Sunday, September 04, 2005

Dividing Lines

Saturday night, I went to a local town to catch up with some friends. After a lasagna dinner with homemade bread, and cheesecake to top it all off, some of the party headed to the back deck. My friends and I were farting around in the living room, when we heard an interesting conversation I just had to see.

The couples on the deck were arguing, about politics, about Bush, about Cindy Sheehan. The women were arguing in defense of Sheehan, critically discussing the war in Iraq. They effectively utilized their position as mothers to argue that those who have not lost a child in war cannot judge one who has.

The men withdrew on the Sheehan subject. I began to wonder why, despite the common sense reasons I have iterated before about why this woman deserves our respect. I came to realize that the men stepped back because mothers are incredibly effective at making empathetic arguments. When the women spoke as mothers, the men were silent. When the women spoke about policy, they men spoke up. This, also, is a point I have hit on before: women as policymakers are seen as less credible than women as mothers.

Later in the evening, one of the women trailed into the living room where some of us were hanging out. “I had no clue you felt that way,” I told her.

“You mean to say that you’re shocked to find Democrats in this town?”

I laughed, “I guess so.”

Her daughter who is a little bit younger than me, interrupted, “You voted for Kerry, Mom?”

“I didn’t particularly like him, but I did.”

“But isn’t he for abortion? We’re Catholic.”

“Honey,” she replied, “my morals aren’t up for sale. No politician can buy them.”

“What do you mean?” her daughter said.

“Let me put it this way: if you ever got pregnant, I would support you. I would let you know that should you choose to have the child, your father and I would help you in every way we could. Not everyone has that. It’s not my place to judge them. And I am certainly not going to support a politician who pretends to understand them.”

“I dunno,” her daughter said. “I don’t think I would have an abortion. Does that make me pro-life?”

“Not necessarily. You can choose not to have an abortion, and still be pro-choice. But more importantly, you can work to ensure that every woman has the same opportunities that you have, so they can make their decision like you, knowing that they are supported either way.”

“Well, is that pro-choice or pro-life?” her daughter asked.

“Neither,” she replied. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

Maybe some things don’t have to be split down the pro-choice/pro-life line. Maybe, as I saw last night, we should do things because they are the right thing to do. Pro-lifers rarely discuss the lack of programs and initiatives to help women become mothers. They rarely discuss the wage gap, and how this effects women's abilities to support their families. They rarely discuss the inadequate sexual education programs. They rarely discuss the incredible costs of the healthcare and childcare systems. They rarely discuss just how frightening it can be to bring a family into this world.

None of these things are about life or murder. They are about human rights, context, and environment. These issues are about supporting women. Maybe if we spoke less about when life begins, are more about supporting and respecting women, we could make more progress on the abortion issue.