Divide and Multiply

I love the freedom of speech in America. This is a diverse country, in which anyone may express his or her views without retribution. There are of course consequences, in that no one will ever agree 100% of the time. Questions of faith, politics, and even sports teams can divide us. At a feast in New Jersey last weekend, our drummer shouted “LET'S GO METS!” when he spotted someone on the sidewalk wearing a shirt adorned with the logo of his favorite team. A moment later, spying a shirt he didn't like, he shouted even louder, “PHILLIES SUCK!!” He immediately remembered where he was as the band leader turned around and glared at him, and he apologized on the spot. “You might be right in that sentiment,” said a priest strolling alongside us in the procession, “But this isn't the place for that.”

For the most part, I respect that people like different things and might have different opinions than I do. I could care less about sports. I make no secret of the fact that I'm a Catholic or usually vote Republican, though in this medium I tend to focus more on pop culture, geek interests, and the minutia of my daily life. My blogroll consists of good writers with similar interests, and just as my friends in real life range from one extreme to another, so too do I have a mix of liberals and conservatives, faithful and atheists. Just last weekend in a diner myself and four friends discussed the current presidential candidates. Two of us were for McCain, while the other two leaned toward Obama. We differed on some issues and agreed on others, notably that these elections often come down to choosing the lesser of two evils. At this point in our history I can't imagine why anyone would want to be president. Forget wealth and historical fame; no matter what you're guaranteed to have nearly half the country dislike or loathe you.

A few days ago, Sean used the term “Anti Choice” to describe Sarah Palin's stance on abortion, and the term's been nagging at me. I'd never heard it before, and wondered if it would be logical to refer to the other side as “Anti-Life”, maybe get this guy as their spokesperson. Some research showed that the term has been used before. I found it interesting that in a point-by-point analysis of the two viewpoints, that site linked religion to the definition of “personhood”. Personally, I'm not so sure. It's a biological certainty that, once an egg is fertilized, its cells will continue to divide and multiply and, uninterrupted, grow into a human being. I believe as early as three months a sonogram will show recognizable features, and while we don't normally have memories of our time in the womb, there may be some measurable brain activity. Some studies have shown the influence of playing classical music for an infant before it's born, for example.

I was always divided on the issue as a kid, despite a cruel childhood nickname. I knew how I would want to proceed should I ever screw up, and I would be a man and take responsibility if I impregnated a girl. The aforementioned drummer has a son he doesn't acknowledge because the kid is inconvenient, and because he cursed at his grandmother the first time he stayed with them, after ten years of being neglected. That's someone I don't want to be. At the same time, while I knew what I believed was right and how I would conduct myself, I wasn't sure I wanted the government telling women what they could and couldn't do. And while I knew what I would want to do, I knew the decision wouldn't be mine alone. I also naturally assumed all women would be pro-choice and I would never get a girlfriend if I didn't support her freedom.

Around the seventh grade, we watched a particularly graphic abortion video in a biology class and my opinion definitely and finally shifted to one side of the fence after seeing a device I can only describe as a “blender” as well as several recognizable tiny limbs and other body parts. I can't imagine the choice is a remotely easy one to make, nor can I know what it must be like to carry a child for nine months and give birth. I only know secondhand the pain my parents went through with miscarriages before I was born, and remember visiting the unmarked grave in the cemetery where my older sisters were buried. Whether approaching life from science or faith, I think we can all agree it's pretty miraculously that the process defies odds and succeeds in bringing more of us into this world at all.

I don't know that the issue will ever be resolved until we can definitively measure and agree upon life. It's more than just a question of the government telling women what to do; it's a question of whether or not you're taking the life of a living human being, or extracting organic tissue that only resembles a human being. I find it difficult to view it as the latter. Why can't my friend's ex-girlfriend kill their son? Is it because he talks and has gone to school and bonded with other people and made friends? Would taking his life now really be so different from taking his life ten years ago? Ten years and three months? Ten years and six months? Does what we become define what we are? Would it be morally wrong if we were able to travel back in time and decided to kill Hitler as a boy? I honestly don’t have the right answers, only what I strongly believe to be the right answers.

The world is an increasingly dangerous place to be. We're fighting on several fronts, and lives are being lost daily to war. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, China, Russia, Venezuela and more pose threats, and I shake my head in disbelief sometimes when I hear a network like CNN report a “story” on Sarah Palin's glasses. Again, I'm not sure why either candidate would want to take office at a time like this, but you have to commend them for trying anyway. I was glad to see both candidates come together for the 9-11 remembrance. Sometimes I worry if we're on the brink of another civil war. Political agendas notwithstanding, it was still a nice reminder that, Republican or Democrat, we're all Americans. It's too bad we can't have co-presidents in our system. If things as trivial as sports or music can set us at each other's throats, what happens when the larger issues boil to the surface? The best we can do is state our opinions calmly and rationally, and accept that at the end of the day we may have to agree to disagree, and enjoy the freedom we have to state our differences openly.


Blogger SPM said...

Nicely written.

My stance on Pro-Life/Pro-Choice is give women a choice. For example, if a woman was raped and gets pregnant, I would like to afford the woman the choice to make up her mind on what she wants to do. I'd rather have more choices for this unfortunate woman than less choices. Palin is Anti-Choice... in all circumstances.

BTW, it is also easy to be pro-life when you are rich and can take care of a Down's Syndrome baby. Some families would be bankrupt caring for that same baby. Some families would take care of that baby no matter what. I'm just offering all families the choice.

I don't care about the religious aspect of it. Contrary to popular belief, one can make a moral choice without having to refer to an old book, which is probably inconsistent anyway, on the subject.

If you believe it to be a moral imperative to bring children into the world, great. However, don't shine a light on an unwed 17-year old mother to be and call her brave when you know damn well if it was an unwed black girl on the southside of Chicago, she'd be criticized as unfit, unsupervised and unfortunate.

Bill O'Reilly can't come down hard on Jamie Spears and her family for her pregnancy and then give a pass to the Palin's for EXACTLY THE SAME THING. It is hypocritcal, biased and obvious to me he doesn't really care about any of these situations past how he can manipulate them and score points.

I ask this hypothetical question in all seriousness: There is a fire. You can only save a 3 year old or 15 test tubes of fertilized eggs. Which do you choose?

9/12/2008 2:32 AM  
Anonymous MCF said...

Well, I think that's the real issue with the choice stance, the financial aspects you mention. To me, if a pregnancy has to be terminated because she can't afford the baby or can't afford the special needs a child might need, it's really no choice at all. Like your fire example, it's a horrible choice, and given real options many women who have abortions might have decided to keep their children. Maybe the solution isn't for the government to make it illegal, but to provide shelters, medical care, etc. as needed. But that would cost money and wouldn't be a popular solution for voters, so it usually falls to churches and charitable organizations to offer that alternative. I wouldn't say I'm against choice; just that I'd want them to choose life if they could. Again, I know it's never an easy decision or one entered into lightly.

9/12/2008 9:35 AM  
Blogger FawnDoo said...

Very nice blog post, and I agree with many of the points made by SPM in the comments. I'm pro-choice and think that it is the best way to approach the situation because it doesn't close off any options for anyone. Being anti-choice (I never really liked "Pro-life", because it's a loaded term. I don't think that pro-choice people are against life!) just closes off options for people who may very well be in a bad place, or vulnerable, or hurt, or desperate, or just plain scared.

I think what each individual does in those circumstances is down to their own conscience, beliefs and choice, but I think that taking any options off the table for people in such situations is a bad thing.

9/12/2008 10:31 AM  
Blogger b13 said...

Other than the pro-life/pro-choice issue I am all for McCain/Palin. I am actually undecided on the whole issue because in a rape situation I am all for the womans choice. But most of the time is is a humans' stupid decision and lack of responsibility and people need to step up to the plate when the choice to f*** came in to play. Regarding babies that are not born yet but known to be "not normal" in one way or the other... that's a hard choice that a strong family will have to decide upon. Unless I had to make that choice in real life I really can't answer a hypothetical. I have a cousin with CP and a neighbor with a child that has multiple issues. I also have a friend that was born with legs that do not work and he has been in a wheelchair all his life. But they are all great people with parents that decided to take what was given to them.

M&P will still get my vote. There are more pros than cons.

9/12/2008 12:08 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

For example, if a woman was raped and gets pregnant, I would like to afford the woman the choice to make up her mind on what she wants to do.

Do you have even the slightest idea what the stats are on that? do you have any clue how few abortions are performed due to rape, incest or threat to the mother's life? Look it up sometime.

The question is abortion on demand ... abortion as birth control. It's a way of taking a mulligan so you won't be accountable for your INITIAL choice, the choice to have sex and take the risk of pregnancy.

And I just love the liberal men who call this a "woman's choice." Great way to absolve ourselves of OUR share of the responsibility, guys.

it is also easy to be pro-life when you are rich and can take care of a Down's Syndrome baby

As far as aborting a child because you can't afford to raise it, that's possibly the stupidest thing I've ever heard anyone say. Really, really remarkably dumb. I'm amazed at how comfortably people express their idiocy on the internet. You ought to have at least a SLIGHT understanding of the issues before you attempt to address them. Look sometime into the people BEGGING to adopt a child, special needs or otherwise. That's a far greater number than any theoretical group of people who might be saying "Uh ... can we afford a baby with special needs? We better kill this one and hold out for a low maintenance model."

you know damn well if it was an unwed black girl on the southside of Chicago, she'd be criticized as unfit

Sean, you really are a remarkable idiot. You know NOTHING about the pro-life movement. What I know damn well about that theoretical black girl in chicago is that if you have your way, she'll be another victim of the racism of abortion.

Sorry, MCF ... but you probably expected this from me.

9/12/2008 1:43 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

There's no need for MCF to have to host the flame-war that I might have kicked off. Feel free to take it up here. I can't wait.

9/12/2008 2:09 PM  
Anonymous mcf said...

Thanks for "moving" the potential war, Darrell. I don't mind rational discussion of the subject, but I definitely don't want it to break down into name-calling on either side, which I find accomplishes nothing when you want to convince the other person that they're wrong and you're right. I didn't really mean for abortion to be the main focus of the post, but it was inspired by that "anti choice" term that's been rattling around in my brain since I read it, and it just worked out that way.

B13 being Pro-Choice but voting Republican also illustrates my problem with the two party system, how it's not so cut-and-dried as we and the media might think. I think a lot of times there's this sense that all Republican's are religious rich white guys, and the Democrats are the young partying atheists. Obama picked a Catholic for a running mate though, and there are many other examples of why politics isn't a simple "us and them" scenario. You just have to go through the issues that are important to you and pick the candidate most in line with your own beliefs, or if there are one or two issues that stand out more than the rest(such as Abortion which both sides clearly feel strongly about), then maybe that's the determining factor.

Me, I'd like to vote for Kodos. ;-)

9/12/2008 3:01 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Darrell. I don't mind rational discussion of the subject, but I definitely don't want it to break down into name-calling on either side,

You're right and I should work on that. It's just that for years I've dealt with crap like lies (such as the lies about Palin's stance on abortion) and insulting hypotheticals ("Oooh, can we AFFORD a special needs baby??") and having pro-lifers lumped in with Bill O'Reilly ... and then raising hypotheticals like the Chicago black girl and insisting that he already knows what the pro-life response to such a girl would be ....

Dude, it's a response I've learned through a process of inoculation. When you see that kind of nonsense you learn to hit back and hit HARD.

But does it win people over to my point of view? No. So what have I won?

9/12/2008 4:01 PM  

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