A Matter of Life and Death

Death Playing Chess by Albertus Pictor (1440-1507). Täby Kyrka, Diocese of Stockholm. Photo August 2003 by Håkan Svensson (Xauxa).I am not “pro-life”, because if I were I would have to revere life wherever I found it, and I can’t do that. I see life where it doesn’t belong, in the hands of people who would use the gift to cause tremendous misery. We have no choice, in any of ten thousand situations, but to keep the confiscation of life on the table as an option to prevent suffering and misery.

Every action we take as a nation promotes life and causes deaths, shifting the balance points around, increasing and decreasing the odds of continued survival for various individuals en masse. The nation-state murders dangerous felons and occasionally innocent people we thought were felons. Wars murder people — enemy soldiers, any civilians who were too close to targets or who were mistaken for enemy soldiers, and occasionally our own soldiers and allies by mistake. Soldiers who can’t handle the conflict, or who can’t handle the life that they return to after they return from conflict, take their own lives, and we are responsible.

Embargoes starve the poor in nations with which we refuse commerce and humanitarian aid. Reduction of aid to our own citizens who have nowhere else to turn causes starvation and sufficient misery to provoke murder over what resources there, suicide in those who can’t handle the pain, and the death of sacrifice in those who simply wish to leave more to go around for their families.

Failure to clean up chemical spills and radiation and pollution kills by degrees upping the rates of sickness and cancer in those who can’t afford to leave the land we’ve fouled. We even wreck the weather. The misery from poverty and loss and lack of hope causes increases in addiction and violent crime and suicide and increases in any of a number of risky behaviors that people seek out to escape the pain.

With nearly every decision we make, we opt to kill people all the time, sometimes in ignorance, sometimes in hubris, and sometimes in deliberate acts — and most of the time people consider those deaths acceptable consequences. It’s stupid even to pretend we think life is sacred.

And I, consciously, do not so pretend. I think hugest portion of the killing we do is ignorant and pointless and wasteful and beyond reprehensible, but, and this is extremely rarely, sometimes I think it’s justified, and, I am forced to admit, sometimes I think death doesn’t happen to some of the people who most need killing. I do not hypocritically pretend that life, as a phenomenon, like fire perhaps, is sacred and must be preserved wherever we find it. Life isn’t sacred. Life, like fire, or anything else, is sanctified — or desecrated — by what you do with it. Life, like fire, requires resources, and sometimes those resources are in short supply. Also, sometimes death is welcomed as a mercy, as an end to suffering and misery, when all hope of other options has failed.

Every mother that is of a species that has to care for the children she gives birth to faces the same choices. After the travails of birth, she does a headcount. Every mouthful she feeds to a new child is a mouthful that she cannot feed to her other children and that she herself cannot eat — and her first duty is to stay alive and healthy well enough to care for her helpless charges. Thus, the headcount. Thus, the decision of who lives and who dies. The eldest and the strongest get preference, because they’re closest to being able to help out. Those she cannot afford to feed are destroyed or left to starve.

Humans are not absolved from this choice.

Humans are not absolved from this choice, and anyone who thinks we are, that we could be, that we ought to be, is so far removed from the realities of life and death that I’d have to say they’ve never even met reality. Humans are not, can not, will not be absolved from this choice until money rains from the heavens like manna — and pregnant women and mothers are allowed to keep the lion’s share. How likely is that?

And even then there would still be a choice, because a woman can only do so much, and she is the only one qualified to know how much that is.

Yes, there is charity. But face it — charity comes from poor people who can see one another’s pain. A slower trickle comes from those who can finally make ends meet, because they remember what it was like. And the people who could afford to feed whole villages, towns, even cities of hungry children toss off the odd thousand dollars here or there and use the rest to buy yachts. The churches could empty their coffers every week, staffed only by volunteers instead of employees, and we would need ten times that amount of money, even for a country as well-off and church-ridden as ours.

And abortion is a mercy, to both the potential mother and the unaffordable-on-so-many-different-scales children, because it is so much more merciful than a pillow held over a newborn infant’s face — the only safe-to-the-mother solution where abortion is not available. And that, of course, is hands-down better than leaving a newborn to the wolves and trying to forget the crying as you walk away.

It’s cheaper, too, and way less risky to the health of a woman who has other critical responsibilities.

So-called leaders who cannot understand this fundamental choice that must be made by women now and then have no business making any other life-or-death decision anywhere else, because their judgment is clearly flawed. Pie-in-the-sky idealistic. Ignorantly hopeful. Divorced from reality.

God is in charge of life and death, they say. Only God should decide who lives and who dies. Well God doesn’t start wars or declare embargoes or dump filth into the drinking water and poison the fish and livestock. All of those distant people are murdered without a second thought — except the murderers know enough of guilt to hide like cockroaches when the lights come on when someone demands an accounting.

God is in charge of life and death? Really? Then sometimes God is a woman, bawling with tears over the agony of the choice, motivated by the goal of the survival and comfort of the survivors. That other God must be away on business then, steering hurricanes after homos and wrecking entire impoverished nations with earthquakes.

Life and death is in our hands, not just might-be mothers, every day, shifted from one place to another with the shovel of every decision we make. This is why each of us has a conscience. This is why I will never understand yachts. This is why I know that people who don’t understand the choice a woman sometimes has to make kill the people they kill with blindfolds on and their favorite music cranked at maximum volume on their iPods to drown out the screams of the dying. Because God will save the ones he likes and kill the ones he doesn’t and that’s why it’s A-OK to force His hand and fire bullets into the sky, not caring where they come down.

Those people are the biggest single source of misery on earth, and some of us nearly worship them. To say I don’t get it is a massive, massive understatement.

If you want to go save the life of a child that would otherwise not get born, by all means, go save one. Find one of the thousands of women every year who desperately wants a baby, for whom the only reason they must choose abortion is not enough money to quit her job (even temporarily) and then be able to feed and house and clothe herself and the child, and dedicate the next couple of decades of your life to help support her and the baby, free of any obligation to yourself. You will never see the kind of joy that you would see then.

Go on. Do it.

Go to the overflowing orphanages and foster homes and adopt a couple of the kids you know you could support to make room in the system, so that mothers who are willing to give birth if only someone would take the child in would know that there is room in the system for their baby to get the care he or she will need.

Go on. Do it.

Go round up a couple of the violent bastards — fathers, husbands, boyfriends, whatever — who stand ready to beat or kill their daughters or wives or girlfriends if they ever find out she got pregnant. Get them out of the way however it needs to be done. Put them in jail. Consult any of a number of easily obtainable references on how to cleanly dispose of bodies. Whatever. Remove these diseased threats to the life of the woman and the child she would love to have.

Go on. Do it.

And then there’s prevention. Talk to your daughters and sons about birth control and get them whatever they need. Grab a bat and work over that old college buddy who you know has a serious habit of getting women drunk and taking advantage of them while their defenses are down. Lurk in the favorite dark alley of your choice and remove any rapists you find from the gene pool. Put coasters in bars with built-in test strips so women can tell that their drinks are free from GHB and rohypnol and ketamine and benzos and Ambien. Lobby your lawmakers to make getting caught with such substances in a bar or concert or other public gathering the crime that it is, with attendant horrific punishment.

Go on. Do it.

And unless you’re trying to have a baby with someone who is willing and ready to have a baby, make sure a damn condom is in the way. Use a couple of different methods, just in case, because sometimes any method can fail. Make birth control part of foreplay.

You’ve heard of foreplay, right?

Or, you know, just fire your bullets into the air, for both yourself and the horny teenagers under your roof, and pray for God to sort it out. But you know how well that works.

Women have been playing the “How many can I fit in the lifeboat?” game since the beginning of time, aided by mothers and grandmothers and aunts and sisters and midwives and daughters and cousins and nieces, and you’re a chump and a fool if you think outlawing abortion is going to put an end to that. It will just up the stakes of the misery your daughters go through — infection, a womb too scarred to bear children later, gangrene, bleeding out, disgrace, disownment, jail time, maybe even execution if some have their way. Because sometimes even that risk is preferable to being beaten more often, or watching all of your children sit around and get skinny, or being thrown out of the only home you know.

So what’s your call? Order everyone into the lifeboats even though you know it will swamp a few and send all of their human contents to the bottom — or let the people who are stronger than you quietly make the soul-breaking decisions that will save as many as possible?

Either way, you never have to know anything about it. No one is taking away your precious blindfold or iPod.

 

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August 29, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  
    

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