Saturday, February 16, 2008

Another Email to a Concerned Friend

After recently posting "An Email to a Concerned Friend" regarding my support for presidential candidate, Barack Obama, I received a separate email inquiring about Senator Obama's Pro-Choice stance. Here was my response:

Dear Hillary Fay,

Great to hear from you! Thanks for taking the time to read what I wrote to my friend, it was definitely an impassioned email. And thank you for writing me. I think it's neat the way people our age seem to be open to talking about these complicated matters. That is one of my hopes that our generation will be more open-minded about working together to improve the status quo.

So let's get to it! I'm going to try my best to respond, but I'm not very intelligent. And please don't take any of my explaining as though I would be attempting to educate you on the matter. I just feel the need to explain myself thoroughly on such a complex topic!

You are correct that the abortion issue is important. Personally I am pro-life and I would love to see women choose birth over abortion. I don't think that aborting a child is the ethical thing to do, and I too consider it murdering a human life.

Now, when we consider a fetus to be a human life then abortion is murder. That's easy. Right? Right. And I agree. And I don't think that many people would disagree with the idea that murdering human life is wrong. Most people would agree. So I don't think that the issue finds its complications here. (That is, on the "Murder" argument. Thanks to science and medicine I think most people would agree that abortion is killing a human life)

I do, however, think that the issue of abortion gets complicated when we begin the discussion of a government's right to force a citizen- well actually TWO citizens (the mother and the unborn child) - into a situation that the citizen does not want. This is extremely complicated because our original notion as a country was that the government would not control its citizens. If Roe v. Wade were overturned and women were forced to bear their children then this would be compromising one citizen's freedom for another's.

(I don't agree with my argument, I'm just pointing out the complexity)

Also, if Roe v. Wade were overturned and a law were passed to mandate childbearing, I really don't think abortions would cease. It MAY decline, but we both know it would not stop. Laws don't change people.

That being said, this is where I start to come to the issue from a different angle. And that is that abortion is a symptom. It is a symptom of a greater issue: unwanted pregnancy. And unwanted pregnancy is actually a symptom of irresponsible sexual behavior. So... the issue just got more complex!

If men/women are having sex outside of marriage then there are always going to be unwanted pregnancies. The issue of abortion then BEGINS with sex. (Obvious, yes, I know!) But I think this should have some affect on how we look at the issue. How should we then promote safe sexual behavior? How should we encourage male responsibility as opposed to men using women for their bodies and then leaving them with the decision-making? These are good questions to consider that may help prevent the unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

Then, I find myself attempting to empathize with one of these women. Wow. I can't imagine what it would be like. And when I try, I can almost understand why it would be easier to abort a child than to birth it. There would be so many things to consider. To name a few: relations with father, personal goals (job, school, etc.), economic status, pressure from family/community... That would be a lot to handle. Even if I did see abortion as murder, it might just look like the easiest thing to do.

Then, I try to imagine how women feel before, during, or after having an abortion. I cannot imagine the burden they must bare. I suppose that they are so distressed physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually that only God could ever empathize with their pain. It makes me wonder how much good an "ABORTION IS HOMICIDE" sweatshirt would really do for a woman who has experienced this. It makes me wonder just exactly what impact the protesters standing outside the clinic have on the women entering/exiting the clinic. (My personal opinion is that it must feel pretty terrible to be those women)

One small problem I have with many "Pro-Life" advocates is that they seem to care only about birth and not life altogether (as if to say "We just want the child to be born, then it's your problem"). The right to life should be granted as long as we live, not just at childbirth. So, in turn that should cause us to work for a heathy environment into which the child may be born. Better communities, healthcare, etc. And, personally, my Pro-Life stance means I am opposed to the death penalty (a completely other issue!) because I am FOR LIFE in all circumstances.

It is also very difficult when candidates use broad terms like "sanctity of life." Well, what does that mean? Does it mean you value ALL human life or just fetuses? Does that mean you don't want to see another civilian die in Iraq or that you're willing to sacrifice some lives for freedom? Does that mean that you want to save the thousands in Africa from dying of simple needs like water and basic healthcare or do you view their lives as less valuable? These are tough issues and I don't like that nonspecific rhetoric about "sanctity of life" that so many candidates use. It allows them to sound universally ethical.

So basically I've only discussed a little of the abortion issue. You asked me how I balance my political views with this very important matter. It's a good question... I'll do my best to respond.

When it comes to politics no one gets a Cinderella candidate, we all have to sacrifice in some areas. For me, I try to compromise in areas where I think I can still make a difference, even if I disagree with my candidate. I think that the citizens of the US can impact the abortion issue more significantly than our foreign policy. I mean, if 10's of 1,000's of protesters can't even budge our governments' foreign policy then I'm going to vote for an anti-war candidate!

What could we do as citizens even if our President is pro-choice? Well, that's tough. Maybe write letters to congress. Maybe try to investigate and treat the CAUSES of unwanted pregnancies instead of just discussing abortion alone. Maybe that could come through sexual education classes, supplying contraceptives, after school programs that keep kids busy, or other community aide. Or maybe through funding adoption agencies and orphanages. I don't know. It's difficult. But I think that we could do a better job to begin healing the causes of unwanted pregnancy - that just may take a President who rebuilds communities and gives people more self-value and purpose.

And, I also think that no President is going to overturn Roe v. Wade. I just really doubt that will happen. Therefore, I don't believe most campaign promises that are made about abortion. Take Bush for example, our Christian president for 8 years has done nothing except pass the Partial-Birth Abortion Act. Albeit that's great, it's probably not exactly what most Pro-Lifers hoped for, and it certainly has not ceased abortions in America.

In the end, Hillary Fay, I think that the abortion issue is going to take a brand new conversation. I think it's going to take a willingness to see the seekers of abortion as real women with real needs, not just murderers. And I think we're going to have to trade our "firm stances" and condemning bumper stickers for listening ears and loving dialogue that asks questions like "What can I personally do to help a woman who desires an abortion? What can I do to make sure this newborn child receives good care? How can I help others begin to see the abortion issue as complex and messy, not black & white? How can I help heal the broken hearts of mothers who have aborted children?"

It's not easy. Not at all. But I'm gonna stand with you on the Pro-Life side of things because I believe that all human beings are valuable and deserve life. The question is, what can we do whether Obama or McCain or Romney or Clinton become president? Because I don't think the election of any of them will be the once-and-for-all solution to this problem.

I'm sorry this was so long. These matters are too complex to write a paragraph on! I hope this helps a bit.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Armed and Lucrative!

Everything must change.

As I drove to work this morning I reluctantly reached for the volume knob on my stereo and turned up NPR. I hate listening to NPR but I feel obligated to do so every morning during my commute just because it's a quick way to hear recent news. It's probably the low point of my day. Hearing news about elections in Pakistan, campaigning here at home, violence in Iraq, and spending in Washington: it all significantly boosts my optimism before going to school to educate the minds of middle-schoolers about "things that matter."

This particular morning I heard news of our Senates inability to pass the new Stimulus spending package. The goal of this bill is to put money immediately back into the economy in hopes of slowing a recession. This, of course, was viewed as too expensive and was haulted by members of Senate; namely, Republicans who argued against wasteful spending.

The bill would cost $204 billion over two years and would contribute to an extension of unemployment benefits, tax credits for the coal industry and increased subsidies for home energy costs.

Following this update on the stimulus package NPR moved to the release of the 2009 Pentagon budget. The new budget is the highest it has been in history: $515.4 billion. This budget does not include costs for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Shocking.

I continued my commute and learned that the Pentagon is richer than the entire country of Australia and the United States spends more on defense than all the other countries of the world - combined.

As I was driving down the slushy roads and bombarding myself with hot air from the vent panels, I found myself asking aloud, What the hell is wrong with us!!? Why can we spend billions of dollars on defense but not on domestic aide? Why can't we help the poor with their heating bills instead of buying F2 attack fighters that the US doesn't use anymore and cost $300million?

The answers to these questions are quite clear when one comes to see the business of war/defense and the immense profit to be gained through war. However, in addition to the mere acknowledgment of this, one must also take a look at the United States' ingenious role in recent Middle East history.

I'm no historian nor a political science guru, so forgive me for my lack of knowledge. Here some specific examples of the brilliant, military involvement in other countries by the US.

In 1979 Iranians overthrew the tyrant that the U.S. was backing and took some hostages for over a year. This may be one of the strong reasons for bad relations with Iran, but it goes much deeper that this.*

The relations between the US and Iran have a history over 50 years. In 1953 the U.S. overthrew the parliamentary government and installed a brutal tyrant, the Shah, and kept supporting him while he compiled one of the worst human rights records in the world—torture, assassination, anything you like.*

Of course, Iranians have this odd way of remembering what happened to them and who was behind it. When the Shah was overthrown, the Carter administration immediately tried to instigate a military coup by sending arms to Iran through Israel to try to support military force to overthrow the government.*

Then, we immediately turned to supporting Iraq, that is, Saddam Hussein, and his invasion of Iran. Saddam was recently executed for crimes he committed in 1982, by his standards not very serious crimes—complicity in killing 150 people.*

Moving on. 1982 is a very important year in U.S./Iraqi relations. That is the year in which Ronald Reagan removed Iraq from the list of states supporting terrorism so that the U.S. could start supplying Iraq with weapons for its invasion of Iran, including the means to develop weapons of mass destruction, chemical and nuclear weapons. A year later Donald Rumsfeld was sent to firm up the deal.* Backing Iraq not only secured business for defense contractors, but also put more pressure on Iran. This is a classic example of the philosophy: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Well, Iranians may very well remember that this led to a war in which hundreds of thousands of them were slaughtered with U.S. aid going to Iraq. They may well remember that the year after the war was over, in 1989, the U.S. government invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to come to the United States for advanced training in developing nuclear weapons.*

What is interesting about all this Mid-East history is the United States' brilliant playing of all angles and all sides. By demonizing certain figures or people groups, the USA can disguise itself as the "good guy" and pursue the "bad guys" in the style of an old western film.

We are led to believe that the United States is a leader for peace and freedom in our world, but in reality our government has no use for it. As far as the economy goes, peace would simply be bad for business. What I am arguing is that the United States actually desires military conflict in the world so that certain people may profit from it. That does not necessarily mean that the US wants to be directly involved, but as long as their is conflict, our companies will be selling the weapons!

What is the business? It is the sales of military weaponry and the contracting of big time construction projects.

Who are the sellers? Lockheed Martin. Boeing. Northrop Grumman. Halliburton. Bechtel.

Who are the buyers? Saudi Arabia. Israel. Pakistan. China. Egypt. India.

Who profits? The CEO's and politicians with deals tied to these companies. And ultimately, yes, the 10's of thousands of employees of these companies do profit as well. Lockheed Martin employs some 10,000 people in the US. The loss of this company would surely hurt them all.

But, we cannot go on this way. This business is ultimately bound for destruction and failure. It is suicidal to think our economy can sustain itself depending on violent conflict. I fear that we are heading toward mass destruction.

Everything must change.

Instead of turning war into a business, could the United States turn peace into a business? Could these Arms companies instead build new and creative airplanes for the commercial airline industry? Or perhaps special planes designed for humanitarian aide? Could the Federal government fund the restoration of the commercial airline industry so more Americans could afford to fly? Could engineers of Arms companies create new modes of transportation? Could the Federal government invest in public transportation and buy back the national rail system from automotive companies?

Could companies like Halliburton and Bechtel employ US citizens to rebuild cities like New Orleans, Camden, Detroit, and Buffalo? Or perhaps re-engineer parts of America that FEMA defines hazardous? Or design new precautions to natural disasters? Or perhaps be hired by developing nations to assist in big time construction projects for hospitals, schools, office buildings, etc.? Instead of selling them weapons, could we sell them our services?

These are just a few off the top of my head. I'm sure the intelligent minds in DC could create a thousand ways!

So as I'm listening to NPR broadcast on about our spending, and I learn more about this business of war, I find myself asking another question aloud to myself: Is this all our incredibly brilliant minds can come up with? Making money off of war? Selling guns and missiles? Bombing, destroying and then rebuilding? Is this the limit to our economic savvy?

I hope not.

For more information see:

* Taken from Noam Chomsky article found here: