A quest to make sense of it all. Or a sense to make a quest of it all.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Goin' Down South

So I'm embedded, ticklike, firmly in the armpit of fall semester. I offer this icky analogy, because that's what school feels like right now. I'm taking the less-than-thrilling classes that are required if I want to go on and take the classes that actually relate to my major. They're not hard courses. They're really, really easy, and that's why it's imperative for me to latch on with ticklike tenacity. I have a tendency to get bored when I'm not challenged, and a tendency to slack on whatever I'm bored with. Terrible habits. And I have a tendency to be really good at indulging in my bad habits. Not this time! No. I'm going to remain hunkered down and committed to draining these classes of whatever rich sustenance might be contained within. Through my proboscis.

In other news, I'm making preparations to move south at the end of this semester. My company has bought out another bank based in Mobile, and I've submitted my transfer request. I'm told it ain't even no thing, and the transfer will unfold seamlessly. We'll see. I'm pretty stoked about setting up shop in Mobile. It's less than an hour from Pensacola beach, and about two hours from New Orleans. New Orleans. Good kayaking in Mobile. Also all the fresh seafood I could want but probably can't afford right after a big move.

I'm settling into a routine that involves getting up at a ludicrous hour to work out, going to work for the standard eight hours, and then to school for three hours, four days a week. There's about an hour between work and school, and I use that hour to breathe and maybe eat. I do homework for an hour after class, take about a half hour for myself to do something wicked, like liking things on Facebook, and then I crash. Now it's Friday. It's the freakin weekend, baby, Im about to have me some fun sleep. I'll be social, and even sociable, tomorrow. But tonight...I'm curling up with a nice, hot cup of everclear tea and probably an Indiana Jones movie*. Not the fourth one, because that one doesn't count.

*By "Indiana Jones movie", I might mean "a copy of Atlas Shrugged", because I'm finally reading it. I've always kinda meant to, and now that Paul Ryan's in hot water over making his staff read it, I want to see what all the hooplah is about.**

**Sike!I'll probably watch Indiana Jones.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The stuff you shouldn't talk about in mixed company.

This has been a while in coming.

Over the past several months, I've made offhand remarks on this blog regarding my shifting views on women's healthcare; mainly what should be allowed and who should pay for it. My last post managed to spark, in this exceedingly quiet corner of the internet, a flare of controversy. To some, it looked like I was favoring traditionally Righty policy where these subjects are concerned. That would be alarming for a couple of reasons. Mainly that I've always been vehemently pro-choice, and sorta in favor of having someone drive a van around every city once a month, tossing out free packs of birth control like candy. (Twice a month in Crump, TN. If you've ever been there, I know you agree with me.)

Some of these views have changed on an at-home level. Part of it is personal experience, part of it is indisputable advances in science, specifically an ever-earlier point of viability. Part of it is my growing faith. That last one seems to be the one that rubs people the wrong way. I've gotten a lot more vocal about my faith over the past year (just that I do have faith, that is), and I've recieved some pretty hurtful "subtle" jabs (from friends, no less) on assorted social media platforms, as if I don't know they're meant for me. I'm not stupid. I know when I'm being baited. What I don't know is why, so I generally eye the bait for a minute and then swim away without nibbling. It's not like I'm tapping on anyone's door with my crucifix and telling them I've shown up to make their decisions. I've happily talked about my conversion to Catholicism when asked, and that's about it. I've mentioned church and church activities several times on Twitter, and possibly once or twice on Facebook. So it's out there: I'm a Christian and I'm pretty stoked about it. But I'm not coming down Falwell-style on anyone. I'm not coming down on anyone at all. I'm open if anyone wants to ask me about it. To date, exactly one person has: a brilliant, agnostic lady who is squarely in the "Friends; Lifelong/Best" file. It's an ongoing, interesting conversation, and I think we're both getting a lot out of it. We've been civil and understanding, which is exactly how a conversation of that nature between people of vastly different beliefs should be. The rest of the feedback has been either 1) lack thereof, or 2) see "subtle" jabs, above.

My faith has had an enormous effect on my political views, but not in the ways many are so quick to assume. Take a look around the internet for attitudes about Christians. Check your Twitter and your FB feed. You'll notice something: an endless, and endlessly narrowminded and boring, tirade against people of faith. We're idiots. We're crazy. We hate women. We hate black people. We hate gays. We hate poor people. We hate rich people. We hate Mexicans. We hate gays more than we said earlier. We hate science. We hate sex. We hate drinking. We hate cussing. We hate...oh, antelopes. We hate you. We hate that sandwich you ate earlier.

We especially hate lamp.

I can understand how we got that reputation. My formal religious education was sporadic as I grew up (Navy family, we moved around a lot, etc.) We went to church sometimes, and my parents are Christian, but I didn't really have any experience with a Christian community, per se. Then we moved to Savannah, TN, where I spent my high school years. Hoo boy, if anything will put you off Christianity, it's the Christians you'll encounter in Hardin County. I'm sure there are many actual faithful people hanging around there. I didn't meet many of them, but I did meet a few. (Brandon's Mamaw Hazel, you rock it, lady.) Here's the thing about that: the ones with the good hearts and the right ideas tend to be pretty quiet. It's the loudmouths who act a fool and give us all a bad name. Their numbers are so great, and they are such magnificent d-bags, that just calling myself a Christian apparently raises the hackles of people who have known me for years (and should frigging well know better than to lump me in with the rabble).

Go ahead and yammer some No True Scotsman form data, if you must. I'll wait.

(Just as a side note, I'd like to say that I had nothing to do with the Crusades or any Inquisition. I had jack to do with any of that, and I'd have jack to do with it now. Do I need to add a disclaimer there? You bet. Some of the anti-faith peeps are not above bringing up stuff from five hundred years ago and being all, "SEE?? That was YOUR KIND! So God is BAD and also DOESN'T EXIST!". Well, those weren't my kind. Thanks for playing. Luckily, this distinction is rarely necessary outside the cnn.com and newsvine.com comment boards, probably because the people I choose to communicate with in real life aren't...stupid.)

Have my thoughts on abortion changed? Oh, yes. It's in part because of my faith. It's not all my faith. I'm pretty confident that even without it, I would have reached the same thoughts eventually, just from examining my conscience and the facts. Morality can and does exist without religion. We all have a personal set of morals, whether we believe they're placed there by God or instilled in us by the society in which we were raised. Most of those morals are pretty universal. To me, the biggest one is about stealing. In my preferred religious text, it says "thou shalt not steal," which covers a lot of ground, and it's kind of the gist of several other commandments. Don't take someone else's money. Don't take their spouse. Don't take their dignity (honor your elders, and don't lie to folks). Not taking stuff that's not yours is also the gist of most of our laws. All good, right? So how about... don't take their life. Oh, now we got problems. Because we're about equally split on whether abortion is equivalent to murder. What couldn't be clearer for some of us is unthinkable for others, and vice versa. Some of us really do see both sides. I've always been very vocal in my support of a woman's right to choose what's best for her life and her body. I still support that. So...what's changed? Well...when does what she carries within her body, stop being her body? Even the worst dredges of our society aren't monstrous enough to still believe that lump is just a lump up until it exits its mother's body. For most of us, we view it as a human being, a baby, long before that. When? Subjective. For the record, I've always felt I wasn't capable of abortion. I knew (and yes, I have been in the situation where I thought I would have to make that call) that once I was pregnant, it was a done deal: there would be a teensy, growing human organism in there with it's own unique DNA and entire roadmap in place for that DNA chain to follow, and it would grow and turn into a person with likes and dislikes and probably a Facebook. Without any help or say-so from me, that lump's eye color, fingerprints, and dimple placement were already determined. For me, pregnant=baby. But I still absolutely believed that it was a very personal choice and that no one had the right to tell any woman what to do with her body.

Which leads us right back to the beginning. When does it stop being her body? It's housed by and nourished by her body; her body is the place where it grows; her body supports it...but it is not her body. It isn't a new growth or appendage that will be there forever, it's going to be expelled. It's going to leave her body and leave nothing of itself behind. At what point does a lump become a human being to be protected by legislation? Way too subjective. We're at an impasse. For some, there is never an option to abort, even in the earliest stages of pregnancy. At the other end of the spectrum, abortion should be provided, no questions asked, no couseling mandatory, at 21 weeks and beyond. (Interestingly, a baby in Germany was born last year at 21 weeks, and survived, despite the acceped point of viability being 24 weeks. On a personal note, my friend Phaedra gave premature birth to her son, Declan, in March. He was born at 23 weeks, and is doing just fine at home with his mommy now.)

There are lots of reasons that leave me unable to support abortion. If a pregnant friend comes to me and asks me for advice, I'm going to do everything I can to steer her away from termination. That's in a situation where my advice is sought, and I'll give it honestly. Does that mean I'm about to start protesting at clinics? Only considering  political candidates who are pro-life? Looking at my more liberal-minded sisters with disgust? Hell, no. If there's a fight to be had, the absolute least effective way to have it is in the effort to ban abortion, and the least effective technique in any argument is to open with, "I'm better than you." I'm not.

I think trying to illegalize abortion is pointless at best and counterproductive at worst. It's a waste of energy and time. It's not going to happen, and it shouldn't happen. Try to imagine if, somehow, someway, we overturned Roe v. Wade. If, somehow, all forms of abortion were suddenly made illegal. That is not a victory, it's a death sentence for pro-life ideals. It would provoke such outrage, such unified outrage, the likes of which this country probably hasn't seen. All of the people who were on the fence would immediately rally with the pro-choice side, and abortion would be legal again so fast your head would spin. And then what? Back at square one, only with exponentially deeper grudges and resentment pouring from both sides. In the interim, it's unlikely that the brief illegalization would have prevented much of anything. Abortion has existed as long as pregnancy has existed. Any 3,000 B.C. midwife worth her herbs knew how to stop life. Hell, there are plenty of herbalists now who can tell you how to do it with stuff from the garden. It's always been there. It always will be. The difference between legal/not legal is that a woman who wants one has a much better shot at not dying herself if it's a legal one.

So, no, I'm not joining the throngs who seek to ban or illegalize, because it's not the answer. Taking freedoms which have already been granted is never the answer. That horse is out of the barn and has long since busted through the gate. It's not going back in, and it would be a waste of energy to try to force it. I'm as entitled to an opinion as anybody else, and mine is that abortion is vile and contradictory to nature and whatever it is in us that makes us a little better than gorillas. I want it to go away, but not in a way that takes choice and safety away from anyone. The only way we're going to reduce abortion is by reducing unwanted pregnancy. Now, I'm Catholic. I understand, totally, the logic behind not using birth control, and I have no problem adhering to that.

But the rest of the world ain't Catholic. It's pretty well documented now that most Catholics use birth control, anyway. The world, my friends, is out there having sex. Right now. Married sex, single sex, loving sex, dirty sex, revenge sex, sneaky sex, guilty sex, funny sex. Whatever the reasons, folks are humping and they're going to continue humping. Folks who are less educated about their humping, or who don't have access to products to make humping safer, are going. To. Do. It. Anyway. We are so, so, so far beyond the point in our culture where it's reasonable to ask people to remember that babies are, still, a consequence of all that sexin'. Knowing that very important fact has never stopped people from doing the one thing that makes babies.

Prevention. It's the only way to slow the cycle. Put down your damn protest signs, and stop screaming about Hell to people who likely don't even believe in Hell. And you, over on the left, knock off with the snark and belittling just a bit, ok? All either of you are accomplishing is further polarization, when we just need to say "Eff it, agree to disagree, now how are we going to stop these ladies from getting pregnant in the first place?".  Comprehensive sex education. Now that's a worthy fight we should all be able to get behind. If you want to fight the volume of abortions, fight the BS Abstinence Only programs. Call the schools in your area. Ask questions. Find out what they're actually teaching. We all know that these sort of discussions should happen at home, but a lot of us are choosing to ignore that that just doesn't happen. In a world of Jersey Shore, Girls Gone Wild, 24/7 access to porn, simulated orgasms in shampoo commercials, and innuendo in cartoons, it is not only profoundly stupid to think your child is sheltered, it's dangerous. Even if you keep your kid off the tv and off the internet, his buddies at school still have access to all that stuff, and they're all talking about it. There is no such thing as a sheltered child anymore. Find out how your local schools handle sex ed, even if you don't have kids. Make sure they cover everything from ovulation to syphilis to breastfeeding. The more detail, the better, because 1) they need to know exactly what they're getting into, and 2) no matter how cool a parent may be, there are just some things no one will ask their mom. Organize. Contact local government and get a ball rolling. Do your church youth counselors cover sexuality? Find out. There shouldn't be a single lady out there having sex without knowing exactly how to protect herself and her partner, and how to prevent a pregnancy she doesn't want.

And when birth control fails? Comprehensive counseling when she goes to an abortion clinic. Make sure she's being fully educated about her options, and that she understands what is happening. If it's an elective termination and she's far enough along for the fetus to feel pain, she needs to know that, too. She needs to see an ultrasound image. She needs time to think about it, and she needs to know that support is there either way she chooses. This sort of counseling rubs a lot of people the wrong way. They feel that a woman shouldn't be made to feel guilty in an already stressful situation, but I don't think that giving a woman facts is guilting her; guilt is an emotion that pops up on its own when you do something that violates your personal moral code. It's a built-in mechanism that makes you slow down and think a bit. If the information presented makes her feel anything, good or bad, that's coming from her own psyche. To say that a woman considering abortion shouldn't be fully educated on it because it might upset her, is the same things as saying that women should be kept ignorant so as to keep their emotions in check. "Don't you worry your pretty head about it, lil lady." Um, no. Keeping women in the dark for the purpose of protecting their feelings is not helping them, it's designating them as creatures incapable of making their own decisions...or creatures more likely to be a pawn in furthering someone else's agenda. Bad news.

That's all I got.