by LJ Frank, and Contributing Editors, Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, & Hilary Bowring
This series on estrangement seeks to understand some of the differing faces of estrangement and the crossroads it approaches for good or ill.
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented ~ Elie Wiesel. Romanian writer and political activist.
Think of the Earth as a creative entity that serves as the womb for all that is created in its environs from an embryonic state to a State of Beingness or To Exist. It’s the metaphor we may use to think of Mother Earth. And as the paleolithic philosophy suggests – whatever you do to one part of that Being you do to the whole Being.
To Exist, the person is engaged in a process of Becoming. Gordon Allport, psychologist, called Becoming a process of individuation (personal) and socialization (tribal).
Life is complex and not fair. It never was fair. To say we only have now to initiate the change we wish to see is accurate up to a point and is easiest when we have the physical and mental resources to do so. Not all of us have those resources or access to them.
The past hundred years we have lived in revolutionary times. Hannah Arendt in her brilliant work titled On Revolution focuses on the upheavals created by humans upon themselves and those upheavals have carried over into the 21st century into an existential landscape of disinformation, potential accidental or purposeful nuclear war, climate change, plagues, high tech weaponry, corporate and government surveillance, authoritarianism, oligarchy, relentless greed and the debate over human life and choice while tens of thousands die of starvation, disease, a bullet or other weapon. And that’s just sampling of the methods in which people die after they are born.
The beginnings of life: The only way conception can occur is with an egg and sperm that are fertile and connect, whether it’s in a petri dish to be replanted into a surrogate woman’s uterus or in the maybe not so distant future by some other mechanism. It is a woman that carries a baby for 9 months, not a man. It is a woman that can die during childbirth, not a man. And for the most part it is a woman that can feed a baby without artificial means (formula) from breast milk. And that’s in all mammals. The male goes out and spreads his fertile semen around to other fertile females to procreate, to keep reproducing, but if there is no woman, no female that is fertile and that can carry a child to birth then the species dies out. So really, what this is, consists of a number of factors. Fertility on both parts is important. Without that, there is no reproduction. The biological woman carries a baby for nine months under natural conditions. Giving birth is not easy. For, as noted, it is a woman that can die during childbirth. If one were to look at the process from an artistic view, it appears as an evolving mosaic work that is complexed by the environs in which the mosaic is formed. Fertility for example is affected by toxins from food, air, and water quality and or substances ingested by either parents and a host of direct and indirect environmental and cultural factors. There is a symbiotic relationship between the mother and her infant that increases over time.
Life is fragile: The things that can go wrong include but not limited to poor medical resources and inadequately trained professionals, profit based health insurance (the correlation between cheaper insurance and poorer quality of coverage and expertise) which can lead to the death of the mother and child and or leave either the child or mother with multiple physical and mental issues and disabilities. The options?
As a professor, philosopher, and friend of mine has noted, “it’s characteristic of a conservative worldview that responsibilities are placed on vulnerable individuals without regard to, and often in inverse proportion to, the physical, economic, social, and other resources and supports they need in order to fulfill those responsibilities without being destroyed or gravely undermined themselves. It’s based on a fantasy of what would be ideal, rather than on the actual realities of life.”
The complexity of the process struck a chord recently via the US Supreme Court in a Memo to Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Lawrence Tribe, constitutional legal scholar, and Professor Emeritus at Harvard Law School tweeted: Telling a woman she can’t object to being used to gestate an embryo involuntarily if she’s willing to give up her right to raise her own newborn baby poses a cruel Sophie’s Choice: your body or your parental rights. And it’s the Sophie’s Choice that is part of the to exist and the abortion crossroads.
The US Supreme Court as both the Executive and Legislative Branches know, is a politicized judicial body with potential downstream effects on all human rights and liberties. Cass Sustein’s Radicals in Robes: Why Extreme Right-wing Courts Are Wrong for America articulates how extreme the court has been in its decisions and the judicial activism has been right wing not left wing (a myth perpetuated by the right and the Federalist Society). And the current Supreme Court has moved farther to the right. There is no center. Who are these interpreters of the law?
Life and death decisions are affected by those with political, financial and corporate power, whether pharmaceutical, fossil fuel, legislative or military and so forth. Words and photos of fetuses trigger an emotional mechanism. And yet, does a man have a right to legislate a woman’s body? What is the man’s role? What are the real time effects psychologically, economically, and socially, on the woman and society? If the government (state or federal) have the right to legislate any part of a woman’s body and what she does with her body, is it also not logical for a man’s body, and any part of it, to be legislated as most current pregnancies are the result of human sexual intercourse, both consensual and non-consensual?
The abortion crossroads focuses on women and pro-birth. Whereas, pro-life would indicate universal health care, peaceful coexistence, anti-death penalty, and working towards the healthy growth of the person, and to suggest pro-life is simply pro-birth is not a legitimate argument. It’s intellectually and emotionally narrow for politicized purposes. What is the meaning of existence for the unwanted and uncared for child and ill prepared parent? Who is wise enough to judge her own body except for the mother?
Medicine is an imperfect science at best without the distorting effect of politics and religion. And politics within the context of man-made religious beliefs affects conversation about the unborn child and what constitutes a person and the nature of personhood.
The Estrangement grows when we advocate for a pro-birth but falter in being truly pro-life which means being for life in all its phases, medical needs, and years of growth. It’s disingenuous not to be an advocate for the child after they are born. Pro-birth and prolife become at odds with each other. It becomes a political game for the purpose of power and control and all within the context of a world at risk – over population, nuclear/biological and chemical weapons, global warming, and negative downstream effects of the very technologies designed for the good of all or at least those that can afford it. Life and death have become a competitive gamesmanship with predetermined winners and losers. Isn’t competition and capitalism part of the issue?
Increased polarizing disinformation is fed daily into the social, political, and cultural environment. We become estranged with each other when our existence and humanity collide with the challenge of defining a humane person. Perhaps the kernel of this self-destructive process lies in the very nature of capitalism – competition, money, and pride. The economics of raising a child in an ultra-competitive world has yet to be fully appreciated within a religious and political context.
Humanity like medicine is imperfect. Disinformation and its politics exacerbate and undermines the already imperfections of the person seeking factual information, understanding and affirmation, while striving for dignity, self-worth and the free will and liberty of choice.