Thursday, October 28, 2010

Images Of Dead Fetuses Are Just Becoming So Much Scenery

Driving past the local planned parenthood today, it occurred to me that I have become desensitized to the graphic photos of aborted fetuses that pro-life advocates are constantly posting in front of the building. I'm pretty sure this isn't good for their cause.

The pro-life movement is a mess. Aside from reveling in making my kids look at gory photos as we walk to the park, their message is  inextricably woven into their religion, and correlating (incredibly silly) views on homosexuality, condom use, and stem cell research; this is too bad, because there are actually salient ethical arguments to be made for many pro-life positions: no blown up images of mutilated babies or religious silliness required.

Of course, these ethical dilemmas are for individuals to consider before making a choice that is ultimately theirs. There are too many variables and too many individual considerations to be made regarding the termination of pregnancies for one sweeping, national ban to make sense.

For a good example of the kind of nuances and individual considerations that create a need for national access to safe, legal abortions (and the inability or unwillingness of certain pro-lifers to appreciate such considerations), check out this piece over at Alternet entitled, 'What Happened When I Yelled Back at "Christians" Calling My Wife A Murderer'.


"After extensive testing at a renowned Boston hospital three weeks earlier, we were told our baby had Sirenomelia. Otherwise known as Mermaid Syndrome, it’s a rare (one in every 100,000 pregnancies) congenital deformity in which the legs are fused together. Worse than that, our baby had no bladder or kidneys. Our doctors told us there was zero chance for survival."

"I’m not a religious person and I’ve never believed in heaven or hell. But there is a hell on Earth. Hell is sitting next to the person you love most and listening to her wail hysterically because her heart just broke into a million pieces. Hell is watching her entire body convulse with sobs because she’s being tortured with grief. For as long as I live and no matter how many children we have, I will never forget that sound. And I vowed to do everything in my power to make sure she’d never make it again."

here's the dad confronting the activists:

That's some powerful stuff, and is pretty revealing--and pretty damning--of the simplistic, subtle-as-a-hammer approach of many pro-life activists.

There is a solid argument to be made that abortion becomes an increasingly immoral choice as a pregnancy progresses. It is also clear that rationalizing away what is occurring during an abortion--especially later on in pregnancy--as the simple removal of 'unwanted tissue' is intellectually dishonest. But holding up gruesome images in front of planned parenthood, or comparing abortion to a national holocaust--or to slavery--isn't an appropriate way to frame the debate. Ethically, the argument about abortion should be more closely tied to the argument about whether or not folks should be able to choose euthanasia, or have euthanasia chosen for them if they are not able to make that choice themselves. A gigantic framed image of Jesus doesn't insert anything into the argument. If the pro-life movement were serious about their issue, they would untangle it from their religion, their views on gay marriage and stem cell research, and would focus on prevention by advocating better sex education in schools, the empowerment of women, and the eradication of poverty and homelessness. Give people more options, and they're less likely to get stuck in bad situations.

Determining what points in a pregnancy should correlate with what laws (if any) is very difficult. So is weighing the well-being of all parties involved in such a decision. Answering these ethical questions are tough, and thus are not likely to be solved by tormenting women with shouted insults and creepy visuals as they make a tough decision that only they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

cross posted at Daily Kos.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Creative Genius

My sons each won first place for their grade in the costume contest held during their school's Fall festival this year. My oldest son dressed up as Max, the psychotic bunny from the Sam & Max adventure games, and my youngest son dressed up as Brendan, the young monk from the wonderful animated film The Secret Of Kells.

Verra Cool.

Lodo, The Secret Of Kells might be up your alley. There are no talking animals, but based upon the way some of the animals in this film behave, you wouldn't be surprised to find out that they could talk:

Sam & Max:

I think it speaks well of our school's principal--she judged the contest--that she didn't give the prize to one of the countless Bat Men, Iron Men, or Princesses, and instead decided to reward creative, left-field, homemade costumes. What a good way to encourage individualism and self-confidence.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Follicles In Retreat

I caught myself messing around with my hairline this morning. I was trying to comb a little bit of hair up in the tip-top of my crow’s peak into just the right position to disguise just how far away from my eyebrows it has traveled. This was all happening just below the level of consciousness at first, because I was barely awake. but then I caught myself; What are you doing?, I said to my reflection, and then--in defiance of my vanity--parted my hair in a way that showed as much forehead as possible. Then I covered it up again.

I remember a day when I would laugh to myself (and sometimes with others) when a middle aged man with a comb over walked by; and now here I was, standing in front of my bathroom mirror following the exact same impulse that guides the toupee-d man. As is so often the case, I realize that the vulgar things that bother me so much about other people are the vulgar things that bother me the most about myself.

I first noticed my receding hairline after looking at a photo my wife had taken of my son and I playing with hot wheels on the floor of our kitchen. ‘Hey honey!’ I said, pointing at the shiny round spot on my head in the picture, ‘Isn’t this one of those ghost orbs?’.

I have always had a crow’s peak. I just hadn’t been monitoring its Sherman-esque march across the Carolinas of my scalp. After discovering the bald spot--it looks like the barren crop-circle in your backyard where the inflatable pool had been all summer--I compared an old picture of myself to what I saw in the mirror; My hairline had morphed from a wide, smiling U, to a narrow, anorexic looking V.

I accept that the hairline is going, and that the pattern that is evolving will eventually leave a small, fuzzy island atop my forehead. It’s humbling to know that no amount of cool can prevent the inevitable effects of time on the body, and is worth considering that even David Byrne at some point has probably wondered whether or not hair-in-a-can is actually as fake looking as they make it look in the movies.

It doesn’t matter how art-house you are, baby. When it goes, it goes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Late Week Bowie Infusion...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guest Blogger: 'In Defense Of Doubtatarianism (I think)', by The Elegant Ape

 In my office I sit between two true believers.

On my right is a snake handling, world is five thousand years old, man coexisted with dinosaurs, seamless garment sort of chap.
On my left is show me or blow me, all superstition and voodoo claptrap, what kind of fifth century idiot are you?, all the worlds ills can be traced to organized region teeth grinder.
Both make impassioned and heartfelt cases.
When I was young and full of sap I definitely fell into the atheist camp. As well as the anarchist camp, the narcissist camp, the whatever would get me laid camp (i was once a vegetarian once for six long months). Then gradually under the cover of darkness slipped into the agnostic camp.
There I remained peacefully until the birth of my son.
I am willing to admit I have prayed before. There were a handful of times when I was in the military that I prayed with a fervor that would have made a Baptist blush. But prayer for the sake of saving your own ass seems self serving and sensible. When the boats sinking you throw everything overboard.
But I pray for my son.
That he will be safe on the bus. That the other kids will like him. That he will be bright and happy.  That his fever will break. I do it automatically with out forethought or planning to it's efficacy . 
Doubt is the true human condition. It's universal. I look at absolute belief in anything as something that warrants scrutiny and caution.
So today I state without fear of contrition that I am a rock-ribbed doubtatarian.
(I think.)
You can read more of  The Elegant Ape's stuff here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

One Nation? No Thanks.

I have been very, very, very, very, critical of the tea party movement. Downright mean at times. Because of this, I thought it might be appropriate--indeed, called for--for me to comment on the One Nation rally that took place in front of the Washington Monument this past weekend.

Mostly, I was ambivalent.

Now, ostensibly I agreed with a lot more of the worldview represented at One Nation than I did at Glenn Beck's 'you can't spell Jesus without U.S.' orgy. But I still didn't care for it, because it rests on the same faulty populist notion that what is true is what is popular. One person, one vote. 80 million Elvis fans can't be wrong. The reactionary One Nation affair seemed to be based on the principle that if the organizers could only get a million more people down to the national mall than Glenn did, they would win.

Boo. That's not how it works.

As much as I love crowds, I hate mobs, and think there can be a fine line between the two. I don't want us all to get along if 'getting along' means mediocrity and relativism. As long as our head-butting doesn't come with a body count, it is a necessary and wonderful part of a functioning democracy. Conflict breeds creation, and any group with freedom and equality as its goal should have a certain amount of inner-tension that keeps everyone honest. Pep rallies are fine for what they are, and there have been many times in human history where it has been necessary for folks  to march, form coalitions, and give grandiose speeches; but that can't be all there is to it. I don't want to be a part of a movement whose entire platform can be summarized on the face of a bumper sticker. I also don't want to be a part of a movement that lacks an ability to look at itself skeptically, and to laugh at itself, and that's exactly the kind of organization progressives will build if they  ape the tea party too much.

We also need to be mindful of the fact that we live in a society that doesn't appreciate the benefit of pain and hard work as much as it used to; If something is not entertaining, we aren't having it. While gathering together with like-minded folk to support a common issue, we need to be sure that we aren't simply feeding into our need to be amused, to be in a constant state of orgasm, to always be eating a cookie. Not everything needs to operate like a game show or a sports contest.

I support the welfare state as it was originally conceived. It allows for personal growth, bolsters pluralism and egalitarianism, and allows the citizenry to deepen their experience and expand their culture. It also puts a parameter on chaos. Life is chaotic. Left unregulated, there would be no one to stand up for the minority. The strong would take from the weak...or, rather, the vicious would take from the principled. But we don't need the herd marching in lockstep. We need thinking folk with deep understandings of various aspects of our collective situation presenting evidence to us, teaching us,arguing with us, and nudging us in the right direction.

Besides, rallies and protests--with a few notable exceptions--are typically exercises in futility. They are energy burning enterprises that lead their participants to feel as if they have done something substantial when in fact they have not. The way to change isn't to hold signs in front of federal buildings and to stick your head into a partisan sound chamber where no alternative information can penetrate: the way to change is is through the betterment of individuals, and the infiltration of institutions. Rallies can be okay. The One Nation rally was okay...Glenn Beck's rally was okay too. What is not okay is treating morality and national politics as if it were a cheerleading competition: 'If we can get more people on this side of the auditorium to shout louder than the people on the other side of the auditorium, everybody gets healthcare! Yaaaayy....'

Rallies and protests should be to our intellectual and moral lives what twinkies are to our diets.

The welfare state can create an even playing field upon which everyone has the same opportunity to better themselves from, even though their success is not guaranteed. It is a thing worth defending, understanding, and vocally supporting. But it can't be defended by a giant Styrofoam finger alone. Being part of the rabble is easy. Engaging in rigorous research, debate, and observation is hard.

It's hard, but it's the better path. Better to be a thorn in the paw of humanity than another pair of marching boots.