Wednesday, September 22, 2004
On principles and abortion
I have to be one of the luckiest guys around.
From the time I signed up with Homespun, I have had the opportunity to read and learn from some very fine minds- some like minded, some almost like minded and some not so like minded. Maybe it's because I'm new at this, but writing this blog has been an eye opener. I thought I'd have so much to contribute on my own, but in reality, whatever few words I do write are much influenced by my peers, bloggers and readers alike. I learn from you-- and that helps me.
Bunker, Paulie and crew at The Commons, Arthur, Marvin, Jeremy, Tom, Sherry and everyone else on HSB have become good influences on me. You guys make me think. Sometimes, I feel like the guy that holds everyone back-- I ask myself, 'why didn't I see that' or 'That's what I'm trying to say!' and so on. Of course, ego being what it is, I'd like to think I've given other bloggers and readers a few things to ponder.
The one undercurrent here at HSB that seems to be almost universal, is morality. Everyone, it seems has a view, opinion and belief structure that helps define them in a world of the mundane.
I like that. Those issues of morality, more than any other, helps me focused on the things that are important to me.
Moral struggles are important, if for no other reason than they make us uncomfortable.
Morality is a moving target. You can't just nail it once and call yourself moral. Some of the moral choices we are faced with are easy, some are more difficult. There are choices we face everyday and others we face once in a lifetime and everything in between.
There are choices that we make that are intensly personal and others that are more communal in nature. There are some choices we make that we're never sure of, either and there are some choices we make we wish we could take back. There are also choices we have made, that if given the choice again, we'd still struggle with.
There are also matters of morality that are cultural.
Before I was married to my ex, she got pregnant and had an abortion.
It wasn't a matter of carelessness or indifference. The pregnancy happened.
To my ex, an abortion was no big deal. She was raised in Eastern Europe and as a matter of course, abortion was considered a form of birth control. She was a nominal Catholic and had a limited amount of religious instruction. In the 70's and 80's, that's how it was in Eastern Europe.
God, religion and morality were 'cultural' in the same way national costumes and national dance were cultural expressions of a society. Science and art (appreoved art, of course), were the defining character of her place of birth. Church was for older people. The State was the religion. The laws of the state were canon law.
This wasn't a lifetime ago. The Wall came down in 1989, only 15 years ago.
In any case, my ex had an abortion. By that time, she understood that there was an issue. She had been in the west long enough to know that there was indeed a different morality. Still, that is what she chose to do. She had her reasons. Whatever they were, some would concur and others wouldn't.
It would be easy to to criticize her, but I didn't back then and I won't now.
Personally, abortion makes me uncomfortable. I can't debate the science of conception and I don't have to. Ask any infertile couple, trying to have a child and they will tell you a fetus is not 'tissue.' That is enough for me.
By the same token, I do believe an individual has a right to choose what is right for them. It may not be what I agree with and I may find immoral, even. But until I'm in that person's shoes, what right do I have to tell someone what is moral for them? Should not morality come from within and not be imposed? There are people and societies out there that want to do just that-- impose a set of values on us that we disagree with. That imposition of morality goes against everything we believe in.
That is not a baseless argument. There are people out there with terminal diseases or in dire need of organs. Despite the desperate situations and the pain and suffering some have to endure, we do not force anyone to donate their bone marrow or organs. These individuals and unfortunates are innocent and defenceless. We do not mandate that like it or not, everyone must donate what may be lifesaving to another. Is that moral? I don't know.
Irrespective of the argument, we all make choices. We are endowed with free will, for better or worse.
I chose to write about this because someone I respect a great deal, made the remark that I was a principled individual and stood by my convictions. I'd like to think so, of course. In truth however, the principles and convictions I have don't always come easily. I know I will be criticised by some and I will disappoint others. A few may even agree with me. Regardless, there are some things I struggle with.
America is unique in many ways. One of the most important I think, is that this that one of this country's most contentious issues is a moral one. I cannot think of any other place where moral issues divide a society as much as they do here.
The tension is a good one, I think. As long as there are moral issues at stake, we focus on our beliefs and values. It may not be pretty at times, but for the vast majority of us, the non professional agitators, both sides of a moral debate give us pause, even if we don't admit it. That we anguish over morality is a moral choice in itself. Europe has long since abandoned any moral debate and they are the poorer for it.
Unlike the societies and cultures that have a 'one size fits all' mentality and structure, we know, on a visceral level that we need to constantly define and redefine ourselves and values. There is great value in a society that allows for that debate, as difficult and hurtful as it is at times. We learn from it and we grow.
The Founding Father's offered us the 'Pursuit of Happiness.' There was no guarantee of happiness for us all-- only the pursuit of those ideals that each of us believe in, be they material, spiritual or physical. We are only guranteed the right to express ourselves and beliefs. We cannot impose on our neighbors those things that they may not agree with, until they do agree. Abortion is no exception.
I am proud to say I'm the father of one child, a beautiful daughter. My ex is a wonderful mother-- I couldn't be more blessed that way. I love the 'dad' thing and the relationship I have with HRH (Her Royal Highness, as I refer to my daughter).
I'm at an age where people still ask if I'd want to be a dad again. My stock answer is that it isn't only up to me. Truth is, I wouldn't mind, but if that isn't in the cards, well, I've fulfilled my paternal instincts.
I can't say what I would do if I were faced with the same situation I was in, years ago. Neither can my ex. I know what I believe and what I think the moral choice would be. Some of you might be upset with me, others less so, for my lack of sureness.
Since that event, I have tried to be more moral. It had an effect on me that still resonates, deeply, in many ways. I think of that time, every now and then.
My son would be 16 years old.