Various thoughts on current events with an emphasis on politics, legal issues, books, movies and whatever is on my mind. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org; please put "blog comments" in the subject line.
Rev. Joe: Abortion, Islam and the Need For Common Ground Thinking
The Abortion Myth: Feminism, Morality, and The Hard Choices Women Make by Leslie Cannold (2000) at its core argues that the right to choose an abortion basically boils down to trusting women to make the moral choice whether or not to be mothers.
I talked about this book a few times, the two links just primary examples. The primary title has sort of a pro-life flavor, perhaps, but the author is more assuredly pro-choice. Nonetheless, she sees abortion as a moral choice. See also, the book linked up above with a pregnant woman on the cover, the woman who wrote and collected the abortion stories inside.
The overall argument made in The Abortion Myth is that women do not just treat abortion haphazardly, but generally see it as an important choice, one that includes a moral dimension involving their responsibility to their children. Some quite readily accept the embryo (as it usually is since most abortions occur before the "fetal" stage, though "fetus" is often misleadingly used here) etc. is in some fashion a "child" or "human," but basically not a complete one. Even pro-life participants at times appeared to think entrusting their "children" or what have you to others would be worse than abortion.
My overall concern here is to think outside of the usual boxes of each side, which are often more connected then they might think. A comparable thing is seen in the same sex marriage debate. Marriage "means" something apparently that eliminates one group from being involved, but it turns out that writ large marriage can include many groups. It is like the term -- depressed a little bit each time it is used this way -- "traditional marriage" that is used to mean part of that institution. Opponents of SSM are no fans of various aspects, on the average, of "traditional marriage," or at least realize "marriage" can and does include things not present then. Except here. This suddenly is the sine qua non.
I think there is some room for common ground though there is clearly going to be a large field of debate and dispute. So, I think many choices involving marriages and child-bearing are bad, in fact horrible, in various ways. A really blatant case would be let's say "octomom," but no need to address IVF to raise concerns about such matters. But, the right to let's say marry someone after knowing them two weeks or who is a bigot is not generally opposed. Abortion is a case where suddenly things change.
The above video in part concerns Bill Maher's comments on Islam and liberals who don't do enough the attack the extreme forms. Not sure really there is not enough people out there, including those generally liberal, who don't attack extremism of all types. Obama himself -- I heard it -- mentioned that what ISIS is doing is not the sort of thing honorable believers would do. Maher is something of an insufferable character, including on religion, even if from time to time he says something useful. Azlan is right to fear overgeneralizing, especially from those -- unlike Maher -- who is not also generally anti-religion as a whole. There is room for middle ground there, without bashing religion generally. And, I have seen lots of "liberals" quite consistently against religion. The wariness of some to not target excesses of minority groups is noted -- it isn't just an issue when religion is involved -- but it seems a minor sin.*
[As an aside, don't know if they do that consistently, but liking that interruption / challenging for clarity/debate back/forth between the hosts and the guest there. That is how it should be done.]
Going back to abortion, found this writer, who uses abortion as a sort of case study to promote her "theological" and "feminist" views. She writes as a Buddhist feminist (also has written about "bis" of various types and disability issues) and comes at being pro-choice from a somewhat different angle. One concern of Colker is to promote a conversation and respect the concerns and needs of others you might see as in opposition to your views, believing we are more united than many think. I think she would appreciate the bottom line of book cited above, concerned as she is about recognizing that abortion can often be traumatic. Some wish not to admit this since it might enable the opposition, but marriage, e.g., can be traumatic too. Does this mean we do not have a personal right to choose and even make mistakes? Mistakes that often strongly negatively affect others?
Colker takes certain things from the other side at face value without changing her view abortion should be protected (though at one point she seems to suggest in an ideal state it might not be, at least in some fashion [after the first few weeks?] -- it's underdeveloped -- one with true equality and support for women and mothers). So, yes, life is precious, but you don't promote it by criminalizing abortion (the example of Latin America can be cited here). Birth control shows respect for life by not bring it into the world when there isn't the support/love necessary to truly honor it. Counseling those who might have an abortion is positive, but mandatory counseling can be counterproductive.
And so forth -- basically, even if you are "pro-life" (she accepts the labels), ending Roe v. Wade is not the answer. That is, except along the margins in various ways. So, certain regulations -- even if they interfere with "choice" or "privacy" in some fashion (the author's somewhat communitarian views finds "privacy" a bit dubious ... but is our Constitution not more individualistic on that front ... protecting "personal" rights?) -- can be acceptable. Still, writ large, abortion rights would be protected, including funding, which would be necessary for truly equality in regard to the poor and so forth. So, many "pro-life" sorts might find her message, including her respect for religion, acceptable only so far. Nonetheless, there might be room for more common ground, or at least a different view of things.
As with Ruth Colker, abortion for me is a sort of case study -- I have been so fascinated about it for so long in large part because it covers so many bases. Gender issues, sex, religion, privacy, constitutional issues etc. As with marriage and other issues, looking at the big picture, trying to find common ground (general principles often are flexible -- so no need to paint all "religion" as anti-choice or anti-feminist -- individual choice in religion, e.g., is often a basic principle for believers) and not merely self-righteously and narrowing going in one direction is important.
And, to me more productive, interesting and less stressful in the long run. Well, on average. Life is fairly complicated, after all.
* It's perhaps useful to read some comments arising from one Maher appearance on the liberal leaning TPM page. Many are not overly impressed with Ben Affleck here, but I'm not really expecting Ben Affleck (as compared to Reza Azlan) to be a great debater on the point. Respect his talent as an actor/director/etc. mind you, but still. There is Nicholas Kristol on board here though but his calm rejoinders are so boring, you know? But, Affleck's concern that not a "majority" of Islam supports violence etc. is on point. It is akin to mixing Christianity itself, and some do, with homophobia and the like. It is taken much too far by some.
A key point of the video provided is when Sam Harris says "Islam" is the problem. This moves a step part Bill Maher's concern for the radical aspects of Islam. BM at one point, e.g., is upset that Obama et. al. don't want to call ISIS "Islamic." Well, fine. Those who kill doctors are self-professed "Christians." The argument is ultimately that they are in no sense "true" representatives of their faiths. A somewhat dubious thing for let's say a President to say (theologian?), but fairly acceptable.
I think it is fair to say that there is a strand of Islamic thought that in certain ways can promote violence. But, history has shown this to be quite true of Christianity and Judaism as well. "History," especially as to the second case, and very likely the first, is misleading in that today it encourages violence. See, e.g., a major threat to any chance of settlement in Israel/Palestine, the belief that settlements are mandated by God somehow. Take the citation of censorship. Many here support censorship, so citing the cartoonist controversy as "Islamic" would be misleading.
And, as Reza Azlan says, it is often a regional problem -- Christian African nations, e.g., promote FGM. To be fair, going further than the TPM segment, the ten minute segment here is more useful. But, the focus on "Islam" is still problematic. The promotion of violence and intolerance is ultimately a societal problem. It is present in other developing countries of an non-Islamic nature. The trouble spots here are Islamic, but Harris' framing of it an "Islamic" problem as if belief in the Koran etc. is the issue is misguided. It also is counterproductive in the spirit of the text.