OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: In the age of contrivance

There is so much utter contrivance in Arkansas politics right now.

Take the case of that poor National Guard commander. Bless his heart.

He's against abortion on a religious basis, which is his business and his right. Fortunately for him, he is not equipped to wind up in a position to commit this transgression.

But he presumably felt he had to quit his long military career. It was because a woman in his command sought his routine paper-pushing sign-off on her leave request so she could get an abortion.

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Under Defense Department policy, an enlistee seeking an abortion but afflicted by red-state residency may get that procedure covered if transporting herself to a free state.

It's the same principle as if she'd sought non-specific leave and he'd asked if she intended to fornicate during this leave, because he didn't approve of that, and she said she couldn't rightly say, and he said, oh, heck, now I've got to give up my military career because you might fornicate on this leave time.

So, Gov. Sarah Sanders, queen of contrivance (I did not call her Queen Sarah), put out a news release crowing about her fiery letter to President Biden in which she gave him what-for over this poor commander's persecution.

She said our entire military readiness was at risk from this vital personnel loss. She closed the letter by ordering the president to rescind the policy of letting an Arkansas pregnant woman in the National Guard get across the state line.

Now we learn that 52 members of the state House of Representatives have signed a similar letter to Biden, explaining that, since abortion is against their religion, then abortion should not be accommodated for those they call sinners.

I am fair-minded on this issue. I went on social media to say I agreed that the poor commander ought not to be forced to sign off on something he found sinful.

I explained that the enlistee's abortion was conveniently none of his business. I said he should have been allowed to decline to sign her form and to pass it on up the chain of command.

I even suggested that it might be more efficient to have such matters handled directly between the woman and an office in the Pentagon where the policy was formed and imposed.

Naturally, I got pounded from the left on that.

Like contrivance on the right (by which I mean making up issues for purposes of cynical grandstanding), enraged intolerance on the left (by which I mean demanding that the man be made to sign) is a problem.

Issues should not be manufactured for political gain. And personal disagreement should not be punished. But nowadays they are and it is.

I remember from my own long-ago school years that I was able to exercise without incident my claim of religious objection.

It was to be excused from physical education class--and to sit in study hall where I didn't study much--during those couple of weeks when the PE class was to engage in square-dancing.

I thought square-dancing was country and stupid with all that yee-haw and do-si-do. I thought we'd all be made to look like Grandpa Joneses and Minnie Pearls.

I also knew that my fundamentalist religious upbringing--which I was not yet of age to blow off--just so happened to condemn dancing on account of its leading to the horizontal mambo.

I also heard from another student that the school would let religious objectors skip the square-dancing foolishness.

So, I schemed.

I felt certain that a do-si-do would not arouse in the least. I also knew that I would never seek to be excused, or even tell my parents, if we were to be exercising by doing the kind of dancing those young women were doing on "Hullabaloo" and "Shindig" on television.

So, I asserted religious beliefs and got my mom to write a letter. I sat in study hall with a few other puritan youth while my friends were doing their hoedown.

If Sarah Sanders had been governor then, she would have fired off a letter to the school board demanding that square-dancing be ended forthwith at Cloverdale Junior High School because I, being so nobly religious, was forced into a position of either violating my sincere beliefs or losing the 50 minutes of physical exercise that the president's fitness program directed.

For that reason, that I had contrived religious objections, she would have decreed that my pals--who were telling me I was really missing out because square-dancing was fun--could not be allowed that experience in exercise and enjoyment.

I'll close with a compromise: The woman in the National Guard gets an abortion and her commander gets his resignation withdrawn?

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected]. Read his @johnbrummett feed on X, formerly Twitter.

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