As we all know, tempus fugit on hummingbird wings, and so forth. So here’s a reminder for those who maybe haven’t kept up: Barbara Bush is an adult.
I don’t speak of the much-revered pearl-wearing matriarch, the wife of former President George H.W. Bush, but of her namesake and granddaughter. Early-issue millennial Barbara Pierce Bush, and her twin, Jenna Bush Hager, are grown women of 35.
It’s worth a reminder, because some this week behaved as though Barbara Bush were a rebellious trust-fund kid with a famous last name, instead of an educated and accomplished adult.
Bush delivered a serious and well-received keynote speech at a sold-out fundraiser for Planned Parenthood in Fort Worth on Wednesday. A few patronizing critics seemed to think her folks need to lock her in her bedroom and take away her cellphone privileges.
“As presidents, her father and grandfather were strong allies for the right-to-life movement,” one anti-abortion leader said. Fair enough, but she went on to suggest that the problem here is one of youthful gullibility: “We hope that in the coming months and years, Ms. Bush will more closely follow their example.”
”George W. Bush having left such a pro-life legacy,” said a protester among about two dozen who rallied outside the event. “We don’t understand why Barbara Bush would go against that legacy.”
Well, perhaps because part of being an adult is forming your own opinions, making your own choices. I love and respect my dad more than anybody I can think of, and he has trusted me to follow my own judgment for a long time.
Ms. Bush, a Yale graduate with a long resume in international health concerns, is a founder of Global Health Corps. The nonprofit offers support to emerging leaders in health organizations around the world, and sometimes partners with Planned Parenthood affiliates.
That is a lot of good for a lot of people, but inevitably, the screaming politics surrounding abortion drown out pretty much everything ever mentioned in the same breath as Planned Parenthood. It takes some careful footing and plain old-school bravery to stand up for them these days.
Planned Parenthood, of course, is about women’s reproductive health in general. But the never-ending demonization campaign now enthusiastically supported by elected officials everywhere paints those with the organization as monsters, bogeypersons, devils with horns.
Toxic evangelist Franklin Graham dismissed Bush with a curt fires-of-hell sermonette: “Raising funds for this organization is like raising money to fund a Nazi death camp.”
One imbecile comment posted to an article about her speech called her “that Bush gal” and said she “must have inhaled too much Rocky Mountain High at UT.” Points off for getting the alma mater wrong; double demerit for invoking the loathsome diminutive “gal.”
These criticisms of Barbara Bush bring to mind the weird, symbiotic threads of insult frequently directed at women with the temerity to regard reproductive health as a private matter: 1. You are too naive or stupid to know what you want; and 2. You are a monster.
This is not to say that men who support choice don’t come in for their share of abuse. They do.
But they don’t seem to evoke the same brand of deeply personal, patronizing insult that goes so much deeper than ordinary political disagreement. Pro-choice women have been branded with the same moldy, anachronistic pejoratives for 50 years: harpy, shrew, strident, unfeminine.
And women still contend with the absurd, exasperating strain of hectoring that suggests their menfolk should do a better job keeping them under control. By speaking on behalf of Planned Parenthood, it’s suggested, Barbara Bush has disrespected the family patriarchs.
Which is nonsense. I’m going to crawl out on a branch and offer a generalization here: I’ll bet you that Barbara Bush’s famous father and grandfather are nothing but proud of her — just as her mother and grandmother are. The two latter, by the way, have within the diplomatic constraints imposed on political spouses, expressed support for the ever-refreshing idea that reproductive business is personal.
Politics is a blood sport these days, an ugly exercise in who bellows and lies and throws the biggest grenade. The reason I don’t just cover up my aching head and hide in the closet is the hope that the torch will pass to younger people with better sense. Maybe they can turn the process back into a productive and collaborative process that makes our democracy something other cultures might actually want to emulate.
So please accept this, Barbara Bush, from a respectful middle-aged boomer lady old enough to be your mom:
Well done. You do your folks proud.
Jacquielynn Floyd is a columnist for The Dallas Morning News. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU