Sunday, December 25, 2016

Love Trumps Hate

I have been composing an annual Christmas carol since 2001, when I wrote, "A Stable, a Manger, a Star in the Sky," inspired by Alfred Burt's lovely "Star Carol." This year, as I sat down at the piano on Christmas Eve, the phrase "Love Trumps Hate" was foremost in my mind.

Like many who lived through the U.S. presidential elections of 2016, I am afraid. I fear for my three sons, who will all be draft age during President-Elect Trump's first term. I fear for myself and my daughter, as we struggle to come to terms with the fact that we live in a nation that is still dominated by the patriarchy, a country where the highest elected official in our country can boast casually about sexually assaulting women. I fear for my students, many of whom are refugees who came to this country fleeing unspeakable horror, or who were brought to this country as children and now face the prospect of being forced to leave the only home they have every known. Most of all, I fear for our country and its promise of freedom, now subjugated to a twisted and evil white supremacist interpretation of Christianity that rejects the stranger and marginalizes the other. 

But love trumps hate, and love trumps fear. That is the message of hope we have at Christmas in 2016 and beyond. Merry Christmas! 

On a hillside in Judea 
On a silent sacred night 
Shepherds heard the angels singing 
And they saw the new star's light 

In a manger lies a baby 
Sent in love to all the earth. 
Let us celebrate our Savior 
And the wonder of his birth.  

God is with us still today. 
We can hear the angels say: 

He came for love! 
He came for love! 
He came for love of you and me. 
He came for love! 
He came for love! 
And his love will make us free. 

Now the world is full of hatred 
And the night seems dark and long. 
No one seeks the humble manger. 
No one hears the the angels' song.  

But the good news still can save us
If we only stop to hear. 
We must learn to love like Jesus, 
And our love will conquer fear. (Chorus)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Modest Proposal to Vice President-Elect Mike Pence Regarding Abortion

 We can end abortion in ten months—if we do one simple thing.

Dear Governor Pence, 
In 1729, Jonathan Swift proposed a solution to
unplanned pregnancies. In 2016, I have a better
idea. One that does not involve cannibalism.

You and I don’t have much in common. I didn’t vote for you. But you’ve suggested that you are interested in being a vice president for all Americans, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. We both love America and want the best future for our country, even if we don’t agree on the specifics.  From what I’ve heard about you and your record, I do think that we agree on one thing: Abortions that terminate unplanned or unwanted pregnancies are morally wrong.

As my progressive feminist friends fall off their chairs and prepare to block me on Facebook, let me repeat myself: As a mother of four beautiful children, I don’t think women should ever use abortion as a form of birth control for an unplanned pregnancy. I’m not alone in this view; about half of all Americans agree with me.   

Now, we—stronger together—finally have a chance to end abortions of convenience once and for all. We can ensure that no woman ever aborts an innocent child simply because she doesn’t want the hassle of pregnancy and child-rearing. Even better, we can also end unplanned pregnancies that result from rape or incest.

We don’t even have to overturn Roe v. Wade to accomplish this miracle. Thanks to the wonders of science, there will soon be a better way.

We will have to pass a new law though. To end all abortions of convenience, we should immediately urge Congress to pass legislation mandating male birth control. Under this brave new law, all males between the ages of 12 and 112 will be legally required to get regular birth control shots for the rest of their lives. The men will only be permitted to stop taking the medication, which by some accounts causes some pretty serious side effects like acne, mood swings, and depression, when a heterosexual woman obtains a court order expressing her affirmative consent to reproduce with a specific man, or alternatively, when, at the age of 40 or older, men affirmatively seek and provide the court with evidence of permanent sterilization. Men who do not comply with the requirement will potentially face penalties and jail time.

It will totally work. Abortion procedures to end unplanned or unwanted pregnancies will effectively end. Taxpayers will save all that money we currently spend on social support services for children of singlemothers.  And women will take charge of their reproductive rights—not by wearing modest clothes, or taking purity vows, or avoiding dangerous situations, but by controlling the real cause of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies: men. 

Since you’re a man, you’re probably saying, “That’s not fair! The government doesn’t have the authority to control my reproductive rights!” I tend to agree with you. But if you’re comfortable trying to control women’s reproductive health but not men’s, I want to know why. Why is it acceptable to pass laws that affect women’s access to reproductive healthcare but not to do the same (but much less invasive) thing to men?

And now you know how many women feel when men like you talk about overturning Roe v. Wade.

Governor Pence, it’s time to admit that your stated opposition to abortion isn’t actually about ending abortion. It’s about controlling women.

No pro-choice woman I know wants to have an abortion of convenience. Not one. But pregnancy, in addition to creating the Miracle of Life, is also a medical condition for the woman involved, one that comes with very real risks including the risk of death to the mother and/or fetus. While I believe that abortions of convenience are morally wrong, I also think abortions of necessity are an unmitigated tragedy for all involved. These babies are wanted. They are loved. But a serious medical emergency occurs, and mothers have to make unthinkable choices. For them and their families, we should have nothing but compassion—not laws threatening punishment or preventing necessary and life-saving medical care

It basically comes down to trust. We should trust that all women, when provided with education, options, and support, will make the right choice, the moral choice. In fact, when women have access to reliable, affordable birth control, abortion rates plummet. While I think that abortions of convenience are morally wrong, I also think that no abortion should ever be illegal.

And this, Governor Pence, is precisely why I support PlannedParenthood.  Because you know what? I don’t care how we do it. I just want to end abortions that terminate unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. And Planned Parenthood, which provides affordable reproductive health services to men and women, does just that. 

Since I doubt you’ll accept my proposal for mandatory male birth control, I hope that instead you’ll take action that will actually end abortions by fully supporting women’s—and men’s—access to reproductive healthcare. To my mind, that’s the only moral choice.

P.S. Just in case you don’t want to donate to Planned Parenthood yourself, Governor Pence, 20,000 people took the literal liberty of donating in your name. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

My Nevermores

Halloween Insane Asylums, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton’s Emails

A month or so ago, I took the unusual (for me) step of unfriending and blocking someone on social media. The woman in question is someone I consider to be a friend IRL (in real life). But after delivered several polite but increasingly stern private warnings about her posts on my personal Facebook page, she crossed a line. 

When I ebulliently shared my and other advocates’ successful attempts to convince Knotts Berry Farm and Six Flags to close their offensive and stigmatizing Halloween asylum attractions, my friend felt compelled to share her point of view that advocates were reading way too much into this “fun” and that we were in fact ruining Halloween in the name of “misguided political correctness.” 

To be fair, my friend knows firsthand the real and painful struggles of caring for someone who lives with severe mental illnessShe’s also very smart. When I blocked her, she sent me a long email missive entitled “Offended by logic?”  

My response? “I have made up my mind on this issue. Discussion is over for me. Find someone who is interested in having this discussion. 

I don’t take this kind of step lightly. I love learning new things and hearing alternate perspectives on just about every subject you can imagine. 

But I also believe we all have our proverbial lines in the sand. There are a few things I have made up my mind about, and I don’t want to “debate” these issues further.  

In fact, there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging and enforcing these personal boundaries, which I’ve decided to brand as my “nevermores” in honor of Edgar Allen Poe’s taciturn raven. 

Here’s a partial list of my “nevermores,” or things that I have made up my mind about: 

If you want to ask me about my carefully thought out, researched, reasoned position on any of the above, I will be more than happy to share it. But these are not things I’m interested in debating. I’m not saying other people can’t hold other points of view than mine—of course they can! I’m just not interested in conversations on these topics, because I have already made up my mind. 

“But!” you might be saying. “New information! James Comey! Emails again!” 

No. It’s the same story, and the same emails. And frankly, like the majority of Americans, I don’t care about Hillary Clinton’s “damn emails.” Mrs. Clinton is a woman about my mother’s age, with the same level of technophobia. She made a mistake, and she admitted it. This kind of mistake (fortunately!) really has proven to be the definition of “no harm, no foul.” 

But for the men who have repeatedly tried to destroy Hillary Clinton, there was definitely harm, and there have been plenty of uncalled fouls. 

Every time I see Julian Assange’s smug smirk, all I can think is “sexual predator.”   

Every time I see the unfortunately named Anthony Weiner in the news, all I can think is, “sexual predator.”   

Every time I see Donald Trump disparage another minority group  or mock someone with disabilities  or denigrate a slain soldier's family   or threaten to sue the women who have bravely come forward to share their stories of abuse at his (tiny) hands, all I can think is “sexual predator.”   

And yes, to be fair, every time I see Bill Clinton, I think of how he betrayed l his wife, his daughter, and the nation—for sex with “that woman,” Monica Lewinsky, who has now emerged as a brave and powerful voice for women everywhere.i  

It’s ironicno, more like terrifying—that all of the prominent men standing in Hillary Clinton’s way are connected with sexual assault. It’s even more terrifying that women’s voices weren’t enough to legitimize this fear, and that even though Trump’s own words have exposed him for what he truly is, he is still considered a viable candidate for President of the United States. 

I’ve already voted—and I wouldn’t change my vote based on this “new” (aka, same old, same old) information about emails. But to journalists everywhere, I would issue this plea. 

Set boundaries. 

James Comey failed to set boundaries when he issued his cryptic letter to Congress, and in this failure, he has allowed you—and Trump—to “write the book” on what the FBI may, or may not, find. 

Don’t write that book. It’s likely historians will categorize your unfounded speculation as fiction. Even worse, with a week to election day, your irresponsible reporting may destroy our republic. 

It’s not that hard to do this the right way. When you weigh in on whether this new email discovery may lead to a reopening of the investigation that could harm a Clinton Presidency, it is only fair and balanced to ask the same questions about Donald Trump, who is currently facing a civil trial for defrauding students with Trump University and has a post-election December 16 hearing on allegations that he raped a 13-year old girl.  I hope—though in the current climate of rampant institutionalized misogyny, I cannot assume—that a rape case would seriously harm a Trump Presidency.   

Granted, Hillary Clinton is not perfect. I don’t know many people who are. But she is more qualified than any other male—or female—candidate in the United States today. And she is our best chance to break that “highest, hardest glass ceiling.”  

So I don’t want to discuss Hillary Clinton’s emails with you anymore. It’s time to vote for the most prepared, qualified candidate in the history of the United States. It’s time to make herstory a reality. 

Because if Donald Trump wins, there's a frightening chance that too many Americans' hopes and dreams will be "nevermore."