January 31, 2017 by Julia
Like many of my fellow Americans, I’ve been deeply agitated by the state of our country since Trump’s inauguration. It’s like we are in an alternate universe (swimming with alternate facts, of course). I am distracted, on Facebook more than I have been in years, and only listen to NPR news in the car now. That used to be my favorite time for music. Now, it is a valuable learning time for me. Now, I have to keep up on what is happening to my country – unlike when Obama was our leader and I could relax, knowing we were in safe hands. I regret not fully understanding our government, constitution and electoral system sooner, not researching candidates beyond the presidential ones, or being prepared for the questions on my ballot. I have a lot of catching up to do, after relying on The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert or SNL for all of my news. Now I just watch them for catharsis, enough to get me through until the next Trump headline breaks and I go into shock all over again. I am hungry for information, for history, for reality, for truth and justice. Without those things, I can’t understand, and I can’t take action.
And feeling helpless under this administration is a terrible thing, which I’ve found I can’t endure. At some point, you realize it’s not about being heroic by choice. It’s about what you must do to go on in life with meaning and purpose and self-respect. I’ve learned that I don’t handle life well without those three things in my heart, on my mind, as part of my daily habits or schedule, as part of my big picture. I get very depressed without meaning, purpose, or self-respect. So I can fight for justice and love in this world, or I can feel horrible; it hardly feels like a choice. Don’t admire me too much for something I can’t help. (I hate boasting.) Some of us were born with this disposition, and we are meant to fight now.
It’s difficult to pick an issue to tackle – they’re washing over our heads like waves, now. I’m going to address abortion rights and the Christian vote, in part because I think that is the main reason Christians voted for such a despicable person. I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian and was brought to Pro-Life rallies as a child. As a liberal Christian adult now, I have been torn by the issue. I don’t think it’s as simple as the signs at rallies would have us believe. All of our lives have been at the mercy of women, really, so I can understand why men and women alike feel they should have a say in it. The power to grow a life or terminate it a great responsibility. I still believe to have an abortion is the wrong choice, because it contains no hope for the unplanned, and because I do think that life is sacred, and that most people would choose to have their mothers give birth to them, regardless of what circumstances they are born into.
But these are all presumptions on my part. I’ve never had an unwanted pregnancy. I’ve lived a comfortable, healthy life, compared to the majority of women on this planet. It’s easy for me to say I would never have an abortion. It is not my place to judge a woman who decides to have one, in part because I am not her. And while I continue to think that the circumstances that justify abortion are very few, I don’t think making it illegal will help the problem.
I was thinking about it as compared to Prohibition, this morning – a perfect example of ways the law can’t control people. Prohibition did not help decrease alcholism or the consequences of drunkenness; it simply created a new kind of crime, and a new way of hiding in society that only increased hypocrisy. If people want to do things to their own bodies, you can’t stop them with the law. They will find a way to drink alcohol, or have an abortion. The only person who can hold the power to say no to alcohol, or to abortions, is the person facing the choice. I have never been persuaded into dieting or exercise. I only eat healthily when I am in a place to do so, for myself, regardless of outside pressure.
I understand when Pro-Lifers argue that abortion is not a victim-less crime – that the fetus is the victim – but there is literally no other comparable situation to pregnancy. A woman is also a victim when she has an unwanted pregnancy. Unwanted pregnancies produce at least two victims, in the mother and the unborn child. Women have been victims since the dawn of time, and that is no small matter. We cannot legislate whether a woman decides to sacrifice her body, her reputation, her safety, her health, her career, her plans – for the sake of a possible life, whether she plans to care for that life or not. I believe the nine-month sacrifice on the part of a woman is worth it for the life alone, whether she gives the child to people who would do anything to be parents (there are so many struggling with infertility these days), or struggles to make her life work as a mother to the child. But I am not the one making the sacrifice, so I don’t get to tell her she has to. And I know better than any man what it means to sacrifice your body for another life. You can’t force someone to make that kind of sacrifice.
I would rather focus my energy on creating a more supportive world for women, rather than telling them what they can and can’t do with their own wombs. I don’t believe forcing someone’s hand is ever the best approach. I know instinctively that support works better than consequences or brute force. (Parenting has taught me this over and over again.) Because I believe that unwanted pregnancies are harmful, I would rather support the perfection of birth control. I would rather remove the stigma of teen pregnancy, or pregnancy outside of partnership. I would rather make it more possible to sustain a job and a child on one’s own; as it is, America makes that nearly impossible. There are so many ways we can help heal the problem of unwanted babies and unsupported women. Making abortion illegal is not the answer. It’s already a sexist, unfair world. You can’t make it really hard for women to have babies, and then tell them that they have to have a baby they didn’t choose. The compassionate, loving solution is just that – compassionate and loving. If you want a woman to give birth to an unplanned child, help to make a world where that won’t destroy her own life. A woman’s ability to bear children is a blessing and a curse. It makes things so much more difficult if we want to do other things. It can also be the most rewarding experience of our lives. We don’t know what it will be for each woman, or for each unborn child. Usually it is both. The best we can do is love both the woman and the child.
You have to give people the choice. I give homeless people cash, out of respect. I understand that it’s possible they may buy drugs with it, and if so, I am sorry that they are stuck in addiction. I also understand that to respect them, I can’t assume that I know better what they need than they do themselves. They know better than I do if they need new shoes, or are starving, or need bus fare. God gives us the choice to believe in him, or not, because to give someone the chance to make their own decisions is to respect their lives and personhood. You can’t have love without freedom of choice, and respect.
I am a Christian, but a radical one. This means to me that I will always choose the most loving way, whenever I am capable of it, and I won’t pretend I don’t know what love is. I don’t give a flying fuck what the religious establishment says. I know that to turn refugees away is not love. I know that to pretend like the people of our country are better than people of other countries is not love. I know that to condemn or “disapprove” someone for their sexual identity is not love. I know that to assume I know the only way to heaven and God is not love. Love is my guide, and it leads me to God, and vice-versa. In fact, it seems I may share more values with atheists who actually care about people and the world than I do with most of my fellow Christians. I am pissed off about that. But Christians don’t have the market cornered on goodness – quite the opposite, in many cases. Anyone who wants to be good can, and I believe God is on their side if they do good. (Though I wouldn’t make a big point of it if they don’t believe in God, because that would be presumptuous and rude.) I follow my conscience, my heart, the love that God has demonstrated to me personally. I trust that these things will not lead me astray. I know no other way.
So, Christians: search your hearts for the love. Place your votes accordingly. I hold you accountable, and so does our God.
The economy or your own need for a job cannot be the driving force behind your vote. Remember, slavery was great for the economy. America would not be where it is today if it were not for the unpaid labor of slaves. It’s time to stop pretending that we didn’t get here by evil means. It’s time to stop turning a blind eye when it becomes convenient. There is no excuse for not knowing better by now.
Trust that goodness and justice and care for your neighbors – all of humanity – will give you life. Not some factory job that a corrupt, racist, narcissist con man swindled for you, at the expense of non-white, non-Christian lives. I don’t want that kind of job. Do you?