Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rights in the eyes of the beholder

A Colorado group, Personhood USA, has garnered enough signatures to put a proposition for an abortion ban on this year's election ballot.  The ballot item seeks to give unborn fetuses human rights in the state's constitution over the rights of women to have abortions.  The group hopes to put similar propositions on ballots in 40 other states, including Florida, California, Montana, Missouri and Mississippi. Personhood USA is not unique. Anti-abortionists have fought against and around Roe v Wade since it became law in 1973.

Anti-abortionists, pro fetus rights activists bewilder me. Their arguments and beliefs are, to my mind, inconsistent and contradictory.  Even their chosen identifier - pro-lifer - implies that to disagree with them is to be against life, but their considerations seem only to cover one of the lives concerned in an abortion decision.  

Activists against abortion rights, usually right-wing conservatives, argue that a fetus is a person with rights, and that the mother - merely a carrier - should have no right to terminate or discontinue its development.  They are usually the same people who argue that parents should be free to educate, proselytize, and medicate their children as they deem fit, without interference from schools, government agencies, and others. By their argument, a parent of a walking, talking, thinking child has more rights to direct that child's life than a pregnant woman has to make a decision regarding an organism within her body.

Those who argue that abortions are morally irresponsible are the usually the same people who cry for fiscal responsibility in government and for fewer social services. By their argument, a poor woman who becomes pregnant should not be allowed to terminate her pregnancy - even if she knows she is financially unable to support a child - and the government should not be allowed to provide social services, such as health care, to her and the child.

The same mouths that argue vehemently that healthcare reform makes America a "little less free" amazingly argue with the same conviction and intensity that a woman should not be allowed to determine when she is fit and able to be a mother. According to them, the federal government does not have the right to make you carry health insurance to your own benefit, but they should have the right to make you become a parent.

It does not matter if one agrees that abortion as medical procedure is right or not.  It does not matter if one would have an abortion, or support a loved one having one, or not.  It does not matter if one believes there are better options than abortion available in cases of unwanted pregnancies.  A woman's right to do as she deems best with her own body and life is the single matter of consequence in the abortion debate.  As long as the organism within her relies on her for sustenance and life a woman should have the untethered right of choice.  The strength of America's freedoms is reliant on our commitment to protecting everyone's rights to act as they please within the law - whether we like and agree with them or not.  We cannot be selective with our principles.  Freedoms, privacy, and fiscal responsibility cannot be applied like quilt patches just to make ourselves feel comfortable.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

(Un)fit to serve

Mistress Rielle Hunter's photos in GQ magazine has dragged the John Edwards affair back into the news.  (For which Tiger Woods must be grateful.) Now turncoat Andrew Young gets another 15 seconds to shill his book and wring out the remnants of media interest.

I find it interesting that Young's betrayal of Edward's trust has not drawn the same consternation as Edward's betrayal of his wife's trust.  It could be that Elizabeth Edward's ongoing battle with cancer makes her a particularly sympathetic victim, or that most people believe that trust between friends carries less weight than trust between spouses. (I hope none of my friends think that.) Either way, Andrew Young is as much a crud as John Edwards.  He was complicit in John Edward's affair, went to great lengths to try to cover it up, then at the first opportunity sought to benefit financially from it. I wouldn't let him sell me a car.

The other interesting aspect of the story is how appalled people are at how close the cheating bastard came to being president.  America has a long tradition of using a morality ruler to determine political fitness. A candidate or incumbent is far more likely to lose constituent support for stepping outside the parameters of acceptable social behaviors than for his/her agenda or political record. If DNA testing had existed then, revered President Thomas Jefferson (and author of the Declaration of Independence) would have been ousted over his affair with Sally Hemmings, which he had denied.  In recent weeks former Reps. Eric Massa and Hiram Monserrate, both of New York, found themselves out of favor and out of office for groping male aides and for roughing up a girlfriend respectively. Their voting records and platform mattered little.

But is someone inclined to an affair, or other socially-inappropriate behavior, incapable of carrying out the functions of political office?  Thousands of financially successful corporations are lead by men and women whose morality is considered far less important than their effectiveness on the bottom line.  With mid-term elections coming in November and the balance of government up for grabs, horns will lock and dirt will fly on the campaign trails. We must focus on the issues though. And the issues are big: jobs, the economy, manufacturing, education, and responsible energy use and production. We have to be a responsible electorate.  We must refuse to be fed a stream of information that has no bearing on progress and growth. We must be knowledgeable about the factors that affect us, our families, and our communities and know which candidate's agenda will serve us best. I would vote for John Edwards if he were running in my constituency. I wouldn't marry him or introduce him to my sister, but I agree with his stance on the issues that most affect me. That's what  most important.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Big Fat Truth

First Vanity Fair slighted the fledgling young actress by leaving her off the cover of their pre-Oscar "New Hollywood" issue.  Then the news wires and entertainment shows were abuzz about Howard Stern's comments about her weight.  Gabourey Sidibe's foray into acting, while heralded for it's substantive quality, has also highlighted the question about looks, weight, and size in 'Hollywood' - used collectively for the entertainment industry.

Howard Stern, who is popular especially for instigating controversy, described the Oscar nominee as 'enormous' and predicts she will never get another acting role.  Stern's comments, while likely to discomfort and to hurt feelings, were neither inappropriate nor baseless. She is enormous.  The fact of fat is no more inappropriate than the fact of race. You're either black or you are not. Beyond the middle ground of 'plump' or 'curvy,' you're either fat or you're not. As for whether Ms. Sidibe will ever work again, I suppose none of us can be sure, but to bet against her would not be a careless bet.  The title character in the movie Precious was a 300+lb black girl.  I don't remember seeing that before, and I don't expect to see it again any time soon.  Based on their ratio in movies released every year, there are not a lot of roles for black women. Even the normal-sized ones.

Rather than villifying the shock jock for his comments (on his show on satellite radio), we should be having a conversation about whether or not the people we see on television and film truly represent the larger (pun intended) public.  Do Hollywood women represent the average American woman at 162.9 pounds and size 14?  Does Hollywood even need to be representative; or are we okay with images that are aspirational and fanciful?  Maybe we should be talking about why a display of temper by a popular athlete is chastised as a poor example, but there are no requirements for those in the limelight who display poor messages about health and wellness.