“When people say, “I have nothing to hide,” what they’re saying is, “My rights don’t matter.” Because you don’t need to justify your rights as a citizen—that inverts the model of responsibility. The government must justify its intrusion into your rights. If you stop defending your rights by saying, “I don’t need them in this context” or “I can’t understand this,” they are no longer rights. You have ceded the concept of your own rights. You’ve converted them into something you get as a revocable privilege from the government, something that can be abrogated at its convenience. And that has diminished the measure of liberty within a society.”
A term with negative connotations for me due to associating it with those of misogynistic anti-choice politics in the good ole US of A.
I have been struggling with…well, everything, and decided that writing was the answer to this problem, and this particular term is providing the solution.
I want pro-life back.
Let’s start by defining life.
Life: an improbable existence that arises out of even greater improbabilities of the universe. Life is fraught with uncertainties, doomed to ennui, and peppered with wonder. I could probably fill this space with quotes from innumerable authors on the whats, whys, hows, whens and wheres.
A human embryo is not a life. It is the possibility of life. Life is filled with possibilities. One can host cancer, HIV, herpes, and any number of little lifeforms that are not human in origin. So many lives depend upon others, not just the symbiotic relationships we enjoy with our mitochondria, but on the macro level we cannot survive without the help of other life forms. We’d have nothing to eat if it wasn’t for both our fellow humans and the other lifeforms we inhabit this planet with.
Not one single human on this planet didn’t require a woman to give him/her life.
Stop for a minute and think about that. Once upon a time in some parts of the world, this amazing ability of women to give birth to new members was celebrated, appreciated, and looked upon in wonder. Then jealousy arose, and with it condemnation and subjugation, and a social strata that puts women on the back burner of decisions made that affect them. Now, I’m way over simplifying and generalizing, but you get the idea. Nobody who is paying even the slightest bit of attention is going to argue that women in this country are being treated as second class citizens on several levels. The glaring one is reproductive choice. The utter hypocrisy and cruel double standards are obvious, and bring me to my next point.
Men are treated as though their bodies are theirs alone, to do with as they please…even when what they please is to force their unwanted attentions onto one of the lesser females in the population. Case in point: it carries a heavier penalty in the NFL to be caught smoking marijuana than to be caught abusing one’s wife. Or, maybe, we could talk about Hobby Lobby firing pregnant women, refusing to pay for their employees’ birth control, and yet continuing to cover vasectomies and Viagra. These two examples are but a drop in the bucket.
Meanwhile, I’d like to talk about the injustices done to men in this scenario. Why are we treating our men as though they are knuckle-dragging cretins incapable of controlling themselves that should be excused when they can’t, and humiliated if they do? It’s okay for a man to force a woman to have sex, or participate in the military industrial complex, but it isn’t okay for them to be emotional, or compassionate? That’s bullshit. However, I’m getting sidetracked from my point. The double standard is hurting us all.
What incenses me is the other double standard. I fail to understand the reasoning that states that women are both too stupid to know what’s going on (informed consent, anyone?), and too immature to make a decision when they are pregnant, and yet are mature enough, and malleable enough, to automatically become good parents when left with no other choice. Can we agree on a few things here?
Women are not universally gifted with maternal urges. That’s right, not everybody wants kids, and SO FUCKING WHAT. Are we suffering a shortage of humans that is dooming our entire species? Are those that want children unable to find any unwanted or otherwise unparented children to love? I didn’t think so. Besides, it takes all kinds to make the world go ‘round, and approximately half of them are women and none of them are less for not reproducing. Creating other human beings is not all women have to contribute.
Women are not meant to be incubators alone, they are people too. I know, it’s a shocker. But adult women, or at least those of reproductive age, are alive. Yep, we’re back to the theme of life. This is a point that I cannot emphasize enough. All the women on this planet have lives. They have cried, they have dreamed, they have worked, and they have relationships with all sorts of other live people. It’s amazing, and wonderful, and sometimes terrible…but it is their life. A life built on relationships with others. Granted, we don’t choose our families, but any number of people actually do choose to have relationships with women…almost as if they value their input, enjoy their company, and respect them. Wild.
Men are also people, often with vested interests in the lives of…women. What?! Crazy, right? No. Seriously, just no. There’s a saying that if men could get pregnant, there would be as many reproductive health clinics as there are coffee shops. I paraphrase, but the point is valid. Can you imagine the uproar if men were required to undergo extensive examinations of their penises in order to purchase condoms? Or weeks of counseling before having a vasectomy only to be refused if considered too young or too immature to make such a decision? Of course you can’t, it would never happen. The men in power would never allow such an affront to their bodily autonomy. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most men would like to afford women the same opportunities. By regressing women’s control, in turn men are left with fewer options for their spouses and lovers, thereby inhibiting the life choices of both men and women.
We are all mammals with sexual urges. Sorry for all the shocking information here, but I thought this was a crucial point. It’s only fair to remember that we are what we are and there’s no reason to be ashamed of having consensual intercourse, nor is enjoying sex a viable reason for denying bodily autonomy. Seriously.
Having a child is a very big deal. So, I have two kids, zero of which were “planned” and one hundred percent of which are adored. Guess what? My life would be immeasurably easier, my bank account would be larger (not a difficult feat), and my body would be stronger if I did not have those children. No lies. Abortion these days is a straightforward medical procedure with fewer and fewer risks. Childbirth is still a killer. Not only are the physical risks much higher when you continue a pregnancy, but childbirth changes your life. Not only has your body done what at first look you deemed impossible (forget facts, it just doesn’t feel right), but you are now responsible for the care of another human being. Whoa. So this is where the other double standard comes in: the one that says that women are too weak and stupid to decide that they don’t want the responsibility of a child, but are automatically not only physically capable, but also both financially and emotionally responsible enough to deal with motherhood. Hunh?
Back to taking back pro-life. I think you can start to understand that when I use pro-life, I actually mean pro-life. LIFE, that thing which we enjoy, and human embryos have no concept of. So on this particular issue of reproductive choice, I choose life. I choose the life of prospective mothers and fathers; I choose for them to control their lives with all the choices at their disposal. I choose to trust people to decide when having offspring is right for them. Why not? We have the tools at our disposal and it would be difficult to argue that allowing women this choice hasn’t been of benefit to humanity overall and won’t continue to be of immeasurable benefit. Don’t you want women and men to relish the idea of parenthood and embrace it wholeheartedly so they can have happy healthy kids? Are we not better off from the contributions of women, which are inarguably made more probable through reproductive choice?
So, I am pro-life. I’m a humanist, so I’m also pro-human. But not exclusively, I am all for other life forms as well. Before we move on to some of that, though, I am trying to keep this post on topic. Maybe it’s time for a list of what pro-life should mean, and what I think the term should denotate.
I am for life, which means…
I am for life, not capital punishment.
I am for life, not religious platitudes that lead to death.
I am for life, not war.
I am for life, not slavery.
I am for life, not oppressive class systems.
I am for life, not manufactured poverty.
I am for life, which means compassion.
I am for life, which means a healthy ecology.
I am for life, which means I am for Earth, the mother of all life.
I am for life, which means understanding diversity.
I am for life, which means I celebrate the chaos of life.
I am for life, which means I am pro-Palestine. It also means I am pro-Israel (but not pro-Zionist).
I am for life, which means bringing refugees into our country without undue reservation (hint: unless they have Ebola, I fail to see the problem).
I am for life, which means I am for education.
I am for life, which means I am for justice.
I am for life, which means I am for sustainability.
I am for life, which means clean water for all life that doesn’t depend on your bank account.
I could add to these lists all day long, but my point is that in no way should those with a platform based on oppression, cruelty, war, death, destruction, misanthropy, and the overall subjugation of people into controllable units be allowed to call themselves “pro-life.” It is an insult to life, and an insult to those that understand the terrible misuse of the language in using the term this way.
Mostly, I am enraged by the lack of accountability. How on earth can anyone look at the refugees from Central America or the remaining survivors in Gaza and see a ploy? How can we refute that the current administration in Israel is committing war crimes supported financially by us, or that due partly to our own policies the situation in places like El Salvador is hopelessly horrific? It is utterly untenable, and I propose we stop it. Call it what it is, for once. If you are not an indigenous person of this fair land, shut your mouth about “illegal” immigration.
Borders are manufactured for the benefit of the rich and powerful. How can it be illegal to be a human being? That’s what these people coming here are, humans that decided they could find a better life in the US than the one they are leaving behind. Refugees or not, they are listening to Lady Liberty…and are offering their LIVES in return for shelter, food, and education; lives that are beyond any measure of value, and the complexity of each life can produce amazing insights and contributions if only allowed to flourish. In fact, we owe all the future generations of immigrants in this country for all of the opportunities given to our ancestors when they arrived as immigrants. Don’t we want other countries to follow that spirit of welcome, so that all can travel the world and find their place without shame, or rejection, or worse? As it stands, I think I’d claim to be Canadian if I traveled outside the US.
I’m not here to deny that adversity should exist, that would be stupid and quite anti-life. Life is filled with all sorts of possibilities, some that debilitate and some that encourage and inspire. It depends on what kind of person you are. But what kind of person can say that everybody has to turn out the same way, regardless of circumstances beyond their control?
The idea I’d like to see universalized is that we are all in this together, and we should act accordingly. It’s called the common good. It is not called the individual profit.
So, I recently graduated with a Master’s in Written Communication and I am trying to figure out a path for my career to take. In that effort, I am going to write a series of blog posts on various current/local/important news items to see if I find that I have a stronger passion/voice in any one of them than in the others. These are not necessarily intended to reflect rhetorical skill or balance of ideological viewpoints. Mainly the idea is to see where my “common knowledge” is the greatest. To begin, we take the recent story about Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA team the LA Clippers, and his overtly racist remarks to his girlfriend caught on audio and leaked to the press. Here is the link if you want to watch for yourself:
Now, you’ll need a few minutes to let the rage settle down inside your brain.
Okay, you probably aren’t feeling a whole lot better. Perhaps you broke something. At any rate, it is not my intention to address all of the asshattery in the audio clip, but we’ll take a look at a couple things.
First, we have the clearly passive-aggressive nature of Sterling’s tone towards his girlfriend. By the way, he does have a wife as well. Tricky, eh? Anyhow, his insistence on attacking his girlfriend for “wanting to fight” and “just being a fighter” are ridiculous in the context of this conversation. She never raises her voice nor does she even use a mildly inflammatory word. This will not be true of this blog post. But I digress. His pathetic attempts to construct a straw-man would be laughable if they weren’t so insidious.
What I see as deeply problematic are his attitudes towards the whole situation. He’s of the “old guard,” where we all preserve the status quo no matter how shitty or morally reprehensible it is. Sterling’s ideal world is one where his girlfriend is never photographed with another person of color but is free to hang out with them or have sex. Did we cover that the girlfriend in question is half Black and half Mexican in heritage? And his girlfriend? No? Right… So anyway, I briefly considered if he was using racist culture to deflect his jealousy. But his comments negated that conclusion. Sterling may be jealous…of Magic Johnson (dafuq…?)…but he is definitely a racist, through and through.
Not only is he racist, he’s the owner of a team in an organization that consists of 90% African-American athletes. What’s that saying? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you? Here’s what his team thought of his remarks:
So. Attitudes like Sterling’s, in which the racists try to defend their attitudes because: “culture,” are the very worst sort. Brush it under the rug, forget about it, and put on your rose-colored glasses folks, this is just the way it is. Ummm, no. See, as your girlfriend pointed out, Sterling, the POINT is to create a world where we DON’T just ignore oppression, but face it head on and attempt to ameliorate how ugly it becomes for all affected by it.
In no big way am I going to defend this woman, she obviously either has poor self-esteem or she is just that shallow that it’s his money she’s after and to hell with ethics. However, she does politely try to get Sterling to see how his comments and attitudes are a product of his generation and have no place in our culture of today. Kudos for trying to make the man see the error of his ways. There’s something important about this. His attitude comes from sharing it with his pals and reinforcing its power through continued consideration of this point of view. This is a “free country” where we are free to say what we want (disclaimer: that is not entirely true but we can address that another time)…but not without recourse.
It’s the recourse that matters. We have to work really hard as a society to remove this attitude from the upper echelons of power in this country. The problem is that we have this Venn Diagram in which top positions in government, the top tier of the social class, and the tip of the financial hierarchy all come together and the circles mostly overlap in the middle. The entrenched racism at the top of these structures trickles down much more effectively than resources do. Hate is not a legacy we should be looking to pass on. And in no way is Bill Kristol making an appropriate response:
Yeah, it’s so silly to pay attention to a series of remarks from a business professional that’s part of an organization holding its members to a code of conduct that are indicative of blatantly disgusting racist oppression. Whyever would we worry about something like that?
Okay I stopped here and tried to create a Venn diagram of the Weberian Stratification I am trying to talk about in reference to the sociology of wealth, status, and power in the U.S. but it reinforced how very not visual my brain is. Oh well. (Searching Google Images didn’t help, either.)
Where were we? Ahh, hate, right. In conclusion, I point to this article:
Mind you, this isn’t the original post about Anthony Karen’s photojournalism project, but it is the one that strikes the most apologetic tone. In the wake of our favorite “newsworthy” teabagger twitweasel, the also overtly racist Cliven Bundy, stories like Sterling’s and projects like Karen’s are pivotal for the cultural angle. According to Rancher Bundy (think of Al from Married With Children, with a hideously awful personality–seriously he makes Al sound like a saint), we would be doing Black people a solid if we re-initiated slavery. Apparently since Bundy can’t make a remark that doesn’t offend any number of reasonable folks, Martin Luther King Jr. “hasn’t got his job done yet.”
Actually, it’s us that haven’t got the job done yet. MLK Jr. is off the hook, we assassinated him. I’d like to think, and teach my children, that we have come a long way from “those days.” The reality that has been portrayed in the media of late puts that idea to bed. The election of the first person of color to the office of the POTUS has caused a resurgence in the public exposure of racist folks. Obviously, they’ve been here all along, feeding the hate deep down in their soul. The kind of hate that only comes from being brainwashed from birth. The kind of hate that works into a frenzy at the idea that any person of color could so much as entertain the notion of holding the top position of power in the government of the U.S. You know, the same government Bundy rejects as sovereign, the same government the tea party would like to rearrange, the same government that allows for money to equal power. I could go off on a tangent about hypocrisy here but it would entail another digression so I shall refrain…this time.
So yeah, Sterling, you’re right about one thing: it is the culture. The culture of crotchety old nasty white men and their legions of fans. Culture has this funny way of shifting its shape and texture over time and across distance though, and I fervently wish for that attitude of superiority based on trivial biological differences to die. Yesterday. In that effort, we have to confront these backwards attitudes directly and with all the power of reason. In short, the NBA has a responsibility to can this guy. Hell, they should have done it years ago.
P.S. The solution is simple, and yet so complex and controversial: stop teaching children to hate. Full stop.
“A cousin of my mom’s survived Polio and lived the rest of his life with its effects. He was not expected to live past his teens but made it to his 40s. I am grateful that modern science can protect us from Polio and other diseases and I choose to take advantage of modern science to give my kid better odds of not dying from a preventable disease. I had heard a lot of noise from people claiming vaccines caused Autism, but never saw any clear evidence. It just seemed to me like people really wanted to point to something as the cause and they latched onto vaccines.”–Jennifer
I have been getting into a lot of discussions about whether vaccines are safe in the last few days. I’m not sure if it’s because of a post going viral about a (terrible) Italian court ruling last year (In contrast, American courts
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