Sunday, March 12, 2006

Living Large

One of the Right to Life crowd's recurring tropes is women who have abortions because babies cost money better spent on plasma TVs and expensive vacations.

This is a sub-topic in the Right's general argument that there are no poor people in America because everybody can afford a TV set and dinner out at McDonalds. Poverty only exists where people live in mud huts and till the ungenerous earth with sticks. There are no poor people here, there are only lazy people and spendthrifts who don't know how to set priorities and postpone gratification.

And it's a corrollary to the Right's general anti-feminsim which argues that every woman who works---except their own wives---is a selfish careerist who has chosen to put her own vanity and self-aggrandizement over the joys and duties of wife and mother.

Out of this mouths of the Anti-choice types these ideas are expressed thus:

If you say you want an abortion because you can't afford a child, or even another child, or even a fifth child, you are either a selfish Yuppie careerist or you are one of those unfortunates who doesn't know how to budget---you could have that kid if you'd learn to buy a cheaper detergent, serve meat loaf instead of strip steak, and join Sam's Club.

And within that argument, behind the cliches, is an admirable anti-materialism.

Basically, the sentiment is that there are things far more important than money and owning stuff.

The problem is that the Right to Lifers who make this argument tend to vote Republican.

Voting Republican is first, last, and always a way of saying There is nothing more important than money and owning stuff.

Over at Liberty Street, Kathy Kattenburg has come across a letter to the editor from a Right to Lifer making the you can afford it if you put your mind to it argument, with the usual and if you can't afford it don't have sex scolding. The Right to Lifer is a mother of four who probably has had to scrimp and save, buy cheaper detergent, serve more meat loaf than her family wants to eat, and shop at Sam's Club. I'm guessing she's Catholic because she advocates "natural family planning," which the Church now pushes as the one and only men-in-skirts approved form of birth control, but which was originally thunk up by the men in skirts as a method for making lots of babies and still tends to work as designed. Catholics who practice natural family planning as a form of birth control practice it the way Hollywood stuntmen practice auto safety---you do your best to plan against an accident, but if something goes wrong you roll with it and thank God your medical insurance premiums are paid up. This woman sounds genuinely disgusted by the American lust for money money money and bigger and better toys. She's practically a budding Marxist.

As for [the] concern that it's so "expensive" and "difficult" to raise a child today as opposed to former generations of women with more children than today's modern moms, I think again that pleasure -- and its good ally, materialism -- is at the heart of this notion. Our society in general promotes two-income households with more stuff in them than prior generations ever dreamed of having.

The concept of sacrifice has been replaced with stuff, stuff and more stuff as our children are raised in day-care centers and our elderly are shuttled off to nursing homes. Our value for life at both ends of the spectrum has diminished in our society, where life is measured by its contribution, not its intrinsic worth...

On this point, Kathy and the woman are in a degree. If the woman is so outraged by our materialism and greed, Kathy suggests, she ought to give some thought to who promotes the pursuit of wealth and "stuff" above all and the ways they go about it. Kathy writes:

I wonder that she doesn't spend her limited writing time (four children, remember) examining what people in our society really mean when they say that war is necessary to "protect our way of life"; to "preserve our lifestyle"; to "defend our liberty." They're not talking about the freedom to borrow books from the library or surf the Web. They're not talking about the freedom to criticize Pres. Bush's policies by wearing an anti-war t-shirt to a Bush rally. They're not talking about the freedom for two consenting adults to love each other whether they are opposite genders or the same gender. They're not talking about the freedom to make your own health decisions.

"Protecting the American way of life" is code language for keeping what many Americans regard as their natural right to drive cars the size of tanks that get 10 miles to the gallon and be able to fill 'em up with cheap gasoline. It's code language for keeping the "right" to pay bargain basement prices for consumer products when the only way to do that is to have the products manufactured in countries where desperately poor people can be paid fifty cents a day to make them. It's code language, in short, for that very determination to avoid hardships, discomforts, inconveniences, and sacrifices that prior generations could not even dream of avoiding.

The American way of life is premised on leisure, comfort, convenience, and "stuff."

As I said, Right to Lifers tend to vote Republican, which means that most of them probably voted for Bush last time out, and without going too deeply into it here, you have to wonder what kind of Pro-life position is represented by the likes of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush and their private little war of vanity, greed, and vengeance in Iraq.

But beyond that, it's not just the case that we're in Thomas Frank's Kansas, where folks by voting Republican vote against their own economic survival. We live in a country where a huge block of people all across the map by voting Republican vote against their own values and virtues.

To put it simply, if you are for freedom you don't vote for the party that gives a feckless and vindictive President permission to spy on any American he wants whenever he wants.

If you are for hard work and responsibility and the virtues of thrift, prudence, self-denial and self-sacrifice, you don't vote for the party whose leadership excuses themselves, their children, and their rich friends from all of those things while letting them loot the treasury and the country of all the wealth earned by the rest of us.

If you are for freedom to worship you don't vote for the party that would let an ignorant minority impose its warped idea of Christianity on the rest of us.

And if you are against abortion, you don't vote for the party that will do nothing to stop it except write a law against it, a law that will only create a black market for abortions, safe ones for well-off women who can afford to go to Canada, deadly ones for the poor.

You vote for the party that will do the things proven to decrease the number of abortions, and decrease the ranks of unwed mothers as well---expanding economic opportunity for all not just increasing the GDP by making the already rich richer, improving our schools so that more and more young people are ready and able to take advantage of expanded opportunities, offering good health care to all mothers and their babies, the ones already here and the ones on the way, and to those babies' fathers and brothers and sisters too, and protecting the right of young women to make choices about their own lives and carve out their own destinies and thereby giving them reason and hope and plan and work for the future.

You vote for the party that won't shred the safety net, that won't make poor women feel like sharpers and chisellers when they go looking for help from their own government and use food stamps to feed their kids and won't condemn them and sneer at them and call them bad mothers when they put their children in day care so they can work to feed them and clothe them and won't tell them when they feel overwhelmed by work, and debt, and care, and stress, Too bad for you, if you can't handle it then you just shouldn't have kids.

You vote Democratic.

Unless you aren't really anti-abortion, you're just anti-women who aren't you or your wife or girlfriend having sex.

Cross-posted at the American Street.


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