Monday, July 31, 2006

Coming to 300 Million

The New York Times has a relatively new blogger named Judith Warner, who apparently wrote a book about raising children that gained some attention. On Saturday, she wrote an op-ed piece on the matter of the abortion-for-minors-across-state-lines vote being carried on in Congress (as if they don't have anything better to do). As a fellow blogger, I appreciated her candor and her capacity to vent with a certain lucidity about the lazy arrogance that has infected government these past few years. As an op-ed writer, I find that she compares quite favorably with the likes of Brooks, Friedman, and Tierney in the NYT stable.

Nevertheless, I felt as if she might have missed an underlying issue connected to this latest abortion debate that needs to be kept before the public eye. So I wrote the following note to the comments page; I repeat it here because I'm the father of a 12 year old girl, and the issue has more personal meaning to me than a lot of the stuff that Congress spouts over before they go on another month-long vacation (I've said all I need to about that, this time last year).

A child is a gift, not a possession. This is a teaching that needs to be heard more pervasively, especially given the possession-centered ideology of the Dobson clique.

But such a gift comes with certain responsibilites. When our kids require medical attention—whether it's for a stomach virus or a surgical procedure—parents need to there. Not to punish or judge or perform any of the other petty depredations of the cult of possession, but to support, to comfort, and above all to give love. This is something that I do not feel can be legislated; only taught, and then experienced.

When my daughter was sick last month, I treated her according to what I knew was correct for her. She asked me how I knew this stuff, and I said, "it's my job--if you're ever the parent of a kid, it'll be yours too." In short, if my girl ever faced an abortion, for whatever reason, before she had left home and begun her adult life, I'd want to know and be able to help her through it. The last thing I would need in such a circumstance would be a Congressman telling me how to do it, and under what legal terms.

Yet I see no deep disconnect between that natural desire to be present for my kid and Warner's message on the necessity to protect girls and young women from the encroachment of politicians who are stepping beyond their proper sphere of influence. The disconnect is rather in our culture--first in its narrow assumption of ownership that informs everything from child care to foreign policy; second in its arrogant disregard for nature and the planet.

In about 3 months, the population of the US will pass the 300 million mark. It has never been more true that "the world is too much with us." The poet Wordsworth wrote that line in reference to the accumulation-compulsion of modern society; and it applies equally to the current crisis of our species overrunning and destroying its home planet.

Perhaps if we replace the two assumptions of our culture mentioned above with a different mindset--one that recognizes the gift-nature of a child and supports it with an overarching regard for the planet we live on--then abortion where necessary, and (of greater importance) freely-available birth control would find a more general acceptance. What is prerequisite to that is a broader perspective of understanding than many Americans currently hold. Such a sea-change in the cultural attitude--toward ourselves, our children, and the planet--is what will enduringly prevent any of the horrors cited by Warner.


McKenna On the Mend:

Those of you who look here every Monday for your dose of my G.O.P. cohort can now breathe a sigh of relief. Here's a note I got from him on Friday: looks like it won't be long before he's back to normal and loaded for bear.

Hello folks. And yes, I’m in recovery mode, so not up to my usual long-windedness, but who can witness the re-invigorated tragedy in the Middle East and not remark upon the incompetence of our current president? And here I’m not working the details, so no recommendations for an easy peace – but what about the quality of leadership itself? What would a good leader do?

A good leader would communicate by summing up the situation, acknowledging genuine difficulties and then ending with some sort of reassuring closing statement. In the last century, during the depression and WW2, President Roosevelt gave Americans hope -while not hiding the deep problems and risks. British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill too was able to convey grit and determination, while being able to acknowledge the tough reality. Of course, these were great leaders.

Then we have George Bush. We are two weeks into a war between Israel and Hezbollah and his unscripted moments are brief, incoherent, and express the quality of a man poorly prepared to think outside the lines.

Deer in the headlights?

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