Stream of Consciousness Thanks

November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Thankful for (and/or that):

1.  Activist kids
2.  Activist courts
3.  Calvin & Hobbes, a comic that always conveys the right perspective, makes me laugh, makes me wish I had a kid like Calvin and makes me grateful that I don’t have a kid like Calvin
4.  a 5-year-old nephew who conducts Mozart concertos
5.  That as E begins to study the Holocaust and I continue my own studies of it, that I was born where I was, when I was and what I was
6.   Catonsville
7.  Manhattan
8.  Brooklyn
9.   Berger cookies
10.  People who keep me company online and in person
11.  Deusenberg’s oatmeal
12.  my kids, who still make me melt
13.  my husband, who still makes me melt
14.  my parents, who keep me honest
15.  my sister, who I will later this afternoon, beat the crap out of in a game of jacks
16.  Tina
17.  Bruce Catton books
18.  Plumbers
19.  heated arguments about religion, politics, parenting, education, and Edward v. Jacob
20.  The Ravens
21.  The Mets
22.  The Orioles
23.  my capacity to still love #21 and #22 mentioned above, despite their pathetic records
24.  high school friendships renewed
25.  lifelong friends who have the nerve to live in Cali when I’d much rather them live in Baltimore
26.  neighbors who feed the cats
27.  many, many banana daquiris to help me cope with the fact that I can’t watch the Ravens game tonight
28.  cousins
29.  music, from Michael Jackson to Bernstein to Bach
30.  Gym friends
31.  everyone who will forgive me for anything or anyone I have neglected to mention

Not necessarily in that order.

Abundant thanks and deep gratitude for all of the above, family, friends, heroes, books and pizza.

Feel free to add to the list, and have a fantastic holiday, everyone!!!!!



Small Comfort for Mothers, Fetuses, and Jews

November 15, 2011 § 12 Comments

Part Four (closely related to Part Three) of I-Don’t-Know-How-Many in a series of posts inspired by “Miss Representation.”  If you haven’t seen the trailer for this movie, and you have 8 minutes, please watch it here now.  

A very good and sweet friend sent me a 33-minute video and asked my opinion.  A man named Ray Comfort – someone claiming to be Jewish – compares doctors who perform abortions to Hitler, and those who allow this to happen to the German standers-by.  It’s done more subtly and with a defter hand than I just did it, but ultimately, that’s the message.  It’s very skillful, really – so much so that I myself was not exactly sure where he was going with it.

Please watch it, if you have time.  I’d love to hear how others’ reactions compare to mine.  If you don’t have time, consider this your crib notes.  Here’s an extremely abridged version of how Ray Comfort proceeds to elicit (read, “manipulate”) the responses he wants from his person-on-the-street interviews.  My reaction to each step is in parentheses.  And, full disclosure?  I’m Jewish.  And female.  And a mother.

Step I
Q:  Ever heard of Hitler/the Holocaust?
A: Nope.
(Me – horrified this stuff is not being taught and/or remembered.)

Step II
Q:  Ever heard of Hitler/the Holocaust?
A:  Yeah, he was the the leader of Germany who started WWII and killed a bunch of Jews, right?
(Me – is there a glimmer of hope for the educational system after all?)

Step III
Q:  Hitler had his armies dig ditches and shoot Jews into them and fill up the ditches with dirt.  Some of those people were still alive.  If a German officer had his gun pointed at your head, would you drive the bulldozer that filled up those ditches?  You’d be killing those Jews who were still alive.
A:  Varied – some yes (most tinged with guilt, but admitting it was only because their LIFE WAS IN DANGER) and some no.  They’d rather take a bullet than drive that bulldozer.  Also interviewed are token neo-nazis who idolize Hitler – scary, not to be ignored, but mostly aberrations.
(Me – Very tough question.  Deep and wrenching ethical issues.  )

Step IV
Q:  If you had Hitler in the crosshairs, would you shoot, preventing the killing of millions of innocents?
A:  Yes. (Unanimously)
(Me – well, that’s an easy one…)

Step V
Q:  If you went back further, 30-odd years, and you saw Hitler’s mother when she was pregnant with him – would you kill her?  (Comfort repeatedly uses the number 30 years, even though Hitler was 44 when he came to power, but no matter…)
A:  Some yes, some no.
(Me – yes, that’s a tougher question…gee, I wonder where he’s going with this?)

Step VI
Q:  So, you value human life?
A:  Yes
(Me – oh, how silly of me.  Now I know where he’s going.)

Step VII
Q:  How do you feel about abortion?
A:  Variety of answers, from “I don’t know” to “I’m Pro-Life, but I would never judge anyone else because each situation is different” to “Hellz, yeah, it should be legal…”
(Me – really appreciating how many are trying to acknowledge the complexity of the different situations…)

Q:  At what point in the womb does the fetus become a life?
A:  Variety of answers, from “I don’t know” to “3 months in.”
(Me – difficult question – I’m Pro-Choice and I have a very hard time with this one.)

Step IX
Q:  Finish this sentence.  “It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when…”
A:  Most are taken aback, but the answers range from “Never,” to “When the mother can’t take care of it” to “When it results from something that should never have happened.”
Q: (follow-up)  Why kill the baby for the crime of the father?  What justifies killing a baby in the womb?  Why advocate killing children in the womb?
(Me – hold it right there – something’s not right.)

Step X
Q: Hitler declared Jews “non-human.”  Isn’t declaring fetuses “non-human” the same thing?
A:  Answers vary from “Hmmmm…” to “I guess you’re right!”
(Me – hoooooo boy.)

Step XI
Q:  Have you changed your mind about abortion?  Would you vote for someone who supported abortion?
A:  Yes!  No!
(Me – oy.)

Step XII
Q:  All sorts of questions about believing in god, heaven, hell, the 10 commandments, that Jesus died for everyone’s sins and how all we have to do to be cleansed of our sins is accept Jesus as our savior.  Then we can get into heaven.
A:  Cool!
(Me – Okay, this guy Comfort is sooooooo not a Jew like he says he is in the beginning…)

I had to think hard about where Comfort twists the argument.  Was it in Step IX, when he asks people finish the sentence “It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when…”?  What he is implying, and trying to get others to imply is that if an abortion is performed, both the doctor and the mother think it’s okay, rather than that it’s the lesser of two potentially horrible evils, BOTH with deep and lasting consequences.  I think that’s extremely unfair.

Was it in Step X, when he equates declaring Jews “non-human” with declaring fetuses “non-human”?  Jews with years of life ahead of them, years of life behind them, jobs, educations, families, relationships and ties to this world?  Equated to non-viable fetuses?  This, to me, is a warped comparison at best, and the height of intellectual dishonesty at worst.

Was it in Step IX, when he challenges the few who dare to suggest that in cases of rape or incest, an abortion might be permissible?  When he comes back at them strongly with questions like, “Why should the baby pay for the sins of the father?”  And in this entire phase, there is no mention – NONE – of the impact being forced to have the baby would have on the MOTHER in these situations???  Does she merit any consideration, here?

There is no mention of what’s permissible when a mother’s life is in danger.  This fascinated me, because in Step IX, I kept waiting for someone to finish his loaded sentence with “when the mother’s life is in danger as a result of the pregnancy.”  If anyone gave this answer, it ended up on the cutting room floor.

Strange, because, in Step III, when asked if they would fill in the ditch with dirt, even if some Jews were still alive in it, we heard several of them say, “ONLY because my life was in danger.”  And stranger, because Ray Comfort seemed okay with that.  He didn’t go after them then like he did when, in Step IX, people said there were situations when abortions were permissible.  Does he feel that it is worse to end a fetus’s life than to end a Jew’s life?  Surely that would be twisting his words, and I’d NEVER do that.

HR 358 – Protecting life? Letting Women Die? Neither?

November 14, 2011 § 6 Comments

Part Three of I-Don’t-Know-How-Many in a series of posts inspired by “Miss Representation.”  If you haven’t seen the trailer for this movie, and you have 8 minutes, please watch it here now.  

A great friend of mine is supremely frustrated that people in the middle are being drowned out by the shouts of extremists on both sides.  I agree completely, though it’s funny: when I’m in the presence of someone aggressively loud, the louder they shout, the less I hear.  The more energetic and boisterous they are, the quieter I become.  I tune out.  I withdraw and stop listening.  I bide my time until they’re done, breathe a sigh of relief when they leave, and become firmer in my belief that those who speak the least command the most attention when they do finally utter words.  Though no sane person would call me someone who seldom speaks, here is my attempt to speak calmly and quietly, in an effort to be heard over the screamers on each side.

On October 13, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 358 – an amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  The amendment is being touted as the “Protect Life Act” by supporters, and criticized as the “Let Women Die Act” by opponents.  The only thing upon which supporters and opponents agree about this act is that it further limits access to abortions.  In the extremely unlikely event this bill (or a parallel version of it) passes in the Senate, President Obama has said he would veto it.

Since I’m focusing on treatment of women, lately (don’t worry – I’ll be done soon…maybe…) I couldn’t let this thing go by without a look.  Before I got very far, though, I got the strong feeling that both Protect Life and Let Women Die were egregious misnomers for this legislation, and for the larger dispute as a whole.

Even reading the SUMMARY written by the Congressional Research Service (a non-partisan arm of the Library of Congress) was a lot of work.  Here’s a link to another, slightly simpler summary from Project Vote Smart – a bipartisan breakdown of the facts, issues, and where the candidates stand.  Go ahead.  Read them.

There!  Get it?  All clear?  No?  Okay, well let’s step back and consider the true conflict behind this and its complexity.

Is it acceptable to force a doctor to perform an abortion when it violates his religious beliefs?  I don’t think so.  It’s a very tough question.  It’s not okay to tell a person he or she cannot practice medicine because of their religious beliefs.  However, I also believe that if a doctor would not perform an abortion when the mother’s life is at stake, he or she should be allowed or even obligated to send her to a doctor who would.  If a hospital employs ER doctors who refuse to perform emergency abortions, they should also be required to have on staff at all times a doctor who will.  HR 358 makes it easier for a doctor or hospital to refuse care to a woman (see the section on “Non-discrimination”) in this situation, and that makes me very nervous.

Flipping the coin, is it acceptable to deny a woman an abortion in the cases of rape, incest, or if her life is endangered by the pregnancy?  I don’t think so.  This is also a very tough question.  I think it’s the height of hubris to tell a woman, teenager, or girl she should go through with any pregnancy, whether or not they keep the baby or put the baby up for adoption, regardless of the situation, but ESPECIALLY if it falls into the categories mentioned above.  HR 358 seems to acknowledge that (see section on “Limitation of Abortion Funding”) , in re-iterating that federal funds may be used in these extreme situations.

The extremists in support of this amendment (the “Protect Life” view) would have us thinking that abortion is frequently used as convenient birth control and that regardless or situation or gestational period, abortion is tantamount to slaughtering babies.

The extremists in opposition of this amendment (the “Let Women Die” view) would have us believe that right-wing, religious zealots who also practice emergency room medicine would coldly turn their heads and refuse to perform an abortion to satisfy their righteousness even if a young mother were bleeding to death on the floor as a result of that refusal.

Both might happen.  I’m sure both DO happen.  I admit to being ignorant of the statistics on either side, and my apologies for that.  My sense is, though, that what happens the vast majority of the time lies in the middle of this spectrum.

I believe that most doctors whose religious beliefs preclude them from performing abortions have, and would have tremendous difficulty grappling with the loss of the mother’s life.  Allowing the death of a woman who is also, perhaps, a mother, sister, wife, friend, daughter to many others to save the life of her unborn baby (or to NOT be responsible for the baby’s death) would haunt even the most hardened, experienced, religiously fervent doctor.  I hope.

I also believe that most women in the horrifying situation of having to choose between her own life and her unborn baby’s life has, by virtue of being in that situation, suffered enough.  She does not need to suffer the guilt trips and wrath of those who unfairly sit in judgement of her, or the ultimate price – death.  Actually, though I have not been in that situation myself, I don’t just believe this.  I know it.

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