Monday, July 04, 2005

Finding Common Ground

I wrote the passage below (lightly edited for privacy purposes here) on October 27, 1985. I had recently turned 27. My neighbor, a few years older than I, was raising three children and would soon be raising a fourth. We'd lived next door to each other for 2-1/2 years. She was a born-again Christian, I a nonobservant Jew with a strong sense of my own, unconventional spirituality.

I present this on our nation's day of collective celebration amidst deep divisions on our many hot-button issues:


"Most abortions are performed out of fear," my neighbor said. "Young girls are afraid their parents will find out. Or afraid they can't afford to take care of the baby." She had gone on to say how a lot of young women -- girls -- don't use birth control, and go in and get abortions because they figure they can always do it again and again. And how that is mindless killing.

I said, "I agree that abortions are performed where the girl has a cavalier attitude toward sex, and thinks an abortion is like getting a tooth pulled." That was something my mother had drummed into me, how many of her students would get one abortion after another. I added, "But in a lot of cases, I feel that an abortion can be a 'mercy killing,' if you will -- that it can prevent so much that is worse." For various reasons I had once kept my own, secret "abortion fund," into which I had spirited my paychecks.

My neighbor said, "It's really the parents' fault. They're too busy to tell their children about morals, or can't be bothered, and the kids go out and do whatever they want."

"It's a double-whammy," I said. "It's not only teachings the kids don't get; it's love, too. And they find it however and wherever they can."

We agreed on that.

Simple love and acceptance as the key elements necessary for living and growth: that we agreed on.

The need for a good moral foundation, preferably coming from parents: that, too, we agreed on.


All ideally.

We disagree on issues because the world is not perfect. Far from it.

My neighbor said, "You see girls dressed out on the street in the low-cut blouses and tight-fitting pants, because they want to get boys' attention. And the boys whistle and they wiggle some more. Now what would you say they look like?"

"Prostitutes," I agreed.

"And that's what most of your abortion cases are," my neighbor said. "The young girls go out and act like floozies, 90%. And I do feel sorry for them; it's love that they want."

"I don't think most of the cases are like that. Not 90%," I said. "A lot of the cases are like that, I think -- but I don't see outlawing abortion as the answer. Women have gotten backstreet abortions all along."

"This would deter it," she said.

"I'm not so sure." I added, "I know what my situation was. In a sense, I feel my sterilization is like an 'ultimate abortion,' because I am no longer viewed as a 'breeder'."

"But that's fine, because you didn't allow a life to start."

We were working with different gauges.

I told my neighbor there are cases like the 14-year-old girl who in 1984 was raped and who conceived a child from that rape. Retarded, deaf and mute, blind. How by the time the Supreme Court granted her funds for her abortion she was 6 months pregnant. I said, "That absolutely sent shivers up my spine."

"But there the mother's life was in danger," my neighbor said.

Neither of us, then, dealt in absolutes. To my neighbor, an abortion is allowable if a rape took place, or if mother or fetus is in mortal danger. She said, "It's like Welfare -- and you know I'm in favor of Welfare! But you've got people sponging off the government and the women who need the money get penalized."

Suddenly I thought we were agreeing.

I said, "If abortion were made illegal you'd still have those cases of rape and endangered lives, though. Nothing comes in black and white."

"Yeah, but in legalizing abortion they're giving approval to immoral behavior."

"Not really. I'm pro-choice, but I believe it is a question of each individual following his or her own conscience."

We agreed on that. And we were back to morality.

In the town where she used to live, my neighbor had taken her daughter out of a sex education class because it "condoned sex." In the town where she lives now, the parents are shown a preview of an educational film and given the choice as to whether or not to allow their children to see it. We are both in favor of sex ed in schools, but with the qualification that the children are given some moral foundation to go by -- that preferably the education comes from the home and from loving parents.

"I started telling my daughter the facts of life when she was nine," my neighbor said. "But only what she needed to know, what she was ready for. Now she's gotten her period and she's asking more questions -- because now is the right time."

When my neighbor was in high school she was "wild" -- said she hung out with "the wild bunch."

I told her, "We're coming to this from different perspectives. I was a flaming Puritan when I was in high school. I'd read in a Modess book that sperm passes out of the penis during sleep and no one, not even my mother, could convince me I didn't have to be afraid to be in the same room with a man who was sleeping!"

We agreed that we disagree on issues -- but the important thing is that we can talk about them. I feel we are both hovering between absolutes -- and what we each grasp and hold onto comes straight from the heart, from our own individual experiences.

Diary excerpt, December 30, 1994

I sit here wondering what I can do -- how I can be of help -- in the aftermath of the clinic shootings in Brookline. One woman was killed and 2 people injured at Preterm, by a fanatic [John Salvi] wielding a shotgun, who also shot and killed/wounded at a 2nd Brookline clinic. I think it may be time for me to call Mass Choice, but there must be another component to this, something beyond lobbying and rallies. There must be a spiritual component, not blind politicking. The gunman is still at large, and it needs to be made clear, legislatively, spiritually, and otherwise, that these murders are unacceptable, uncivilized, and without justification of any sort. Eleven years ago I was sterilized at Preterm. Had this gunman struck then, I could be dead.


Blogger Kalibhakta said...

Hey, this is Kalibhakta-- thanks for reading! It's always good to find other Mary Daly fans.

I used to live in Florida-- actually was born & raised there.

One of the reasons I started blogging was I'd not seen many good blogs, and now they're popping up everywhere. I've enjoyed what I've seen of yours and will be reading more--


9:24 PM  

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