Tag Archives: Rants

Evolution Should be Taught!

Evolution Should be Taught!

Right now in Florida, a campaign is being started to overturn the proposal that evolution be taught in schools more comprehensively than it has been. In Texas, the director of science curriculum was dismissed, so it seems, for advocating evolution by circulating news of a lecture about evolution through e-mail. Both of these states are hotbeds for anti-evolution forces, and many people who seem to be ignorant not only of science but of Kitzmiller vs. Dover, are ready to jump at any opportunity to push religious education into public schools, even if it’s only Intelligent Design.

In trying to advocate against science and for wild stabs in the dark, most of them actually show why we need more science in public schools, and more evolutionary biology taught, not less. The fact that they can graduate from the public school system and say “It’s only a theory” shows that the schools did not adequately teach them about scientific method or even vocabulary. “There are holes in the fossil record” demonstrates that they have not learned some basic facts about geology and how fossilization occurs. “There are no transitional fossils” shows that they know little about the vast fossil record collected around the world – and should brush up on current events, too, since the discovery of tiktaalik was widely publicized, but was far from the only “transitional” creature ever found. All the arguments they make have been addressed over and over, explained by scientists and teachers, yet they persist. Clearly, a good foundation of scientific understanding was not laid during their public school years, and this must be corrected for current and future generations. Read the rest of this entry

War On Greed. . .

War On Greed. . .

A video caught my eye last night on YouTube, and this morning I visited the filmmakers’ site to see what else they had to say. If you go to the “War on Greed: Henry Kravis’ Homes” page, you can see the film, comment on it, and read the 12 pages (so far) of other people’s comments.

It’s interesting, because the subject of one man’s tremendous wealth and how he earns it is going to provoke a pretty strong, knee-jerk reaction in most of us. The film takes it to the next step, which is, naturally, to point out how little he pays in taxes, and then interview people who earn less in a year than this man does in an hour. The film does a pretty good job at evoking an emotional reaction towards the Unfairness Of It All.

Now, this is not to say that I don’t think it’s wrong that there’s such a disparity in this country, or that the economic and legal systems are set up in such a way that the wealthy have extra advantages, but this kind of situation requires thought, not emotion. Once you start thinking about it, you realize that there is so much else going on that all this kind of public exposure does is provoke anger, not solutions. The viewers are prompted to “fight greed” and protest, say what they would do if they lived in one of Kravis’ homes for the holidays, but judging from the comments, it’s pointless effort.

I don’t have time today to go through all 12 pages, but even on the first, I could see that there wouldn’t be a lot of problem-solving going on. Someone who knew Kravis personally told about his generosity – of course people can be generous to the people they see every day while laying off thousands of people in the name of corporate profit. It’s a matter of who is an actual face you see, vs. who is just a name or number. How many of us work in our communities as volunteers, but spend money on a vacation instead of donating it to a charity that helps people far away? How selfish of us! It’s a matter of scale. Another commenter suggested that anyone who was jealous should stop complaining and get a better job. I’m sure nobody ever thought of that before. *sigh* Many folks answered the question of what they would do if they had one of the houses for the holidays, and it was clear that they had no concept – they’d throw parties, they’d sell everything and give the money away, they’d trash the place – not for one moment realizing that they’d then be doing exactly what they abhor in Mr. Kravis, i.e., closing up a corporation, firing all its workers, and taking the cash. The one that gave me a chuckle, though, was the one who’d sell one house and burn the other 7 to the ground, then give the money to the Sierra Club!

When I have a little more time (gotta shower and hit the road in less than an hour. . .) I want to get into this a little more deeply, but I’d love to hear what people think here. If you find a comment at the film’s page particularly interesting, let me know that, too, so I can check it out.

Bad Design!

Bad Design!

I haven’t felt much like blogging lately, at least not in the way that would let me compose a thoughtful or thought-provoking post. I’ll get it back in time, I’m sure. However, I was just inspired by a post over at IKEAFans about putting in a corner sink.

A corner sink is a bad idea. I’m speaking with the voice of experience. In our last house, the kitchen sink was in the corner. Seems like a good way to put an otherwise unused space to work, right? Well, there’s a geometry issue. In the small kitchen, using normal depth cabinets and counters, the corner sink doesn’t put this space to work, it just makes it harder to reach. When I wanted to clean the counter and wall behind this sink, I had to clear everything off the entire counter because I had to lie down on it and snake my way under the cabinets to reach. Inconvenient barely scratches the surface when describing this. In addition, in order for the door on the cabinet over the sink to be reachable, it had to be a deep cabinet. Again, geometry became an enemy, because the door to this deep, wide cabinet was about five inches wide.

This house, for all its flaws, is nowhere near as bad as that one, but the previous owners did a lot of work to make it pretty, and that’s where the problem lies. They moved and don’t have to deal with living with this stuff, but some of you might be considering remodeling or fixing up, and I feel compelled to tell you that it’s not all about pretty. So here are some things to consider that might make your life easier. Read the rest of this entry

ADD – I’m a Human, Not a Magpie

ADD – I’m a Human, Not a Magpie

So I was scouring around a couple of places for some new bumper stickers. Now that I have more than three (I don’t know if this is a real rule, or I just made it up) I can keep going to as many as I want. Heh. So I’m not certain what exactly to add besides maybe this:
sticker.jpg

So I decided “Gee, maybe someone’s made a good ADD sticker out there.” I don’t know where this came from, because my brain was all over the place yesterday. Oh, wait, that’s where it came from. I was all frustrated from the whirlwind, pointless meanderings of my unmedicated mind. There ya go. Which reminded me of a bumper sticker proclaiming that ADD is a myth, which pissed me off enough that I would have talked with the driver if he hadn’t been, well, driving. The search did not make me feel any better.

There were thousands upon thousands of variations of this (no link ‘cuz I don’t like it):
squirrelsticker.jpg

and this (same deal):
shinysticker.jpg

You know, it’s such a misguided, simplistic view of ADD, no wonder people think it’s made up. Sheesh. Yeah, ADD makes you easily distracted, but not usually by just any old thing. If I’m distracted by something moving or shiny or whatever, it’s because it sparks my imagination. I’ll see a color I want to use in fabric or clay or painting, and that might catch my attention for a moment. I might even interrupt a conversation or stop in the middle of a sentence to point it out, but it’s not going to stop me from picking right back up where I left off. The real problem is getting distracted by things that will take up large amounts of your time, because you’re reminded of something on your to-do list, or one of the many tasks you started but didn’t finish, or a sudden creative inspiration that must be attended to right away before you forget it.

ADD doesn’t make you stupid like that. (Often, it’s just the opposite. It makes you think outside the box, helps you make connections others don’t see, and inspires unique creativity.) You’re not carrying on with something important and just lose it because something caught your eye. Heck, if it’s really important, you’re probably hyperfocusing and can’t be distracted by a darned thing. This characterization of ADDers as people who can be stopped in their tracks by the sight of a small animal or a shiny object is just as offensive as the assumption that we’re making it all up.

Many of the others carried a more positive message, but were overly wordy, or angry. With one exception, my bumper stickers are short and sweet. I might go for something a little peevish, but I would never put something on my car that would incite someone else to anger. So I guess I have to come up with something on my own. Thank goodness for cafepress. Let’s see if something comes to me as I go off to run more errands. . .

Something That’s Been Bothering Me.

Something That’s Been Bothering Me.

Besides the Christmas music and decorations and Black Friday Sales that begin at 12:01. . .

It’s related, though. The opening salvos of the Christmas attack are the catalogues. So many, they could feed a small country for a year on what they cost. (Or on the catalogues themselves, depending on whether the people are hungry enough to eat catalogues.) Naturally, the first to arrive feature the same-ol’-same-ol’ crap, but PERSONALIZED. These companies need a smidge more time to get their products out, because it takes a little longer to PERSONALIZE the items.

Now, there’s not a heck of a lot of need in most peoples’ lives for items with their names, initials, cutesy crap with the grandkids printed on the bottom in a different font, but these companies manage to stay in business. Why? Well, besides the fact that you can’t really return a PERSONALIZED item to the seller, they’ve captured a very special gift-giving niche. People who can’t pick out a decent gift to save their lives, but who want to make sure the recipient is stuck with it, love these things. They’ve gone through the whole business of never seeing Khriztyne display that fabulous glow-in-the-dark Mary on the half shell that sings “I got you, babe” if you clap twice. No matter how many times they showed up unannounced. Mickaighla says that the collector’s edition cow salt and pepper shaker broke. So did last year’s collector’s edition cow salt and pepper shakers. And the year before’s. But you could have sworn you saw them at her church’s rummage sale. But you’ll show them. Once they have something PERSONALIZED, they can’t regift it or garage sale it, and you can make such a big deal about having had it PERSONALIZED for them that they’ll have to use it at least a couple of times in your presence. Oh, yeah. Khriztyne is going to have to put her “No Parking Except For Khriztyne” sign up on her garage. Mickaighla might be able to use her rolling duffel bag only once before the crappy wheels fall off and the handle breaks, but you can engineer a trip so she has to use it, and you can get so excited that she’ll feel guilty throwing it away (and she certainly can’t give it to someone else named Mickaighla.)

This isn’t really the point, though. The reason this stuff bothers me in particular is because of one common error that I see, almost always, on mailboxes. On mailboxes, scattered about relatively infrequently, and easy to eventually ignore after multiple viewings, is the egregious “possessive apostrophe”. You know the one. “The Smith’s”. I can look at these and dismiss the error after an initial shudder, chalking it up to the inferior education of someone who makes a living painting mailboxes. I can sometimes rationalize that the mailbox was one of those PERSONALIZED gifts from a well-meaning but grammatically challenged friend or relative. I did have a real problem with seeing one of these in front of the home of one of our local school administrators, until I read a few of the letters home and realized it was just part of a larger problem. Still, these are just a few mailboxes. Once the catalogues start arriving, I’m deluged with images of innumerable items with this stupid mistake. This means that other people are, too, and bit by bit, more people begin thinking that it’s correct.

AAAARRRGH!

Look, people, an apostrophe never indicates a plural. Therefore, you’re changing what should be something plural into something singular. You’re making a noun into an adjective. Think about what this little PERSONALIZATION is trying to say.

In the case of the mailbox, it’s answering a question. “Who lives here?” The grammatically correct mailbox cheerily answers, “The Smiths (do)” Of course, it leaves off the “do”, because it is unnecessary, and might give the impression of superciliousness.

The grammatically incorrect mailbox, however, either doesn’t understand the question, or didn’t hear it quite right. “The Smith’s”! it bellows, thinking not only that the question was “Whose house is this,” but also that the entire family Smith, including the dog and the parakeet, are a single entity. The Smith is kind of like the Borg Collective. The Smith owns the house. This is the house of the Smith. This mailbox does not leave off a word out of politeness, but out of ignorance. Its proclamation begs the question, “the Smith’s what?” The reader is left wondering who this Smith is, that he is singled out as the sole proprietor of whatever it is the mailbox says he owns. (The reader, fortunately, will probably pass by the mailbox and be out of range before the Smith Collective can assimilate him.)

Now, I have to give kudos to a most unlikely ally in the fight against the creeping apostrophization. As I was looking for examples, maybe an amusing image to add, I went to Lillian Vernon right away. OMGWTFBBQ! Doormats, plaques, frames, all without the apostrophe! What a pleasant surprise! In fact, I found a lot more items on the web without the apostrophes than I have in print catalogues so far. Could we be moving in the right direction? I can only hope. . .when I start seeing those mailboxes coming down, it will be a true sign of progress, and I will rejoice.

Atheist Morality

Atheist Morality

At one point, I had an idea to write a regularly-scheduled themed post. Say, once a week. I got as far as finishing one piece and jotting down ideas for several others. I was reminded of this when I typed the words “copy” and “paste” in the last post. . .if I wait until I have a series, or pressure myself to have a regular post output, none of these thoughts will ever see the light of day. So here’s the (ahem) first of what may or may not be a series, copy/pasted from my hidden MSWord files of doom. . .

Where Do Atheists Get Their Morality?

I honestly don’t think that most people automatically assume that a person who doesn’t worship regularly is a nihilist with no concept whatever of morality, but there are enough people on the web and in the media who do (and quite nastily, too) that it sometimes really ticks me off. I’ve been meaning to write about this many, many times, but never quite put the whole thing together. This is probably going to be the first blog post you see here that actually was composed in Word, sat around fermenting for a while, and got edits and rewrites before release. Imagine that. Forethought – from Mrs. Visceral herself.

Anyway, let me cogitate a bit. It’s such an emotional topic that it gets very jumbled. Let me start with the basic question itself.

Atheists get their morality from the exact same places as everyone else. Family. Friends. School. TV, books, radio, and movies – and the choices of and reactions to those by the people who influence our lives. By the time religion makes an actual impact on anyone, the foundation has already been laid, no matter what a fundamentalist theist would like us to believe.

Family first. From the moment we’re born, we’re watching the people around us, seeing what works to get our basic needs fulfilled, learning how important we are. Even before babies can discern features, they can recognize the people who hold them and talk to them and feed them. It takes most babies only a month to learn the power of a smile, which they learn in great part from the people who smile at them. The family teaches the child right away that if he’s hungry, needs a diaper, wants some attention, etc., he’ll need to cry a little, cry until he gets sick and screaming, maybe laugh and make silly noises. Some children won’t need to make any indications because their parents are attentive (sometimes overly so) and some will learn that it’s pointless because nothing will happen until the parent or caregiver is darned good and ready to feed or change or give attention. It seems simple, but it teaches us right from the beginning how much we’re cared for, and what we need to do to get what we want.

Once we’re starting to be able to influence the world around us through our mobility and language, the learning deepens. The older people around us – adults, siblings, more mobile or verbal children – begin teaching us every waking moment. We learn about objects. Some are “ours”, but we also are introduced to the idea of “sharing”. Some we are allowed to touch, some we are not. Things we can touch we might not be allowed to take apart or put in our mouths. We learn about people. We do something funny, and everyone laughs and pays attention to us, so we do it again and again, as long as it works. We hit, bite, or otherwise hurt someone, and we are taught in one way or another that it’s not acceptable. We’re also working on learning how other people interact with each other through observation. The beginnings of understanding that we and the others are similar are taking hold, and in play we will imitate the real-life patterns we see around us. We may see Dad hitting Mom or Brother or Sister, and hit them ourselves, only to be hit by that person and reprimanded that hitting is not good. We begin to realize that things

are a lot more complicated than we thought! The big people might reward us for doing something they want us to do, and punish us for doing things they don’t want us to do. The rewards and punishments might be the same all the time, they might be different, so we might learn that there’s only one outcome, or we might learn that some things we do are better or worse than other things. We might also learn that we can get what we want by doing something specific. One child might find that all she has to do is throw herself on the floor and scream to get attention, so she’ll skip all the weeping and whimpering she used to do to warm up to that point and go straight to the tantrum. Another might find that a consequence is enough punishment – breaking a toy means no more toy, taking too long at bedtime means no time for story. Yet another might find that the best course is to not get caught.

So before any moral lessons might be absorbed by religion, we’ve already learned how much or how little we’re valued, what actions are acceptable or not, and how to treat other people. We’ve learned about manipulating our behavior to attain the results we desire.

Now come Friends and School. They both come into the picture fairly early on, and unlike attendance at a religious institution, they’re common to almost every single child, and contain a much more insistent and frequent lesson. What I mean is that each religious institution teaches a different set of lessons, while schools will try to have a more common discipline and behavior standard. School begins before the age that children have begun to feel empathy, and at the beginning edge of their ability to understand abstract concepts. Sunday School dives right into ideas with stories that are supposed to be morality tales, but public school introduces standards of behavior by coming right out and telling students what they can do, what is expected of them, and how to treat others – the abstract concept of why comes later, and is easier to understand as it is applied to them personally rather than by example of a story that might or might not make sense. For the first time, we’re in the company of people we’ve never met, who aren’t family or family friends, who might be quite different from us, with whom we might or might not get along but have to treat respectfully anyway. Soon, these schoolmates will become friends, or not, and we will spend time with them outside of school as well as in it. We will be concerned with their opinions, their feelings toward us, our mutual enjoyment of each others’ company. Our opinions, interests, and behavior will be influenced by not only our contact with them, but our desire to please them and continue to be friends with them. Just as we learned at home and in the classroom, some behaviors are acceptable and some are not; and this classification may not be the same in each of these situations.

For example, lets take the child who learned to not get caught to avoid punishment at home. He might try to get away with the same thing at school, and have a teacher who’s just overwhelmed or inattentive enough that he can often enough or under the right circumstances. This child is learning to refine his technique of getting what he wants while appearing to behave the way he’s expected to. Another child, whose teacher creates a situation that makes this more difficult or impossible, might become resentful and overcompensate, or he might see the light and behave better for this teacher if the rewards appeal to him more than the hidden rewards he’s had to get for himself so far. A parent might be an ally in one goal or another. Arguing with the teacher and supporting the child vociferously might give the child additional satisfaction of having gotten away with it. Paying no attention reinforces the idea that it doesn’t matter, so it must be OK. Positive reinforcement at home for positive behavior at school might cause the child to abandon the sneaky behavior, if it’s the craving for attention is what had been driving it. Mix in the influence of friends to this, and the possibilities expand even further. Another child might also enjoy doing bad things and getting away with it, and the two of them will engage in this behavior together. A different friend might get angry with the child for this, whether because he opposes it or because it affects him directly, and the child may decide the friend is not important enough to change, or that the friend is valuable enough to do so. The child has learned a lesson regardless of whether he’s listened to stories or parables, and regardless of promises of eternal reward or threats of eternal damnation. No matter what religion he may be exposed to, its abstract, intangible reasons for behavior have far less impact on him than the daily personal experience of cause and effect.

Now, I don’t want to vilify the media or place too much importance on its influence, but it does come into play also, and not just the obvious way you might think. Its impact on our morality lies far more on how we’re taught to perceive it than in the medium itself. Again, from infancy, we’re watching how the people around us react. A child who is frequently held and read to or cuddled and sung to will associate reading and music with positive feelings. A child who is left alone in front of the TV will have a completely different feeling. The choices of what the child is exposed to are also important. After all, it’s the big people who pick out the books, music, TV shows, and movies. As adults, we may be able to expose ourselves to all kinds of negative ideas and images and not have them influence our behavior, but the young minds are observing and absorbing. The child who repeats words or movements from a music video that demeans women or glorifies violence won’t learn whether those things are OK or not until an adult reacts. If Mom gives him a punishment for grabbing his little friend’s behind and grinding their hips together, he’s learned that the things in the video are not necessarily things he should be emulating. If, on the other hand, he repeats the lyrics about shooting or beating or stealing, including profanity or not, and the adults laugh – maybe even tell him to show it to other people, he’s learning that it’s OK. If the adults choose to read to the child, and pick books that teach, whether it’s practical or moral lessons, the child learns that this knowledge garners a positive response from the parents. If the adults watch a movie with the child and are able to say, with knowledge, that this part is a good lesson, or this part is bad, allowing or prohibiting future viewings, it teaches the child critical thinking that’s essential to both learning and morality. When an adult exposes a child to any medium, it’s a learning opportunity. If it’s provided without comment or it’s imitated and receives a positive reaction, the child is learning that what he has seen or heard is right and acceptable. If it’s provided and shared and talked about (even at 6 months, a child can understand far more language than you’d think) then it’s a valuable lesson on both right and wrong.

The daily experience of living our lives and interacting with others forms our morality from the moment of birth. The foundations are laid and built upon by the results of our decisions, the consequences to our actions, the choices we make about what matters more to us. Are we willing to risk punishment to attain something we want? Do the needs and feelings of others mean enough to us to forgo our own wants? Is something that will take more time but last longer worth more than quick, fleeting gratification? Is an action or behavior that’s unacceptable to the larger society OK because our smaller social circle deems it so? No matter what your religion teaches you, regardless of whether or not you believe or practice a religion, your morals come from being human and experiencing life as part of a number of different societies. The atheist gets his or her morality from the same places as everyone else, Agnostic, Christian, Hindu, Wiccan, Jewish, whatever you subscribe to. We are fine-tuning it every day we’re alive, with every experience we have, with every human being with whom we interact. Every person alive begins learning morality and continues to refine his or her sense of morality merely from living, and being alive is common to all of us no matter what or how we might believe.

So before you ask the question, or accuse an atheist of having no morals, consider where your own came from right from the beginning of your life. Can you say that your family, friends, school, interests and activities, and all the significant, formative moments in your life had no hand in shaping you at all? Can you dismiss all the human love you’ve received, all the rejection, all the interactions with others that you still remember clearly even though years and years have passed, as central to the way you think and act? Unless you can completely forget your entire life before you embraced your religion, and prove that you have had no defining, memorable experiences outside of your religious life, then you’ll need to stop yourself before you ask it.

The atheist got his morals from the very places that you did.

The War on Christmas. . .again.

The War on Christmas. . .again.

Ed Brayton, at Dispatches From the Culture War, postulates:

Seems like Bill O’Reilly’s idiotic blather about the war on Christmas starts earlier every year. How about a War on Demagoguery?

I replied with a novel. I haven’t posted here in over a week. Plus, I’ve bitched about this before. Still, a copy-paste of my comment from a different blog is better than nothing. My take:

IMHO, the “War on Christmas” starts not with improper holiday greetings or fights about location or content of nativity displays. Oh, no.

The “War on Christmas” started this year in August, when K-Mart had artificial Christmas Trees on display next to the Back-to-School Supplies.

Additional troops were brought in at the mall, where Christmas Decorations gradually moved into spots vacated by sold halloween merchandise.

The Target near my house will already have Christmas music playing already, very softly and only in certain departments. As November progresses, it will gradually expand to fill the store, until Thanksgiving comes and goes, when the din will be inescapable.

The real “War on Christmas” is being waged by people who want to turn it from a one-day religious holiday to a four-month frenzy of buying. The “War on Christmas” is the brainwashing of people to make them believe they must update their themed decorations every year, and buy presents for the sake of buying presents, not because they care for the recipients or because a gift seems like the thing someone really needs or wants.

The real “War on Christmas” is the constant badgering that we must buy this, decorate with that, get something for everyone on the “list”, attend a whole slew of parties AND visit all the relatives, AND make it perfect for the kids, and still feel “goodwill towards men” after doing all that crap. Each time advertisers and retailers heap yet another demand upon us, insisting we must do or buy or give to make this a “perfect holiday season!” more of us revolt.

For some people, the financial demands are too much. Their revolt might be on a smaller scale, involving only themselves and their loved ones. They’ll simplify, cut back the “gift list”, give homemade presents, or even (GASP!) celebrate it as a religious holiday only. Their contributions to the war won’t be noticed quite so much, although they are making some impact.

For others, the demands in general have taken away any pleasure we might have had in the secular celebration, whether or not we participate in the religious one. We’re sick of it. We don’t give a damn whether you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” just wait until frickin’ December to start saying it. We know from experience that the shopping does not make the holiday happy. We know that “the perfect gift” does not make the holiday happy – nor does giving it on a specific day make it any more perfect. We know that after about the 50th time of hearing it in a week, “Joyeux Noel” doesn’t sound so joyful anymore. We’re tired of being assaulted with Christmas for such a huge part of the year, and our backs are up. So we’re scaling back, too. We’re not buying what they’re selling, in goods or ideology. We’re fighting back, and we’re not quiet about it.

And that is the real “War on Christmas”. Corporate America started it. The Public is just defending itself. O’Reilly is appealing to the attackers to stop the war, which shows what a fool he is. It won’t stop until Americans stop feeding the effort – not by insisting that the proper greeting be used, but by insisting that advertisers and TV bloviators can’t tell us what to do and how to do it.

Glad I’m Not In Oklahoma City.

Glad I’m Not In Oklahoma City.

Rex Duncan, a Representative in Oklahoma, got all pissy when he was given a copy of the Quran because it endorsed the killing of women and children. The bible he got from the Baptist General Convention, though, is something else entirely. “Mine is proudly on my desk on the Capitol and I don’t think I ever read a part of it that condones the killing of women and children in furtherance of God’s word,” Duncan said. “It’s one of the nicest things I’ve received in my three years in the Legislature.”

Hmmm. Looks like he doesn’t actually read it, doesn’t it?

Eight legislators who were offered the book by the Governor’s Ethnic American Advisory Council refused it, but Duncan was the only one making a public statement about his refusal. He also complained that he objected “to the use of the state Centennial Seal and the state Seal all in an effort to further their (Muslims’) religion.”

This from the state that wrote legislation last year to allow placement of the ten commandments on new buildings and call it constitutional if the majority of the council says it’s OK – and to earmark $3 million to cover legal fees if anyone challenges the posting of religious stuff with public money in public buildings.

It Became an Abortion Debate

It Became an Abortion Debate

Over at Pharyngula, PZ Myers wrote a post linking to a Jesus and Mo cartoon. The strip took the point of view that pro-lifers were all about controlling women, and while that subject got comments, it naturally turned into a debate about abortion. I wanted to leave a comment, but I just couldn’t stop writing, so here’s my take on it:

There are over 600,000 children in the US who are awaiting adoption.

There are tens of thousands of kids in many of our states who are in foster care – most will age out rather than being adopted or returned to their parents.

There are a half million fertilized eggs in frozen storage that will end up being discarded after they become inviable or after their parents elect to have them destroyed

Youth/Family services across the country are overwhelmed with cases; children everywhere are being brought up in dangerous environments where they are ignored, at best, or abused, sometimes even killed.

Do we need to insist that every baby conceived be born? Aren’t there enough unwanted children already?

Women can die from many pregnancy-related illnesses, and may existing conditions can have deadly complications caused by pregnancy.

Many of these illnesses and complications can also kill the fetus, or cause stillbirth.

It is now possible to detect, fairly early on, conditions in a fetus that will lead to death, permanent disabilities, a life of constant pain. While some people can live a fulfilling life despite them, many will not be able to function at all or live without debilitating pain.

Do we need to insist that each of these pregnancies be carried to term? Should husbands be left without their wives, children be left without their mothers, because it’s so much better, morally, than abortion? Should children live a few hours, days, or months, kept alive only by extreme medical intervention, because dying after birth is better than abortion? Should we force parents to give birth to a child that they will have to suffer for – losing time, wages, and emotional fortitude – and watch suffer, because his or her condition excludes freedom of movement or freedom from pain or ability to think?

Young women in poor areas will engage in unprotected sex because of societal pressures in their peer groups. If they become pregnant, they will be just as pressured to give birth, regardless of their age or ability to parent. Young men will insist on it because there is a culture that measures them by their fertility. Being a “baby daddy” lifts them up a rung, but there’s little pressure to actually be a Father.

Women and men who try to be responsible about potential pregnancy and use contraceptives as directed often find that their chosen method has failed. Not only are they pregnant with a child who was definitely planned against, but depending on the method used, they risk having a child who might have problems caused by the birth control.

Women who are raped are most assuredly not guilty of irresponsible sex. While there are a handful who can go through this pregnancy and perhaps even nurture the child who results from rape, they are rare. For most, this is a reminder of the most personal of violations, something that sears the pain even deeper.

Do we need to insist that these pregnancies – unwelcome, unwanted – which put children into the hands of parents who resent them, or into the already enormous pool of adoptable children, be completed? Do we want more children being raised by people who aren’t mature enough to parent, who took pains to avoid parenthood, or who had parenthood forced on them in the most unwilling way?

The problem I see is that the people who oppose abortion, at least the most vocal ones who are petitioning for legal change, see this as a completely black-and-white issue. Some of them sound completely heartless – I know I’ve heard more than one say in the case of pregnancies that threaten a woman’s life that it’s “god’s will” that she die, and that “god will provide for the family” afterwards. Not one of the situations I mentioned above cannot be countered with some religious “solution” or justification that immorality is being punished. It makes me feel sick to my stomach when I hear or read some of the absolute pronouncements made by people who refuse to believe any truth but their own exists.

From where I stand, quality of life is a major issue. It should be a deciding factor. We go around only once, so we need to make the most of it. “Punishing” people for getting pregnant (and “punishing” people who have sex by getting them pregnant!) is repugnant. A baby should never be a “punishment”. It makes so many people unhappy – the parents, the people who have to step in with money, supervision, fundraising for medical care, and so much more. . .but mostly, it punishes the child. A life not lived is better than a live lived in misery, pain, or self-loathing. While this kind of life sometimes happens even under ideal circumstances, it’s not a goal we should aim for.

Abortion is not a goal to aim for, either, but it should be an available choice when the alternative is worse. The opponents wish to see it abolished under any circumstances, and that’s why so many people fight them so vehemently. If I were to make any changes to existing laws, they would have nothing to do with the argument of “when life begins”, which is so nebulous that it should be a non-issue. For me, it would be “when pain begins.” An embryo may be alive, but it feels nothing because it hasn’t developed a nervous system. A fetus feels pain – for that, I would say that anesthesia should be given in utero, even a dose that would cause death prior to the procedure, to minimize or eliminate potential suffering. When the first two trimesters have passed, there would have to be a medical issue involved with either the mother or the child in order to have an abortion, because at that point a woman should have been well aware she was pregnant. (Sensational TV stories about women who didn’t know make the news because they’re so incredibly rare.) At no point would it be prohibited, but the fetus would have to be treated with attention to its ability to feel.

In other words, what abortion laws need is not restriction or elimination, but compassion. First, let’s understand that the mother, father, or both, have lives that will be impacted by the birth of a child, and have compassion for their individual situation. Let them make the choice that’s best for them. Second, let’s have compassion for a society that’s already overburdened with unwanted children, paying for them in so many ways, financially and otherwise. Let us help as many as we can, without imagining that our hearts and our pockets are so bottomless that they can stand constantly increasing demands. Third, and most important, let’s have compassion for the children. There are known quantities that will negatively affect the quality of their lives, we should do what we can to make sure that each child starts off with the best chances for a good life. Don’t force them to be born to parents who don’t want them. Don’t force them to be born to live as “burdens on the system”. Don’t force them to be born only to live briefly or miserably. Don’t force them to kill their mothers. And don’t assume that you know what’s best for everyone and try to force an entire nation to do things exactly as you want them to.

Selfishness. . .The New Black?

Selfishness. . .The New Black?

I had plans for today. I really wasn’t going to turn on the computer until I got back from errands and had made my phone calls and vacuumed. Dr. Joyce Brothers’ column today put the kibosh on that. The paper is still open to the page, where a writer asks:

DEAR DR. BROTHERS: No one will believe me, but my mom, who’s 55, has just informed my husband and me that she wants to go back to her college where she never got her degree and finish. She’s already thinking about what courses she wants to take. Honestly, we were counting on a lot of help from her with our two kids, her grandchildren, in terms of putting away for their education. My husband’s a musician and doesn’t make great money. This may sound selfish, but at her age, this really seems silly and a kind of indulgence. I’m even surprised her college let her in. I know they’re not doing it for nothing. It costs money. Should I talk with her, let her know my views as her only child? — K.B.

O. M. F. G. . . “This may sound selfish,” K.B. says. May? Ya think, K.B.? Let’s see. Try figuring out how you’d say it to mom yourself and take a guess. . .

“Mom, at 55, you’re really too old to do anything productive with your life, so clearly the college is just taking you for a ride. They know you’re one foot in the grave already, so they’re only trying to fleece you for money. And speaking of fleecing you for your money, don’t you think you should be giving it to a worthier cause, like your grandkids? You see, my husband chose a profession that doesn’t make a lot, and rather than working with that, we decided to have a couple of kids and count on you to support them. Since we’ve made that decision, it’s just not right for you not to come through for us. I know that when you had me, you expected that eventually I’d grow up and take care of myself and make mature, adult decisions in my life. You should have known that I, as an only child, would expect to be your emotional and financial priority for life, though. Now that I’ve left home, gotten married, and had kids, I’m surprised that you have taken that as an opportunity to do the things you put off in your own life while you were raising me. Certainly, the more logical decision would have been to continue in that mode, just adding my husband and kids to your list of dependents. You’re certainly worth much more to me that way than as a happy, self-actualized human being, so just get over yourself and fork over the cash.”

This is why Dr. Brothers is an advice columnist and I am not.

I say, “K.B.’s mom, you’re a still young, vibrant individual, and you deserve to give yourself the benefit of and intellectually stimulating college experience. Go for it. Whatever might have happened in her young life to make your daughter so self-absorbed can still be corrected by you letting her live with and learn from her own decisions from now on. You go, girl. Those grandkids will appreciate a grandma who genuinely enjoys her time with them and can keep them interested because she knows so many cool things far more than a grandma who sends regular checks from her permanent home in front of the TV. Think tough love, lady, and don’t question your decisions based on how other people feel about them. Time to cut the baby loose and fly on your own!”