Punishing Women for Abortion: Wrong

OK. Enough.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for the office of president of the United States, has stepped over a line.

In the Bible, there is a very familiar story about a woman who has been “caught in the act of adultery.” She is being taken to task for her indiscretion. The scribes and the Pharisees bring her to Jesus, and say, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say? The next sentence says they “said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.”

That scripture always got to me because only the woman was called to task. Presumably, if or since she was “caught in the very act” of adultery, there was someone with whom she was committing adultery with. Where were the men?

Jesus proceeds to bend down and begin writing in the sand, and in my exegetical imagination, I have always seen him writing the names of men who might have also committed adultery with her – or with someone else. Nobody was beyond fault. As he writes the names, the scriptures say that they “went away, one by one.” Finally, only the woman was left, but she received no judgement from Jesus. He tells her to go and not to “sin” again.

When Donald Trump said today that women who get abortions should be punished, I thought of that scripture. The suggestion is outrageous, it is draconian, it is unjust …and it is sexist.

If women become pregnant by men – which they do – and a pregnant woman seeking abortion should be punished, then so should the man who impregnated her.

There is no more immaculate conception. Men are complicit, to say the least, in the condition called pregnancy.

Trump’s statement shows his bigotry toward women. If his antics to date have not been enough, then this suggestion ought to open the eyes of those who have been wooed and seduced by his “telling it like it is.” This man is a buffoon. He hasn’t given clear policies on much of anything, and he claims not to be a “politician,” but now, as the fire heats up and his statements about women are being showcased in negative ads about him, he is being the preeminent politician by saying things that he believes Conservative, religious women want to hear.

I wonder if he’s thought it through. I wonder if he understands that women who have abortions includes wealthy white women who are no strangers to abortion procedures. Is he advocating that they be punished too?

And I wonder if he has the chutzpah to talk about how men who believe in impregnating women and then leaving them to fend for themselves ought to be punished as well. Or if he believes that husbands of wives who decide they want an abortion should be punished, too?

Is this as sexist as it sounds?

This stance of Trump’s is pure reality TV. It is an act of manipulation to get those who are fascinated with him drawn in even deeper. His supporters are not thinking. They are tired and angry and just want things to change – and Trump is taking advantage of that fact.

But to stoop this low is bad, even for Trump. His bullying has been bad. His changing his story on issues has been bad. His inability and unwillingness to admit wrong, when he’s been wrong, and to apologize for even the appearance of impropriety …has been wrong. His xenophobia has been wrong. His lack of knowledge about what is going on in the world has been wrong. His desire to deport millions of Muslims has been wrong. His statement that he’s going to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it …has been wrong and ridiculous.

But to suggest that women who go through the pain and anguish of abortion is inhumane. His statement will give people an excuse to use their guns to shoot women seeking abortions; they don’t need much of an excuse. Such an action, were it actualized, would mean, most probably, that it would be poor, black and brown women who would be the primary victims, because rich, white women have always had ways to get around the system. Just as the War on Drugs was developed to criminalize the drug use of black people, (http://www.vox.com/2016/3/22/11278760/war-on-drugs-racism-nixon) this action would criminalize predominantly women of color, almost certainly.

Nixon got away with declaring his war on black people by declaring the War on Drugs. That action caused non-violent drug users to be criminalized. It caused their families to be destroyed. It affected their children. It ruined their lives …while white people using far more damaging drugs got away with it. There is a gathering at the United Nations in April of multi-faith leaders to protest and to encourage the replacement of draconian, punitive drug laws globally with drug policies which emphasize compassion, care and the health of those who use drugs. (http://www.unodc.org/ungass2016/) I would hate for women who seek abortions to be criminalized and marginalized even further than they are already, just as we work hard to get out of the destructive pit caused by the War on Drugs.

Enough.

Such an asinine and inhumane as this one suggested by Trump ought not be allowed past the front door out of which it has stepped.

A candid observation …

 

The Reality of Two Gods, One Black, One White

I have long been troubled by the way white and black people interpret the same Bible. There is one Bible, one God, one Jesus …and yet white and black people interpret that book in entirely different ways.

Charles Marsh writes, in his book God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights,: “Of the images coming in the civil rights movement, none seems more replete with contradiction than that of white mainline Protestantism. In most cases, the Southern white Protestant adheres to an evangelical belief, the heart of which is the confession of a “personal Lord and Savior,” who has atoned for the sins of humanity. Yet in most cases, the confession remains disconnected from race relations …” (p. 6)  He further writes that “in the final analysis, concern for black suffering has nothing to do with following Jesus.”

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, who was a fixture in the Civil Rights Movement, said outright, “You cannot be racist and be Christian!”, something which I firmly believe. But for white people, that proclamation would draw sharp criticism. Writes Marsh, “If people took seriously their identities as Christians, they had no choice but to also give up the practices of white supremacy – and not only white supremacy, but also class privilege, resentment, the concession to violence, anything that kept one from sacrificing all for the beloved community…”

White people, for the most part, seem uninterested in having, helping form, or living in …a beloved community.

The so-called “attack on Christianity” is coming primarily from white Christians who, while they hate abortion and gay rights, including gay marriage, ignore the reality of racism and white supremacy. They seem incapable of feeling even a modicum of the outrage they feel about aborted violence for the already alive black children living in abject poverty and living on the outskirts of society. They seem disinterested in the fact that already alive children suffer horribly in this nation, from bad schools to inadequate health care. They seem all too willing to blame the children for their lot in life.

And yet they call themselves Christian.

Marsh writes that “white Christian conservatives …(remain) largely indifferent to black suffering, preoccupied instead with evangelism and church growth, and with personal vices like drinking, dancing and heavy petting.” In their religious practice, God, and God’s son Jesus, is all right with their blatant disregard for the plight of people of color.

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. relied on the presence of God for his work in the Civil Rights Movement, white supremacists called upon that same God to justify their actions. Sam Bowers, head of the Ku Klux Klan, saw as his godly mission the need to slaughter black people and those whites who worked for civil rights for black people. In his mind, those who worked for freedom and justice for black people had betrayed the Lord Jesus.  He wrote and posted publicly a manifesto that said outright that “if you are a Christian, American Anglo Saxon, who can understand” the practices of trying to purge the religion and the country of black and brown people, Catholics and Jews, then “you belong in the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi.”  He was dedicated to ridding his beloved America of the impostors who, in his mind, were an affront to God – who, we might assume if we read the scriptures, created us all.

The issue and the problem of this “two-God dilemma” of the United States is that it creates a group of people who are as religiously fanatic in their religious and ideological beliefs as are the hated Islamic radicals. They, too, think they are on assignment from God to destroy Americans. If and when God is in the center of a fight, it is hard to stop that fight before it does irreparable harm.

Of course, having God at the center of a fight can bring about good, too. Ironically, the same zeal that fuels hatred in the name of God fuels the desire for justice and mercy …in the name of God. The results of the Civil Rights Movement is testament to that fact.

Donald Trump is feeding into the “white God” group, a group which is adamant about there being an attack on Christianity, even as they attack radical Islam. It feels like a bomb ready to detonate. The white God, they would say, is on their side, while radical Islamists would say Allah is on their side.

The question for me is and has been for some time, “Why doesn’t the one God step in and stop this foolishness? God’s silence and inaction in shutting down forces of evil and hatred have perplexed me for the longest time. The other issue is, though, that the presence in this country of there being “two Gods, one black, one white” means that racism will never end. The religious fervor which uses God to justify racism and white supremacy is not about to wane. The white God is a God of Empire; the black God is a God of liberation …and those two Gods are never going to meet in the middle and merge into one.

That being the case, I don’t exactly know how we as a nation move forward. White Christians turn a deaf ear and a hardened heart toward the masses of black people who suffer because of white supremacy, while they wage war about the plight og unborn fetuses. Black lives do not matter to them, and really, never have.

And that is a troubling reality.

A candid observation …

Big Government or Not?

Washington DC: United States Supreme Court
Washington DC: United States Supreme Court (Photo credit: wallyg)

 

It’s confusing sometimes, understanding when government is supposed to step in and when it isn’t.

 

Conservatives argue against “big government,”  but they also vouch for the right of the federal government to step in on some very personal issues. In the current discussion going on about same-sex marriage, the mantra of many Conservatives is that “we don’t need government to step in and redefine marriage.”

 

Yet, they want government to step in and “define” marriage in a way that fits into their ideology. Right?

 

Did the United States Supreme Court overstep its authority when it ruled that women have a constitutional right to have abortions? Are abortions, who has them and who does not, within the purview of the duties and decisions of the governments, via the nation’s highest court? (http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_22857283/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-case-has-echoes)

 

Many people think the SCOTUS did  overstep its authority in the Roe Vs. Wade case, but they are pulling for the high court to settle the current disagreement on same-sex marriage. I am totally confused. When is “big government” all right? Does a court ever have the right to decide what is “right” in such personal issues?

 

It seems like we are straddling a rail. We want government, big government, but only on the things where there is an ideological dispute, right? We want big government when there is a tragedy, or a natural disaster. We don’t want big government when it is too concerned with helping the poor, spending money on people whose lives seem to many out of control. Big government should stay out of those kinds of things. Of course, had it not been for “big government,” many people would have been swallowed in the nation’s most recent economic debacle. but many people are still very critical of the government’s attempt to help people who were drowning.

 

So, “big government” is out of line when it comes to dealing with issues of poverty and economic despair, right?

 

But big government needs to come in and set the records straight when it comes to personal situations involving sexuality and abortion, right? In those cases, the government gives into a responsibility to make moral decisions for the citizens of the United States. Right?

 

The bottom line is that there is no consistency on when big government is necessary and needed and expected. When Hurricane Sandy came, people were expecting government to step in and help those who had been so severely impacted. Had “big government” not done that, it would have been criticized soundly.

 

And now, big government is being called upon to decide who gets to get married and who does not…but this is a moral question, right? Is government really allowed to tell people what they can or cannot do as individuals? Is that the purview of government?

 

The thought of the government having the power to decide who can get married, and thereby be entitled to the legal benefits of marriage, is as distasteful as the idea of the government having the authority to tell women how many children they can have, and whether or not they can get an abortion. I don’t believe that abortion is good, but it doesn’t seem that government has the right to tell a woman if she can or cannot get one. Isn’t that kind of subversive?

 

It seems like there ought to be a new constitutional convention or something, to define big government and to clarify what the federal government can and cannot do, and what it must and must not do.

 

At the very least, though, it seems that those who rail against “big government” ought to tailor their criticisms. The argument against “big government” ought to explain that folks are only against big government when it comes to allocating money, especially for the poor and downtrodden, the oppressed and pretty much forgotten citizens of this country. When it comes to defining morality, though, and what personal decisions Americans are allowed to make, big government needs to step in and do…what a good government does.

 

Do I have it right?

 

A candid observation …

 

 

 

When Laws are Unjust

Sometimes, laws are unjust.

Unjust laws in this country allowing racial discrimination were part of the reason for the Civil Rights movement. With the laws in the nation and in many states in place, African-Americans could not feel protected by the laws, because the laws helped perpetuate their status and injustice perpetrated against them. African-Americans had no voice, “the law” notwithstanding.

In Ireland, it is women whose voices are not being heard. In that Catholic country, laws are on the books which prohibit abortion. Because of those laws, a young woman died after being denied an abortion. Her death has sparked outrage and protest by women, who rallied in front of the Irish parliament this week. (http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/11/15/thousands-rally-outside-irish-parliament-after-woman-repeatedly-denied-abortion-before-dying/)

We depend on our lawmakers to craft laws that protect the people, but in fact there are far too many laws on the books which do not protect but rather support discriminatory or harmful and unjust treatment of certain groups. Women in the United States and in fact all over the world have had to fight unjust laws so that they could enjoy full citizenship which included the right to vote, and still have to fight for equal pay for equal work. And …what women and cannot do with their own bodies is still an issue which divides the nation politically and religiously.

Women in Ireland are fighting for the right to live with dignity. Young Savita Halappanavar, 31, died because in spite of excruciating pain and several requests for doctors to terminate her 17-week pregnancy, they would not. It would be abortion because in spite of her pain, the fetus still had a heartbeat. After three days the young woman died, reportedly from septicemia.

It seems, on this side of the pond, that the laws in Ireland which would allow an otherwise healthy woman to die from a complicated pregnancy, are just wrong and unjust. They are just as wrong and unjust as were American laws which forbade black people to learn to read and write, or which prevented them, and women, from voting.

If individuals are silent in the face of unjust laws, they in essence voice their approval of those laws. That’s a lesson Dr. King drove home as people trained to be non-violent protestors. An unjust law, King said, needs to be broken, or at least challenged. Just because something is a “law” does not mean it is right or fair; some laws beg to be challenged, changed, or struck down.

People historically have challenged laws with which they did not agree. When Brown vs. Board of Education made it against the law for schools to be segregated, many cities and states balked; they thought the law was unjust and did all they could to disobey it, in spite of the law’s directive that schools should be integrated “with all deliberate speed.”  Some schools were closed rather than obey the desegregation order. Other schools took as long as 10 years to begin desegregating.

Anything worth having, including justice, is worth fighting for; and many issues of justice must be fought for. Thousands of women in Ireland are protesting the death of the young mother, and another rally is planned for the weekend. That’s a good thing.

Power concedes nothing without a demand, noted Frederick Douglass.

Douglass was right.

A candid observation …

A Broader Understanding of “Pro-Life”

I have often found myself cringing as “pro-life” advocates have stood outside abortion clinics, pleading for the rights of an unborn fetus, not because I like it that there are so many abortions, but because those who are “pro-life” seem, for the most part, to have such a narrow understanding of  what life is.

In fact, although pro-life advocates have put billboards up in urban neighborhoods, urging people in those neighborhoods to refrain from having abortions, it seems that these same advocates, once the babies in these neighborhoods are born into poverty and despair, pretty much ignore them.

Children who live in poverty, who are born in poverty, depend on the government for basic services, like food and health care. Children born into poverty have a higher chance of ending up in prison, because the schools in their neighborhoods are so bad and they end up giving up and dropping out of school.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, a “cradle to prison” pipeline exists because children born into poverty – yet very much alive – suffer from abject poverty, inadequate health care, gaps in childhood development, disparate educational opportunities, “intolerable abuse and neglect,”  “unmet mental and emotional problems, rampant substance abuse,” and involvement in an overburdened , ineffective juvenile justice system, a system which looks at these children as a drain on society.

These children, very much alive, are despised once they come out of the womb. As a fetus, a poor child is cherished; the heartbeat of the fetus is used in commercial and religious attempts to get people to oppose abortion. Yet, there is no such drumbeat for these children, and for the things they need once they are born in order to have valuable and viable lives, once they are born.

There is something very wrong with this reality.

Martin Buber, a Jewish theologian and Zionist, wrote a powerful book, I and Thou, where he described how we as human beings objectify other human beings, presumably to protect ourselves, our thoughts, and our beliefs.

He believed that part of the problem in Israel was the inability and unwillingness of Jewish people to treat Arabs as fellow human beings, “it” as opposed to “thou.” An “it” has no feelings; it is an object, devoid of even the need for another human being to invest caring and compassion into. A “thou,” on the other hand, is a “fellow human being,” one with which one can develop an empathic relationship, based on the understanding that this “thou” has needs and feelings equal to that of the person doing the evaluating.

“I-it” relationships have made it possible for sexism, racism, homophobia, discrimination against the aged …to flourish. When we as humans do not see another human as human, we feel nothing about what we may or may not do to affirm that person’s worth and need to meet their needs.

That’s the feeling I get that the pro-life proponents carry with them. The poor are precious so long as they are in the womb. Once out, they are a bane to society, unworthy of anyone’s time or concern.

If the pro-life people would advocate as hard for quality education for poor children as they do for more affluent children, or push for legislation or some other source to provide for quality health care for these children, I wouldn’t care about their concern and love for the unborn fetus. Poor children do not ask to be born, and they are not responsible for their conditions. It is so hypocritical and sad for a civilized society to have such a narrow definition and appreciation for life.

A candid observation …