My brain itched. My skin was hot. I couldn't sleep. I had such bad reflux this morning on the way to work I thought I was having an allergic reaction. To coffee. Or was it vitamins?
After exchanging a number of text messages and phone calls with fellow symptom sufferers, I figured it out. No, it wasn't West Nile Virus, Swine Flu, or the Worst St. Paddy's Day Hangover Of All Time (that ended on Monday afternoon).
It was frustration, literally and physically.
I live in Idaho. That means I'm twenty minutes from the mountains (beautiful!), my neighborhood is awash Boise State Bronco flags (passionate!) and I enjoy tasty culinary treats you may not, like finger steaks. They're like chicken nuggets but made with steak. Simple. Delicious. I heard they were invented here but that may be a lie. If so I'm sticking with it. You'd claim them, too.
Living in Idaho means living in a State that is overwhelmingly conservative. In my particular neck of the woods "overwhelming" translates to 90% registered Republicans. The remaining 10% are probably Libertarians and superfreaks who purposely wear overalls and fail to acknowledge the sovereignty of the United States government.
Hell, there's a Senator here, Phil Hart, who proudly campaigns - and wins - on the platform that the government lacks the constitutional authority to impose taxes. He lobbies each year for Idaho to pass a bill that re-introduces gold as an accepted form of currency. He gets elected. Repeatedly. Even though he's bat-shit crazy at worst and an obstructionist, tax-evading crook at best. That's Idaho. We can wink-wink nudge-nudge the extremists because, really, they're like us. Just a little extra passionate.
There ARE pockets of liberals here which was evidenced by the fact that over 12,000 people turned out for President Obama's rally back in 2008. We liberals are a small but vibrant community that spends a significant amount of time slamming back drinks while bitching about the rise of charter schools, the slashing of teachers' pay and the fact we will never get a felony animal cruelty statute passed.
The reality is living in Idaho on a full-time basis is to a liberal what the George W. Bush Administration was to The Daily Show. The jokes write themselves. And, on most days, after we've mocked the fact that polygamy remains "a thing" that a few people do here, there's a strong sense of pragmatic resignation that permeates our conversations.
If you want to drink hard alcohol on a Sunday, don't live in Idaho. Or Canyon County, at least.
If you dislike hunting, don't live in Idaho.
If you think homosexuals should be afforded protection from discriminatory employment practices, don't live in Idaho.
Buyer beware. It applies to where we decide to plunk down roots, too, right? If you don't like the way we do things around here, live somewhere else.
On the one hand this stubborn, isolationist attitude is maddening. On the other, they sort of have a point, these redneck peers of mine: Seattle, Portland and the Mecca of Evil, San Francisco, aren't all that far away.
It is against this backdrop that Idaho's racially homogenous, overwhelmingly male, aggressively Republican legislature felt compelled to enter the national abortion debate. We libs watched with a weary eye and kept our fingers crossed that our semi-Libertarian governor would nix the thing if it passed and became law. After all, when it comes to fighting for our rights to hunt wolves from helicoptors and avoid health insurance, he has our back.
As our Senate debated the merits of a law that would require women seeking abortions to undergo these now infamous trans-vaginal ultrasounds, Sen. Chuck Winder (R) opened his mouth. And said this:
“Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape...I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”
All Hell broke loose.
Winder called rape an "issue" as if being raped is akin to developing a rash. He stated that it was his hope that physicians spend time questioning patients about their sexual activities as opposed to providing treatment. He wondered aloud if rape victims are too stupid to understand the difference between becoming pregnant as the result of a violent, nonconsensual encounter and sex with a spouse, as if a common ploy of married women everywhere seeking to terminate unplanned/unwanted pregnancies is to cry rape.
Winder evidenced the fact the men penning these laws just. Don't. Get it.
Watch "Grey's Anatomy" with a medical professional or "CSI:Anywhere" with someone in law enforcement. They'll chuckle, shake their heads, maybe roll their eyes on occasion because these scripted shows, while entertaining on some level, don't reflect reality. At all.
The majority of women and the men who care about them felt that way when Winder's remarks went viral. Only this wasn't McDreamy and Meredith trying to figure out if removing someone's brain would cause brain damage. This was our actual Legislature, passing actual laws, based on concerns about "rape issues" and terminating marriage babies. The absurd was our reality.
The local, liberal response was surprising not because of its substance ("Winder is a dick") but its passion ("Winder is a MAJOR dick!!") Within hours the national media outlets had picked up on the story. The Associated Press, Huffington Post and MSNBC featured stories about the law and, more importantly, the bizarre rationale that was articulated in support of its passage.
Within 24 hours the local liberals, feeling empowered by the onslaught of national attention, got bolder. The handful of Democrats in the Idaho Legislature took to the airwaves. Petitions against the ultrasound abortion bill circulated online. Republican lawmakers' offices were flooded with phone calls.
Winder's comments were the talk of my peer group, family, workplace. People fell into two camps, and it wasn't Democrat and Republican. It was Outraged and Perplexed. Even conservatives were relatively stunned that Winder would speak so dismissively of violent crimes, and treat victims of the same as if they were either conniving wives out to terminate pregnancies or actual rape victims too stupid to figure out when they got pregnant.
And so it was announced late this afternoon that Idaho's trans-vaginal ultrasound bill was pulled from the House hearing today. Not because liberals won some rousing victory but because the moderate voice of the Republican party - in this case, presumably, Republican women - stepped forward and told their men to reign it in.
It's too soon to tell whether this bill will die on the House floor. One thing that is certain is that the Republican Legislature was stunned at the dissent and backlash it experienced from within its party, so it backed down, admitting that its actions were motivated by outrage from within the base.
I was proud of my Republican peeps today.
Yes, we Idaho liberals should be credited for blowing the whistle and bringing Winder's remarks to light. But the moderate, to-wit: sane members of the GOP should be credited for shutting this bill down.
That's not to say that pro-choice = sane and pro-life = insane. The abortion discussion is much more complex than that and many of the moderate Republicans who opposed this bill, whether it was on the Senate Floor, at the water cooler or through Facebook postings, are firmly pro-life. But they asked the basic question: if abortion is legal why humiliate those who choose to obtain them? Their elected peers failed to provide a compelling response. The moderate Republicans showed us that when pragmatic resignation becomes pragmatic indignation, our leaders turn into quivering jello molds. And that's democracy in some form, I suppose.
In Idaho liberals and (most) conservatives can agree that the Broncos rock, trans-vaginal ultrasounds suck, and finger steaks are the best drunken snack of all time. And for now, for today, that's enough consensus for me.