04 November 2012

notes from a baby killer.

Sure. To a certain extent, I get it. These people believe that fetuses are endowed with a 'spirit' (or, in a less religious sense, a 'human selfhood') of some kind that is fully realized at the time of conception—and furthermore that these spirits, which are neither lesser nor greater than those of persons already born into the world, have an intrinsic right to live. I know it's somewhat taboo for a pro-choicer (e.g., me) to concede that there is some kind of valid internal logic to the pro-life position—but I can't deny that if you happen to buy into a particular religious sense of personhood (which I don't), then a set of conclusions must—almost necessarily—follow... one of them being that abortion is wrong. 

I think this puts the secular and religious world at odds in a way that can't be reconciled. (And when I say 'secular' I'm not talking only about people who don't believe in god—but also those who have non-doctrinal or exclusively personal sense of the spiritual.) If I must argue with a Catholic that abortion is perfectly okay (which I don't wish upon myself, by the way), then I must argue against his whole ontology. I must convince the Catholic that his whole (Catholic) worldview is flawed. That's a pretty tough sell for a committed Catholic who has given himself or herself over to the notion of faith. I mean, how do you use rational argument as a persuasive tool in situations like these when religious faith often requires the believer to make the 'leap,' so to speak, and to willfully disregard the rational?


What I find more perplexing are the contradictions. I was driving home from work a few days ago, and I saw a minivan with three bumper stickers: one was 'pro-life,' one was pro-Romney, and the third said: 'I'm CATHOLIC and I vote.' Okay, that's interesting... I want to pull that person aside (in theory, but not reality) and say to her (it was a woman driving): What about the other aspects of Catholicism? Did you know for instance that the Catholic Church is opposed to capital punishment? (Do you even care?)

And then I'd expect her to say—if she were halfway intelligent—and not in so many words—that the American political system is binary. It's strictly an either/or proposition. We can't expect to have everything, and we must make difficult choices. She might conceivably say: if I were put in a position of choosing between one candidate who worked to preserve the lives of innocent unborn babies and another candidate who worked to preserve the lives of convicted criminals, there's no question about it. The babies win.


But this is probably a ridiculous argument anyway because I'm not aware of Obama being anti-capital punishment. Maybe he's not enthusiastically for it, but I don't know of a black-or-white stand he's made against it. So, the driver of the minivan might argue, this isn't even an available choice...

But what then about the Catholic Church's position against offensive war? Remember Iraq? Remember Afghanistan? Yeah, yeah... I know what you'll say already, lady. You'll say those were defensive wars because the Taliban was protecting Osama bin Laden who attacked our country and because Saddam Hussein was in fact violating our—er, I mean, the U.N.'s decree. Or if not a 'decree,' then whatever it's called when the U.S. bullies the world into having its way. In this way of thinking, maybe Hitler's war was a defensive war against the Jews he saw contaminating and/or destroying his nation and culture, right? (Why does someone always have to bring up the Nazis in cases like this?) (To show that the rationale for almost any war can be contorted in such a way to make it seem 'defensive.' That's why.) It's no use. You actually believe that the U.S.—the most powerful nation in the world—is being threatened by a handful of men to such an extent that we have the right to bomb the hell out of innocent people who know nothing about the politics that have ensnared them in a daily quest for survival. You really believe that? You—a woman who has had access to education and free speech and many of the intellectual luxuries that people in Afghanistan and Iraq couldn't even conceive of. This is what it comes down to? We've 'liberated' them against their wills? We're the parents, I guess, and we know when to horse whip our children when it's for their own good...


Or how about the Catholic Church's—or almost any Christian church's exhortation to help the poor and needy? Do you think Christ would be against socialized medical care—that he'd stand around protesting health care for the poor while wearing an Uncle Sam hat? You know, I'm always reluctant to embrace the 'What Would Jesus Do?' position because (1) it assumes that we can definitively say what an ancient historical figure might or might not do and (2) it already buys into the premise that one (particular) religious figure should dictate the norms, customs, and laws of a nation committed to religious freedom two thousand years after his death. I won't buy into that premise even if it serves my purposes here. 

So I'm stuck here, without an entryway onto your ideology—because the premise of your positions is invalid for me, and the premise of my positions is invalid for you. How can we hope to come to a pragmatic compromise when we aren't even talking about the same thing. I am talking about ending a pregnancy. You are talking about murdering a baby. What will make it okay for the government to tell a woman she can't control her own body? Nothing. What will make it okay for an infant to be murdered? Nothing.

We just have to wait until one side is strong enough to finish the other side off. What we're waiting for, in other words, is total war. Normally I'd trust—as an article of faith—that our society would become more progressive as time goes—but I don't know anymore. It's been forty years. Forty years! And they're still talking about turning back the clock. And they're still talking about murder. And they're still working out their neuroses with angry gods and Aryan angels in pressed satin robes...

10 comments:

  1. Have you ever seen Lake of Fire? I'm told it will change my views on abortion. I doubt it will, but I still intend to see what all the fuss is about.

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    1. No, haven't seen it. I won't watch abortion films if there include grisly abortion footage. I don't know if it applies to that film, but that's my rule.

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    2. I think it does apply, yeah. But I also hear it tries to be balanced, so I dunno.

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  2. Heavy stuff, David. I agree America's two party-dominated political system precludes a lot of choices voters would love the chance to weigh in on.

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  3. The former Catholic priest James Carroll said something that resonates with me (or only resonates enough such that I can paraphrase it): If we'd dropped condoms on Vietnam instead of bombs, the Catholic Church would have opposed the war.

    I agree, David. Progressives are ever at odds with, what I'd term, a revanchist worldview. I've noticed how Romney has been chastising Obama for proclaiming that he would unite the country -- but that shit only resonates with the low information voter, the still undecided. Nobody that's been paying attention really believes that. The miracle of our republic is that one side just makes the other side eat it for x-amount of years and if, during those years, enough people (many of which are the aforementioned low information variety) don't think it works, then they vote for the other team. We're incrementally clawing our way toward progress, I hope. I have to hope.

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    1. We're incrementally clawing our way toward progress, I hope. I have to hope.

      Keep hope alive, I guess, but I don't think the evidence supports this. Our national debt continues to grow under both parties, the wealth gap grows, our elected representatives from both parties bipartisanly agreed to gut the Bill of Rights (via the USA PATRIOT ACT), bipartisanly agreed to start a new Dept of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration; they bipartisanly agreed to get us into two wars of aggression, they bipartisanly agreed to privatize profits and socialize losses for the largest trading houses on Wall Street, and they bipartisanly oppose requirements for genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. The problem is that we really have a one party system, which cosmetically presents itself as two parties for a few wedge issues (e.g. abortion, gun ownership) but which stand together against the public on matters in which the military-industrial has a strategic position and/or profit motive in.

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    2. There's everybody's favorite libertarian wacko.

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    3. You forgot fiat currency, Brian.

      It's curious that libertarian energy always aligns itself with Republican policy when we get down to brass tacks. And it's easy to call abortion a "wedge issue" when you're a dude and don't have to worry about a wedge ever inseminating you. Which, I suppose, is why Rand Paul has recorded a message for robocalls endorsing Todd Akin.

      Is the right to collective bargaining a wedge issue? Is regulating carbon emissions a wedge issue? I'm sympathetic to your view that a few special interests influence government to a large (very large) degree, but I still think it's worth while to fight for my ideals in the capacity -- historically unique capacity -- allotted. I know that you maintain that politics is kabuki theater for the smoke-filled rooms that shape national destiny, but I'm not quite that cynical yet. It's easy to cast blame on the two party system we have, but it has always been thus; we don't have a parliamentary system, never have, probably never will. Which is why, in the end, libertarians align themselves with Republicans (also because they are, largely, white guys that would be Trekkies if they had never been exposed to Ayn Rand).

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  4. I love this blog post. That is all.

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