Simply because I think you're wrong, doesn't mean you are wrong. Simply because I think you're about as wrong about birth control as a man can get, doesn't mean the situation isn't reversed, and the party in the wrong isn't me, even though I'd be the last person in the world to assure you of that. Just went off antidepressants after about 20 years. I find that I have much better access to my feelings, and that the old truism about depression being anger turned inward is getting a workout as about 20 years worth of anger is getting vented into the ionosphere. If the EPA could tax this stuff, it'd make a fraking fortune.
I don't believe in original sin.
Even if I did, that doesn't mean that gives me the right to impose that belief on others; nor to impose the consequences that belief may suggest, if accepted as true. That's one of the reasons that we do not have a state religion. That’s also one of the reasons why so many religions would love it if the United States would only be reasonable and choose theirs to be the state religion to clean up the errors of all those clearly wrong-headed and ill intentioned others who worship inferior loas who lack sufficient understanding.
While most religions are willing to tell us why other people are wrong, they seem to have a great deal of trouble making their own injustices, sins and loathsome practices seem practical, tasty and delicious to such folks as have been on the receiving end. Feel free to fill in your own examples here __________. Attach such extra sheets as you feel may be needed.
One would be tempted to say that the notion of original sin has been placed at the heart of so much Christian theology simply as an excuse for the way that Christians seem to believe they have a right to act toward others, and for the high-handed fashion they seem to feel is forgivable in the way they treat others, except Christians are not the only ones who find the set of behaviors congenial.
I do know that Bob. I wasn't under the illusion that the RCs are against any and every method to prevent conception. When I said that, as a good protestant, I have no problem with "birth control" (excepting those forms which do not merely prevent fertilization), I thought it was obvious I was referring to the methods which most people think of when they say "birth control" ... pills and things, which are in fact the methods central to this particular controversy.
Well, that’s interesting, I suppose, but let’s be a little bit clear here.
I really have substantial trouble believing you.
It’s not that I think you’re a liar; I really don’t think anything of the kind. I simply don’t think you’ve thought the issue through in any but the most abstract of terms, and I really don’t think you have a clear notion of what you’ve signed up for here. Or if you do, you’re running on a level of reality that I simply don’t think I can follow.
What’s a person? Let me put that in Caps for a bit more emphasis, albeit drawn from artificial sources, WHAT’S A PERSON?
WHAT’S A PERSON?
I have known a lot of them, and sometimes I even are one myownself. Some of them, for all practical purposes, are stupid as bricks. I worked for a while at The Fernald School, in Waltham, Massachusetts as a mental health worker with retarded men. We called them “Students,” because they went to a State School, though some of the guys I worked with were in their seventies, and some of them had IQ’s in the 30’s and 40’s. I also knew people whose IQ’s were essentially immeasurably low, and who were pretty much confined to hospital beds and who looked a lot like flesh-covered fish, with rudimentary feet and hands. They couldn’t talk.
I felt all these folks were persons, were people, and some of them were friends of mine, and my relationships with them were actually much more personal than any of the relationships I had with the people I grew up with, and knew for ten years, twenty years and more. There were people I knew all my life that I found I kept at a distance; and I wasn’t able to do that with some of these people. There was something about them that was much more personal because I experienced them much more directly. I felt in some ways that I was their guest. In some ways, it was as if I was visiting a place where everybody was in third grade and had been in some cases for 50 years, and they all had third grade down perfectly. It was wonderful. Even the terrible bullies of third grade had perfected themselves in that art, and the experience was huge, personal and, somehow, magnificent.
The experience was powerfully tactile. It touched me all over, like water. You could smell it, because nobody was particularly clean, and it had a scent like the sour milk the state sent down from another state school in Templeton which everybody called The Colony. My guys called the milk "Moo Juice."
All of these folks were people, and you couldn’t escape it.
Yes, there were other people. I’ve known people in my everyday life, but then so has everybody else. I’ve know patients on locked units, and that’s different, Stephen; but I imagine not so different from stuff that you've seen. You can probably imagine yourself working there; and family, sure; you'll know more about the experience of our own kids because I don’t have any, though I’ve worked with kids and loved some, and raised some, at least for a while, when I was a kid, and carried my kid brother around on my shoulders. And I’ve dealt with strangers, who are people,
But when I start talking about the morning after pill, I am talking about abstractions when I talk about the people that don't become people as a result of women who take a dose. These might someday be people someday, sorta, too, but I don’t have that experience when I talk about them or think about them. I can't smell the garlic on their breath, or think what an unpleasant comment to make about a friend of mine, or what an attractive way of holding her head. When I am around people, I feel the surround at all times and I can feel the interaction, the back and forth of it at all times as powerfully as I can feel the ministry — believe it or not — of this fella who was at that school I mentioned. He was not very bright, he was one of the students in fact, unshaven and toothless, and he had a minister’s robe he wore. I can’t tell you his name because it really is unfair to do so. He felt he was a minister and he took his role very seriously, and I think that for all practical purposes, embarrassing as he might have been to the actual minister at the school at the time, he may have been one in real human terms. I think God would have smiled on the ministry and understood it, and I think I’m certainly reasonably respectful of it now; more so, certainly, than at the time. He was a person, and you could feel him.
I have had discussions about birth control with friends before; frequently, in fact. I could always tell that the people I was conversing with were people because they felt like people, and I experienced them as people and they had a personality about them. In fact, even the folks on the Green Blind Unit at The Fernald State Hospital, who could not see the color Green, and who were frequently profoundly retarded had personalities in my memory, and you couldn’t avoid the experience of knowing that. For me, this was not an abstraction, it was a fact as solid as a cinder block foundation. You could build on it, you could stub your toe on it, even if you didn’t want to.
These are people.
There are people that you live with historically, too. These folks have as immediate a presence as the bus driver, your wife, or your pastor. We can pretty much agree about these folks, and we can often agree on the names they have because they often have some actual historicity. Moses, Jesus, Julius Caesar, Van Gogh and the various heros and villains are right there, as well as the more personal family ancestors and the folks that populate our individual histories.
The sort of folks that the church is asking me to accept into the realm of the real, however, don’t have that impact for me. They aren’t people. They never were people and they never will be people. They may be somebody’s hopes for being a person someday, but then they may not even be that.
These are not people, these are not human, these are not even quickened,since we are not talking about abortion here but birth control. We are talking about abstractions being granted the equivalent of citizenship.
I’m willing to go very far to give rights and privileges to people.
I’m willing to listen to ideas.
The Church can say that they don’t believe in artificial means of birth control, and it can encourage everybody to use natural means of birth control or no means of birth control at all if it so chooses. The issue is not control over what people believe; there, the church has as much right as the zero population growth folks, and neither should force the public to have children or not have children. It wouldn’t be fair.
The issue is the availability of birth control for those who want to use it and for those who may need it, and for that reason, the service needs to be funded. Even if the Church itself believes that the service is a terrible and an evil thing, evidently up to 90% of the members of that church have made use of that wretched thing from time to time. You don’t stop needing health services when you’re a sinner, and being a sinner doesn’t make you less deserving of them, despite the implication here suggesting that we shouldn’t take care of what our sinners need, we should only take care of what our sinners say policy should be when they’re being hypocritical.
To me, frankly, planning on that basis, seemly like planning to get into trouble and wondering how the trouble ever could have happened. However did that unwanted pregnancy happen, anyway? That abortion was completely uncalled for, and we thought we understood our daughter. Now we’ll just have to forgive her for the rest of her life, if any of us can quite manage it.
This is the sort of statement that gets me in trouble for being unsympathetic, but it’s also the sort of statement that is founded on unpleasant reality based experiences that flow out of refusing to deal with the conflicts that come up in dealing with moral binds such as this one. I don’t mean to be unsympathetic, but the binds that come up in dealing with this sort of stuff do not go away as easily as my friends on the right would hope.
And I would hope as well, for that matter, since I don’t love pain any more than you do.
The masses of cells that don’t end up graduating Harvard as a result of the morning after pill may in fact amount to a profound disturbance to you, as might the number of cells that don’t implant into the uterine wall as a result of a woman taking The Pill, or the more usual issues with the diaphragm. I am willing to believe that these things are issues for you and amount to a disturbance of some proportion. I have known you for a while, and I credit you with a lot of depth, so I have trouble imagining that the level of upset is on a very concrete level. I’ve gone to some trouble to talk about what that concrete level means to me, because I don’t want to trivialize it or to play language games with it. I mean a level in which the experience actually is personal because there is a person involved.
I think that a lot of the discussion here is difficult because the whole notion of life in general and personhood in particular has gotten really muddied up, and that the distinction has gotten lost. For me the distinction is important. The Buddhists will frequently talk about reverence for life, when what the mean is a reverence for sentient life. The Janes will carry a whisk to brush insects away because they carry things a bit further. I would need a lot of convincing before I’d go to the wall to fight for an insect, or even a 64 cell human blastula, frankly, and for me the distinction turns around that issue of personhood, and what is a person. I’ve lost teeth and tonsils and had surgical repairs following accidents that have cost me in the Big Mac range (seemed like it at the time, at least; mano-a-machina with a conveyor belt).
I want the thing I invest my sympathies in to have a palpable personhood to it. It will probably have to have quickened before I will actually feel outrage, or for me to be sure that my sympathy is genuine and not manipulated.
I don’t demand that anybody else follow my principles, nor do I see how I could. People operate so differently. But I can ask myself what an authentic claim might be on my sympathies, and why I might believe that I could look somebody in the eye and say that I think birth control was fine, and why I thought that a morning after pill would be fine, and why I thought that hormonal birth control would be fine.