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A Mom-Led Rebellion


We are still a long ways from a place where a COVID amnesty can be granted. 

The political establishment—left and right—want desperately to move on, to pretend the last 30 months didn’t happen. With very few exceptions (Ron DeSantis, Kirsti Noem, Rand Paul, Thomas Massie, Ron Johnson, and a few others, later), they betrayed their core values. Many Republicans and so-called Libertarians quickly capitulated the primacy and importance of individual liberties.

Whereas supposedly equality-loving Democrats embraced policies that in no uncertain terms screwed women, children and the poor. The 2020 Democratic campaign slogan might as well have been “Protect the rich, infect the poor.” Or “Only the rich need to learn.” They’d all very much like that you forget about that.

They’d like to go back to the fights they know how to fight, the golden oldies that turn the bases out, and turn us against each other. But COVID policies turned the whole thing on its side, jumbling us all up and resulting in all sorts of hitherto unheard of alliances. And when your business is maintaining the status quo, that is very dangerous. 

Which is why Emily Oster is pleading for an amnesty.

First, let’s be clear to whom Emily Oster is speaking. She’s speaking to the furious well-educated suburban women who are swinging towards Republicans in this cycle, even in the bluest of states. Because it was the bluest of states that were hit hardest by these policies. It was in blue states that the schools were closed longest, that the economic devastation was worst, that crime spiked the most, where masks were required longest. The damage done by these policies is at its beginning, not its end.

Dr. Oster would like women to believe that it was all just a mistake, a misunderstanding, and remember that it is the Republicans who are looking to limit the freedoms that really count. That while Democrats had no problem sacrificing the well-being of our living children for three years in support political power, it is Republicans that pose the real threat.

An embarrassing portion of well-educated women acted as the regime’s stormtroopers. They sicced social media mobs on any who dared to voice a question, much less dissent. The pain of having family, friends and neighbors turn on them for voicing an opinion or asking a legitimate question caused many women to seek out others with similar questions.

In so doing, we found a smart, snarky, data-driven community pushing back hard on the totalizing power of a government trying to re-define reality. In some cases women were the generals, in others we were the infantry, going forward and taking constant fire from above, so that some recently discredited truth might once again retake its rightful place in the sun of acceptable opinion.

Emily Oster would like us to forget that. But we can’t—and I hope we won’t—because we were there bringing the government’s own data to shine a light on the lies it so ceaselessly manufactured. These weren’t lies of omission, they were lies of commission. They were lies that were wrought by smelting the credibility of science and medicine in the fires of politics to create weapons wielded by the powerful against us. They literally called us terrorists for our opposition.

Now, after having been called terrorists by our governments for arguing for the well-being of our own children, Dr. Oster wants us to forget that. In asking us to forget, she beseeches those who strayed from the flock to return, to believe that it is not their shepherd who takes them to slaughter that would do them harm, but the wolf lurking unseen in the shadows of the wood. So now we must talk about abortion.

What Democrats, and their credibility-launderers like Oster want women to do, is to put two things on the scales. One one side, is the harm that was done to your children, to you, to your community over nearly three years. On the other is the fear of a loss of access to abortion services.

What they are hoping, is that their female base will believe the lie that Dr. Oster is peddling, that it was all just an unfortunate mistake, and could never happen again. It’s in the past! Don’t worry about it.

Likewise, they will hope that their female base will forget that rather than living in 1972, with limited access to contraception, we live in 2022, where contraception that is more than 99% effective is inexpensive and widely available, even if paying out of pocket; that this contraception, includes abortion pills, which can be accessed anywhere in the country by mail up to 10 weeks of gestation.

They want you to forget about the interstate Commerce Clause which would make hindering this nearly impossible—even, or especially, with a conservative court. They want you to forget that a flight to an abortion-providing state is at most a $200 plane ride away. Or that should you fail to secure an abortion, the worst-case scenario results in a baby you choose to give up for adoption.

They want you to forget that if they win the Senate, they would still have to overturn the filibuster to do this, and the important political stabilization that the 60-vote threshold provides. They want you to forget that they failed to legally codify access to abortion for 50 years. And they want you to forget that there is no way on earth they are going to give up the only issue they have to reliably stoke fear, drum up dollars, and drive women to the polls. Not a chance in hell. 

But it wasn’t a mistake. It was a political calculation, and on the cost side of that equation was the education and welfare of our kids—and so much more. The people who made this calculation wagered that the fear that they could drum up around access to abortion could be used to distract women from the manifold harms these policies caused to children and/or that they could craft a narrative that would mask the truth. If you understand the cynicism of that decision, you have to expect the same cynicism on the other side of the equation.

I say all of this as someone who is pro-choice. I grew up VERY pro-choice. The last 2+ years have resulted in a significant moderation of my position. I saw “my people”—not so much Democrats, as well-educated, affluent, supposedly classically liberal people—thoughtlessly embrace every new flavor of authoritarianism. Thus, when seeking out new allies, I took the time to understand where people who are pro-life come from, and I have come to believe that the moral authority lays with that position. I have come to believe that the horror of abortion that characterizes conservative politics does honestly come from reverence for creation, and a deep-seated respect for individuals and the families that nourish them. I have no doubt that these things are at the heart of why more conservative states were more likely to keep school open. They value their children. 

The narrative that conservatives seek to limit access to abortion in order to keep women down is just that—a story. In order to prop it up, fetuses had to be literally dehumanized, and the narrative bolstered with overtly anti-natal supporting philosophies, philosophies which, in their anti-natalism rob life of most of its meaning for most people. For women, this anti-natalism is expressly anti-mother, hence, anti-feminine, transforming motherhood—one of the few truly transcendent human experiences—into a dupe’s prison. 

That said, I remain pro-choice, fundamentally because after the past 2+ years, all I want is the government smaller and weakened in every possible capacity. I don’t want the government legislating or coercing morality (we’ve had quite enough of that over the past few years) any more than I want it coercing medical decisions. Further, I believe that the vicissitudes of life can make such government interventions result in dangerous corner cases.

But despite being pro-choice, I have become a single issue voter. My vote this cycle is a vote for vengeance against the party that kept my kids masked for two years; that robbed me of my best friends, and strained every relationship I have; that caused us to move to an entirely different part of the country; that perverted a discipline that I love, and which I use to navigate my life (science); and that then lied about doing it, and called me a terrorist for being upset about it. After this cycle, my vote will always be for the party that represents the most decentralized power structure, and the greatest respect for individual rights and responsibility. For me, the new f-word is “federal.” 

While I can only speak for myself, my experience has been that in the aftermath of our leaders’ decision to break and reset the world, there are new coalitions forming. I don’t think I’m alone in my efforts to try to better understand the positions of others who became my “comrades in arms”—and I have felt that reciprocated, with the possibility of compromise arising out of mutual respect and in the face of a greater perceived mutual threat. At the moment, I think this is only happening on the “right.” But if the Democrats get the drubbing that looks likely in the midterms, this will also happen on the left; it’s why this drubbing needs to happen. Such a shake-up can only be to the good. Indeed, our leaders may yet have gotten a “Great Reset”—just not the one they were hoping for. 

In this newly emerging political and ideological landscape, I think the votes of women will be great importance. 

Moms in general, but SAHMs in particular played a very significant part in the grassroots pushback of COVID policy malfeasance. I believe this was due to three key things. First, COVID policies created many more SAHMs, as the exigencies of virtual school made work impossible. Second, these SAHMs experienced the harmful impacts of COVID policies directly for years in their own lives, and in those of their children. Third, I think that stay-at-home moms ended up being a very important and vocal minority because they could be. You can’t fire or cancel a stay-at-home-mom, and there is significant power in not being anonymous. 

As women, we have felt far more acutely than at any time in the past what it really means for government to interfere in our lives—controlling whether our children go to school, whether we can socialize, or go to a gym, or a restaurant, how many people can be invited to our home, whether we can spend holidays with family, and whether we can run our businesses. These are all violations, violations of our personal liberty that harmed us, our children, and our communities, and which were done solely in service to political power. We have internalized this, and many will not be quick to forgive. 

Emily is asking us to forgive a mistake. There was no mistake. There was a political calculation that harmed us, but even more, that harmed our children. The harm was considered acceptable because those who undertook it, took the votes of women for granted. They assumed they could lie and manipulate us into believing these harms were necessary, or barring that, unintentional. If we, as women, want our votes to be courted in the future by either party, we must vote to punish the past three years of treachery. 

After we have exacted some political retribution, if there is acknowledgement of the wrongs committed and contrition for those wrongs, then we can talk about amnesty. 

Reposted from the author’s Substack

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  • Emily Burns

    Emily Burns is a graduate of Sweet Briar College in Biochemistry and Music, and did studies toward a PhD in neuroscience at Rockefeller University. She is the founder of Learnivore and other ventures, and works with Rational Ground as a contributor.

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