Same job, different uniform.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Don't want to make a big deal of it, but...

Sometimes, we speak past each other. In making our points, we hear, incompletely, what the other person was saying before we spoke, and we only catch the part of the response that lines up with our predispositions or the most defensible portion of our arguments. And so we talk without communicating, a blaze of sound and fury signifying nothing.

I have always wanted to use that phrase, by the by.

But there is a deeper form of speaking past one another that comes from an inability or unwillingness to examine an issue from the perspective of the other person. In so doing, we utterly invalidate their thinking; we do not accept it as a perspective that bears consideration. Now, while I can understand a blanket unwillingness to consider the viewpoint of, say, Holocaust apologists or deniers, the idea that the concerns of honest, committed, caring individuals should be ignored or marginalized because we do not want to argue on their turf is, I believe, indefensible.

What is wrong with a pro-choice woman being willing to argue the question of abortion from the viewpoint of morality, of higher value? Obviously, the answers we uncover have effects on society as a whole, and whether is more or less humane and livable. Likewise, I find it absolutely reasonable to examine the issue from the perspective of individual women in deep distress and pain, who are searching for a way to move beyond the present circumstances into lives of promise and meaning. I believe the issue, as abstract and individual-specific as we might care to talk it through, deserves more concentrated and honest discussion than we usually are willing to give it. We know the arguments on a basic level; we also know the ways we dismiss those with whom we virulently disagree. Neither does us any damn good at all.

I stepped into that pit to point out that middle ground exists, or, at the very least, that there is room for conversation. On one hand, I am sure I was dismissed as either naive or insufficiently willing to understand that women get hurt when abortions are illegal. And they do, mostly because, desperately, they seek to change their circumstances however they can. On the other hand, I discovered that my dear friend girlfriday is entirely aware of BOTH sides of the question. I can attest to her intelligence, her humanity, and her empathy. I can also say, without equivocation, that having deeply understood the issue from any angle you might be willing to toss in, she has concluded, in her mind and heart, that abortion is not merely a bad choice; it is wrong.

She does not demonize those women who have chosen to abort. I do not believe she is capable of it. But she also believes, I think correctly, that women must take full responsibility for their choices, and that it is irresponsible to have sex without taking precautions if the intent is NOT to get pregnant. And as I read her, a woman's choice of abortion, even within the context of dire circumstances, is more deeply harmful to her in an emotional and spiritual sense than carrying the child to term would be. These are, I believe, honest and entirely defensible viewpoints.

I guess my larger point within the context of my endless series of digressions is simple willingness to admit that the other side might have a valid point or two. It happens. And if we do not see that, we fall victim to a form of hubris that is as arrogant as it is wrongheaded.

Worse, there is this: we all have someone in our life who is a pompous, ignorant know-it-all. We all know some jackass who bloviates to frightening degrees about things of which he is only tangentially aware, and whom, if possible, we would like to send far, far away. Well. Given the people you interact with on a day to day basis and the circles within which you operate, the chances are excellent to prohibitive that, for someone you know, you are that jackass.

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Blogger Julie said...

I am totally a jackass, though I don't know what this conversation is about.

But I am a jackass.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Birth control is a big part of the picture here as you said. Well, the responsibility to use it is the big part. I have known friends and relatives in various stages of neglecting their responsibilities. One circumstance comes to mind of my best friend, a devout Christian single mother of five who spent years volunteering through her church with unwed pregnant moms so that they would not choose abortion. Years later, after divorcing her husband upon finding out he had been molesting her oldest daughter, this same daughter wound up pregnant. She was young and had ADD and many troubles with acting out - going into debt shopping, drinking, drugs and sleeping around. Reluctantly my best friend who is pro-life took her daughter to get an abortion. A few years later, the same thing happens and the daughter has the baby not knowing who the dad is until paternity test results come back. The father is engaged to someone else, so now she's a single mother. This time, having a baby put her on the right track in her life. Of course, there's no way to know what would have happened the first time, but my friend and her daughter had to make that difficult judgement. A couple years after the baby was born, the dad comes around for one of his occaisional visits and she gets pregnant again! Very irresponsible of both of them. She now has two babies, is still single, and the dad is married to someone else. But she is almost done with college, has owned her own business, and loves her kids who are a blessing to her whole family. It is not an ideal situation, it is just the truth of the matter. One way to see things from all sides. I say that I'm reluctantly pro-choice because I wouldn't want to endanger women who are choosing, but personally haven't ever had to choose. Am I so responsible, or am I so lucky?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Blogger girlfriday said...

I speak past people all the time. I'm an expert in fact.

One of the ways I (sometimes) remember not to is by recalling to mind the acting lessons that, hey, you and I took together. Remember the exercise where you look your partner in the face and each of you in turn repeats one word or a single phrase? "I'm bored," for example. When you begin to listen carefully, you realize your partner is telling you an infinite number of things, most of them nothing to do with his boredom. Then you begin to listen.

Of course inflection, facial expressions, tone--these things are lost on a blog. Not surprisingly, damage can still be done.

Unfortunately I don't remember this exercise enough. Instead I'm pig-headed, stubborn and afflicted with more than a woman's reason (I think him so becasue I think him so). I am a human being.

A humbling post (I'd call it "a keeper") that makes me love you even more!

Sunday, December 02, 2007


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