She wore sensible shoes, a crisp white blazer and a smile that said, “Sit up, you in the back row. I’m talking to you.” It was Sister Simone Campbell, one of the famed “Nuns on the Bus,” stopping by in Charlotte last week. The only nun to address the Democratic convention but far from the only sister in the room.
Who would dare to continue to make war on women after seeing who they’re messing with? Mindful, smart, gutsy, gorgeous, make-you-cry, make-you-laugh women, make you wish you had one those “uterus” buttons they were passing out on the streets in Charlotte.
Sister Simone said, “I am my sister’s keeper. I am my brother’s keeper” an appropriate gender-balanced sentiment in a world that sometimes forgets we’re supposedly equal. She won a rousing Hosanna when she said that part of being pro-life means making sure no more people die from lack of health care. And warned of “politics masquerading as values.”
Another backbone woman was Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who cut through the Republican fog machine over the definition of rape by simply declaring, “Rape is rape.”
In the war on women, our best fighting tools are our words and solidarity. Noting the continued battle for equal pay, a baffled Elizabeth Warren told the Democrats, it’s “hard to believe that we’re still having to say these things in 2012.”
Warren, the consumer rights Amazon, took on Mitt Romney’s notion that corporations are people. No, said Warren, looking like the smartest member of a book club.
I sat watching the Democratic convention with a clicker and a notebook, stopping to scribble quotes and take down names of women I want on my side.
There was the gracious Sandra Fluke who ironically found her voice when some political thugs tried to shut her up. There are “two profoundly different futures that await women in this country,” she said, including one “where access to birth control is controlled by people who never use it.”
There was Gabby Giffords leaning on her friend Debbie Wasserman Schultz to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. And Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, summoning her late mother Ann Richard’s wit, comparing anti-women efforts by the right to waking up “in a bad episode of Mad Men.”
Lilly Ledbetter, in her biscuits-and-gravy voice, explained how a gender pay gap of 77 cents to a dollar is no penny ante difference to working women. “Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account, Cayman Island Investments and an IRA worth tens of millions of dollars.”
Democratic women pushed their party to not shy from women’s issues but to come right out and talk about abortion, rape, birth control, health care and marriage equality and to remember the ideals of helping out each other.
Here were straight talking, no apologies heroines of our time.
Michele Obama reminded all women that our fore-mothers had been dragged to jail for seeking the vote. And she reminded all who enjoy relative comfort, “If any family in this country struggles then we cannot be content with our good fortune.”
Benita Veliz made history as the first illegal immigrant to address a national political convention. Armed with a double college major and the Dream Act, she now has plenty to give “my economy and my country.”
“Don’t boo, vote” will surely show up on some blue T-shirt. And then she repeated the Obama campaign message of “Forward” but she said it in Spanish — “pa’lante,” which sounds even more urgent.