Frankly, I’m quite happy you asked about the things dividing Americans at the moment, and that you asked me to write in English. German would be a little difficult I get angry and need a table to pound.
It easy to get that way when I see the majority of the Nation’s politics throwing to the curb working people, people with little or no working capital, and those continually left out of the Big Prosperity. The reactionary forces who protect money and power continually throw linguistic blocks between the people and their own interests
Anti-choice politics, for instance, is not about abortion. It’s a strategic move in what I call the War on the Poor.
As you know, this war is about making people behave, keep their place, and support the wealthy and powerful. I want to use the recent Kansas abortion clinic regulations as an example. The clinics in question do far greater work in providing working and poor women birth control than they do abortions. But the Kansas legislature and the democracy-despising interest groups, such as Kansans for Life under Director Mary Kay Culp, have done their best to limit access to these clinics with regulations they say are aimed and making sure the clinics are safe for women.
In fact, and perhaps this is what aches me most, is the outright dishonesty in this public-relations stunt. They are open and forthright in their opposition to letting women make decisions over their reproductive lives. But they also say they are worried about the health of women–not about abortion in this instance. They have written—through the reactionary Kansas legislature—regulations aimed foursquare at the clinics and no other health facilities in the state. These regulations are impossible to meet, except at the most modern of the clinics.
This is not merely about abortion. Mary Kay Culp is a comfortable upper-middle class woman. She and people like her are not mature enough to have explored the ethical and moral gray areas of human reproduction–they have lived lives of relative comfort compared to the millions who spend their entire lives in poverty. She doesn’t know or want to know that even Catholic theologians are split on the true beginnings of life and the ensoulment of the fetus. One week after fertilization? Two? A month?
Second, like all middle-class do-gooders who put in their time at the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, she does not love the poor. She despises them. She will not have a homeless person at her table or to live in her house.
When I say this, we must remember I am being metaphorical. Certainly, she may have the occasional poor or homeless person at her table for dinner. But can she really accept them and their ways of life as something she has helped create with her middle-class existence? Her political activities? Her sanctimonious cant about how she wants to help women and save the unborn?
Truth is that adults are messy. Babies are easy. They eat, look cute, and sleep. We must attend to their needs, that’s sure. But changing a diaper is a damn sight easier than having an intelligent conversation and argument over the theological implications of women taking place next to men at the table of equality.
The intent of abortion politics is to limit the poor’s access to the means of wealth production and accumulation. It is about the larger picture of terminating or preventing the good and necessary things that we should do communally. The point is to make people behave by limiting their choices in the public sphere, and in their own minds.
There’s something in much of Catholic and Protestant practice that breeds distrust of adult human beings making their own decisions. This was the very thing that the devout Protestant John Locke wrote about—that civil law is for the corporeal body and the right to rule and determine the direction of your soul is yours and no one else’s. The tolerance of other’s decisions was something Americans have paid plenty of lip-service to and political mongering about but it is not something we have ever had a lot of. These days we seem to be getting less than, say, ten years ago.
Unfortunately, there is and always has been a strong current of sanctimony and moral certitude in American politics. To say it was better in the past is to ignore the fact that the past disappeared for good reasons. Despite the nostalgia about the 1960s, they were no halcyon days for women. Neither were the 1920s or 1890s or 1650s, etc. Yes, we are better off now, but this is why the forces of reaction seem so strong.
Truth is, we believe things will get better. But I think we must step back and remove our judgment of any time, any moment or series of moments. Change is what remains. This is what we have.
“What does this particular change in the great field of change mean for the future?” I think, is really the only question we can answer, and then only in this particular moment, for this particular moment. We can hope, want, dream, but in the end, we must call ourselves into account.
Why can’t we have a Nation in which women do not have to make the difficult, demanding, and heart-breaking choices in their reproductive lives? When can we unite as community, beyond the throes of competition, hatred, and outright greed? When can we do nation building at home, making and maintaining the infrastructures to facilitate that nation building?
Am I a part of what the Sophists used to call the Good? Or, am I a part of the Rationalists border- and boundary-territorialist tyranny? One demands I use my head. The other demands I get a map and operating manual, as if humans were machines that could be defined by function and fixed with a generous application of technology and expert advice.
These are the questions, Fred, that I ask of myself. Questions of justice. The “what can I do” questions that direct my daily life, my connections with my community, my dreams and hopes for employment, living, and prosperity for all people, not just the wealthy and powerful.
Goddamn, Fred, you ask, you get. I hope you are well and that things are going well.