Waging War on the Many by the Few: The Interrelation of Occupy Wall Street, Contraception Coverage, and Welfare Drug Testing

Upon the widening disparity of incomes, corporate dabbling in political processes, and sordid greed displayed by the nation’s largest banks, the Occupy Wall Street movement came to life.  Its purpose, to define itself as the 99% of the population finally pushing back against the 1% of top income earners, established a common theme in contemporary American society—groups or institutions representing the few waging war on the many.  Banks, who bear virtually all responsibility for the housing crisis, begged for taxpayer-funded bailouts to continue their “Vegas-esque” gambling on mortgages and infatuation of private jets.  Indirect and direct, the contemporary aristocracy’s war on masses threatens the foundation of the simple notions such as fairness, compassion, and freedom, which united our nation from its birth.

Yet, the conflict does not simply cease with economic warfare.  Throw religion into the mix, and the controversy regarding the recent ruling to mandate contraception coverage has ignited a new flame.  Within the past few weeks, Catholic churches, their officials, and politicians have lashed out at President Obama’s alleged “war on religion.”  The Health and Human Services ruling will “require most health insurance plans to cover preventive services for women including recommended contraceptive services without charging a co-pay, co-insurance or a deductible.”  Given one year to fulfill this mandate, Catholic churches interpret it as a threat to religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.

 But is this really a threat to true religious freedom?  Will Catholics be prevented from self-proclaiming themselves as Catholics?  Or to organize publicly?  Or to participate in worship services?  The argument is that their staunch opposition to contraception for purposes of procreation is being violated.  Put simply, they perceive an ultimatum: to obey the government or to contradict their own religious beliefs.  Granted, the condemnation of intercourse for purposes other than procreation was always the Catholic view on “contraception” since the early years of Christianity (Genesis 38:8-10); however, the attitude toward contraception by practicing Catholics has evolved, and even the Vatican seems to have eased its view over the years. (Pope Benedict XVI deemed condom use in Africa as a first step to solving the AIDS crisis.)

 Still, Catholic officials across the country such as New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan proclaim the contraception mandate “un-American” and argue that it would force Catholics to “violate their conscience.”  Immediately, this would beg the question:  What about the 98% of sexually active Catholic women who have used contraception?  How about the 99% of sexually active American women who have used it?  This puts the Church in a dangerous double-bind—do they maintain the condemnation of contraception and deem those 98% of Catholic women as sinners, or do they accept contraception as a reality of 21st century preventative medicine and provide coverage?

 It is an alarming, illogical display to wage war on a medicine frequently used by millions of women across the country.  11.2 million U.S. women use oral contraceptives, of which 58% use them for “purposes other than family planning,” which include menstrual regulation and acne-control.  Thus, this implies the conglomeration of approximately 400 Catholic bishops and cardinals would either condemn 11.2 million women for using oral contraception as preventative medicine, or compassionately recognize its necessity to women and provide health coverage.

 The overarching point is this: there are 400 bishops and cardinals who make up less than a millionth (yes, a MILLIONTH) of the U.S. population.  As mentioned before, 99% of sexually active women in the U.S. have used some form of contraception.  The dichotomy has never been clearer; it is even more drastic than the Occupy Wall Street differentiation.  In this war, it is essentially the .000001% versus those 99% of women.  The few individuals representing the archaic view of condemning contraception are consciously and pro-actively opposing preventative medicine used by millions of American women and used by 98% of those who identify themselves as Catholics.  The outdated view simply does not fit with modern ideals; maintaining random traditional views from the past such as this would seem to then justify others.  Should we still stone individuals to death for committing adultery?  Should we still demand a bride to provide a dowry to her husband to demonstrate her loyalty?  Religious institutions arbitrarily not acknowledging and empathizing with modern medical norms is a perfect illustration of this theme of contemporary aristocracy. 

 Although much of the media’s attention has been aimed toward the HHS ruling, another relevant issue has gone unnoticed.  GOP candidate Mitt Romney recently applauded the idea of the government drug testing welfare recipients.  Granted, while welfare benefits should not be used to purchase illegal drugs, the notion of assuming individuals on welfare are more likely to use drugs is baseless, ignorant, and distasteful.  In fact, after Florida’s attempt to drug test welfare recipients, only 2% reported back positive for drug use.  The Republican Florida government, a small entity in relation to Florida’s welfare population of about 2 million, waged war on Floridians in poverty.  A 2% return on the humiliating, dehumanizing, coercive experience of providing bodily fluids to the government is not something of which America should be proud (nor would our Founding Fathers).  Hypocrisy has never been more crystal-clear; and, frankly, the mandating of institutions to provide popular, preventative medicine to women is morally, lawfully, and politically far more reasonable than the demanding of bodily fluids of innocent individuals who have demonstrated no probable cause for drug use, other than the unsubstantiated, presumed correlation of poverty and illegal activity.

To notice the contemporary aristocracy’s dissonant, arbitrary interpretation of the role of government in these instances is completely accurate.  Why is Viagra covered for men, and contraception not covered for women?  Where do we draw the just “line” of what should and should not be covered, so as not to allow our political system to become so arbitrary?  To the contemporary aristocracy, while it is justifiable to demand the urine of an innocent single mother working three jobs to provide a daily meal for her children, it is somehow apocalyptic for President Obama to suggest CEOs fly coach once in a while, for institutions to provide necessary medication, for the middle class to have equal economic opportunity.  It is not un-American for the president to defend these positions—quite the contrary.  It is un-American to violate the dignity of the poor and of minorities, and to deny health care that has been legitimized by medical consensus to women based on the moral preference of their employers.      

Two hundred years ago was the blatant subjugation and enslavement of blacks; 100 years ago was the blatant denial of suffrage to women; wars on the many by the few are nothing new.  In fact, society is still the same waging war on women, minorities, and the poor.  Now, however, the war is less blatant, simply wrapped in a brilliant, yet evil new aristocratic packaging.

Submitted by Dylan Kama - George Washington University

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