Yesterday, I pulled up to a drive-through ATM and sitting in front of me in the line was a car with a license plate that simply stated, "Choose Life."
Who can argue with that? I support life, don't you?
The problem, of course, is the relationship between that phrase and the U.S. right wing. You know, the ones who are petrified of everything from black presidents to black helicopters to Black Sabbath.
Yes, they piously claim to be "pro-life", but it is a simple platitude, for -- to paraphrase Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride -- I do not think that word means what they think it means.
To those not steeped in U.S. politics, being pro-life might seem like it means what one would expect -- to oppose policies and endeavors that duly result in a loss of human life. But in the US political arena, it means something quite different. Generally, it is a way of telling everyone that it's your business to give a woman her marching orders -- that she must eventually carry a three-day-old embryo to term, even if it's the result of rape or incest.
Or its corollary, that you're some kind of Nietzschean Superman for ensuring that 91-year-old patients in terrible pain due to pancreatic cancer must stick a tube in any empty orifice to force themselves to stay alive and suffer, even against their own wishes.
The sad reality is that, to be pro-life in the U.S. today, which is to be conservative in almost all cases, is to love thy enemy by supporting illegal wars -- or just plain stupid ones -- that kill hundreds of thousands of innocents, cutting health-care benefits and nutrition programs for children and the poor, and turning the other cheek... of the person you're torturing.
It is also to cut funding for bridges that are falling down to make room for slashing the tax on yacht shoes, make a best faith effort to ensure criminals, the mentally unbalanced and terrorists have access to assault weapons and explosives, and to love thy neighbor -- to love them so much as to give him or her a lethal injection if you think they killed someone.
"Think" is the operative word here, as it seems the conservative Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, may be about to put an innocent man to death. Shawn Hawkins, the man in question, is to be executed on June 14, 2011. This, even though there are serious enough concerns he may be innocent that on May 11, the Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended that the governor grant him clemency due to increasing doubt over his guilt.
But hell, what's a little faulty eyewitness testimony, evidence destroyed before it could be DNA tested, and lack of placing the defendant in possession of the murder weapon between friends? So, in other words, the morning-after pill is murder, but taking a human being who very likely might be innocent -- and killing him -- that is just so pro-life!
The truth is that those on the U.S. right are about as "pro-life" as Arnold Schwarzenegger is pro-wife. Or Dominique Strauss Kahn is pro-maid.
It is an empty phrase they throw around to attract a core demographic of foaming mouths, those who hate the very idea of a woman choosing to have sex and having any control over her body. Because presumably, Jesus, who talked about love and brotherhood, would have taken the time to stop walking on water and curing the infirm to rabbit punch any woman contemplating a life of self-determination.
This is not to say there are not legitimate concerns with late-term abortions. I have these concerns. Or underage girls making this decision without adult guidance. I have those ones too.
But this is not what this particular battle's about. Because if it were, I probably wouldn't have once argued on a television show with a conservative, who in one sentence told me that abortion was murder, and in the next that we should eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency (the guys who, you know, make sure we can breathe) -- and turn Iraq into a "glass factory." (See: sand and extreme heat.)
Now maybe you're reading this and asking: "I already know all of this, why is he wasting my time?" Well, perhaps this is just my way of saying I'm tired of the platitudes, particularly on the license plates of portly, pale, Rush Limbaugh-imbibers who take way-too-much time at the drive-through ATM because they're still working their way through fractions.
You can pick whatever political slogan you want. But pro-life is pro-life in any language. And you're probably a bit closer to actually being pro-life if you care about how a pregnant woman will get health care, and aren't the guy trying to cut it, while wearing your wife-beater t-shirt and holding up the Obama sign with the Hitler mustache.
A slightly different version of this column first appeared at Al Jazeera English
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