The Problem with the Abortion Debate

Alright, so while I’m going to kind of dive into arguably the hottest of hot button topics today, I am very much going to talk about the argument process more than the defending or attacking either position.  This is an important distinction for me not only to make to you, but also to keep in mind as I continue writing, because my point is not to try to convert either side to the other, I honestly want us to have the best discussions about the topic because I think it’s the only way to come to the best (although I don’t see a perfect) solution to this.

Where to start?  Let’s start with the language issues, they tend to be my biggest problem, so let’s address them.  For the sake of trying to be honest, I will refer to pro-legal-abortion and anti-legal-abortion, not pro-life/pro-choice or anti-life/anti-choice, which are loaded terms, and very much purposely loaded.

“Life begins at conception.”  This is a massive point of contention, because it’s a factual statement, but it is a statement that both sides have kind of replaced in their own minds.  The anti-legal-abortion side hears this statement as meaning “Human life begins at conception,” or “humanity begins at conception.”  This is a far less factual statement than the original.  The pro-legal-abortion side hears the same statement much in the same way, and disagrees with the implied statement.

Now, by using a factual statement as a stand in for a subjective one is strategically more sound for the anti-legal-abortion side, for the reason of it seems so clinically obvious, and so that side has clung to the argument.  Now, I’m starting to see more and more pro-legal-abortion arguers starting to point out this aspect and reframe, and explain that bacteria, and plants are “life” and that’s not the standard we have for legality.  They’re getting closer to an honest argument, while mostly I have heard the anti-legal-abortion people not address this point.

Now on the pro-legal-abortion side, comes the “my body, my choice argument,” which again sounds obvious so it’s clung to, but again the truth is it’s more grey area.  This one comes down to a couple of problems I think, and I’ll spend a little while longer on it.  So the first problem I see with “my body, my choice” as an argument, is that there seems to be a point pre-birth, where an unborn fetus/child is a baby.  Now, while the pro-legal-abortion side is using the slogan “my body, my choice,” most pro-legal-abortion arguers (in my personal experience I’ve literally only ever met one exception) agree that late term abortion when not due to risk is too far.  So, personally while the catchphrase lives on, the spirit of it hasn’t fully, because there has been some compromise in it.

The reason for the compromise, honestly, is that there are two (maybe you could argue three) clear lines in the process of making a human.  There is conception, when two half DNAs become one whole DNA; then there is the second point which is birth, (the third possible point is viability, the point at which the fetus/baby can survive outside the womb).  The problem with these two clear lines, is that they don’t really answer the question.  Is a clump of cells with no discernible organs, a human?  Is a child which will take its first breath in a minute or two not human?

This lack of clarity leads not only to the problematic nature of the “my body, my choice” argument, but also the problematic nature of the entire debate.  You have one side who is arguing for one of two clear lines: Human life begins at conception; and you have the other side which is not arguing from the point of the other clear line, because the other clear line seems barbaric.  (Alright, I’m going to fail to not weigh in to some degree, sorry).  I think arguing strictly from either clear line is barbaric.  Because arguing from conception typically makes the point argument that the “morning-after-pill” would be unethical, but denying that so any woman (let alone a rape or incest victim) seems horrifying.  To think that a small cluster of cells can take any kind of precedence seems horrifying and dystopian.

The reason I give my own bias on that particular aspect is to dive into the problem further.  When you have a continuum, how do you make a distinction that isn’t on either of those ends.  We’ve all heard the arguments about heartbeats, and fingernails, and all the other developmental milestones, but let’s say at 10:40 tomorrow morning, an unborn fetus/child will have its first heartbeat, how can it be ok at 10:39 to abort it.  This is why the anti-legal-abortion argument gets the support it does, because of the lack of clear line, but it doesn’t make the argument right or wrong, it just makes it seem more rooted in fact, but it’s not fact, just like anything before a fetus/baby takes its first breath is ok to have an abortion, isn’t fact.

That’s the last point of contention I have with the abortion debate.  There’s too much absolutism in attitude from both sides.  This is a super complicated, and I would argue muddy issue.  There is no amount of factual knowledge, known or undiscovered, which will make this issue one of fact, or at least clear to bring the majority of people to one side (I say that because there are people who believe slavery is ok in some respects, or that the Earth is flat, and so instead of trying to get everyone to agree, my bar is general concensus).  The anti-legal-abortioners should stop arguing that the pro-legal-abortioners are intentionally murdering babies, because there is a whole range of points at which pro-legal-abortioners come down on the issue. Pro-legal-abortioners should stop assuming that the anti-legal-abortioners are anti-woman, because, while there is likely some of that in play within the politicians that are pushing for it, and large organizations, the average individual who considers him or herself to be ‘pro-life’ is likely being honest, and if they think abortion is the murder of a human, it is the right thing to try to stop that.

Ultimately, while we won’t necessarily understand, or even be able to agree on some of the points of contention, please try to see (and this really only applies with honest people, not those who would adopt a position based on some outside motive) that most people are behaving based on those points either they think it’s a baby from the start or they don’t.  Very few people are thinking “I’m going to kill this baby” or “I know it’s just a cluster of cells, but I think that woman should have to live with this for the rest of her life.”  Most people are trying to come to the right conclusion, but are coming from different assumptions.

What John Chau Should Teach Us About Religion

This morning, I listened to a podcast that talked about John Chau, and then I did some reading. Basically, Chau was a Christian missionary who repeatedly traveled to an island that is not only secluded from the modern world, but there are laws prohibiting travel there, in order to help them learn about Jesus and save their souls. He was met with hostility, and repeatedly went back, until eventually he was killed. (There is some speculation that he wasn’t killed and is still alive, but the speculation seems uncredible.)

Chau knew what he was doing was illegal, and he repeatedly went back. Because he thought it was a moral imperative. He feared for these people’s salvation, and felt he had to do what he could.

Now, I’m not happy that he died, it’s sad for him, and it’s sad for his family, and so I really don’t want to be a dick about that, and honestly, he was probably a good-hearted person, and it is genuinely sad. What I want to talk about instead, is the ridiculous structure that creates these types of problems.

Now, if you have faith in Jesus (or Buddha or any other religious prophet/figurehead/messiah), and it makes you a better person, and it makes you feel good, that’s fine. I don’t want to strip anyone of that. But these religions have become corrupted, and while they were likely started as a way of guiding a tribe, or larger group of people, they’ve grown out of control like a tumor.

The idea that we tell people these stories when they’re children, when they’re super impressionable, and able to be brainwashed, and then add in those little bits about “and that’s the only way to get into heaven” or whatever other religions tell their people, is life altering. Sure, kids stop believing in Santa at a certain age, but largely that’s because the adults stop playing along and older kids ruin it. The authority whom has perpetuated the lie admits “there is no Santa,” and the kid eventually accepts that. Now imagine if you were able to raise your kids in a society in which no one spoiled the truth for them, they would then likely become parents who never admit to their children that it’s untrue, because they still believe it. And when they aren’t buying the presents from Santa, and no presents come from Santa, they start assuming “oh shit, you must be bad kids.” This is what religion does.

So you get a guy, who’s been taught by his parents, who were taught by their parents, that if someone doesn’t know about Jesus, and dies, they won’t get to go to heaven. They’ll be damned (which if you think about it from any logical perspective is a super fucked up message, to punish them for something they knew nothing about) then you get a person who thinks risking his life, to disturb people who’ve been living alone by themselves for however many thousands of years, in order to introduce a concept that may have little to no effect on their lives, in order to save their afterlifes.

Is learning about Jesus worth the tremendous amount of germs he could have introduced them to, without any antibodies?

I think his actions were selfish, even though I think his intentions were not. Giving someone generations of moral imperatives based on religious teachings that were likely written in part to keep tribes together, is setting them up to have little concept of the realities of what their actions are in fact doing.

The thing about John Chau, is that he wasn’t a priest molesting children, or grifting people for their money with the false promise of salvation, he was likely honest, and well intentioned. There would be nothing to gain for him personally in this situation if he didn’t actually believe it, unlike so many other religious corruptions and misdeeds. He was taught something which flipped a switch in his brain, and if anything he took what he was being taught more purely than most, the problem is what he was being taught.

Like I said at the beginning, if your religious beliefs make you a better person, and give you peace or happiness, that’s great. But try to recognize the pieces that are beneficial and pass those on, and discern the harmful, and teach your kids about those. “Treat others how you would like to be treated,” is really only harmful if you’re a masochist. “The only way to Heaven is through me,” is potentially really harmful, and unnecessary. Also, if you’re unable to do this, try to choose a partner with a somewhat different perspective. My parents are a devout Catholic and a non-religious person, and I have a decent perspective for when an element of religion doesn’t serve any real purpose and is harmful. I cannot recommend that enough. Religion is currently the most harmful social force in the world, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ll leave you with one last thought, it’s not mine, but I love it, “religion is like your penis, if you enjoy it in the privacy of your own home that’s great, but don’t whip it out in public or on children.”

Megyn Kelly and NBC

Alright, so I don’t really like Megyn Kelly, but I’m gonna at least half defend her.  Last Thursday, Megyn was fired from her show after saying “Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who put on whiteface for Halloween? When I was a kid, it was OK as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”

What she said stirred up a ton of controversy, and was probably not the smartest thing to say, but did she deserve to be fired over it?  So there is some speculation that her ratings were low, and that NBC was looking for an excuse.  I’m going to assume for this blog, that she was let go solely based on the statement above.

I don’t think she should have been fired for it.  Let me explain.  Blackface, initially wasn’t just the act of painting your face black and pretending to be black, it was specifically that with the intention of mocking/stereotyping the race.  CBS did a great piece about the history of blackface, but unfortunately they did drop the ball when mentioning Megyn Kelly’s case.  You see, they bring up their piece in regards to her remarks, and say so explicitly, however there is a bit of a gap that isn’t bridged.

Megyn, said “As long as you’re dressing up as, like, a character,” and that’s something that is missing from this conversation.  Now, I would personally say, it’s in bad form to do so, even with this caveat, and I think it stems from that initial history of blackface, but to conflate the two, which it seems her words did accidentally, while her intention was pretty clear doesn’t do, is dishonest.  The case that Megyn Kelly was talking about was a Real Housewife, who had dressed up and darkened her skin in order to play Diana Ross, and an example that’s been given a lot of attention over the last several years is Juliana Hough dressing up like the character of Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren.  In both of these Halloween costumes, white women seemed to admire the people they were dressing as, and it didn’t seem an attempt to mock, or stereotype, but were going for some form of authenticity in their costume.  So their intention is about as far as possible from say, when a sorority or frat have a ‘blackface’ party.

Intention isn’t everything, and so we can definitely make the argument, that these are still bad ideas for costumes, and should be discouraged, but intention should bare some weight in how we as a society handle the situations.  Now, perhaps Megyn Kelly would argue that intention should make or break whether or not it is an acceptable costume, and I don’t agree with that, but I do think it’s an discussion worth having.

People are acting like Megyn Kelly was endorsing or ok with Blackface in it’s traditional sense, but now that the term has come to encompass much more, it’s important to realize that, and weigh that.  Should she have apologized?  Yeah, because it seems like she genuinely misspoke, but the intention of what she mean is there, this isn’t a case of her saying “um… that’s not what I meant” when it clearly was, if you look at the words that she said, she meant something different.

The last thing that I want to mention, is that on Thursday night, NBC aired their Halloween episode of Superstore.  Now, I love Superstore, so I’m not trying to throw them under the bus, but if you go watch Superstore from Thursday, you’ll hopefully see that NBC clearly screwed up with Megyn Kelly.  You see that episode, is about cultural appropriation, and PC culture, and deals with the nuance of whether or not something is intended to be celebratory or derogatory.  Now, they don’t have anyone in makeup to appear to be other cultures, but they show a white man dressed as a ‘rasta guy’ and when he learns where the line is, he becomes ‘Bob Marley’ so that everything is ok.

If you were completely unaware of the Megyn Kelly situation watching Superstore, you’d see no issue, but I watched it fully aware it was the same network, and fully aware of what she’d been fired for, and it didn’t take away from the episode, but it did show a huge amount of hypocrisy, on the network’s behalf.

Did she deserve to get canceled, or fired, or whatever word they’re using for this?  If her ratings weren’t good enough, absolutely.  Did she deserve to have this used as the reason, and painted as a racist?  I don’t think so.

Writing in the Fall

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything original for this blog, and I’m sorry for that.  As you probably know, I’m currently trying to make Chocolate Diamond Media a real job, make a feature film, and I’m working a day job, and have my family to spend time with.  So that’s part of it.

The other big part of it, is that I don’t write well in the fall.  This is a tough time of year for me, and even right now (the last year or two) when I’m at my most productive, the fall is tough.  I’ve talked a lot about seasonal depression before on here, and this is that time of year for me.  I’m not nearly as bad as most years.  The truth is that there is more daylight down in North Carolina than in Massachusetts, and for the last month, I’ve been waking up nearly every morning an hour earlier than I used to, in order to go run.  These have done wonders for the more overt symptoms of depression, namely I don’t feel sad/bad.  And it has helped me to want to be more productive, and more motivated than I would normally.  That productiveness has translated into editing, and filming, and forcing myself to work, but it has not helped as much with writing.

When I get to this part of the year, I don’t have any shortage of ideas, they still click into my head at the same rate as the rest of the year, but for some reason I have a hard time pushing them out into words.  I’ve started 10 blog posts, and as many short story/novel/film ideas, in the last week, and got no more than a sentence deep before abandoning them, but had pretty clear ideas, just couldn’t get them started.  Imagine you’re in a train car, and you see the train tracks laid out before you, and you know once you get on them you’re going to chug away and ride off into the sunset, but there’s 100 feet of tracklessness that you need push the train car across before starting on that.  That’s what I’ve been doing sitting on the train, staring at the tracks, and not sure how to get the cart on them.  Today, for some reason, when I woke up, the train was on the track, and so I’m pumping the coals into the fire (it’s an old train because I like the visual representation better, don’t worry coal burning is totally clean in my metaphor world) while I have track in front of me.

I hope that this will keep going, and when I wake up tomorrow I’ll be on the tracks again, but I guess I won’t know until tomorrow.

In the mean time, if you’re in the mood to see some of the creativity (non-written) that I’ve been producing while I haven’t been writing, please go check out the Chocolate Diamond Media YouTube channel.  I think I’m starting to get things into a groove over there, and there is some of the same sensibility (although an honest effort to remain unpolitical over on that channel).

It’s been About Half of my Life

I turned 17, on August 29th 2001, and as I’m sure you’re aware two weeks later, was September 11th.  So, me and those people of my graduating class, are now arriving at the part of our lives where half of our lives have been in the “pre-9/11 world” and half have been in the “post-9/11 world.”

Every single year, for the past 16, I’ve seen this day used as a day for people to tell their stories about where they were, and to remember those who were lost, and those are important things, but I really felt like this year, instead of me writing some more of the same, I would write something a little more focused on what this particular amount of time having passed means to me personally.

As I mentioned, I turned 17 about 2 weeks before September 11th, and whether or not I realistically thought about enlisting when the time came is something I honestly cannot remember.  But the world changed in the largest way imaginable, and I was smart enough to know that it would mean some kind of military response, and I was also smart enough to know that it would mean people about a year older than me, and likely people my age, who would be involved.

September 11th came, at a time when I was starting to consider life after high school, and when things like Selective Service registration were looming.  Ultimately the impact on me was pretty minimal, I didn’t end up serving, and there was no draft, of the people I know who did serve in Iraq or Afghanistan, none of them were killed or physically disabled, and so it ended up being a looming dread that lead to nothing for me.  I’m thankful for that, and I’m really thankful for the people whom I know who fought coming back (admittedly, I think I met most of them after their service) and so I’m grateful that they came home because I was able to meet them.

Every generation seems to have their ‘Earth shattering,’ defining moment.  The generation before us had “AIDS,” before that was either Rosa Parks arrest, or Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, before that was Pearl Harbor.  We have 9/11.  It’s not melodramatic to say that this is on par with the importance, of those other historical events, or with the shift in society that they brought on.

This brings me to my second big point that I want to mention.  I was born in 1984, so I grew up with the ‘newness’ of the AIDS crisis, where adults were still very much dealing with it regularly, but kids were joking and not understanding because they’d been born after, or had been too young when it had began, to know life before it.  I remember thinking how weird it was that my parents, and everyone older than me basically had been living in this “pre-AIDS” world, and how strange it must have been for them to all of a sudden be thrust into a world where this was a real concern, almost overnight.  I imagine, these things are, and have been going through the minds of kids for the last ten years at least.  It seems crazy to me that in about a year we’ll have adults eligible and likely fighting in Afghanistan, who were not born yet when the war started less than a month after 9/11.

I know, that I probably haven’t said anything particularly coherent, or made any real points, but it’s stuff that goes through my mind, and I thought today might be a good day to share it.

“But It’s Such a Small Percentage…”

I grew up Catholic, and when I was about 18, the Boston Archdiocese (which was the diocese I grew up in) was being ‘rocked’ by one of the most infamous child sexual abuse scandals in church history.  I will start off by saying, that my interest in this is as an observer, and not that of a victim.

When the scandal was happening, it seemed to affect many of the aspects of my life.  I was graduating from a catholic high school, my mother worked for the church, and because a majority of my family, and the people I interacted with were catholic, it was a consistent topic.

One of the things that I learned during that time was the level of denial associated with it.  There was a big sense of detachment, and even though many people I know disliked/disapproved/or even hated Cardinal Bernard Law, there was a lack of correlation between ‘my church’ and ‘the church.’

It’s natural, and to some extent I get it. If you’re raised exclusively with the idea that the church is right, and the church is good, it becomes very hard to break out of that.  Now, my father is not catholic, and while he was always pretty good about not directly contradicting the things I was being ‘taught’ growing up, there was just enough dissent and questioning that I wasn’t “dead behind the eyes” when it came to following that stuff.

One of the things I used to hear during that time, was “it’s only 7% of priests, the majority are good.”  Now just for clarity sake, 7% was the number I used to hear, and I looked today while writing this to find what percentage, and the best information I could find was also 7% but that was from The Huffington Post, which I don’t really trust as a news source.  So for the sake of this argument, just assume whatever percentage number you’d like, because that’s not the main point that I want to make.  The point that I want to make applies even if it’s 1%.

So here’s the problem I have whenever I hear about the “it’s only (enter small number here) of priests.”  That only applies to rapists and molesters, and assumes that all others are innocent, and good.  However, Cardinal Bernard Law, whom I will probably reference a few times throughout this as he is one of the more visible names, and he’s the one who was in charge of my particular area, wasn’t ever accused (that I’m aware of) of raping or molesting kids, so he doesn’t count toward that %, and I would imagine that if we had a definitive list of all the people who shuffled priests around, and were otherwise complicit, that there would be other names that had never been directly accused and therefore aren’t brought into that ‘statistic’, but they’re certainly not innocent or good.  In fact even after all of the scandal blew up in Boston, Cardinal Law managed to live out his life in Rome, in the church in a high and ‘respected’ position in the church.

So, I get that people want their religion, and ‘their churches’ to be defended against these accusations.  As much as I dislike the guy, I even get why Bill Donahue of The Catholic League, feels the need to write an op-ed about every slight against the church, I always consider this: there is The Church, and there is The Faith (or the Faithful).  My mom, and my sister, and many other people in my family are part of “the faith,” and they’re good people, and I get that I’m one of the few people who makes a distinction so when the Church is attacked, they feel attacked too, but they shouldn’t be.  They shouldn’t be put in the position to have to defend something that they feel makes them and their lives better, against attacks of child molestation, or admit that everything is a corrupt sham.  It’s not either/or.  Believe in Jesus, try to follow his works, even believe in transsubstantiation and all of the other Catholic specific things you believe in, but don’t give this organization a pass. Don’t write off that organizationally they’re not a good organization.  That doesn’t mean that they can’t be, in fact, the good people of “the faith” deserve them to be a good organization, but they’re not right now.

One last thing, on the rare occasions that I go to church (I don’t believe in catholicism either as “the Faith” or as “The Church”, but occasionally there are weddings, or baptisms) their are certain types of priests who talk about “Easter and Christmas Catholics” and how the churches aren’t as full as they once were.  I would imagine it’s a lot of people like me, who are only going on those days to support people they love, and not because they believe in your organization.  If you want to attract more people, don’t use guilt and fear (they used to work wonders but the world is changing) try actually making your church desirable to new people.  Make your ‘brand’ something that people don’t have to either defend, or be ashamed to admit they once were part of.  BE BETTER.  It’s a long process, but there has been very little (to those of us on the outside) effort to really improve.