Anti-Abortion Laws Are Attacks On Freedom Itself

Much is in the news about recent laws in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio that greatly restrict a woman’s right to choose whether or not they can have an abortion. It is not difficult to see how these draconian laws are being compared to the images evoked in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale in which a quasi-religious, totalitarian government reduces women to a mere means to an end, rather than a person with feelings, opinions and agency. Social media has erupted, rightfully so, with disdain for the establishment patriarchy, the rights of women to reproductive freedom as well as the right to be free from religious doctrine disguised as government legislation. These are all important and completely valid concerns and arguments, but what may be getting lost in all those pleas is that this is also a very personal attack on freedom itself.

In 1971, moral philosopher, Judith Jarvis Thomson, wrote a compelling essay called “A Defense of Abortion” which outlines the argument for on-demand abortion. I highly suggest you read it yourself since I will not be able to summarize her masterful arguments and do them justice. In that essay, she grants that a “fetus is a person from the moment of conception” in order to redirect the argument to where it should actually be – body autonomy. Using the metaphor of an “unconscious violist” in need of a life-saving blood transfusion, she proposes the thought experiment that you are taken against your will and hooked up to the violinist for nine long months in order to save his life, regardless of the risk to your own. Ultimately, the moral questions Thomson raises in this essay are answered simply by writing “I have argued that you are not morally required to spend nine months in bed, sustaining the life of the violinist…”, but the lesson we should glean is that she is also stating that we should have complete autonomy over our own bodies. She states that a woman is granting the fetus permission to use her body and the woman should ultimately be the one to exercise her agency – her ability to make free choice.

This concept is not new in American history. Thomas Jefferson, when drafting the Declaration of Independence, added the words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

He and the American Revolutionaries understood that the people of the Americas needed to be free from government involvement in their personal lives, to have agency. In the First Amendment, it clearly states in regard to religious freedom, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. In the Fourth Amendment, they declared the right of all “persons, houses, papers and affects” against unreasonable search and seizure. Jefferson himself said in the case of Howell vs. Netherland (1770):

Under the law of nature, all men are born free, every one comes into the world with a right to his own person, which includes the liberty of moving and using it at his own will. This is what is called personal liberty, and is given him by the author of nature, because necessary for his own sustenance.

But, let’s forget for a moment what other people have said and really think about what we are condoning when we say that it is alright for one person to claim agency over another because that is what these laws are doing. They are saying to women, to all of us, that the government knows what to do with your body better than you do and they have the right to enforce their will upon you.

They are nullifying your agency. They are declaring control over your body and taking away your choices. They are closing doors of opportunity and putting you on a path that is not your choosing.

Is it unfair to make the slippery slope argument? How can you argue that it isn’t except to say to yourself “they would never do that” – whatever that is. If the government is dictating to a woman that they must give up nine months of their lives to be hooked up to the “unconscious violist” inside of them, then think of all the things they can now empower themselves to do to anyone at any time for any reason. As an example, here are some of the 613 commandments from the Old Testament.

    1. Men must not shave the hair off the sides of their head — Lev. 19:27
    2. Men must not shave their beards with a razor — Lev. 19:27
    3. Men must not wear women’s clothing — Deut. 22:5
    4. Women must not wear men’s clothing — Deut. 22:5
    5. Not to tattoo the skin — Lev. 19:28
    6. Not to tear the skin in mourning — Deut. 14:1
    7. Not to make a bald spot in mourning — Deut. 14:1
    8. To circumcise all males on the eighth day after their birth — Gen. 17:10
    9. To have children with one’s wife — Gen. 1:28
    10. The rapist must marry his victim if she is unwed — Deut. 22:29

With the exception of #9 and #10, how many of these are worse than forcing a woman to have an unwanted pregnancy? None. So what could stop the government from forcing circumcision? Outlaw tattoos? Dictate the clothes you wear (like Atwood’s Handmaids)?

These anti-abortion laws are actually a worst case scenario when you compare them to the first eight items listed. In fact, how much worse can it be after we have told women that they can no longer decide how their bodies are to be used? If not for the institutional patriarchy, what could possibly stop women in power from ordering the sterilization of men due to grievances such as unpaid alimony and child care payments?

What could prevent another group of any philosophical leaning to impose their will upon your person? What if the followers of someone like philosopher John Harris, the author of “The Survival Lottery”, had complete power and decided that you are now eligible to be forced to give up your life if it could save others? That’s right. You don’t have a choice. Your name is put into a computer and if the algorithm says you are the perfect match to save someone else’s life, then you are plucked off the street and put on the operating table to give up a few organs for a complete stranger even if it kills you.

The body you have is uniquely yours. No one can know how you feel because they do not have your sensations. They cannot know how you think because they do not have your brain. Yet, other people are making a decision for you without any regard for your feelings or thoughts and they are doing so without any culpability of their own. You will be the only one that suffers the consequences of a decision that was made for you. This is about more than reproductive freedom. This is about all freedom. Join the revolution.

Why the March for Our Lives was Really Important

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Image courtesy of MegaAgent.

According to The United States Election Project, voter turnout for young people aged 18-29 has not been very impressive for a very long time.  That age group has historically been the lowest to turn out to vote, topping at around 45% in 2014.  In 2016, they were around 42%, with the majority voting for Hillary Clinton.  Around 24 million votes were cast by that demographic, so doing some rough math, that left around 30 million votes that were not cast by the future of our country. That’s enough to make you shake your head in disgust at  the very least.

Since Trump got elected (by the Electoral College, not the people), I have made some comments to fellow students at the local community college that I do not regret about how they need to become more involved with our political process.  That’s advice I did not take when I was young, so I pretty much counted on it not being followed in this day and age since politics has become so much more divisive.  I mean, I really can’t blame the youth of today from being disenfranchised when, as an adult, I frequently lose hope in our system.  In my Introduction to Political Science class, I am sadly unsurprised by the fact that students have no idea about current events and frequently are at a loss to relate to history that has occurred in their lifetime.  That frustrated me, but I understood it.

But, on March 24th, I may have changed my mind.  When I watched the March for Our Lives protests on television, when I saw the photos from all around the country (and world!), when I heard the voices of young people – as young as 11 years old – promising that this would be the beginning of the revolution, I felt a swell of pride.  There was hope seeping out of my cynicism.

No matter how you feel about gun control, if you feel anything but pride for our country and our future, then you are, quite frankly, an asshole.  The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were responsible for amassing around 800,000 protestors of all ages to peacefully petition their country.  They registered voters and inspired voters to register.  They fully engaged in our political system the way it was meant to be engaged in.  These young adults are true American patriots and citizen leaders of the highest order.

I’m not going to point out the offenses that the NRA and others have perpetrated against them.  Those people/groups are interested only in their own survival and not the public good.  I hope they see that is the wrong choice because their days are indeed limited.  Maybe they don’t see it, or maybe they do and they just want to go down fighting, but they are at the end of their ropes for sure.  I can feel it.  I hope you can, too.

#MarchforOurLives #NeverAgain

 

Modern Day Milgram

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In 1961, Yale psychologist, Stanley Milgram, developed an experiment to test how people would react to authority.  In his test, he set up a device that simulated an electric shock that was delivered to people (“learner”) who incorrectly answered questions that were asked by a “teacher”.  The “teacher” was actually the test subject and the person being shocked was an actor who suffered no damage because there was no actual shock.

As the “learner” answered each question incorrectly, the “teacher”would increase the power of the shock.  At 150 volts, the “learner” began to cry out that he had a heart problem and he wasn’t feeling well.  At that point, the test subject had a choice to continue despite the increasing complaints or to stop despite incessant urging from the person leading the experiment who sat right next to them.

An entire 45 minute documentary can be found here. To save you a little time, I’ll tell you that 65% of the “teachers” (26 of 40) went all the way to 450 volts despite the cries of the “learner”.  So, they continued to inflict pain on another human being for the sole reason that an authority figure told them to do so.

Of course, there were a lot of questions about the ethics of this experiment and that the all of the test subjects were white men, but, hey, that was the 1960’s for you. But it does make one ponder the impact of authority over a person and whether or not they will give up their morality, their sense of right and wrong, if they are told to do so.  Obvious connections to Nazi soldiers were made in this experiment which was actually the point to begin with.

In this day and age, are we subject to the same drive – to please an authority figure to the degree that we would shun responsibility for hurting another human being?

In 2006, there was the famous Mount Washington Strip Search scam where a prank caller called a fast food restaurant posing as a police office and convinced a pair of adults to strip search a teenager and then engage in sexual molestation. The adults never even saw the actual person giving them instructions to demean and abuse this underage girl, yet they did it anyway.

Now, expand that a thousand-fold and think to yourself how similar distasteful and potentially illegal acts could be performed by unwilling people if they were commanded by a President or other elected official.  How about if someone like the Pope or some other high-ranking religious official told you to do something you would normally find abhorrent?  Would you toss away your own personal morals and ethics to please that authority figure?

Would you?

Frum vs. Trump: Simplicity vs. Simpleton

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In case you don’t know who David Frum is, he is a conservative commentator and former speech writer for GW Bush.  Let’s just state for the record that I am not a fan of David Frum’s ideology, but I do respect his intelligence and the way he presents his case.  I also love the way he has rejected Trump as not only a non-conservative that threatens his party’s values, but as an entity that threatens American values.  In Sam Harris’s latest podcast, Frum brilliantly states this case for even the simplest among us. I’m even advocating for you to follow his Twitter feed, which is chock full of daily affirmations that the Trump presidency is a disaster for America.

What I like about his commentary, as I mentioned, is that he simplifies the issues in a nice, neat package and one-lines them so that they are easy to digest.  He understands the long-term implications and, can easily relate them fairly to previous administrations.  For example, he will state that he never voted for Obama and never would, but he at least saw him as a man of integrity.  In Trump, he sees no such thing.

He also sends a clearer, more hopeful message – that we can have intelligent debates about policy and ideology by discussing facts and by being mature; we can talk about issues without being tribal and over protective of our egos. This is an important message especially for all of those conservatives who got on the gold-plated Trump train and are now heading off the cliff they see coming miles away.  They probably figure Trump can make a deal with gravity.  That’s how dug in they are.

I would love to get back to a time and place where that can happen again, but I only see it getting worse in the future and I blame it on our short attention spans and our love for reality TV.  We no longer like to think for ourselves and think critically about anything.  We just want information fed to us and we want to lay back, be simpletons, and let the Idiocracy take over. Sad!

Never Enough Thoughts and Prayers

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(Graphic courtesy of businessinsider.com)

Nope, never enough thoughts and prayers can be thrown around after a massive shooting where people get hurt or die.  Nope, never enough…because they don’t fucking work.  We prove it over and over again that they don’t, yet we persist in submitting to the notion without doing anything of actual impact.

Albert Einstein famously said –

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Sound familiar? It should. We are insane to think that we can pray our way out of the next mass shooting, so stop it.

This is a binary argument. We either reduce or get rid of guns or we increase their presence.  To say that reducing gun ownership in the US would not eliminate gun violence is to also admit that increasing ownership wouldn’t either.  It’s the difference between being proactive and reactive.  Rather than trying to reduce the availability, we increase the availability so we can defend ourselves when the shooting starts.  How about stopping the shooting before it even happens?  What happened to that idea?

Before all you NRA nuts get all pissed off, let me acknowledge this – YES, there are millions of responsible gun owners in the US who are properly licensed, practice safety and have legitimate uses for gun ownership.  Congrat-u-fucking-lations.  I see you.  But, there are plenty of people who are not doing what you are and you need to acknowledge it so we can come to an agreement.  I am NOT looking to take YOUR guns away, so stop saying it.  I just want guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.  For example, people on the “No Fly” list can still buy a gun in this country.  Yes, of course, there may be people who shouldn’t be on the list, but the answer is not to let everyone on the list be a threat to our lives.  The answer is to make the list better.  Why the hell can’t you see that?

Or can you?  I can only hope and pray that you do.

 

Tweet Head

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Trump has been tweeting his way through politics for years now and we all watched. He took his 140 character allowance to critique Obama, denigrate women and insult anyone who called him out for being an asshole.

He used it during the campaign to attack all of his enemies, from Ted Cruz to Hillary Clinton. He tweeted his disdain for the media over and over again. This was the same media that gave him billions of dollars of free advertising. He even used it to insult a Gold Star family simply because they spoke the truth

But, now that he’s President (cough, choke), he doesn’t seem to realize that things are different. As President, using Twitter to declare terrorist motives behind a botched robbery, insulting the mayor of a major city to one of our biggest allies, and supporting a policy in the Middle East that may be fractured due to a planted fake news story by the Russians and may put US troops in harm’s way is just fucking nuts.

Now, his craziness takes an even more drastic turn when he announces he may tweet during the testimony of the FBI Director he fired because that Director was investigating him and his associates of collusion with a foreign power.

If you think this guy is sane or mature or capable, then I have to question your sanity, maturity and capability.

Speak Dirty to Me

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(Graphic courtesy of Newsworks.org)

Oooh, give it to me.  Give me those dirty words so I can say them over and over again.  Yeah, that’s it.  I love me some filth.

Liberal.  Oh yeah, that word just gets me so hot.  Every time there’s some sort of terrorist tragedy, I like to blame those horrible liberals and their “political correctness”.  Those are filthy words, too.  Gives me a political erection.

Conservative.  That’s another word that gets me all crazy and sweaty.  Every time the poor get the shit end of the stick, I like to put it all on those dirty, filthy conservatives.  Every war, too. Wars are so hot.

Then we all speak dirty to one another and get our hackles up and then we can’t listen to another word each other is saying because we’re in a frenzy.  Then no problems get resolved.  They only get worse.

I think we need to clean our mouths out with soap.