Ah, Facebook. It’s such a great way to touch bases with former students and stay updated on family far and wide. It’s also a very odd place to get into political discussions. Ultimately, you end up interacting with people who have no context to you other than opposing political views. That’s not necessarily bad, it’s just…well, not an area for which there’s much established protocol.
I’ve watched it on my own wall, where tons of friends react to postings. I know all of them. I know what tends to motivate them; I know their lenses; I know a lot about them. They know nothing about each other, and often make assumptions about each other that are way off the mark.
On other people’s walls, I am one of those commenters responding to people I don’t know in the least. Take Dane’s Facebook page: We went to high school together, and our principle connection was a shared passion for Monty Python and Star Wars (episodes IV and V—VI wasn’t out yet). He’s very conservative these days and posted the following on his Facebook: “‘A government big enough to supply you with everything you need is a government big enough to take away everything that you have…. The course of history shows that as the government grows, liberty decreases.’ Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826).”
Alan, a guy I was in several classes with and a liberal, responded that he didn’t want a government that provided everything. He just felt that government should level the playing field for the marginalized. He complained that such ideas didn’t hold as much emotional appeal as conservative rugged individualism because they weren’t as gunslinger-sexy. Alan, Dane, and I know each other, so I jumped in, agreeing with Alan, but teasing him a bit by bringing up The Magnificent Seven as an example of sexy gunslingers looking out for the little guy. (At this point, I’ll skip all the subsequent discussion about The Magnificent Seven and The Seven Samurai with Hyon, another classmate.)
In pops Kelly, who says that liberals don’t look out for the very weakest—the unborn. Um…I don’t know Kelly (though both Dane and Alan do), and this is a touchy subject, but I have to bring up something that really bothers me about the general conservative agenda, which appears to care deeply for the unborn, but kind of loses interest once they make their big entrance into the world of the independently breathing. Naturally, I don’t understand professing to care for innocent unborn babies while your party is pushing for deep cuts to programs like WIC that assure adequate nutrition to children under five. Bigger still, I don’t understand professing a desire to stop abortion while simultaneously pushing for abstinence-only sex ed, which delays sex an average of 5 months, but makes the couple half as likely to use contraceptives. I did, however, clarify that I believe life begins at conception. We have this as common ground.
Go back. Reread Dane’s post. Whoda thunk it would go here?
Kelly writes back. He has adopted two children. He wouldn’t have them if pregnant girls hadn’t given up their babies. He’s a big proponent of adoption. I can certainly get behind that. But then we end up in this rather strange and complicated discussion. Appropriately, he begins to message me, rather than posting on the wall, but he also requests to friend me. Well, heck, there are all kinds of people on my friends list from my giant school that I barely know and many I’m not sure I know at all, so why not?
But here, the discussion becomes impossible to reach any consensus on. He mentions that the pill acts as an abortifacient. I do some research, and sure enough, my understanding of how the pill works is about 20 years behind the times. When I was in high school and on the pill, it was Ortho Novum 150—a high enough dose to halt ovulation completely. But it carried a lot of serious side effects, so the dose has been lowered. Now, breakthrough ovulation can occur, but a fertilized egg cannot implant because the lining of the uterus is too thin because of the drug.
I find myself falling back to my beliefs regarding abortion when the mental or physical health of the mother is in serious jeopardy. The mother is human, too. Sometimes, one of them must be lost as collateral damage, and the woman has people who depend upon her, so her life is the one you save. It’s an ugly, complicated point of view, but it’s one we accept in war, isn’t it? How many people have we been willing to sacrifice in Afghanistan for our own security and peace of mind? How many people have died in Iraq—not to protect our people but because it made us feel like we were doing something about a threat we couldn’t nail down?
I know that in developing countries, allowing women reproductive control raises everyone’s standard of living. I know that a disproportionate number of my at-risk students came from parents who were teens when those kids were born. I have seen the results of parenting conducted by kids who were at-risk themselves, lacking impulse control. Very few of these kids give their babies up. They say, “I can’t give my baby away.”
Kelly feels that girls should wait and boys should respect them, and sexually active couples should practice natural methods of contraception to “respect fertility.” (He opposes all forms of artificial contraception.) There comes a point where such a discussion can’t go any further. I don’t understand the whole idea of “respecting fertility.” To me that’s like “respecting digestion.” It’s a physical process. It’s not even as necessary as digestion to sustaining life. If you don’t want babies, you should be allowed to prevent them in a safe, reliable fashion.
Expecting teens, whose brains are not fully developed, especially when it comes to impulse control (though their hormones are in full-swing), to use natural methods of birth control is utterly unrealistic. As I said, many do not give up their babies, and there’s something creepy anyway about denying them access to practical contraceptives with the idea that this will have the added benefit of providing childless couples with plenty of children to adopt. I teach these girls. However much one may revere women as “a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body” (from one of Kelly’s posts), they are humans in their own right, with dreams, aspirations, and hearts.
I have taught children who were taken away from their very young birthparents too late to undo the damage done to them before social services became aware of what was happening. I have taught the children of teen parents who become teen parents themselves. Kelly says the government shouldn’t have to provide for these children. The fathers should be forced to, and that will act as a powerful deterrent to teen sex. Tell that to the girls I’ve taught—yes “girls,” as in more than one—whose babies’ fathers are in jail.
So if the pill means that there are zygotes out there that cannot implant, I guess I can live with that. I’m not saying I don’t think that tiny collection of cells is human. It’s not an easy conclusion to come to or to hold. It is fraught with contradiction, and I am uncomfortable with it. I can understand and even respect pro-life positions—even those that value the life of the baby over the life of the mother. I understand and respect people who define humanity at some other point, such as the second trimester or viability outside the womb, though I find these definitions problematic. I just think we all have to acknowledge that, no matter which side of the fence you’re on or to what degree you straddle it, there will be collateral damage. No one should be entirely comfortable with their position. There is no true moral high ground.
But…um…watch out for big government and enjoy The Magnificent Seven?