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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Letter to My Brother


This began as a letter to my younger brother. I wanted to compliment him on the incredibly brilliant essays he has been writing. My brother and I have written thousands and thousands of pages of letters to each other over the years yet you will find very little in the way of anything even remotely personal. Our letters are concerned almost exclusively with our intellectual development with regards to books we are reading, politics, sports, popular culture, you name it. What these letters rarely touch on are our private lives which, at least for me, is a rather dull subject. This isn't to say that my own private life is any more boring than that of anyone else, it's just that I think there are a lot of more important topics in the world to address in letters. Instead of just sending this to my brother, I will share it with anyone who cares to get a glimpse of what our correspondence looks like.

* The title of this essay comes from the military manner of writing the date. It is one of the few things the military does right. It is the easiest and least ambiguous way to write the date. It is also how I title most of the letters I have sent to my brother.

First of all, let me again say just how great your writing has been these past several weeks. Yours was absolutely the best response I read regarding the McCain acceptance speech. I just amazes me that the race is so close considering what a wreck the country is in after eight years of Bush. Could you imagine eight years equally as disastrous after a Democratic administration? Christ, the Supreme Court would just appoint a Republican without bothering with an election. The hicks still want to believe in all of the mythology and buzz words they are fed: the liberal press, “tax and spend” democrats, American might and its ability to sway the world, and the power of Jesus Christ our savior. It's all pretty much the same lie when you think about it. The hicks just can't stop thinking about all of those aborted fetuses, never mind that more abortions are probably necessary under their type of ignorant (as far as sex education, among other things) rule. And don't even to mention that botched abortions were the number one cause of death of women of child bearing age before it was legal.

That is what delivered all of the religious hicks to the Republican camp: the sanctity of life. The Republicans took an incredibly complex and agonizing issue and turned it into a campaign slogan. They reduced one of the most difficult moral quandaries of our modern era and turned it into a fucking bumper sticker. Of course, everyone is “against” abortion; anything else is a complete absurdity. I remember being taught about sex education in the 10th grade. The first speaker we had was from the anti-abortion camp. This woman showed us pictures of aborted fetuses. The next day we had a young woman from Planned Parenthood talk to the class. Talk about a hard act to follow. The kids were literally screaming at her about how terrible abortion is. I mean, why not? It is terrible. What you come to realize as a rational adult is that the issue is extremely complicated. The conservatives have made sure that the argument has remained decidedly uncomplicated among their constituents. Abortion is killing babies.

Of course, they never talk about the alternative, even though we know exactly what the alternative looks like—it's called history. History is a taboo subject for the conservatives because history looks a lot like the world they are trying to create. History looked pretty awful, for the most part, and we have been trying to distance ourselves from history for the benefit of nearly everyone. It's called progress, it's called making the world better. History tells us that abortion was always with us and that is was dangerous and even more horrifying before it became legal for every woman. History tells us that relatively safe abortions were always available to any woman of means, but for poor women their choices were unsafe and often lethal. A return to that history will not be a step forward, to think otherwise is insane and irresponsible.

The thing is, these days you don't even need to rely on history to point out the horrible flaws in the argument of the Pro-life movement. Just compare countries in the world in which abortion is legal with those where it is not. I seriously doubt that any modern person—man or woman, but especially women—would choose to live in a country where abortion is illegal. Ireland, one of the only European countries where abortion is completely illegal (unless the mother's life is at risk), probably isn't as bad as the rest on the list, but I would imagine that the Catholic Church's grip will break and laws there will change to mirror the rest of Europe. Spain, where legal abortion is now limited, is in the process of writing a new law on the procedure to put the country in line with the other European social democracies. Even Turkey, with a mostly Muslim populace, has legal abortion until the 10th week. Does America want to be more like Sweden, Holland, Germany, and France, or more like Brazil, Belorussia, Saudi Arabia, or Iran? Take your time. Think about it.

Conservatives never talk about the past when framing their black-and-white argument for making abortion illegal once again. They want you to believe that abortion has always been legal and that by criminalizing it, America will return to an age of innocence (which is an incredible contradiction if you think about it). However, that age of “innocence” is right there to see in history books. It was a pretty bad place, for the most part. Most liberals want America to be a place where abortions are not necessary, not a country where abortion is illegal. That is the huge difference between American conservatives and liberals. Conservatives who oppose abortion almost always are also opposed to contraception and sex education. We have recently seen the results of this type of thinking. Just take a look at the family of the Republican candidate for vice president.* The leaders of the Republican Party don't give a damn about abortion. As America's economic elite, abortion will always be an option for them.

The conservatives are also trying to push our economic world back to a former era. An era before income taxes, a time before labor unions, an age of no government control of industry, back when they were able to operate without any regard for the environment or the health and safety of workers. Once again, the Republicans' vision of getting “the government off our backs” is something we have already lived through as a nation. We just spent the better part of the part of the last century literally fighting in the streets to escape from that bleak past and now conservatives want us to return on our own free will. The economic model conservatives are seeking has already existed in our past and we didn't like it. It also exists in the world today in countries like Brazil and Mexico with grinding poverty living beside people with incredible wealth. We can also choose another economic model, a model that we invented and then let slip away with the advent of the conservative movement under Ronald Reagan. Once again, does America want to be more like modern day Brazil with its horrible disparities of income, or more like the social democracies of Western Europe?

Another incredibly irony of the mentality of conservatives is their refusal to accept the fact that life on earth has evolved, that it is a process. A political movement that has denied history is also denying the history of species. Once again, our economic elite couldn't give two shits about evolution, one way or another. They do pay lip service to the evangelicals, however. If Republicans didn't court the Jesus freaks, who the else would vote for them? The platform of the Republican Party only represents about the top ten percent of American earners so they fill their ranks by claiming to be the party of morality, or at least a parody of morality that they have created to dupe the religious fanatics.

To me the choices are simple: we either go back or we go forward. You can either deny history (and be forced to repeat it) or work to change things for the better

*The subject of the family of the Republican candidate for vice president is supposed to be off-limits in this political debate. I would agree if only she herself had not spent at least ten minutes introducing her all-American family during her acceptance speech at the convention. This is a woman who opposes sex education in schools yet her own 17-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant. I guess the message here is that it's OK for a teenager to have an illegitimate child if you come from a family of means.

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