Friday, November 26, 2010

Women's Health, Lives, and Autonomy

A few years ago, I never would have guessed I'd be writing this today. I would have been shocked at myself, fearful of my immortal soul, and wondering whether I was committing acts of good or evil. Yet, I have realized that I can no longer espouse an ideology I've held so dearly. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not pro-life.

I can no longer accept a movement that places women's health and lives on the back burner. I can no longer accept a movement that spreads misconceptions about health care in their quest to fight for an agenda. I can no longer accept a movement that puts the onus of reproduction completely on the woman, regardless that it takes two to have sex, regardless of whether she even consented to sex. I can no longer accept a movement that will do everything possible to criminalize abortion yet do absolutely nothing once the baby is born (granted, there are good pro-life organizations, like Feminists for Life and others that address needs for fair pay, maternity leave and others but they are not the majority, nor are they the ones leading the pro-life movement). I can no longer accept a movement that fails to do anything about pregnancy prevention (again, there are the pro-life organizations that work on that but, once again, think of who's LEADING).

I will admit, there are good pro-life organizations that do awesome work with regards to addressing needs for policy and comprehensive sex education. There are conservative pro-life organizations that do not work to deceive people but are up front about the services they offer and referrals they provide (in fact, abortion clinic counselors will refer patients to some of these honest ones, if she decides after all that she wants to keep the baby). There are those who live it with their lives, who take in women with no place to go, adopt children no one else will adopt (older children, children of color, children with disabilities), and give time and effort to fighting hunger and other wonderful causes. I have utmost respect for these people and hope that we can all work together on gaining rights for women and children.

At the same time, I cannot believe that making abortion illegal will solve problems. It will not solve the problem for a girl so desperate, she turns to a coat hanger or harsh chemicals. It will not solve the problem for a woman who has health problems and could die in childbirth (not to mention that usually, there are also health risks for the baby). It will not solve the problem for women who will lose their jobs, be trapped with an abusive partner, or be put out of streets (I understand that there are larger issues involved, but a baby may mean she can't buy time). It will not solve the problem for a woman and her husband struggling to provide for kids they have already and spending sleepless nights wondering how they will keep their house or provide groceries.

Do I like abortion? No. I will still work for policies to reduce the need for abortion. I will still work for policies to allow for maternity leave, access to health care, harsher punishment for rapists and abusers (as well as a greater involvement of good men to support women in all of their choices and stand up for equal treatment), access to education and job training and comprehensive sex education (as well as access to birth control). I will still support the good organizations that offer a helping, non-coercive hand to women, whether pro-choice or pro-life. At the same time, I cannot consign the women in my life to coat hangers and back streets. After living in Kenya, where the results are more painful, I can no longer say abortion should be considered criminal homicide.

Regardless of what anyone says, I still hold true to my faith and beliefs. These include a just, forgiving, merciful God who understands more than all of us what suffering is like (as I do hold belief in Jesus Christ). I hold true to a belief that God hears the cries of desperation in mothers and that even He Himself has fought with the desire to create (Noah's Ark, anyone?). I hold to a belief that, as the Holy Mother said, God will cast down the proud and lift up the lowly. For centuries and across cultures, women have been treated as the lowly ones, unable to make decisions. It's about time that this changes.

Will abortion necessarily solve all of this? No. But a woman needs to consider ALL of her options when faced with a crisis and be able to exercise her rights to make the best decision for herself and for her family. God gave women the unique power, yes, power and blessing, of bearing life. With that power comes an enormous amount of responsibility. A woman needs to decide whether or not she can accept it.

For all those working for a better world, regardless of which side you've chosen, I salute you. I sincerely hope people will use their fire, their passion for these issues in a creative, controlled manner rather than in a destructive, oppressive one. I hope we can all look at ourselves, in the hope of changing, to ensure we're doing more good than harm.

I don't have all the answers. I just know I am sick of reading of desperate deaths in the news.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"I LOVE the smell of death in the morning!"

During my time at AU, I have come to appreciate the sensibilities of my vegetarian friends. I love how light and healthy their diets are and I appreciate their reasons for eating as such. Whether to keep themselves healthy, to protect the environment, to make a stand for animals or to follow their God, they have their own reasons for doing so. At the same time, there are those I cannot support. Like any other group, vegetarians have their own proselytizers. Those are the ones who grate at me to no end.

First, I am not a vegetarian. While I do like the idea of becoming a vegetarian, I simply like meat too much. In addition, I have a high metabolism and plant proteins have done little to alleviate this. I need at least a small amount of meat to make me feel full. This actually hits me hard on meatless Fridays. While I like the idea, my stomach has a harder time with it. I am glad I can at least have fish but fish even gets tricky some days. Thankfully, the Vatican does make allowances for people with health concerns. So, while I certainly support reforms in our meat industry (organic meat, better treatment of animals, sanitary and humane slaughter practices) and believe that we all should eat healthier, I do not see myself joining the ranks of vegetarians. I think some vegetarians should keep aware of metabolic differences and tastes of their omnivore colleagues (as well as remember that they too are omnivores by virtue of biological structure). It's not like we wake up and scream, "I love the smell of death in the morning!"

Second, I have a hard time with people who think their way is the only right way. Aside from basic morals and ethics, as well as the laws of our countries (unless they prove unjust to people), there are many gray areas we face in terms of moral and ethical decisions. Whether it's our path to religious salvation, methods of fertility control, whether elephants or donkeys make one a great politician, or which animal is OK to eat on which day, human beings will never agree on these gray areas. A Muslim girlfriend of mine may feel called to protect her modesty via a head covering while jeans and a T-shirt may suffice for me. Likewise, I may have to attend Mass on Sundays, to fulfill my requirements to God but my Jewish friend does not. Our cultures, climates, legal systems, and beliefs may mandate different things for different peoples. I believe vegetarianism is one of those things.

Fight for a healthier world. Fight for fair treatment of animals, whether used in meat or not. Just please accept that my strategies may be different and that my needs may be different. A love of meat does not make one a brutal killer. Just like vegetarianism does not mean you're helping the environment (please tell me you don't fly private jets to make your point to developing nations...............while you criticize people who dare smoke a cigarette.......).

Now, I must finish this post so that I can attend a PETA meeting. What does PETA stand for? People for the Eating of Tasty Animals, of course! Bring on the meatballs!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Average Should Never Mark A Leader

One of my nightmares may end up coming true. Sarah Palin has stated here that she may end up running for President in the year 2012. Her reasoning? She's just your "average Joe", a "hockey mom" who is just like "everyone else." She believes she can beat Obama because she is not as "isolated" from the American people. Because of her so-called commonness, she believes that this will make her an excellent leader. Naturally, I beg to differ. Aside from the fact that she's really not in touch with most of America (I doubt she even knows what she's saying half the time), I also find that being merely "average" can backfire in your quest to lead a nation.

If you are a leader, it means there is something special in you that calls others to follow. Intelligence, charisma, integrity, compassion, courage, these are what mark a leader. While the ability to relate to people, to listen, understand, and identify their concerns, is crucial, I doubt that it makes one an "average person." Sadly, I find those qualities to be rare. Even in good people, there is a tendency to do what is easy, to follow the crowd. There is the attitude of talking more than listening, of instant gratification, of "me first", of never going one step further that I find in the average person. A true leader makes sacrifices the average person does not make. Thus, I do not think a Presidential candidate should market themselves as average. Nor do I think that the American people should value that over all the qualities I've listed above.

Second, I'll admit, I want my President to be "above average" in a few qualifications. I want my President to be intelligent and well-educated. While a Bachelor's or Master's is not the only thing that should qualify you for the Presidency, I want to see that my President cared enough for her or his education to pursue it full throttle. If he/she doesn't care about his/her own education, how will he/she care about the education of the nation? I also want my President to be wise on foreign affairs, to have traveled a bit. As President, you would have to deal with the leaders of nations, all of which have their own diverse cultures, internal issues, and complex histories. While I wouldn't expect my President to be an expert on all the nations of the world, I'd want them to be familiar with world issues and have some foreign experience. No, seeing Russia from your house is not world experience.

"To whom much is given, much will be demanded." To be President, much IS demanded. The Presidency is no average job. It is a job that demands energy, service, sacrifice, foresight, quick decisions, and integrity. Why should we give it to an average person?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

If I Don't Like You

This is not meant to be a hostile post. Rather, I've found more than a few things that irritate me. What irritates me most, however, is when other people make it clear that they would not associate with you yet, at the same time, will pretend you're their best friend when they see you. Like, they'll be overly nice to you in public yet either treat you like scum in private or talk to you in a condescending yet saccharine manner no matter whether you're in public or private. On the other hand, should you call them out on it, they will deny it (even if it's obvious, which does little more than insult your intelligence) or throw a fit when you respond to their overtures with markedly less enthusiasm.

Let me preface this by saying that I don't believe in hating people. However, I also finally acknowledge that I'm not going to mesh well with certain people and that I may not come to like them. Now, I don't believe in ardently praying for their death but I also believe in being honest with yourself about feelings you may have for other people.

Thus, if I don't like you, the following goes.

If I don't like you, I'm not going to respond to you with more than politeness. I'm not going to say I'm happy to see you when I'm not. I'm not going to open up about my life to you because I don't trust what you'll do with it. I'm not going to invite you on outings, drink with you or shower you with affection. If I found you dying or cold on the streets, I would do what I could to save your life and, if you were hungry, I would feed you. That does not mean that we are going to love each other forever. If you are in authority over me, I will treat you with respect but I won't go out of my way to suck up to you. I still have my dignity.

I understand people wish to be civil and I do believe in that. I also will acknowledge that I am not perfect and certainly have no right to claim moral high ground. At the same time, I really don't like this attitude of pretense to avoid humiliation. I don't like the idea of refusing to stand up to people simply because we're afraid of not making waves. I think it prevents us from being honest and true and I find that idea very depressing.