"Bush's lame response to North Korea has made it quite clear that all he wants is to invade Iraq again. North Korea may be more dangerous in fact, but there's no oil there, and it simply doesn't figure in the grand eschatological design of Bush's theocratic circle. Pyongyang isn't even in the Bible!"
"Word comes that brother Cat Stevens refuses to lend his support to our virtuous jihad. May this turncoat's Peace Train be laden with explosives and rammed into the Mountain of Mohammed, peace be upon him. "
"'When it comes to learning from its mistakes, corporate America has fallen off the rehab wagon more times than Robert Downey, Jr. A quick glance at last week's papers reveals that it's monkey business as usual on Wall Street."
"'People are more aware of the world that they want to live in, and now they have to realize that they can actually create that world and fight for the things that are worth fighting for and not feel apathetic. We are all going to die. There is no point in holding anything back. ."
"The idea -- if we may use so flattering a term -- was that the Pentagon would monitor the site and the betting, and thus get a jump on terrorist acts to come. After all, as the theory goes (and never mind the whole dot.com fiasco), if people are willing to put money on something, they must have a pretty good idea what they're doing."
"Well, well, well. President George was in one hell of bind when it turned that that Saudi Arabia funded Al Qaeda, not Iraq. Realizing we'd invaded the wrong country, Bush did the honorable thing: he's come out against gay marriages."
"Voters are sick and tired of having their electoral choices severely limited by a ruling class that has done everything in its power to maintain the status quo -- including the latest round of under-the-radar redistricting deals that make it all but impossible to unseat incumbents."
"There's some thing in our psyche, this kind of right or privilege to resolve our conflicts with violence. There's an arrogance to that concept. To actually have to sit down and talk, to listen, to compromise, that's hard work. To go for the gun, that's the cowardly act."
"The music business is run by lawyers and accountants, and they don't really care about the integrity of art."
"In a segment that seems designed to honor yet another one of rock and roll's seminal yet fallen heroes, MTV just can't help talking about why it, not Nirvana, mattered so much."
"I don't give a fuck about that. I feel comfortable being called a punk band, because I feel that's what we came out of."
"That's an issue I'm dealing with here: what is going to happen with this next generation of kids? What is their culture but media culture? What hasn't been sanitized and homogenized?"
"Even though Sonic Youth grabbed Cobain by his hypodermic needles and helped foist him into the spotlight, alterna-fans du jour didn't return the favor when the New York noisemakers lobbed this bottom-soaked missile their direction."
"If news were reality, if every time one of our soldiers died in combat, we witnessed the actual splatter, just like in the movies, we might be inclined to give up war. At least, war on such spurious terms as these. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? There may well be some out in the desert, but we should also look for them in the lies that we allow ourselves to believe, even after the truth is told."
"Gregory Peck, in what may have been divine justice died comfortably in his sleep, old age finally having caught up with him. His soul, like his formidable legacy, was one of peace, so it is poetic that he left this world in such a manner. But the times he has left behind for his unknown sons and daughters resembles the dystopia of Boys From Brazil more each day. ."
"Can you believe these guys? After spending billions to make Afghanistan safe for your local neighborhood opium lord, our government continues its ludicrous domestic drug policy of lumping all drugs together. A third grader can tell you that crack is to pot like an Uzi is to a banana. Crack kills, pot giggles."
"America embodies mimetic relations of rivalry. The ideology of free enterprise makes of them an absolute solution. Effective, but explosive. Competitive relations are excellent if you come out of it the winner. But if the winners are always the same then, one day, the losers overturn the game table."
by Myshel Prasad
Abortion is beautiful.
I know that's a taboo sentiment. Even among those who support a woman's right to reproductive freedom some still regard abortion as a kind of necessary evil. But women who have experienced unwanted pregnancies know that no prison sentence could be more spiritually crushing. The fact is, when you're pregnant and you don't want to carry to term, well, in the pool of alternative solutions (Drano, coat hangers, suicide) a safe and legal abortion is much more than a necessary evil, it's the holy grail.
The metaphysical and existential radiance of contraception and abortion has been obfuscated by institutionalized sexual confusion and religious models of shame and sin. We are encouraged to believe that in the realms of the divine, particularly as imagined in modern Christian terms, abortion is especially offensive.
But I don't agree. There's no evidence that seeking to humiliate, judge, and circumvent the lives of women by making an unnecessary trap of their anatomy would be divinely favored.
In fact for some time, it hadn't occurred to Christians in the United States that the issue might be on god's agenda. In 1800, abortion was legal in every state of the nation. The Church and the (male) physicians' community had taken no strong position on the issue, nor was popular opinion galvanized one way or the other. It was in response to the emerging women's rights movement, particularly the agitation for greater reproductive control, that abortion and even the most minute efforts at birth control and family planning (such as the right of a wife to occasionally refuse sex) were denounced as sinful. Suddenly, clergymen and the AMA denounced all forms of birth control, abortion clinics were invaded and the generally female operators were hauled in to court. By 1900, most abortions had been outlawed and by 1965, it was completely banned in all states.
But even then, not all Christians considered abortion sinful, nor did they feel that eradicating it was god's will. In fact, some felt that they were ethically compelled to assist women who were seeking to terminate a pregnancy so that they would not fall prey to infection or illness or death in a botched back-alley abortion. Before Roe v. Wade, there existed an organization of spiritual authority -- The Clergy Consultation Service On Abortion -- that referred women to safe (albeit illegal) abortions. At its founding in 1967, the network consisted of one rabbi and 26 ministers; by the time of Roe in 1973, there were more than a thousand. Today, Christian women also do not unanimously share in this consensus on the will of their deity. One third of women who choose abortion are Christians, and 25% are Catholics.
It's always amusing when the biblical Curse of Eve is cited as evidence that sexual deference and reproduction is a woman's ultimate duty, and to shirk it is to shirk divine will. Genesis tells us that, after the ill-fated apple snacking, god said to Eve, "I will increase your labor and your groaning, and in labor you shall bear children. You shall be eager for your husband and he shall be your master." But then god goes on and tells Adam that "…accursed shall be the ground on your account. With labor you shall win your food from it all the days of your life. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, none but wild plants for you to eat. You shall gain your bread by the sweat of your brow."
Well, I don't think the ease of modern agriculture -- not to mention GMOs -- was what the curse-happy god in this story had in mind, not to mention the fact that most guys get their bread from the local supermarket without breaking a sweat at all. It looks like the Sons of Adam are welching a little on their divine duty; in fact, they seem more than happy with the societal advances that allow them to do it. So it's fair to figure that, until all men are toiling the hard ground and battling thorns and thistles, the Daughters of Eve are equally free to find technological ways out of their own curse as well.
But who are we kidding? The story of Adam and Eve is not even a Judeo-Christian story. It's Sumerian, an ancient pagan fairy tale. Why would anyone, including Catholics or Christians, seriously consider this to be a social blueprint? The two thousand-year-old mountaintop ravings of hallucinating desert patriarchs may still be considered morally relevant by some, but they could hardly be rationally consulted on other matters, such as agricultural practices, medical treatments, sanitation or hygiene. Like other valuable civilized advances, modern abortion is a natural and liberating progression of the expression of our perhaps existentially wrangled, perhaps divinely endowed, free will.
So what is it about this particular medical advance that stirs up such hysterical opposition? The anti-abortionist assertion that abortion is murder is based on fantasy. It is in the first eight weeks of pregnancy -- or the embryo stage -- that 50% of all abortions occur. Almost 90% occur before the fetus is fully formed at twelve weeks. An embryo or a fetus is demonstrably not a separate human being -- its dependency and growth patterns make it more like an organ of the mother's body -- and to assign legal rights or citizenship to it is not just insupportable, it's hilarious. There may be fantasies and emotional connections associated with an embryo or fetus by anticipatory parents and so on, but granting it an individual status would be as absurd as assigning civil rights to a fictional character in a novel. A woman could miscarry in the embryo phase and find it indistinguishable from menstruation, unable to detect evidence of a pregnancy. In fact, in menstruation, miscarriage and ejaculation, the fertile potential of all human beings, men and women alike, is routinely shed. This profligate shedding of reproductive potential is a common and natural aspect of the human sexual cycle.
Abortions after the first twelve weeks -- or in the second trimester as the Supreme Court has legally divided and defined the stages -- are uncommon. Abortions in the third trimester, which we have recently heard so much about, are extremely rare. Third trimester abortions are practiced only as a medical intervention in traumatic cases, despite rhetoric surrounding the so-called "partial-birth" abortion ban which passed earlier this year. Abortion opponents applauded the ban but they ought to consider the issue more deeply. I don't think that anyone really wants an outside party to dictate whether or not they must lose their own lives -- or surrender the lives of their daughters or wives, girlfriends, sisters or mothers -- to her pregnancy or any other condition as determined by federal law. Isn't the course one takes when faced with such a difficult medical crisis a deeply personal decision, to be weighed by the patient, her physician, and her family, and not to be weighed by the state?
Do anti-abortion Christians want the federal government to have the legal right to interfere with their family values and practices? Should these private decisions really be left to the authority of the government or, for that matter, the Church?
While anti-abortionists make the claim that abortion is murder and that they are representatives of the Church, which abhors murder, this is not and has not always been the case. All religions have an ambivalent history in relation to murder and violence, and Christianity is certainly no exception. The Catholic and Christian Church does not have a very consistent record as a defender of the value of human life and has quite often instead been associated with or an instigator of murder and oppression. The Crusades and the Inquisition are obvious examples, as well as the centuries of Christian anti-Semitism out of which the Holocaust arose and the dehumanization and massacre of Native Americans by Christian settlers. More recently, one can fairly ask why was there no "right to life" rallying for the children of Afghanistan and Iraq? Instead, a large majority of the American Christian right were cheering, waving flags, and condoning murder in the name of patriotism or national security.
Some extremist anti-abortionist groups in the United States clearly encourage and practice a virulent form of domestic terrorism, undiscouraged even by the anti-terrorist crusaders in the current administration. Clinics have been the targets of vandalism, arson, bombs, and even chemical weapons (three clinics in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas were vandalized with the toxic industrial chemical butyric acid). After the WTC disaster of 9/11, over 250 abortion and family planning clinics were sent letters that claimed to contain anthrax.
The Christian ambivalence regarding violence and murder is further exemplified by the priests and ministers who sanction and praise the murder of doctors who perform abortions, as morbidly demonstrated by the Christmas bombings of 1984 by the infamous Operation Rescue. Randall Terry, the group's founder, called the clinic bombings "a birthday gift for Jesus." I'm no theologian but it seems to me that acts of violence are a somewhat inappropriate homage to the so-called Prince of Peace. The most painfully glaring and tragic example of the anti-abortionists hypocrisy is demonstrated by the case of Spring Adams, who in 1989 was shot by her own father to prevent her from having an abortion.
Following an extreme -- and extremely confusing -- anti-abortionist logic, he had self-righteously killed his own child to prevent her from committing the sin of killing a child.
All evidence, historical and contemporary alike, indicates that the Church as an institution and its anti-abortion adherents do not necessarily have any inherent objection to murder. However, they do demand control over who makes such decisions. They will determine which lives have value and which do not, which lives must be protected and which are expendable. Similarly, their objection to abortion is not based on a belief that no one has a right to make decisions that will control the fate of another's life, but rather that women do not have the right to make those decisions. In fact, anti-abortionists insist that they have a greater right to control the terms of existence for a woman that they do not even know than she has for herself.
One way that anti-abortion propagandists attempt to make up for this brutal indifference to women's fates is by claiming that in the attempt to end abortions they are actually defending women's interests because abortion is psychologically damaging. Indeed, being called whores or sinners or told that they'll go to hell as the result of having an abortion is very psychologically damaging. However, post-abortion studies have overwhelmingly shown that the most common feeling following the actual procedure is relief. The single greatest determinant for the state of a woman's psychological health after an abortion was her psychological stability before she became pregnant.
Then there is the great social and mythical value placed on motherhood. Motherhood is supposedly a sanctified vocation that the Church, anti-abortionists -- as well as the Christian right that politically represents them -- vociferously supports. So why does their economic and political agenda make motherhood for women today so isolating and impoverishing and often impossible? Why don't they support equal wages for women, and job protections through childcare leave acts? Where was the outrage of the anti-abortion movement when the House recently cut the low-income family child tax credit out of the tax bill, depriving 12 million American children and their families of desperately needed assistance, while maintaining such nefarious evasions like off-shore tax havens for wealthy corporations? Where is the outrage of the anti-abortion movement when single mothers lose welfare benefits and consequently, they and their children fall well below the poverty line? In that environment other pregnant women, who might not otherwise consider abortion, are forced to confront the financial reality that motherhood is impossible for them. Far from elevating motherhood and families, the Christian right and the Bush administration have been aggressively hostile towards them.
There is only one strictly delineated form of motherhood that anti-abortionists and the Christian right do support. Traditional patriarchal institutions assume and enforce the existence of a coerced and sexually exploited behind-the-scenes and off-the-books domestic and childcare labor force: Women. This is the old nuclear family model of motherhood, the reality behind the myth, where women are required to labor seven days a week, sequestered in their homes without wages, rendered financially dependent on their husbands. It is understood by both pro-choice and anti-abortion activists that a woman's pursuit of education, career or independence of any kind will always depend on her ability to control her own fertility and to decide when and if she wants to bear children. This desire for independence is an elementary human striving, but in women it has had a large socioeconomic impact on patriarchal structures and a particularly intimate and extremely emotional effect on men.
In 1991, Susan Faludi wrote that when abortion was legalized in 1973, "American women had been terminating about one in three pregnancies for at least the last hundred years…the only real difference post-Roe was that women were now able to abort unwanted pregnancies legally -- and safely… to regulate their fertility without danger or fear -- a new freedom that in turn had contributed to dramatic changes not in the abortion rate but in female sexual behavior and attitudes. Having secured first the mass availability of contraceptive devices and then the option of medically sound abortions, women were at last at liberty to have sex, like men, on their own terms."
This paragraph succinctly reveals the sexual anxieties seething beneath the opposition to abortion. For instance, anti-abortionists place a continual emphasis on "saving the innocent." Why was the fetus sunk in the lining of her uterus "innocent" but young Spring Adams was not? Why is it that any embryo or fetus, clearly not a functioning moral entity of any stripe, is always rather oddly referred to as "innocent?" The myth of fetal innocence is invented in direct opposition to the pregnant woman who by virtue of being pregnant without the desire to become a mother, is not innocent, i.e. she has engaged in sexuality for her own reasons. Why do anti-abortionists refuse to support sex-education and contraceptives, both statistically proven to reduce abortion rates? Why don't they demand new research to make contraceptives safer and more effective (and since women are only occasionally fertile and men always are, why not finance research on contraceptives for men and actively promote them)? More effective and better access to contraceptives would reduce abortions, but merely preventing pregnancy from occurring to begin with would not serve as a profound mechanism of behavioral control.
In the eyes of the anti-abortionists, independent female desire is the sin; the existential elevation of the fetus is the instrument of punishment for that transgression.
If the Christian right and the anti-abortion movement was serious about caring for women and children -- and if they were serious about reducing the need for and thus the incidence of abortion -- they would praise and support women in the full latitude of their personal ambitions. They would work tirelessly to transform the very structures of our society, so that sexual and economic exploitation and biological and social determinism are purged from women's lives. But the Christian right and the anti-abortion movement is instead dedicated to asserting spiritual and sexual control through censure, deprivation, intimidation, and terrorism. It is a metaphysical and socioeconomic struggle for domination that exploits the cause of morality in the pursuit of power, an unfortunate but not uncommon practice with a very long, very grim history. It is a war of patriarchal control. It is waged in the name of inventions -- "innocents" who, in the end, are nothing more than a flag to be waved for their cause, and justified by a limited set of interpretations regarding the existence of the divine and the structures and laws of an unseen world.
Abortion has and will always be with us. Even in the best of circumstances there will always be some women who become pregnant but do not elect to bear children. Sex is one of the great psychic and physical forces of our primal humanity and very difficult to predict or control. People will have unprotected sex and even if they don't, at least in their present state of effectiveness, contraceptives occasionally fail. Abortion is an essential for female material self-determination but more deeply, in a spiritual dimension that is entirely denied, abortion is a philosophical aspiration, an expression of the heroic human quest for self-transcendence. Like Prometheus' stolen fire, abortion belongs to the realm of the sacred. It is an affirmation of the transcendent existence of the body, elevated beyond mere functionality.
Modern abortion remains a powerful and wonderful medical tool that helps women build their own futures and its long history and practice is sacred in its own way. Don't let the self-proclaimed "pro-lifers" confuse you as much as they have woefully confused themselves. There is no reason for anyone to sacrifice control of their own body and life to someone else's conclusions -- or confusions -- about the structures and demands of an unseen world. The belief system that a woman aligns herself with is indeed her own choice. This freedom of choice is not only her secular right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is also quite legitimately her spiritual right to re-invent divinity, her own freedom of religion.
By the way, the last time I heard the phrase "Choose life," I got curious, executed a random sampling and checked for pulses. I found that women -- even sexually active unmarried women -- were conclusively alive. So go ahead, my friends, heed the call and choose life. Your life. However you believe you ought to live it.
10 September 03
Now a full-fledged Morphizm columnist, Myshel Prasad is the fearless leader of the indie rock outfit, Space Team Electra, as well as one hell of a poet, actress, Lollapalooza slammer and hoops shit-talker. Space Team Electra's latest album, The Intergalactic Torch Song, is available from Sonic Halo Records.
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