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Monday, July 11, 2022

America aborted democracy

July 4, 2022:  America's landscape.  Highland Park, Ill.  Let freedom reign.

Under all the optimistic chatter about America's future as a democracy, there is an implicit recognition that it could fail. The more astute scholars of political history point out that it has, in fact, often failed, and has many current indicators of failure.  (Watergate, Trump, et al.)  America seldom realizes what it aspires to be in the minds of the benevolent.  Strides toward equality, liberty, and good will toward all are always blocked from actually being realized. There is a large contingent of the populace that want such things for themselves, but not for others.  They use democracy as a means of imposing prejudices, not surmounting them.  The fact is that most people like to exercise control over others. As Abigail Adams wrote to her husband: "Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could."  That lust for the power to oppress is the big unsettled question that underlies the failures of democracy.  As a professor of politics once said to me,  politics is not a matter of establishing personal freedoms, but a matter of establishing who gets to fuck over whom.  

Although America likes to think of itself as the bastion of freedom, it is in constant conflict over what freedoms are exercised and who gets to exercise them.  No subject defines the conflict more emphatically than abortion.  It devolves into an argument between self-determination and social control, between whether women have sovereignty over their bodies or must live in obeisance to those who would assert authority over them.  

Opponents of abortions may have moral pretenses regarding the preservation of life, but their arguments place a diminished value on the life of the mother.  The hopes and aspirations of the woman for her own life are irrelevant and must be sacrificed to the gestation and delivery of a living baby.  Once the baby is delivered, what happens to it and its mother is no longer a concern of the anti-abortionists.  Their commitment to pro-life seems to expire at birth, for the most part.  The obscene sham of their claim of right-to-life is revealed in the laws they concoct to criminalize abortion for the mother, the provider, and anyone who helps arrange it.  The crowning hypocrisy of those laws is that they call for imprisonment and even the death penalty for anyone involved in an abortion.  And the anti-abortionists have the supreme malice or the abject stupidity to call themselves pro-life.

As a professor, I have never been involved in advising women about pregnancies, but I have been witness to many  circumstances of unplanned pregnancies, which have been both carried to term and aborted.  My role has been to make it possible for students to complete work toward their degrees and make arrangements to achieve that end.  The instances are not numerous, but not really rare.  When I worked with some other professors to provide the means for some pregnant young women to complete their educations, we were accused of promoting promiscuity.  It became clear from the inane accusations that some people were much more interested in condemning and maligning young women than they were in helping them build their lives.  And the need some people have to demean and disparage others is the gravest threat to democracy. 

As far as I'm concerned, abortion is none of my business.  What is my business, as it is with every United States citizen, is the integrity with which we apply the three essential principles of our democracy:  freedom, equality, and justice.  When I was a young professor, I struggled with the matter of abortions.  They were a choice that affect college-aged women, and at the time a great many of them were back-alley affairs.  If young women wanted to have authority over their lives, an unplanned child could put an end to their personal aspirations.  The concern at the time was to make abortion a safe and efficient medical procedure.  A compelling reason for an abortion is to save the life of the mother, and that includes saving the life to which she aspires.  That was the context in which Roe vs. Wade was decided:  the right to save a life in progress.  To maintain that right to a life, a woman might have to choose an abortion. I, like many people of the time, saw it as a choice that needed to be considered in many cases.  

A concurrent matter that occupies America as much as abortion is mass shootings and gun violence overall.  Gun violence is so common that it defines America.  There is news of a mass shooting almost every week.  Sandy Hook with 20 six-and-seven-year-old students and six teachers is the image of America now.  Uvalde, Texas, with 19 young children and two teachers shot replicates that image.  The Highland Park Fourth of July parade presents to us what America has become in reality beneath the patriotic banners and the trite and untrue slogans.

There are no images of the bodies mutilated by bullets and the blood of victims smeared over the school room floors or on the route of the Highland Park Parade.    The images of children torn to shreds by gunfire are withheld in deference to their families. No one wants to see the remains of their kinfolk held up as an example of the realities of gunfire.  Consequently, Americans are spared having to face what their country has become.  Some Americans have said that the photos of Sandy Hook are posed and that the incident never happened.  They say it was staged as a pretext to take away firearms from the people.   Democracy and civil rights don't mean much when the right to slaughter seven-year-old kids in their classrooms takes precedence over their safety and their lives.

A woman runs with her children toward safety after the Sandy Hook shooting.  
This is what America has become.  Land of the free and home of the brave.

Few people have the courage or the integrity to take an honest look at what America has become.  


Jerry K. Sweeney said...

Whenever possible it must be stressed that Dobbs v. Jackson did not, per se, end abortions in some states — it ended safe abortions.

Eve Fisher said...

Horribly true. It's pretty apparent that the current GOP believes that all gunowners are future heroes, but all pregnant women are potential criminals. And they legislate accordingly.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States