in 2008.
This one is the “rebrand” of the last year’s luckless “Build Back Better.” I was okay with BBB, but it sure went down, choked in coal smoke from Manchin’s mines, then lost in Krysten Sinema’s deserts.
A caveat: I’m speaking here only of the title; what’s in it is another matter, as are its actual prospects for passage. But certainly it will be an asset in the Dems’ midterm electoral campaign.
Next, a spate of stunning campaign ads popped up. The best, which delivers a horror message worthy of Stephen King, with wickedly sardonic wit and wordplay, comes from Texas and a new PAC, Mothers Against [Texas governor] Greg Abbott “MAGA”:
In an instantly viral ad, a doctor tells a distraught couple that their fetus has suffered a catastrophic abnormality.
If she were to make it to full term, he continues, the baby girl would die just hours after birth. “She will suffer,” the doctor adds, before telling the tearful parents that a decision must be made on terminating the pregnancy — a choice that “only one person can make.”
“And that person is Greg,” the doctor says.
“Who the F—- is Greg?” The father asks. The doctor reveals a portrait of Abbott. With a direct phone line. [Click here to watch the ad. ]
“Greg” turns thumbs down. Then . . . .
I think the ad is brilliant in every way: production, acting, targeting (Republican Abbott is up for re-election), its daggerlike wordplay, and packing its thrust into less than ninety seconds.
Speaking of a quick thrust . . .
PS. A real Grass-Roots snapshot, from In The Yard:
Washington Post: In viral ad, doctor calls Texas governor to get permission for abortion
María Paúl – July 28, 2022
A new political ad targeting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) starts with a scene that could unfold in any hospital across the country — a doctor delivering gutting news to an expectant couple: “Your baby has a catastrophic brain abnormality.”
If she were to make it to full term, he continues, the baby girl would die just hours after birth.
“She will suffer,” the doctor adds, before telling the tearful parents that a decision will have to be made on terminating the pregnancy — a choice that “only one person can make.”
The ad, which quickly went viral, was released Monday by a new political action committee Mothers Against Greg Abbott criticizes Texas abortion laws. Even before the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Texas’s “heartbeat act” — which banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — was among the most restrictive in the country, relying on ordinary citizens to report suspected violations.
A “trigger law” banning abortions, with few exceptions, is set to take effect next month. As a result, clinics in the state have shut down, health providers are wary of providing certain medical interventions and some mothers have been left feeling “like a walking coffin” after suffering miscarriages, The Washington Post has reported.
The group’s video struck a chord nationally, garnering about 7 million views across Twitter, Instagram and YouTube within three days of its release.
A spokesperson for Abbott didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post early Thursday. The Mothers Against Greg Abbott political action committee released another ad earlier this month criticizing Texas policies on guns, the pandemic and education. The group says it includes mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts and grandparents “ready to fight” for change in their state.
The abortion ad mixes distress with dark humor, positing that reproductive health choices in Texas are now up to the state, leaving the parents-to-be utterly confused.
“Greg?” the woman in the ad says. Who’s Greg?! her partner asks, using a slightly more profane turn of phrase when the physician tells them only Greg can decide the next steps.
Then the doctor, wielding a red phone with a direct line to Abbott, has a brief conversation with the governor. With a shrug, the doctor proceeds to tell the parents: “Yeah, that’s going to be a no. Best of luck to you.”
The ad ends with a close-up of the stunned couple and a question splashed on the screen: “Whose choice should it be?”
Though sardonic in essence, the scene portrayed in the ad rings true with some doctors. Jennifer Gunter, an OB/GYN and New York Times contributor, posted when sharing the video that she once called a state legislator for permission to perform an abortion in the 1990s.
“This is not a hypothetical people,” she added.
Since it was released, some candidates have cited the ad to persuade Texans to vote for Democrats who support abortion rights. Beto O’Rourke, who’s running against Abbott in what polls suggest is a tightening gubernatorial race, says he’ll “fight for Texas women to have the freedom to decide what is best for their health, family, and future.”
Still, others have called the video “poorly executed,” including one woman who received a terminal diagnosis when pregnant but chose to carry to term. “I’m left wondering if whoever wrote it has ever experienced a fatal diagnosis. And if they did, was their doctor this callous?” the woman shared on Twitter.
In response, Chelsea Aldrich, the video’s director, said the clip was based on the “real story about another real mother who chose to terminate.”
“This is not a judgment on any woman’s choice. It’s a referendum on lack of choice,” Aldrich wrote.
Lina Abu Akleh is Shireen Abu Akleh’s niece. Earlier this year, I began planning a summer trip from Jerusalem to the United States with my aunt. I was excited for her to show me cities she knew well and loved, including Washington. I am now in Washington, but without my aunt, the renowned Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. All evidence indicates she was killed by an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin on May 11, just after she arrived to report on an Israeli military incursion. Instead of visiting monuments and museums with my aunt, I am in D.C. calling for justice and accountability for her death.
Since that horrible day when Shireen was shot in the space between her protective helmet and bulletproof vest clearly marked as PRESS, my family has called on the U.S. government to conduct an independent, thorough and transparent investigation into the killing.
It is a testament to Shireen’s impact and inspiration as an iconic and groundbreaking journalist that dozens of members of Congress have asked for the same. Yet until now, the Biden administration has refused. After meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, we hope President Biden will reconsider and finally act.
There have been multiple investigations by the United Nations, human rights organizations and major international news organizations, all concluding that Shireen was almost certainly killed by an Israeli sniper, and that the entrance of the Jenin refugee camp was quiet when she was shot. Yet I read with bewilderment a statement that the Biden administration issued on July 4. Based on reviewing and summarizing the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority’s investigations, the United States concluded that Israel was likely responsible for my aunt’s killing, but that there was no reason to believe that it was intentional. Continue reading Israel & the Killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh→
New York Times:There’s More Than One Way To Ban a Book
[COMMENT: I read Lolita some years ago. Creepy. Unsettling. Perverse, but hardly prurient. Not for kids; but ban it? Nope.
I never read Darwin, but if anyone still doubts the nub of his argument, then don’t worry about the latest COVID variants; God created each of them specially for YOU. Banning Darwin’s book, stupid; ignoring it, stupider.
I also read Maya Angelou’s Gather Together in My Name; powerful. I can see why some don’t like it: earthy, unvarnished, but for me, a fine tale of survival.
I expect to skip Mike Pence’s tome; though you never know. . . .]
PAUL: In the 1950s, Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” was banned in France, Britain and Argentina, but not in the United States, where its publisher, Walter Minton, released the book after multiple American publishing houses rejected it.
Minton is part of a noble tradition. Over the years, American publishers have fought back against efforts to repress a wide range of works — from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Just last year, Simon & Schuster defended its book deal with former Vice President Mike Pence, despite a petition signed by more than 200 Simon & Schuster employees and other book professionals demanding that the publishing house cancel the deal. The publisher, Dana Canedy, and chief executive, Jonathan Karp, held firm.
The American publishing industry has long prided itself on publishing ideas and narratives that are worthy of our engagement, even if some people might consider them unsavory or dangerous, and for standing its ground on freedom of expression.
But that ground is getting shaky. Though the publishing industry would never condone book banning, a subtler form of repression is taking place in the literary world, restricting intellectual and artistic expression from behind closed doors, and often defending these restrictions with thoughtful-sounding rationales. As many top editors and publishing executives admit off the record, a real strain of self-censorship has emerged that many otherwise liberal-minded editors, agents and authors feel compelled to take part in.
I’m not an expert, but I’ve been involved in raising several American Girls: daughters, granddaughters & now great granddaughters. And I hope I’ve learned a thing or two.
Here’s one: several of the American Girl doll characters were very valuable for one of them, and me, at the turn of the millennium.
I never bought any of the dolls, which were made to resemble girls from different eras in American history: great idea but too pricey, I discovered the series, and one character, at the library, in an associated audiobook. It was Addy Walker: an enslaved girl, who escapes from sun-baked southern tobacco fields to freedom. In six connected stories, her family begins to cope with the opportunities — and hardships — of a free life in a still unequal American society.
In those years I often traveled with my oldest granddaughter, driving us for hours to family and Quaker events. Good books on tape held our attention and helped pass many miles. They also promoted the appeal of reading, one of my goals for her.
Addy was an audio and read-aloud favorite for me. My granddaughter is multiracial, and Addy’s stories were mulch for the continuing task of nurturing and navigating her growing identity in our somewhat more free but still unequal world.
They also dealt, delicately, with class: For instance, Addy’s family goes to work in a dressmaking shop run by a Quaker businesswoman. This owner is no mere saintly icon. She’s on the side of freedom, but is an unsentimental demanding boss, pressing for efficient, quality work that can be sold for a hefty profit. Nothing wrong with that! Continue reading Raising American Girls?→