Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I’m pro-life. I’m not really pro-life in the sense that it is used in current American political vocabulary. I’m a bit broader reaching than most of those people. I think if you are to even consider calling yourself pro-life you have to defend all life not just those lives, which have yet to be born. If you’re going to get in a rage over abortions and stem cell research, you better get enraged about the humiliatingly high infant mortality rate. If you’re going to protest the anniversary of Roe v Wade, then you ought protest every incident of capital punishment. If you’re going to have chutzpah to call yourself pro-life then you ought to defend all life without prejudice. To not be concerned with all life is hypocritical. I think there a few issues that really ought to concern anyone who wants to label themselves as pro-life. Granted I will not talk about all issues but these are crucial.

The issues that are most important to pro-life, in my opinion, are abortion, capital punishment, gun control, poverty, human rights and war. Some of these are quality of life issues for sure. But of what sense is it to hold life as sacred and then expect people to live a miserable life devoid of any comfort and security?

I’ve said it before; abortion has become a political litmus test. If you favor keeping it legal you are a liberal, if you opposes it you are conservative. I know these stereotypes do not hold in the real world but that’s the stereotype and we’re stuck with it. Both sides use incendiary language to describe their opponents, which I will not waste my time with here. Both sides are very passionate about the issue. It’s shame really because most polling data shows the country as centrists on the issue. They want some restrictions but by no means want it outlawed entirely.

So where do I stand on the issue? I will admit I don’t like abortion. I find it an ugly solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancy. That being said I do not want it outlawed. If I am to be serious about holding all life as sacred I must also hold the life of the pregnant woman as sacred. If we were to outlaw abortion she would have to get illegal abortions that may not be safe and put her own life in danger. This is unacceptable. So what does a guy sitting on the fence do about this issue? We need to solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies. If were up to me we would do a number of things.
One is national health care with access to free birth control including Plan B or the morning after pill. More birth control equals less pregnant women and that means less abortions.
Also along with national health care there would be increased minimum wages and guaranteed maternity leaves. Less financial burden on the mothers means more of them are going to carry the pregnancy to term because the child won’t be a financial burden.
There would be actual honest sex education in schools. None of this abstinence only teaching. Abstinence is the most effective birth control to be sure and should be included as an alternative. But, since I sincerely doubt kids will stop having sex anytime soon, we must prepare them for what can possibly happen.

I absolutely oppose capital punishment. I will not support the execution of anyone no matter what crime they have committed. Capital punishment is more about vengeance than justice. What justice is there in taking a life? What if the courts accidentally convicted an innocent man? Can you think of a more heinous act than killing an innocent man?

Don’t even use that old “eye for an eye” argument on me either. “Eye for an eye” was a call for fair punishment not to even the score. Punishments at the time that was written were extremely harsh. So an “eye for an eye” was just a call for fairness. Isn’t locking someone away for the rest of their lives in some brutal hellhole that passes for a prison punishment enough?

Also note that Canada, Mexico, most of Central America and all of Western Europe have abolished the death penalty. Russia still has it, but has not used it in ten years. So why the United States so far behind the rest of its contemporaries? Why are we in the same class as Middle Eastern countries that still have the death penalty and also horrible human rights records? Shouldn’t we be doing better than the countries we point the finger at so often as being evil?

On to the issue of gun control, this is a more derisive issue than it needs to be. I’m not quite idealistic enough to think our nation will ever disarm. But there a lot of changes that if made would help curb gun violence. I’m willing to allow for guns for hunting and even some self-defense. But our nation is armed to the teeth and it’s not helping us in any way.
Outlaw assault weapons: They’re called assault weapons for a reason. No citizen has any business with semi or fully automatic weapons. They have no hunting value so out they go.
Outlaw concealed weapons: Some states have laws allowing you to carry a concealed weapon if you get a license to do so. Why? Are we that fearful? Do we really need a bunch of people running around with concealed weapons? No we don’t. Concealed weapons laws are just more macho nonsense.
End these laws that allow for lethal force if you feel threatened: Florida and Colorado currently have laws that allow citizens to use lethal force if they feel threatened. In most other states your live has to be in obvious danger. Again is more needless fear mongering and needs to be stopped.
Stricter licensing for gun ownership: You have to have a license to drive and get married so it would seem logical you need one to own a gun. Or is that way too logical?
Stricter sentencing for crimes committed with guns: I know so far most of what I have suggested has only affected the gun owning average citizen. So I threw this in to not seem unfair and imbalanced. But I do think there should be fairly severe penalties for crimes committed with guns. Let’s keep these armed criminals behind bars.

Gandhi once called poverty the worst form of violence. He was understating it a bit. The fact we live in a world that could feed and house everyone but doesn’t is criminal. No one should be denied the most basic of human needs. Everyone should have access to food, shelter and medicine. There is no good reason why people should be denied these things. All arguments for people not having them all boil down to greed and ignorance. For one nation to have food rotting in warehouses while in another children starve is morally repulsive. If we are to ignore the most basic needs of people we will never find peace or justice.

Human rights ought to be inalienable. By human rights I mean those things that are essential to the people’s well being and happiness: food, shelter, medicine, education, the right to property and freedom. If we are to hold life as sacred and worthy of our protection, then shouldn’t we also be equally passionate about those things that make life better? To only hold the state of being alive as important and to have no concern for the quality of life people live is hypocritical. To bemoan the destruction of a frozen embryo for medical research but not to worry about the millions of children living in poverty in the United States is sickening. For someone to be blindly passionate about the over one million abortions that take place in the United States but yet that same person remains silent about the staggeringly high infant mortality rate in the United States is also hypocritical. The infant mortality rate in the United States is about 6.4 deaths per 1000 live births. This rate is higher than Cuba’s, a country we have crippled with economic sanctions over the years. It is simply not enough to worry about that life which you deem innocent and nothing else.

As Edwin Starr once sang, “War. What is it good for? Absolutely Nothing!” I am a pacifist. I oppose war. It’s that simple. War at it’s best is necessary evil. Even that most glorious of wars, World War II, was by no means unavoidable or as glorious as some would like you to believe. Yes, stopping European fascism and Japanese imperialism was necessary. The 20 million dead Soviets, the Rape of Nanking, the Bataan Death March, the Holocaust, the bombing of Dresden, the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, none of these horror stories is especially inspiring. The result was good, but the means to get there were humbling to say the least. I know someone reading this is about to snap. I know someone reading this is thinking, “He can’t speak ill of WWII! That’s sacrilege!” I bear no malice against the men who fought so bravely in that war or any war for that matter. But I feel it imperative that we as a human race lose our taste for war. General Sherman said that, “War is Hell”. There is little glory in war other than surviving it.

Isaac Asimov once said that, “Violence is the diplomacy of the incompetent.” Unless we advance as a human race past the need to violence to solve our conflicts I fear the worst. As we keep developing more terrible weapons we might be the very means that causes out own end.

I write these thoughts because they are my own. I am not trying to win an election or start a political party. Though they are vaguely similar to some Catholic teachings I took influence from many sources. I do not write them for my own ego. Though I must confess that writing is therapeutic. I write them because I think that this the way to a better world for all people, not just Americans or Catholics or the wealthy or whoever. We will never move forward as a human race until we all do it together.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Mertman said...

Eric,
What a great letter! I read it on Peace takes Courage and came to your blog. I think we might share part of the same brain. Mainly the part that controls our thoughts regarding compassion, empathy, and just plain common sense. I am also a Catholic..turned Buddhist for about twenty five years, then back to Catholic (about a year ago) with a much broader understanding of spirituality and how to live it and share it. Practice..
Thank you
I hear you

2:19 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Thanks Mertman,

I was Catholic, then agnostic, then Catholic again. So we have taken a similar journey. I'm glad you liked the essay and that you go to Peace Takes Courage it's a great site with a great forum. Again thanks for the comment, feedback is great to get.

9:22 PM  
Blogger NICHOLAS J. PARRELL said...

ERIC,
I'M PRETTY LAZY WHEN IT COMES TO EXPRESSING MY THOUGHTS IN WRITTING,
SO I LINK TO ARTICLES THAT CLOSELY MIRROR MY THOUGHTS, AND YOUR BLOG
ENTRY DATED Wednesday, August 02, 2006 ON PRO-LIFE DOES JUST THAT.

YOU MIGHT WANT TO TITLE YOUR BLOG ENTRIES, SO THAT THEY CAN BE REFERENCED.
JUST AN IDEA!

YOUR FRIEND,

NICHOLAS :)
http://nparrells.blogspot.com/
http://nparrells.blogspot.com/

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good article except i disagree about gun control. there are a lot of strict laws already on the books, all they need is to be enforced. outlawing guns and carry permits isn't going to lesson the violence....we're inundated by violence in the media anyway, movies and tv shows. do we need to outlaw those?

2:40 PM  

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