Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Abortion - we're asking the wrong question

I followed with some interest the abortion thread over on Whateveresque.

I didn't comment over there because I didn't feel like I had anything to add that hadn't already been said by someone else. I waited until now to post my own comments, because I wanted the conversation over there to run its course, and now it looks like it has. I find it interesting that both general positions, for and against, were represented by folks who are regular commenters here, i.e. Shawn Powers and MWT. I was impressed by the, mostly, civil conversation on both sides of the issue, and by both Shawn and MWT's own positions and their respect for each other.

But - it is exactly that civil, adult, reasonable stand by both sides that confirms, for me, something that I've suspected for a long, long time - to wit: we are never going to agree on this issue, period.

I'd like to propose a change of rudder.

But first, I suppose it is only fair to state my own position on the subject of abortion, which is this: I mostly just don't care. Really. If I'm forced to take a stand on this subject, I will come down slightly off-center on the side of choice. Safe, legal, and very, very rare, that's me.

Now people get all bent out of shape when I say I mostly don't care. Abortion is one of those subjects that you're supposed to have strong feelings about, you're supposed to take a stand solidly on one side of the line or the other. You're either Pro-Choice or Pro-Life. You're either with us or against us (us being whomever is pounding the table at the moment). Even if you're a bit ambivalent about what you believe, you're still supposed to take sides. Abortion is just one of those polarizing issues, and just like optical polarization, there are only two choices (optical polarization is either horizontal or vertical). In fact, the only thing that will unite both sides, albeit only momentarily, is somebody who isn't part of either camp (Kind've like Fundamentalist Christians and Radical Muslims agreeing to hate the Jews.)

Well, I'm not much for being stuffed into a pigeon hole, especially on this issue.

Here's why:
1) I don't like the names: Pro-Choice and Pro-Life. I don't want either label applied to me. Pro-Life I find insulting and arrogant. The name, pro-life, implies that anybody who isn't a pro-lifer is anti-life (the ultimate 'you're either with us, or you're against us'). Pro-choice, on the other hand, often implies that there is only one choice - have an abortion or become a parent. Wait! Don't start screaming. I realize that most pro-choice folks don't mean their position to be so binary, but that's the message I often get - they're so used to fighting (and maybe justifiably so) that they often will not consider a larger range of options, many of which are proposed by the pro-life side, maybe because that range of options is proposed by the opposition. Acceptance into the organized pro-choice camp is often contingent, at least in my experience, on making only the approved choice, i.e. you're pro-choice just as long as you don't choose pro-life. (Organized, I said, into the organized pro-choice movement. Most people who define themselves as pro-choice don't belong to an organized pro-choice group, they're more of the 'leave me the hell alone' mindset). I am always suspicious of any issue that gives people only two options - I think people are more complex than that.

2) It is nearly impossible for the Pro-life side to separate their position from their religion. Again, I realize that many religious people have no desire to separate their position from their faith. Many don't believe this is even possible, and some believe that to live their life apart from their religion is evil. I understand this, and accept it. America is about freedom of belief, however it is also about freedom from belief. I have no problem when a person limits their own options because of their religious beliefs, I have a major problem when they expect everybody else to live within those limitations. If your course of action is dictated primarily by your religion, well fine for you, but you have absolutely NO right whatsoever to inflict that position on me or mine, and if you try - well I'm liable to take serious exception to it, violent exception if you keep at it.

3) The argument 'life begins at conception' does not hold water with me. 'What's that?' I hear you say. Bear with me here for a minute. First, I do agree that life does indeed begin at conception. Prior to conception, neither the sperm nor the ovum are truly alive, not as we define life (it's life, Jim, but not as we know it! - sorry, had to be said). Neither egg or sperm are able to consume resources from the environment, excrete waste, or are able to reproduce on their own - both are nothing more than building blocks. But after conception, well, it's a different story. The embryo consumes resources, excretes wastes, grows and reproduces (not sexual reproduction but rather cellular reproduction which qualifies as a defining criteria for life). So, it can be demonstrated scientifically that life does indeed begin at conception.

So what?

Seriously, so what? Is it human life? Is that lump of cells a human being? Science would say, no, probably not. Rather it is a potential human being, and many things can go wrong on the way to the final product. Religious folks say that's bullshit, it's human. Period. Most parents at this point would agree, I know I did - when that stick test came back positive, it was a baby. Who's right here? Science or emotion (and if you don't think emotion has a role in this, well, I'd advise you not to have kids, just saying). Again, who's right? Answer, both, neither. Why? Well because at this point we are well into the questions neither science nor religion can easily answer, i.e. what is it to be human?

And that takes us to the real crux of the matter, doesn't it? The question of when does human life begin, and the argument that human life is special.

The pro-life folks say yes, human life is sacred and must be protected. Strangely, many of these people support the death penalty, many support the war. I'm generalizing of course, not all pro-lifers are Neocon Republicans, not all are Christians (a significant number are devout Jews and Muslims, hell there are a number of atheists opposed to abortion) but a large majority are staunch religious Christian conservatives, at least here in the US. For these people, it's not a matter of science, it's a matter of faith. Human life begins at conception, it is defenseless and must be protected - if that embryo makes bad choices later in life, well, then it must be held accountable. But that unborn life has a right to exist and grow up to make those bad choices. The pro-choice group sees this as the ultimate hypocrisy. It's not, ultimately faith is about choice, you chose to follow your faith, or you don't. Now I will say I think there is some hypocrisy to be had here, because if you truly believe that human life is sacred, and that it does indeed begin at the moment of conception - well what happens when that fertilized egg doesn't implant in the uterine wall because the mother is eating a lousy diet? or has a medial condition she could have gotten corrected and didn't? What happens if the mother miscarries? Not because it's 'God's Will' but because she smokes, or because she's careless and slipped on the ice and fell down the steps? How is this different than failing to put an infant in a car seat? If life is truly sacred, shouldn't these people be tried for manslaughter? Or criminal negligence? (No, I don't think this. Yes, I know there are those who do). My problem here is where do you draw the line? What criteria do you use? Who decides?

Pro-choice folks on the other hand, often resort to science at this point in the argument. The most common pro-choice argument is, 'it may be life, but it just isn't viable outside of the womb,' therefor it's not human. Hmmm, I suppose there is some logic to this, but I have to argue that there are many creatures, creatures that we all can agree are life, that can exist only in specialized environments. Extremophiles, for example, that exist only in boiling black-smoker vents beneath the sea. Or parasites that are specific to only one species of plant or animal. Because these creatures can only exist in one very limited environment should we say that they really aren't alive? But those creatures aren't human, Jim, I hear some of you say, non-extra-uterine-viable embryos are different. OK, what if that human embryo has an immune system deficiency? And following it's birth must live forever within a sterile environment? Does this mean that it's not human? Of course not. All creatures exist within a specific environmental range, which may change over the course of the creature's life. In order for the question of embryonic viability to be a valid argument, we would have to define exactly what environmental parameters define a human being at each stage of development - and if you allow for technological modification of those parameters, well, all I can say is, "good luck with that." And I think the same logic applies to the question of embryonic viability. Again, where do you draw the line? What criteria do you use? Who decides?

Me? I tend more towards what I can see, touch, and test. And frankly I've got to say about the religious viewpoint that life is sacred: On the face of things, if there is a God (of whatever faith), he/she doesn't seem to regard human life as all that sacred - especially children. Without human intervention, hundreds of thousands of children (including unborn children) die every year in horrible ways. And frankly, for a bunch of people who say that human life is a gift from God, well, history shows repeatedly that most religions have no problem putting a bullet through the forehead of their fellow gifts from God. Actions speak louder than words, sorry but there it is.

From the scientific view point, again, I just don't see human life as all that special (don't get me wrong here, I see my life as plenty special, and same with those I love and know, but the rest? Well...), truthfully, the human race is hardly endangered. In fact, from a scientific viewpoint, the biggest threat to humans is, uh well, more humans. Most wars are ultimately fought over resources. Less births are better.

And so, however you get to this point, my answer to the whole 'when does human life begin' question is always going to be, 'I don't care.' I. Don't. Care. I don't know when it begins. I damned sure know when it ends though. I've seen plenty of dead people, people who have died in horrible ways. People who ended their lives as soggy corpses, bloating in the broiling sun - is life sacred? On the face of things, I've got to say I don't think the Universe gives a shit. I'm marginally more pro-choice than pro-life because I think that what a woman does with her uterus is her business (unless she decides to run a meth lab in there, or harbor terrorists - then I think we've got the right to poke around, in the interest of National Security, of course).

I would say to you, all of you no matter if you're pro-choice or pro-life, we just aren't going to agree on these questions. Hell, even folks within the same movement, within the same church, within the same woman's health clinic, within the same family, can't agree on these questions: What is it to be human? When does human life begin? Is it sacred? Is it special? Which is more important, the mother or the embryo? Does the lump of cells in a woman's uterus have rights independent from the mother?

And this is why I rarely get involved with the abortion issue, because, frankly I think the entire argument is off-track. While many of the question above are vitally important to many people, not one of them can be answered to the satisfaction of all. Not one. And that means there is no way in hell, that we are ever going to come to an agreement that everybody can live with. And because the two sides are both powerful, and nearly evenly matched, and because nearly everybody in the country feels strongly about it, we will always be divided on this. If abortion is legal - half the country will fight to have it made illegal. If it's made illegal, the other half of the country will fight to make it legal. The country will continue to pour vast amounts of energy and assets and passion and hatred into this bottomless hole. And it will never end.

So what do we do about it?

Well, there's an old Indian (India, not Native American) proverb. It doesn't translate well, but it goes something like this:

Question: How do you climb down off of an elephant? Answer: you don't, you climb down off of a duck.

Yeah I know, I told you it didn't translate well. What it means is this: Sometimes you need to look at the question from a different angle.

And that takes me here, to something that should be obvious, but I never see mentioned in the argument by either side, to wit: Abortion is a symptom, not the disease.

That's right, we're expending all this energy on the wrong question!

Abortion is a symptom, not the disease - in other words: No woman has ever gotten an abortion who wasn't - stick with me here - pregnant. No shit, uh?

And that is, of course, the real question - the question that, unlike abortion, has many solutions, solutions that we can all live with and allow others to live with different answers - How do we prevent unwanted pregnancy?

And the answer is not just birth control, though that is a big part of it. The best thing about birth control is that one size doesn't fit all (heh). The options range from abstinence to various forms of technology. Some solutions are right for certain people, and some different solutions are right for others. One of the things I'd like to see is a concerted effort, supported by the pro-life and pro-choice camps, to develop a safe and effective and cheap male oral contraceptive. If both sides put half as much effort into supporting the development of such a drug as they do into screaming at each other, we'd have it done already.

Yes, I understand that some religions don't allow their members (heh) to use birth control. And some folks just don't want to, religion aside. Fine, you've got two choices here, abstinence or eventual pregnancy. And for some people these are acceptable choices.

The key term is unwanted pregnancy. And the solution is to either prevent it, or make it wanted. And this is something both sides of the abortion issue can agree on, and find their own answers for - without having to impose those answers on the other side. If everybody in this country got together and pushed to end unwanted pregnancy - by whatever means - then we'd make the issues of abortion moot. Abortion would become rare. Which is what it should be.


  1. Legal, safe, and rare. That's my opinion as expressed on the "e," and over here.

    Because I do care. As a woman, and as the mother of a daughter, I can't not care - my reproductive freedom is too important to my ability to be an equal member of society. So on this one, we'll have to agree to disagree. I suppose that means I'm no longer your bug-eating bitch-girl.

    But I do concede the point regarding cause verus effect. Get rid of the cause, you no longer have to deal with the effect. QED.

  2. I don't, actually, disagree with you, Janiece. And I can certainly respect your position, for exactly reasons you stated. Me, I'm male (and clipped for that matter), and the father of a son. So, for the exact same reason you care, I don't - or don't as much (Okay I do, at least some). Or put another way - I don't see what you do with your uterus as any of my business.

    You're absolutely right about reproductive freedom and it's relationship to equality in society. I have always found it more than a bit disingenuous that some of the most staunch opponents to abortion are the ones that often abrogate any and all responsibility for their own ill conceived progeny - Strom Thurmond comes to mind here, but then again he was an even bigger asshole than a simple sperm donor...

  3. Pretty much with you guys on the Pro-choice side (also hating the "file me here" label). Also, right with you Jim on the value of rephrasing questions. Its always worth trying whether it works out or not. Once upon a time, somewhere, a bunch of engineers were standing around scratching their heads because they couldn't agree on whether they should build their road around the mountain or over the mountain. It must have surprised the hell out of them when someone suggested they go through the mountain.

    Moving to a tangent (I swear its not off topic, I do). I was commenting earlier today that I had just finished reading "Empire" by Orson Scott Card. Its a huge mess of a book that doesn't come close to making the case it is trying to make. The "Afterward" on the other hand is a fairly cogent piece of writing with something to think about. Card puts forth the case that we are becoming entirely too Balkanized in America. Sitting on the fence or anywhere between the extremes, is rapidly becoming "not an option". Want to be a Democrat? You must be Pro-choice, Pro-gay, Anti-Death Penalty, Pro-social everything and pay for it, etc. etc. etc. Want to be Republican? Substitute Anti on every position. Want to be Libertarian? HaHaHaHa. We'll just run your ass over while we're kicking the shit out of the other side.

    His point is that either extreme is literally insane. Most people, given their druthers pick and choose from the menu and choose how much spice they want.

    He specifically talks about both Serbs and Croatians and about Hutu and Tutsi. No-one was permitted to fail to choose sides. And we're moving toward the same situation, at least politically.

    Yeah. Rephrasing the questions is looking mighty good.

  4. I don't see what you do with your uterus as any of my business.

    This is pretty much where I stand on this issue.

    One of the things I'd like to see is a concerted effort, supported by the pro-life and pro-choice camps, to develop a safe and effective and cheap male oral contraceptive.

    I agree, and I would gladly use it.

    The male side is limited to but a few options - don't do it (yeah, like that's going to happen), install a physical barrier so you can't feel anything, or get irreversible surgery. I really wish there were more options available to us.

  5. Jim, when I was a Company Commander in the Navy, I worked with a female Nurse Practitioner who was known in the San Diego area for her dedication to issues surrounding female health. When I first went to speak to her about helping young female sailors make better choices, do you know what she said to me?

    "Petty Officer Murphy, do you know the definition of a medical emergency? An 18 year old who's out of birth control pills."

    Amen, sister.

    We're not at cross-purposes - I think I'm just more sensitive to the long term effect on women's rights as it relates to the availability of abortion and birth control. Which makes sense. It's an issue that's touched me on a personal and professional level my entire life.

    For men, I think the debate has a more academic feel. Or as the militants used to say, "It's easy to protest abortion when you can't get pregnant, mister."

  6. Part of the problem, Jim, isn't that we're asking the wrong questions: it's that the right questions are the wrong ones. Because at a certain, fundamental level it isn't really about the lives of fetuses or who controls the womb--at a certain, crucial level it's about gender roles and the place of religion in American society and all these other headache-inducing issues that might (regrettably) be irreconcilable.

    I suspect that there's a reasonable position along the lines of "legal but practically unheard of because reliable birth control, education, freely available health care, and strong family and social structures make it less than rare." (Let me admit that I may be blinded by my own desire to think I'm one of the reasonable ones.) But--and I think you touched on this in your post--that position doesn't even get around to any of the things people want to talk about in today's coded language.

    I don't have any cause to hope that Reason will get the upper hand.


    (There's a reason I usually stay away from the subject these days: it's tiring just to think about the idea of talking about it.)

    BTW, for whatever it's worth, I thought you wrote a good post.

  7. The "e" thread was quite enlightening for me, and I rather enjoyed the discussion had there. I must admit, I stopped reading about the same time I stopped commenting, because the discussion looked like it was either going no further, or possibly degrading. I was interested in neither.

    You do seem to get it, Jim, which I can appreciate. I admitted many of my inner conflicts on the issue on that thread, largely because it felt like a "safe" environment to do so.

    Generally, if you are anything but staunch, arrogant, and ready to die rather than discuss -- people on both sides tend to tear you apart. It was nice to discuss the topic openly with intelligent folks.

    I did wonder why you never participated in the thread. :)

  8. I stopped reading right around the same time Shawn did. By that point it looked like everyone had said everything there was to say, and the only thing that was going to happen after it was degradation into the usual tiresomeness.

    Good to see you found a way to move forward from there in yet another intelligent way. "End unwanted pregnancy" sounds like a good way to proceed. Of course, just like "pro choice" immediately makes you think there are only two choices, "end unwanted pregnancy" automatically makes me think "preach abstinence" - which tends to come from people who do indeed want to impose that solution on everyone. So I guess that's your next elephant.

  9. See, that's why I like you guys. Even on a topic such as this, you are all interesting and intelligent people(and I'm not just saying that so you'll buy me that powered armor I wanted for xmas).

    I agree with you, Janiece, and I think you touch on a good point. For you, it's personal - extremely so. For me - it's academic. Which is, of course, a subset of the larger gender issue. And as Eric pointed out - that's really what this is all about - power. Which is ultimately why I say that I mostly don't care - because I don't see my opinion (as a male) as relevant - at least not as relevant as somebody who has a uterus. On the other hand - it takes two to tango, and it's about time that men took responsibility for their part in the process (and most do, but there is a significant number who do not).

    MWT, I agree - "End Unwanted Pregnancy" is a lousy rallying cry. But that is specifically why I italicized 'unwanted,' because there is more than one way to deal with 'unwanted.' What always makes me scratch my head is that whole 'women deserve to be punished for enjoying sex' thing - which is one of my major beefs with Christianity in the first place - i.e. men can do as they please, but a woman should be married before she has sex, she must not enjoy it, and she should only have sex to get pregnant - if women would only adhere to these rules, then we wouldn't have to talk about abortion. I've spoken to a number of folks who very much believe something along those lines. Men I can understand, but why a women would buy into this bullshit is beyond me. But, then I feel that way about most religion, I can see what's in it for men, but I can't understand why any woman would buy into it - i.e. I don't understand what women get out of mainstream religion (I find it amazing that Muslim women don't drown every male child the minute it's born, but that's just me I guess).

    Personally, I'm pretty sure if I told my wife she was evil and flawed and was the reason man was cursed (and oh by the way, I'm in charge and she should be happy about that), she'd probably wait until I was asleep and then cave my head in with a cast iron frying pan - on second thought, she probably wouldn't wait for me to fall asleep...

  10. And that's one of my beefs with idiotic fools claiming the "Christianity" title as their own.

    The gender roles being so screwed up bothers me immensely, and I hate when right wing nutjobs rally around the, "Bible telling me so" game regarding male dominance, etc. Heaven forbid the bible was actually written to a culture that had those views, and wasn't in and of itself promoting such a thing... But that makes me a liberal fag lover in the eyes of the (unfortunate) common "Christian."

    Sorry to rant in your comments, but the Fundamentalists really tick me off. They basically claim (to me), "see, we're just like you -- let's go kick a puppy!"

    Grumble grumble grumble...

  11. Shawn, no problem. Please, feel free to rant.

    And for the record - I do understand that most Christians aren't that way, but a significant number are. Especially here in the Matsu Valley. This is the reddest area of the reddest red state - and unfortunately they seem to think they represent all Christians (kind've like Bill Donohue claims to represent all Catholics...).

  12. I get TIRED of the argument, which is why I never posted to the thread on the 'e'. Yeah, I have a position, but I get tired of the arguments that never change.

    For the record, I am pro-choice (if I have to pick a label) but personally would probably not choose to have one. I believe that the issue that the extreme right misses is that the woman's life is *at least* of equal value to that of a fetus, if not more so...

    You did well laying out your position, Jim!

  13. I believe that the issue that the extreme right misses is that the woman's life is *at least* of equal value to that of a fetus, if not more so...

    I have been called some pretty foul things for saying exactly that - but truthfully - as brutal as it sounds - if I am forced to make a choice between the woman and the fetus (that whole 'saving the woman's life' thing - and truthfully, how often does that really happen? Really?) I'd choose the woman, always. I just would. Is it a tragedy that somebody has to choose? Yep. Does it suck? Yep. Would somebody else make a different choice? Entirely possible. But if you make me choose, then I'd almost always default to the woman. However, if the woman is conscious and capable - then I don't see it as my choice to make, it's hers and hers alone. Period. If she has to choose between her life (not quality of life, life) and her baby's life - well, yeah, none of my business, and she has my deepest sympathy and I'll kick the first guy in the nuts who tries to tell her what God wants her to do.

  14. Shawn, I wouldn't call you a liberal fag lover. Maybe a liberal, but I don't consider that an epithat.

    I think what the militants fail to see is that open-minded people of conscience can at least attempt to reach some sort of consensus without resorting to name-calling and chest-thumping. We may not agree, but we can try to see the issue from another point of view.

    I consider abortion one of the few great moral delemmas of our time, and I'm pretty sure there simply isn't a single, correct answer.

    I guess that makes me wishy-washy and un-Balkinized. I think I can live with that, though.

  15. The fag lover bit was really just expounding on another one of my frustrations with the kids in my "playground" so to speak.

    Even if homosexuality is abhorrent, shouldn't we, as Americans, have the right to do what we wish? I'm not talking about getting into a right vs wrong discussion on homosexuality, but rather I fully believe in an individual's right to do whatever they want with themselves.

    You're right too, abortion is one of the only real moral dilemmas of our time. Oh sure, there are others, but with abortion there just isn't a *good* answer.

    It's funny (refreshing?) that at least in this little group, we all agree on that point.

  16. This is going to come off somewhat (or totally) disjointed, but what the hell.

    Not only did I not comment on the 'e' thread, I didn't read it until you posted this. I expected it to be the "same old, same old" bunch of people screaming at each other. And it wasn't. Which has me thinking more seriously about the topic than I have in recent memory. Shawn's posts made me consider the opposing view in a way I'll admit I've rarely done. Its easy to dismiss shrill people; contemplative people with sincere beliefs...not so much.

    Starting from the premise that "Stop Unwanted Pregnancy" is a crappy battle cry, I'd have a lot of respect for any Republican candidate who said, "I'd love to outlaw abortion, but its not going to happen. With that in mind, let's make it our goal to cut the number of abortions in half by focusing on birth control." Or how about a Democratic candidate who says, "A woman should absolutely have the right to choose to abort a pregnancy, but abortion is a horrible thing and we need to make it our goal to cut the number of abortions in half by focusing on birth control."

    Same thing from different sides of the aisle. But each acknowledges the opposition.

    I don't think there's really anyone out there saying, "aborting babies is a good thing", and if there is, I don't want to meet them. This may sound horribly wrong, but I don't think there are any women who don't experience some level of trauma after having an abortion...and once again, if there are, I don't want to meet them. And, I base this on nothing but my own optimism, I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of people who consider themselves Pro-choice, would never consider having an abortion themselves.

    I don't think the majority of people on either side are the screechy monkeys we're used to hearing from. I hate to quote that guy, but there really is a Silent Majority.

    I flat-out agree with the people who despise the use of abortions as a form of birth control. But I can't think of any way to legislate that without punishing a bunch of people who should have access to a safe abortion.

    The question will never be solved with an "all or nothing" approach. The conversation needs to be changed. The culture needs to be changed. When I was a child, Mom piled all 8 of us into the back seat of a monster car and kept us quiet by giving us bottles of Coke. Now, all the kids are in car seats and Mom wouldn't consider starting the car without putting on her seatbelt.

    I was hoping to end this with some amazingly smart wrap-up,(and I gave it a shot) but I guess I'm going to have to settle for running out of steam instead...SSSSSSSSSSSssssss.

  17. I'm only about half awake at the moment - and I'll probably go back to bed for a bit because I'm not feeling all that great at the moment. But before I do, I'm going to hijack my own thread and say: Shawn Powers you are a funny, funny guy - and yes, I am referring to the 'Give Sergeant E a Hug' post on the 'e.'

    I notice that he hasn't weighed in yet.


    All, excellent observations on the topic at hand. More later. Need to take a pill and go back to sleep for a bit.

  18. I PM'd Sarge, because that's the kind of guy I am. I was pretty sure he'd take offense, and where's the fun in that? Here's the response I *just* received:

    Shawn Powers wrote: I just wanted to PM you, to make sure you didn't take my "hug" thread as any more than silliness. If you've read my posts here at the Whateveresque, You'll notice I tend to lean hard on the side of silly. I meant no offense, and hope you didn't take any.

    Sarge: Ya know, I've thought long and hard, and this is the only thing rational that I can say about it: I can't have a legitimate opinion about your intentions or the perceptions of others, because this community seems to live in an alternate universe in a lot of ways and requires further study on my part. You can keep that to yourself or share it with whomever you want.

    Which is one of the most rational, level headed things I've seen Sarge write. :)

  19. Oh, and welcome to my universe, beotches. Taxes are due in January.


  20. *Newsflash!*

    "Pro-choice and pro-life camps can actually agree on something!

    Abortion is complex, with no easy black and white answer."

    *We now return to our regularly scheduled screeching.*

    I'm being facetious, of course, but in a way I'm really not. If the people here and over at the "e" can come to the conclusion that this issue is morally ambiguous, isn't there some hope that we can reach a consensus? Even though I'm pro-choice, I'm not running all over town shouting "Yay Abortion! Let's kill babies!" Even though Shawn's pro-life, he's not throwing pig's blood on scared young girls screeching "baby killer!"

    Could this be another case of people needing to get over themselves?

    Crappy battle cry or not, I'm all about the "End Unwanted Pregnancy!" campaign promise.

    You know, if the politicos would just let us run the show, things would be a damn sight better in this joint.

  21. Shawn, did that response come with a decoder ring? I'm really not sure what it means.

  22. Shawn, I'll pay your taxes, but I'll need a few things in return...

    And so the corruption begins.

    Actually, the Sarge's reply is pretty much what I'd expect. As Nathan noted over on Hot Chicks, he seems to have some compulsive need to be more right than anyone else on the board. If we're all living in the Shawniverse, then that would explain why only he can have a defensible position or opinion on any given topic.

  23. Yaaaaaay! I'm indefensible.

    **I'd do the Oh Yeah! dance, but someone hasn't posted the 'how to' video yet**

    ahem (picture Shawn's avatar and you'll know how I lookin' at you!!)

  24. Really though, did we expect a reply of humor, snark, or even entertaining rantingness? No, just the same old same old. Or silence in the face of banterless humor.

  25. Eureka! Shawn has the answer!

    We don't like the Sarge not only because he's an insufferable know-it-all, but because he's humorless. Around here, that's the unforgivable sin.

  26. Well, if you're expecting a reply that contains video of me doing the "oh yeah" dance - yeah, you may expect stoic silence :)

    Sarge's reply though, I read that as 'you people are all idiots - I'm studying you to better help you understand why I'm a genius.'

    But then again, I may reading something into it.

    On the abortion topic: I got to thinking about the Extreme Pro-life view point: the one that says essentially we have a right to control your reproductive organs. I wonder if they would accept complete equality on this issue? I wonder if they (the extremists, you know those who think it's OK to kill doctors and blow up clinics. NOT all pro-life people.) would accept government control of their own, male, reproductive actions?

    Or is that only for women?

  27. Well, yeah, Janiece - truthfully, how many truly funny Marines do you know?

    Great guys in a fight, if you need shit blown up there's none better. But by and large they are a humorless bunch. Never met one who could tell a joke - which is hard to do when you're standing ramrod straight at rigid parade rest :)

  28. You may be right regarding the Sarge, Jim -- but I choose to believe he meant to say, in his humorless way, "I'm not woooorthy, I'm not wooooorthy..."

    And then he admitted to be part of an alternate reality. IMHO a sad, lonely reality where everyone is right all the time.

    But don't think Alaska is exempt from the Shawniverse tax. Although you may pay in salmon. Or large hunks of glacier.

  29. And then he admitted to be part of an alternate reality. IMHO a sad, lonely reality where everyone is right all the time.

    Silly man. It's a reality where only the Sarge is right all the time. Or he's more right. Or righter. Or something.

  30. Snow, Shawn, snow - I'll tithe my shawnverse taxes in snow. In fact I'll pay extra, where'd'ya want it?

  31. Hmmmm. That PM was actually kind of enlightening. You guys might want to think of Sgt E as a Vulcan. That might help you understand his mindset. By saying that we're in an alternate universe, what he's saying is that he finds us completely incomprehensible. Thus, requires further study until he figures us out (which might take a while...). I don't see any insult intended.

    I understand the general mindset and even agree with it to some extent, but he takes it to a farther extreme. Generally speaking, it's the idea that you should not speak up unless you have ALL of your facts straight. Which I employ all the time in another community and get looked upon as some kind of wise sagelike person. If I don't know something, I look stuff up first. If I can't find out either, I just don't say anything. Either way I don't tell people that I don't know things (especially things that are easy to know with a quick google search). Thus, whenever I do actually say something, I'm basically always right, and I appear to be very well informed.

    In my case, it's because I used to get thwacked all the time for being misinformed, and thus I decided to just not speak unless I'm informed.

    This doesn't work so well when you're looking at extremely broad issues like abortion, however. There are a lot of topics where it's basically impossible to know everything there is about it before speaking. Also, a large part of the point of having discussions is to be able to ask questions and get answers on the parts you don't know, while telling others the parts you do that they don't. It's a comparing of notes in the crossing of paths that came from very different directions.

    Where Sgt E and I differ is how we approach other people who don't know things. Outlined up above is my general approach to discussing stuff; however, I don't hold it against other people if they don't do the same thing I do. He does.


    Nathan's Republican candidate says: "I'd love to outlaw abortion, but its not going to happen. With that in mind, let's make it our goal to cut the number of abortions in half by focusing on birth control."

    Would a Republican candidate really say "focus on birth control"?

  32. MWT, I see your point and agree with it to a large extent. I try to be as informed on a subject as I can be before I speak or post or etc.

    However, for twenty years my job was to gather and process intelligence and information, sometimes the only way to do that is to state your position or the data that you have in hand and then talk to people in order to either validate that information or invalidate it. Many times, simply talking to people spawned ideas that I wouldn't have reached otherwise.

    About ten years ago I ended up in a pitched conversational battle with an officer I worked for. I thought she was a raving psychopath (and still do, to some extent), and she and I disagreed on nearly everything - especially her technical knowledge and leadership ability (none and something less than none, respectively). In the course of the increasingly heated conversation, which mostly consisted of me trying to unscrew the mess she'd gotten us into and explain the technical details of fielding a fantastically complex advanced weapons system (for which she had no, repeat NO, knowledge or experience) I had an idea for a training cycle. I literally sketched a diagram of my idea on the back of a napkin. Later that crude sketch led me to develop advanced tactics for the employment of certain, rather esoteric, weapons - weapons that had never been used or deployed before. The first time these system were ever used was in active combat - no time to test first - and my tactics worked perfectly. That led me to develop advanced Naval Warfare Tactics for a whole family of weapons, and become (at the time I retired) one of the Navy's leading experts in the field.

    Which is the long way around of saying - if you stay in safe territory in your conversations, well, you don't look stupid, but you don't learn much either. On the other hand, people spout stupid clueless bullshit all of the time - and learn nothing, ever. So, yeah, I guess I do mostly agree with your approach. :)

  33. MWT,

    Would a republican really say "focus on birth control?"

    No, probably not. Not if he'd wanted the conservative midwestern vote.

    But that's exactly why I said the push should be to end unwanted pregnancies. Birth Control is one way, making the pregnancy wanted is another. Many of the staunchly conservative folks don't want abortion as an option, think birth control is a sin, and think women shouldn't have sex unless it is on their wedding night in order to make more little Christian conservatives. Of course, their kids are having sex just as often as anybody else - except because they aren't allowed to talk about it, and aren't allowed to know any options, they're doing it unprotected. I grew up in south west michigan, about as christian conservative as it gets - and a rather significant number of young Christian Reformed Church Going Farm Girls disappeared in their Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years of high school. And then came back a year later or so. And their parents were suddenly raising a new baby, quietly. Everybody knew what was going on, and nobody said a thing.

    In my teenaged years, this was OK, I guess. Nowadays, unprotected sex can lead to far, far worse than a new little 'brother' around the farm.

    But, if they want to believe that abstinence works, and that their new little daughter in law is a virgin - Fine by me, just as long as they don't expect me to raise my kid that way.

  34. So you grew up near Little Jerusalem? (ie, Grand Rapids) ?

    I think you told me before the town, but I didnt' recognize it. I do however know southwestern Michigan pretty well, so I'll vouch for your knowledge and experience. :)

    Up here north a bit, you have that same fundamentalist conservative group coupled with racist, hateful, legalistic, uneducated, backwoods Neanderthals. Needless to say, my personal Christian views are in the minority. :)

  35. Shawn, I grew up in Jenison, with a church on every corner, literally - in fact Jenison once held the record for highest per capita number of churches in a US town. Mostly Christian Reformed, with a handful of Lutheran, and Catholic. Since, for most of my youth, I didn't attend church, Sundays were a play day. I used to pretend I was the last person on Earth, riding my bike through the abandoned city, because on Sunday morning in Jenison there was nobody but me and the crickets on the street. Pariah doesn't even begin to describe my childhood. :)

    For most of my high school years, my parents lived in Middleville - still do actually - and I lived alone (Yep, as a teenager) in Jenison, so I could complete school there. I lived in Muskegon in the summers.

    I haven't lived in Michigan in twenty five years. I did however visit Jenison last summer, drove out to Holland and then back along old M21 through Jenison, to show my wife where I grew up. It's changed, I hardly recognize the place. Still a lot of churches though.

    For the record, I was in your neck of the woods too, just north of Traverse City, visiting a friend in the Coast Guard who lives there.

  36. I had a similar reaction as MWT did to Sarge's response. I don't spend a heck of a lot of time on the 'e' lately (hopin' to get back), so I'm not super familiar with his MO, but my impression was that he was quite neutral at the time. He thinks the 'e' folks are an odd bunch and is hanging out to see what makes 'em tick. (I have to say I agree you are a singular group and that's why I like you -- the rest of the Intertoobs can get pretty banal.) A pessimist would say Sarge's motivation for sticking around is to "conquer" this strange group, but my impression of his statement was curiously neutral. FWIW.

    I think MWT's methods are well suited to online communities, where rampant conversations can educate through reading rather than participation. Your alternate approach, Jim, is more applicable in real world interactions. I tend to act like MWT online (look up spellings and facts before responding) but IRL, I have to interact with people who know a lot more than me on a particular subject all the time. As an architect, I'm a generalist trying to lead specialists (engineers and subcontractors). I learned long ago to ask the stupid questions because half the time, the answer lies there. (I'm also in the process of learning the lesson of asking the same questions multiple times because sometimes you get different answers. I hate that.)
    Anyway, all I really wanted to say is that your approaches are not mutually exclusive.

  37. Forgive me for coming late to the party.

    I don't really have anything to add, but I wanted to say, "Hello."

    I think, ultimately, that Jim's right. (Jim Wright is right. Yuk yuk.)

    And Janiece is right. And Shawn is right. And Nathan, and Alex, and Eric, and MWT, and... This is not an issue that anyone is going to switch sides on. It's ugly, and few want to see it for what it really is. There's no easy answer.

    But I'm proud to *know* y'all - on all sides. Caring and smart debate is what's going to get the US out of this sticky mess we're in, and y'all are doing a fine job of that. I read and learn.

    I'll lurk a bit longer...

  38. I believe it's "How do you get down off an elephant?" Then it makes more sense.

    Great piece, thanks again.


Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.