Whatever happened to “live and let live?” Apparently, ISIS, Al Qaeda and an increasing number of assorted crazy religious fanatics are violently opposed to tolerating people who live and worship differently. Sadly, the peace, love and brotherhood movement—near and dear to all US baby boomers—has died. No one ever says “Make love, not war” any more. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true (and not just in Syria, Afghanistan and Iran)to name a few faraway countries. Right here in America—supposedly the home of the brave and land of the free—guns and money rule more than ever before.
Last Friday, November 27th, Robert Dear attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, killing three people and wounding nine others with a semi-automatic rifle. Mr. Dear (who should be renamed Fear) was a staunch abortion opponent. “No more baby parts,” he replied, when asked why he attacked the clinic. The pro-life movement opposes the rights of women to terminate early, unwanted pregnancies. Pro-Lifers and the Catholic Church wring their hands over “the taking of innocent lives” and like to see themselves as protectors of defenseless babies. But why not value the lives of women who are simply seeking health care and contraception? Or the police officer who died protecting the legal rights of female patients at the Planned Parenthood clinic?
For the first time in my life, one of these anti-abortion supporters called me at home, soliciting a donation to end the murder of innocent babies. “I’m pro-choice. Please don’t ever call me again,” I replied, before hanging up. Numb and horrified, I wondered how this person got my unlisted number and why she reached out to me, of all people. Maybe it’s the same reason there are 16 Republican presidential candidates, who are mostly committed to repealing Roe vs. Wade, in addition to doing everything in their power to destroy Planned Parenthood including secretly recording videos and deceptively editing them to incite rage and hatred of the Republican Party’s growing misogynist base.
Look no further than former House Speaker John Boehner’s repeated lie that fetal tissue donation is an “abortion-for-baby-parts-business.” Enter our beloved and now infamous Mr. Dear, who has been immortalized on the front pages of the Times for the past week. (See “Shooting at Planned Parenthood Adds to Challenges for Congress,” The New York Times, 11/20/15). Further inflaming the pro-life extremists, was Senator Ted Cruz, who called Planned Parenthood a criminal enterprise and claimed the widely-discredited videos uncovered “Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices.” (See Cruz’s evangelical outreach shifts into high gear,” The Washington Post, 8/23/15).
Even at a dinner among friends, one man asked if I agreed that “Ben Carson is the most intelligent of all the Republican presidential candidates.” Normally, Henry and I stay out of political discussions, but I couldn’t resist. “Carson may be a gifted neurosurgeon, but that doesn’t make him smart in my book. Carson opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. How could I possibly consider him intelligent or reasonable?” I could feel my face flush.
“What’s the big deal about abortion?” his wife jumped in. “Even before it was legal, you could always get an abortion if you needed it.” Of course, she was right— IF you’re white, educated and have money—a safe abortion has been (and probably always will be) possible, especially in large, sophisticated cities like New York. But what about the less-privileged, poor and uneducated young women living in rural areas, who are more likely to become pregnant teen agers? Should their only choice be risking their lives in a back alley, coat hanger abortion? Why compel children to birth children they are ill-equipped to raise? Won’t everyone pay higher taxes for social services to support these unwanted babies? Aren’t Republicans against higher taxes?
Our dinner conversation moved on. We easily agreed that the entire field of presidential candidates was seriously deficient in myriad ways. The discussion moved onto less controversial topics: health problems, European travel and the pros and cons of designer handbags. All in all, we enjoyed a fun and lively evening. No doubt the six of us will vote for different presidential candidates, or perhaps, refrain from voting altogether. But we all agreed to disagree, while remaining friends. It seems that simple. Why can’t the rest of the world adopt that strategy?