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The Two Faces Of Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum by Gage Skidmore

One Rick Santorum is running for the Republican nomination in a party where it is easy to rally voters on “social issues.” The other Rick Santorum is positioning himself to run against Barack Obama. The two Santorums spend a lot of time explaining each other and parsing their very opposing statements.

Santorum started the weekend claiming that President Obama does not believe in Biblical theology, but a different theology. That’s red meat to the right wing who believe that President Obama is a closet Muslim. Then, speaking with the press on Sunday, he said that he was talking about the President’s “world view” and his environmental policies, not his religion.

Rick Santorum on Sunday condemned what he called President Obama’s world view that “elevates the Earth above man,” discouraging increased use of natural resources. He claimed the President supports “radical environmentalist” policies which oppose using the country’s natural resources because he believes “man is here to serve the Earth.” instead of “husbanding and stewarding the earth.” Boy is this man confused. Environmentalism is not about stopping all use of natural resources, but about responsibly husbanding and stewarding those resources. One of the major problems in Haiti is the way the forests were completely clear-cut, leaving the land exposed for erosion which so depleted the soil that agriculture became nearly impossible. That’s irresponsible use of natural resources. Environmentalists would have argued for limited and managed forestry which protected the arable land. In saying that we should be “husbanding and stewarding” our resources, Santorum is supporting the environmentalists’ position.

Trying to cover up what he said about the President’s “theology” with this nonsense about the environment is typical Santorum. He can spin himself faster than any advisor.

His remarks on Saturday accused the President of following a “phony theology” and practicing a “different stripe of Christianity.” That one is funny coming out of a Catholic, since most evangelical Christians consider Catholicism a phony theology and a very different stripe of Christianity, if they even admit that it is Christianity. Santorum did say that he believes the President is a Christian, because he says he’s a Christian. He’s just not Santorum’s type of Christian, whatever that may be, because most American Catholics are not as right wing as Santorum. His version of Catholicism comes closer to Mel Gibson’s than to the average Catholic. Gibson says he adheres to a very right wing version of Catholicism that was condemned by Pope John Paul II.

But the theology flap was quickly overshadowed by Santorum’s statements about pre-natal testing. According to Santorum, pre-natal testing is done to force women to have abortions to cull the disabled from our society. He claimed that when he and his wife were told their youngest child had a rare genetic disorder called trisomy-18, their doctor told them to get an abortion.

When an abnormality is discovered in a fetus, doctors are obligated by their professional oaths to fully inform the parents of what the abnormality means and what their options are. Very, very few doctors flat-out urge an abortion, except in cases where the abnormality has the potential to damage the mother in some way. Santorum accused American women of aborting 90% of all Down’s Syndrome babies. He left out a few statistics, the way he left out real research on same-sex parenting in his tearful presentation on the Senate floor during the DOMA debate.

The Alan Guttmacher Institute compiles abortion statistics. What they have found over two decades of this is very relevant to Santorum’s misuse of statistics. First of all, there is the gestational age at which Down’s Syndrome can be detected. It is between 10 and 20 weeks of gestational age, using a series of tests, not just a single test. Sixty percent of all abortions are performed before the eighth week of gestational age, when the fetus is about the size of a kidney bean. Around 75% of all abortions are performed before the thirteenth week, the end of the first trimester, when abortions are supposed to be purely elective. Of the remaining 25% of abortions performed after thirteen weeks (40% after eight weeks) less than 13% nationally are performed because of all fetal abnormalities. One-half a percent are performed for rape, one-half a percent for incest and the rest, 86% of all abortions are performed for social reasons – immaturity of the parents, economics, unmarried status, interference with education or career plans, too many children already, hiding sexual activity from fanatical families. Yes, Santorum is right, between 87% and 98% of Down’s Syndrome children are aborted, but no one has compiled statistics on why parents choose that path. Raising a special needs child requires a great deal of maturity and a very reliable support system. But ending prenatal testing is not the answer. A better support system for the parents of Down’s Syndrome children is. We no longer warehouse Down’s Syndrome children the way we did thirty years ago. We expect parents to bear the emotional and financial burdens of caring for disabled children, often with insufficient assistance.

There is an enormous black hole in American assistance programs – people who earn too much to get help but too little to do it properly on their own. With an income in excess of $900,000 a year on a single wage-earner, the Santorums fall into the “earn enough to support a disabled child” range. They have no idea what it is like to be in the hole. Santorum is also ignoring the range of disability in mentally disabled children, from children with IQs just slightly below average, children who can actually integrate into mainstream schools and go to college and have jobs all the way to children who are so severely and profoundly disabled they are barely above a vegetative state.

While living in Florida, I was certified as a substitute for disabled classes. I have seen the way one of the best school systems educates the mentally disabled. I have worked with these children. He has no idea the kinds of issues facing the parents of Down’s children, not least of which is having children who are mentally five years old but have fully matured bodies, children who are easily persuaded into sexual activity with no idea of consequences. He should spend a day in a school for the mentally disabled, dealing with a 6’2″ 17-year-old boy dressed in sweats who has an erection that lasts way more than four hours, or drive a disabled bus and have to stop because a very pretty 15-year-old girl is in the back row collecting pennies to feel her naked breasts. He should try communicating with a Downs child who is also blind or deaf or both. Or spend his days changing the diapers of the severely and profoundly disabled.

Santorum should go grocery shopping sometime. Many stores work with their communities to provide jobs for educable and trainable disabled students. There, he could see what a fine line has to be walked with so many of these children, not just those with Down’s Syndrome, but autistic teens as well. There is more involved than just IQ levels. There are emotional issues as well, issues that can turn a bagger into a sobbing baby with the most casual word or have an autistic child panic when accidently touched.

Maybe he should change places with the woman who chooses to have that child, only to have her husband walk away and disappear so that she can’t even get child support from him. That happens too many times. The challenges for the parent or parents of a Down child are enormous, and any parent or parents willing to take on those challenges are to be praised and supported in any way society can. Too many of them are left to fend for themselves, living in school systems that don’t have adequate services for them, living in communities that lack adequate in-home assistance, unable to even get someone to babysit for a few hours of respite. Too many fall into the black hole for assistance.

 

Santorum’s view, in fact the view of most anti-abortion activists, is that abortion is a cavalier choice made by selfish people. It isn’t. There are some women who casually treat abortion as birth control, but for most it is a choice of last resort, when no other options viably present themselves. It is a heart and soul tearing decision.

The Santorums, like the Duggars, have turned their personal pain from a miscarriage into a fanatical rejection of options, both in preventing pregnancy and in terminating pregnancies, a fanaticism that Santorum wants to turn into civil, secular law.

Rick Santorum knows that the more fanatical positions he has taken on social issues will defeat him in a general election, so when he goes on television shows in the mainstream media, away from Fox News and his campaign rallies, he shades his positions, “clarifies” what he has said, changes those positions outright when needed. So, he has two platforms – one for the primary audience and one for the general public.

Rick Santorum is the end product of a callous and vicious game by the Republican Party, whose real agenda is to establish one-party rule for their corporate sponsors. They have used social issues grounded in extreme religious views to rile up the base and get voters to the polls. They have admitted to putting same-sex marriage issues on ballots just to gin up voter turnout. Their party’s establishment doesn’t really care about these issues, but they are willing to use them to get power. They play games with statistics and perceptions to prevent their base from seeing the realities of these issues, realities that lay behind much of the progress made on them – women dead from illegal abortions or not being able to get abortions, women who suffer with the decision, women who died young because their bodies were so depleted by continual childbirth, the emotional price of white marriages entered into by closeted gays to hide their gayness, the very normal lives lived by most gays, the physical attacks on gays, the suicide rate. Well, now they have Santorum up in their faces with his extremist views. Now, they get to reap what they have sown.

Santorum is gaining momentum partly because of his so-called Christian values and partly because he has decided to present himself as a variation on Loretta Lynn – “my grandfather was a coal miner” is playing very well. I’m waiting for the person who tells him that granddad would not have lived beyond 40 if it weren’t for the miners unions that fought for safety in the mines. He’s also gaining because he’s “more authentic” than Mitt Romney. The worst quote to come out of a Santorum rally was the thirty-something man who told a reporter that he has no idea what Santorum stands for, he just likes his personality. That is scary, seriously scary. It’s enough to make one wish that native born Americans had to take the same civics test that immigrants take before they could vote. Maybe then people would understand that we are not, never have been and never should be a theocracy.

 

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3 Responses to The Two Faces Of Rick Santorum

  1. adamas

    February 20, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Little Ricky spins so much he makes me dizzy..

  2. Eric

    February 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Fine article but I consider this to be a slip up :”I have worked with these children. He has no idea the kinds of issues facing the parents of Down’s children” and “The challenges for the parent or parents of a Down child” whereas later you correctly use the term, “so many of these children, not just those with Down’s Syndrome. It should definitely not be “down’s child” but rather a child with down (syndrome).

    • Bridgette P. LaVictoire

      February 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      Eric,

      Thank you for your comment. The difference is probably generational since the author of this article is in her 60′s. No insult was meant.