The Third Third

Insidious Campaigns

  **in·sid·i·ous**, *adj.  *slowly and subtly harmful or destructive. The word **insidious**, thanks to its sibilant sound, already has a certain onomatopoeic nastiness to it. It has recently taken on new, more pejorative meaning, however, as it comes to be understood more as political strategy than mere descriptor.   Consider, for example, the Texas State Board of Education’s relentless efforts to demand that textbooks rewrite history and undermine scientific knowledge to advance  particularly demagogic and Christian conservative points of view.  Insidious because the debate has for so long taken place out of view, off the public radar screen, at the state board of education level where no one is paying attention and it’s slow and subtle, harmful and destructive.   Next, think about the continuing battle over a woman’s right to choose and accessibility to abortion.  While abortion rights have been the law of the land for 40 years, according to [*The American Prospect,*][1] local legislatures in 2011 and 2012 passed more abortion restrictions than in any other years in history -- “subtly” mandating ultrasounds, waiting periods and parental consent laws in an effort to destroy those rights.  In addition, several states, Texas among them, have de-funded Planned Parenthood as part of their inexorable and, yes, insidious effort to chip away at them.   Finally, it has recently come to light that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun manufacturers haven’t been shooting straight about gun control either, but instead manipulating seemingly benign legislation at both the federal and state levels to restrict access to *information* about guns and gun violence in a slow and subtle, again, insidious campaign to frustrate those who might seek to in any way restrict access to guns. No wonder there no longer seems to be any rational political discourse, few debates of big ideas or overarching principles, little engagement in the legislative process.  The self-proclaimed opposition is not even coming to the table anymore; instead it is  -- at best, opportunistically, or at it worst, perversely -- subverting the process with insidious campaigns designed to destroy rather than debate any ideal or objective with which they disagree.  That they destroy the integrity of a child’s education, a woman’s right to affordable health care, or the lives of those lost in the next public massacre in the process is apparently mere collateral damage, the cost of winning. (And selling textbooks and guns.) These tactics make for a wily, slippery opponent.  And for millions of new cynics, especially among those of us naive enough to believe in the Congress and the Courts of our civics class.  *Who knew* the battle was really taking place at the state board of education, in the health and human services committee of the state legislature, or in the fine print of a thousand-page piece of legislation?  *Should* we have known?  As informed citizens, could we have made it our business to find the point of access where our voices might have been heard and where our support would have been felt?  (It’s obviously not quite enough to write letters to your Congressional representatives these days, though I am told it’s still important.  My experience, however, is that the form letters I receive via email in return -- if I receive anything -- don’t even reflect my point of view. There’s not even a simple sentence that says “While I respect your opinion, I disagree. . . .”  But that’s another issue.) Here’s where I think we are, though, in the third third:  Older and wiser, with time to be better informed and, if we choose, to find a way to better target our advocacy and to think more strategically.  Not to act more insidiously -- but more effectively.  I hope you'll join me -- and suggest venues (organizations, activists, etc.) where our contributions (time, thought, money) might matter.       [1]: http://
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