Fall is here. You can smell the leaves and the pumpkins and the politics.
I'm going to talk about something that irritates me, and it isn't leaves or pumpkins. In the end, it isn't politics either, though it flirts with that category on a daily basis.
You can be on either side of any fence and still participate in the topic I'm going to address. This isn't related to one political party.
I am dismayed at the level of knowledge, and ability to obtain knowledge, in regards to the upcoming presidential election. We all laugh at the "Average Joe' interviews on shows such as Jay Leno, in which idiotic Americans confidently answer that George Bush Sr. is running for office this term. I watched a clip of Americans talking about who won the debate....between the two candidates' wives. Not only was this funny in a wow-how-stupid way, but the worst part of that video was they didn't pretend to have any issues at stake. There was no pretense that Michelle was better because of her thoughts on military issues. Nobody pretended that Ann was better because she cared more about women's rights. One lady liked Ann Romney because "she is classy and dresses nicely". One man liked Michelle Obama because "she seems more real". Those can be true, and certainly are legitimate ways to talk about a person. They are not, however, grounds for winning a debate, even if that debate is fake!
I find it difficult to enter into conversations about political events, or even political ideas. This isn't even due to the lack of knowledge, but the lack of discussion. I fear that many of my fellow Americans do not know how to process information, share information, and compute that information into an idea. We are content to receive a pre-made thought, and call it a day. We want microwaveable political debates, without the fuss of chopping and measuring and getting our minds all disorganized. If we cannot discuss and debate the issues that our country faces, we cannot solve any issues. A wise person can hear any point of view without feeling threatened. A wise and gracious person can even hope to learn something from such an exchange.
As (according to me) we don't want to actually talk about issues, we only need to know a few things in order to size up a candidate, friend, or baby-sitter. These are the hot button issues, the biggies, the 'do-not-proceed' checklist.
Why should we bother to talk about education, when the fabric of morality is at risk of being torn asunder due to the presence of illegal immigrants? You've heard it, I'm sure. I heard this gem from the lips of Sunday School teachers: "I would be all for top-notch education for our own children, but I don't want to waste my hard-earned money on teaching some other children...some different children. I'd rather use my own money to teach my own kids." *I replaced the word she used, Mexican, with the word different. She was trying to use it as an insult, which she is clearly too ignorant to know isn't possible.)
Gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling, doesn't it?
In my world, there are only Two Defining Issues of American Politics. If any sort of political conversation is taking place, you can expect for people to share ideas about foreign policy. HAHA! No, no you cannot. Instead, you will be required to give your thoughts on the following:
1. Gay marriage
When I say you will be required to give your thoughts, what that means is you are required to be vehemently opposed to these topics in all ways. In fact, you feel uncomfortable even talking about it for too long. You just want to know that everyone is of one mind, that we should eradicate sex and the nasty questions it elicits from a human society.
NOTE TO SELF: Review the idea that both of these 'core' issues relate to sexuality, and wonder just how steeped in Puritanism we still are. We are obsessed with sex in a backwards way. We crave what we loathe, and while we excuse such feelings in ourself, to a degree, we will see the witches burned at the stake.
I am overgeneralizing. One must, you see.
I do not have the heart to address the first Defining American Issue. This issue isn't a vague faceless vote to me. It has names, and faces...familiar, lovely, kind faces. I know my mind, and I am content with what I find. You are free to know yours.
As for the second issue, well. Here we go!
I find it nearly impossible to reduce a candidate to their stance on abortion. Is it important to know where they stand? Absolutely. It is just as important for me to ascertain their feelings on health care and education. These things matter to me, not only because they touch my life but because they are related.
I feel that it is against nature to insist a child must be brought into the world, and then insist that the further breath and bread of that same child is not your responsibility. I am totally fine with the idea of being pro-life. I would describe myself as being in this category. However, 'life' is not usually the issue that hangs in the balance in these discussions.
We talk about when life begins. Pro-lifers generally say it begins at conception. Pro-choicers generally say it begins at birth. It is a discussion worth having. Again, I know my mind and you can know yours. But we don't need to know when life begins to know if we are pro-life, or if we are not.
The word 'life', and the idea of being 'for' it, has not ever been equal to the idea of being born.
I find it disgusting for someone to say that a woman must give birth to her child, and that this woman must then find ways to educate, feed, house, and clothe this child. If the woman looks at her life and her society and sees that she will receive no help, no food, no medicines or kind words even, then perhaps she is attempting to make a loving decision by not bringing the child into further existence.
I know, some of my readers are flat out pissed. Please just keep going.
If Governor or Senator WhoDernIt says that a life lived in abject poverty and crime is better than no life at all, I would challenge said Senator to conduct an experiment and see just how lovely those life circumstances truly are. When you have no strings to pull or steaks to eat, how bright and shiny are your dreams? Do you see your grandmother in need of cancer medications she cannot afford and think how blessed you are to take part in this miracle called life? Do you feel the gnaw of hunger in your belly and believe the words of the television preacher who says that God wants you to prosper? Is this what 'pro-life' means?
Surely, not all cases are such dire ones. We certainly don't want to talk about the ugliness of poverty. What of the middle-class mother who has a child by man who isn't her husband? What life is there for her? Suddenly faced with divorce and splitting up her older children, she is faced with not only the life of an unborn child, but the life experience and quality of many other people. Say what you want about not getting into these situations. They exist, and they exist on your street and in your home. If you want to play Perfect Princess, you go right ahead. Nobody believes that crap anymore. Are you, a 'pro-life' advocate, ready to hear this woman cry and grieve in the middle of the night? Will you help her move? Will you baby-sit her children when she needs to go to work? If not, you need to seriously reconsider your stance on the issue.
Let's go to another level. Surely, in a high-class, rich and famous kind of lifestyle, these things can be dealt with. Sometimes, they can. Teenage girls go on long holidays, babies are whisked away in the middle of the night, and graduation day finds that no one is the wiser. But what if your stubborn daughter wants to keep her offspring? What if she doesn't want to hide her 'problem', and pretend that nothing has happened? What then, indeed, when faced with giving up her secured future or her child, she chooses the child? You suddenly have a high-bred girl stealing out into the night, onto the street or floor of someone's home, to repeat the cycles we've already discussed. Does she have support? The nice clean manicured women in the nice clean clinics promise to help, but where are they when the baby screams for 10 hours? Will they play grandmother, since the real one is too busy playing bridge and planning pro-life rallies?
Life does not mean birth. They are related, but they are not the same. When we speak of those who have received an outlook of being in a constant vegetative state, we often say that they have no 'quality of life', and therefore removing life-saving devices is not an evil but a courtesy. Few people want to know that their life has been extended just to lie in a bed while tubes carry drool and waste to chambers beneath the earth.
I struggled with these thoughts for years, trying to make them make some sense to someone other than family members who are thankfully smart enough to connect the dots I spew erratically. And then, in a blessedly shiny YES moment, I read a quote from a Benedictine nun. Sister Joan Chittister is an author and speaker, and was a Prioress in Pennsylvania for a number of years. I love what she said, as it succinctly says what I feel. I guess I could have started with the quote, but then you'd have stopped reading. Cheeky of me, isn't it?
"I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is."
Isn't that fantastic? Even if you are pro-choice, you should be able to agree with such a statement. It is, after all, far more consistent in thought than the simple insistence that children must be born. If life is to be insisted upon, then life must be given. You cannot withhold the tools to enhance and encourage life, if you insist on its presence.
Once the child is living and breathing and eating in your world, it exists as part of your eco-system. Like it or not, the fact remains that you are, indeed, your brother's keeper. If you are not prepared to bring more children into the world, regardless if they come from your own body, then don't be so hasty to insist that it happen.
The only pro-life advocates I want to hear are the kind that offer to watch children. They volunteer to help you assemble a swing set. They slip a bag of groceries on the porch of a single dad. They don't judge circumstances, they share experiences, and truly accept people simply because they have a beating heart.
This is a platform I'd be thrilled to support. It wouldn't be Republican, and it wouldn't be Democrat and sadly wouldn't be welcome in most churches.
It would, however, be right.