Page Two: We're All Monsters Here

On the subject of this year's Halloween cover

Page Two

The topic here has to be this issue's cover though it speaks quite eloquently if not brutally for itself. It makes a certain fantasy explicit, that a male-dominated legislature that does not care about women's issues or even very much about people's issues, that has traditionally and routinely back burnered women's rights, health issues, economic justice, and social equality may some day have to face the monster they've bred, though probably not in exactly the same kind of classic Hollywood monster genre revenge as envisioned here.

And let's frame the discussion even more honestly. Although most of the actions against women and women's reproductive rights are coming from male-dominated government bodies, it is misleading to pretend this is a single-sex effort. As women gain equal political power and standing, many of them are just as adamantly anti-choice. This is not a sexually defined issue but one where morality, ideology, and religion come into powerful play.

Abortion is one of those gut issues where the gulf between beliefs is so deep and profound that when trying to communicate it is as though those on either side are speaking inherently different and mutually incomprehensible languages. I do believe life begins at birth and not before. I do not think of abortion as murder but as a medical procedure. But I also do not think this makes me a Nazi sympathizer comfortable with racial purification through murder or a eugenics champion.

In my heart and my gut, in my soul and in my spirit, I do not think of abortion as murder. But I understand that there are many who do. And my attitude toward abortion is as much determined by my core gut beliefs as theirs are.

Almost by definition this essay will come across as chiding and condemning. Inherently that is accurate, but in situations where communication is simply slogan shouting, I'm not sure what else to do. I am slogan shouting but with some attempt to explain how and why my slogans are articulated and defined.

The problem I have with pro-lifers is with those who are basically and near completely neatly defined as anti-abortionists. They do not support extensive, readily available prenatal care. Many do not support comprehensive health care in general. They demand the child be born but do not seem to care about the health of the mother, the life of the child, or the financial, emotional, or supportive state of the family into which the child is born. They are not pro-life.

They are opposed to a medical procedure, though some carry this even further to being opposed to any kind of contraception. Rather than insistent on higher standards, this can come across as imposing one's personal moral beliefs on others, often punitively.

A pro-lifer who is in favor of comprehensive health care, who is opposed to the death penalty, who supports public schools and social and economic justice is someone I am at profound odds with, whom I differ with on an absolutely core issue but must respect. Any way you cut it, that sounds condescending. It probably is. I'm trying to articulate my way through the muck in which we all both unfortunately wallow and completely share. In many cases, current ideological differences seem punitive and adversarial – I am right, you are wrong – rather than carefully considered, morally based ideological positions.

Yes there is something very self-serving and pedestrian even defining any kind of debate or disagreement over ideas in this way; each individual's access to their own beliefs is not required to meet a litmus test or pass a set of criteria. This is a very personal essay, a somewhat lost exploration.

A press release came about a current Republican presidential candidate attending a fundraiser at the home of someone who collected Nazi art. In every way this was profoundly offensive. This aimed not at the candidate who probably was unaware of the art and, at the very least, neutral or negative toward it but at the national Democratic party that had sent out the release.

Listening to Hillary Clinton's dishonest attacks on Bernie Sanders regarding gun control is simply depressing, making one despair at the hope over any kind of meaningful dialogue or hope for a functioning government based on compromise rather than a government at logger jams based on hollow political positions worn as peacock feather adornments to display to the faithful how pure is one's thinking. On the one hand, she ignores his position as one coming from a rural state, as too many progressives do, and on the other, even more dishonestly, she pretends his protestations are sexist rather than plaintive.

There is no center court of shared common decency in the political debate, certainly not by those who are ideologically opposed to each other but not even among those who share many similar beliefs. Look at the above as well as the civil war in the Republican party.

Yes this plea or consideration comes attached to a cover designed to shock and outrage. In a time of mendacious and petty political polarization where a government of and by and for the people seems a lost concern to a kind of governing that is more interested in pandering than leading, that celebrates strident ideological positioning over any attempt at communicative legislative process, sides if not chosen are assigned.

I have a dear friend who is anti-abortion. She completely supports the effort to defund Planned Parenthood. She comes to this position as a deeply committed Christian, a position with which I'm completely comfortable. But I find her lack of concern and empathy for the millions of young, economically disadvantaged, and/or financially strapped women who depend on Planned Parenthood for health care appalling. Hers is a generous, loving heart. But in the name of love, the result of her belief lacks generosity and, if achieved, would prove irreparably devastating to so many.

Along the way she does not champion health care, support orphanages, spend her spare time working with handicapped children, or reaching out to unmarried and often despairing pregnant mothers. She is not required to. She is motivated by Christian love, not any desire to punish. But our beliefs have consequences, as do all our actions.

Her antipathy toward abortion and those that provide them is understandable. But the ease with which she champions drastic and profoundly negative changes to so many lives is shocking.

Unfortunately on all sides the conversation has degenerated from a morally centered dialogue on achieving compromise to a draconian championing of one's ideological proclivities. This debate is moored not in any belief in the greater good but as a way of articulating partisan beliefs.

The irony of any plea for understanding set against this week's cover is understanding. But the fear the right has that this country is spiraling out of control into an immoral secular hell is mirrored by those of us terrified that the movement is actually toward a controlling, strictly doctrinaire, religious totalitarianism. Unfortunately, instead of attempts at dialogue and understanding, this country seems to be operating from fear and suspicion, the almost unavoidably terminal cancers to a functioning democratic republic.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

reproductive rights, political debate, abortion

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