o what are we mourning, anyway? If the fetus I chose, at age 19, to abort at 6-12 weeks (I honestly can't remember how far along I was. I just remember the indescribable RELIEF when I wasn't, anymore)
WAS an actual human being, with a soul, then I imagine that human being with a soul had somewhere ELSE to go; either there is a god and a plan for the universe... or there isn't. If there is, then evidently this deity has abortion figured into the mix. And if there ISN'T, then what the fuck are we talking about?
Every life is sacred? SPARE ME. You want to talk about life being sacred, then take care of the ones who live outside a motherfucking WOMB, the ones who need some motherfucking FOOD and SHELTER - because the ones YOU'RE fretting about already HAVE food and shelter. Sure, they may not be alive tomorrow, and their fate lies largely in the hands of others - but such is this case for us all.
Homicide, cancer, old age, lead poisoning - shit, there are a million ways to die as a "human being," and if you want to believe a clump of cells with the arguable potential to become a human being already is one, then abortion is one of those ways for a "human being" to die.
Hell, if we're going to start using conception as the measure of what makes something a "human being," then miscarriage is the most common cause of death in "human beings." Welcome to the human race, Clump O' Cells. Looks like you drew one of the millions of short straws. Hope you had a good 3 to 10-week tour of duty in the Soul Marines as a clump, say hello to god, and here's to you getting a longer gig come the next go `round.
So, abortion is "murder" or "homicide" or "manslaughter" or just plain old "killing a living being." Okay. Then I'm in favour of legalised "murder:"
Let it henceforth be legal to commit "murder" upon any "human being" OUTSIDE a womb, one which breathes air instead of amniotic fluid, with those two characteristics being non-negotiable in the definition of the "human being" whose "murder" is permissible in society.
Except calling it "murder" is a ridiculous argument, because that purports to speak to the "sanctity of human life" while completely ignoring several assumptions that MUST be made if one is to declare human life "sacred." Among those assumptions: that there is something about human life that makes it more sacred than any other life form - including, but not limited to, mammals, fish, fowl, reptiles and insects.
What makes a human life more "valuable" than the life of a worm? The fact that YOU are a human, of course.
But to the worm, its life is more valuable.
It's ALL relative.
And there are many people out there whose attitude is that all forms of life are of equal "value," are equally "sacred." Indeed, they (Buddhists, I'll stop being coy, I'm thinking of Buddhists when I say "they" ) make a very good case for it.
I look with wonder, admiration and awe (because I am nothing if not into redundancy, overkill and hyperbole) at a Buddhist who actually strives to live without killing any other living being.
Until I start playing my old Dahlian head game. And I think, hey, they're just as chauvinist as we (the meat eaters and spider killers) are! How on EARTH does a Buddhist know that they have MURDERED a carrot, a carrot that perhaps on SOME plane of reality, actually had a SOUL? We're talking beyond holocaust, here.
But of course, there really ARE some people who only eat PLANT LIFE that was dead when they found it. Seriously. Who DO consider the life if a carrot to be as valuable and sacred as the life of a human or a rabbit or a scorpion.
Of course, the most powerful reason I have for not feeling guilty about eating meat or having an abortion or yanking a strawberry off the plant and chomping down on it through its innards... is that I do not HOLD life to be sacred. I suffer terribly when someone I will miss dies. I suffer terrible EMPATHY for the surviving loved ones of a dead person -- and empathy for the pain they suffered before dying, if they suffered it. But SACRED?
When I think of the word "sacred," I think of deism, religion, morality... and I'm right back where I relatively started, so to speak.
Naturally (literally), I hold the lives of my loved ones "sacred," in that the loss of them would be a wound to ME. Not THEM, mind you; I happen to think this life IS a vale of tears, that this is some kind of cosmic PRISON sentence, or summer school for especially stupid souls -- so when someone DIES, I don't cry for his loss, I cry for MINE or the loss of those left behind. When I consider the DECEASED, my very first assumption is that he's a lucky bastard and I can't wait to follow him.
Life is difficult. That's one of the Four Truths of Buddhism, I believe. The one I truly, truly believe and have experienced. I don't think we're here because we did such a great job on our last assignment, we've been given a corner office of the universe. I think this is the motherfucking basement.
So, say that on a cosmic level, abortion is really murder? Shall we set aside the possibility that killing ANY living being is murder (at which setting aside it is unavoidable to admit that we are morally relativistic about KILLING, in general, and thus are probably morally relativistic about killing all the way up the food chain to the killing of humans - be they air-breathing or amniotic-fluid-breathing)?
In the discussion yesterday that inspired this essay, I remarked:
I always laugh when someone uses the term "moral relativist" as a pejorative term.
Any intellectually honest person with an education beyond that of a ninth grader will admit that EVERYTHING is morally relative -- and that attempting to define "murder" is just such an example.
[Few] of those disdainers of moral relativism, for example, would even CONSIDER calling it "murder" to kill the enemy when at war.
Tell me THAT isn't being morally relativist and I'll tell YOU there's a medal waiting for you down at Semantics HQ.
... making, in my estimation, a pretty good case for moral relativism - not only as an actual fact of most human existence, but as an utterly justifiable and correct approach to life in general. EVERYTHING is relative, or so some say; I count myself among "some."
Which brings me back to abortion being "murder." Used to be, nobody made the distinction in casual conversation; that is, when quoting "Thou shalt not kill," back in the day, it'd be a downright anomalous, if not outright freakish, event if someone interrupted and qualified it thusly (and pedantically: no matter how you slice it, this one ALWAYS comes out pedantic):
"Actually, the original text, properly translated, was "Thou shalt not MURDER. Which is different than killing..." and so on.
Tell me THAT'S not morally relativist and I'll digest an old pillbox I've been saving for just such an occasion. Tasty roughage with some barbecue sauce on it...
No, to make that crucial distinction between murder and killing has become very important to certain sections of the anti-abortion, omnivorous and pro-death penalty crowds (please don't ascribe to me a conflation of any of said crowds, I do not mean to imply it in the least, keep up, now). When you get right down to it, they need the justification - the rationalisation - for the killing they want to do. So, among the logical steps that must be taken in their world view are the distinction between murder and killing; the definition of abortion as not mere KILLING but as MURDER; the killing of other species for our pleasurable, convenient and/or inexpensive consumption... and the KILLING of a death row inmate as mere justice - an eye for an eye, let's say. Oops... there goes that logical minuet. Aaaaaaanyway.
Of course, the same MUST be said of anyone who is pro-abortion. Clearly, a strong case can be made for the definition of a fetus or even blastocyst as a "potential human being." It IS living tissue, with a very good chance of becoming a living being who breathes air, develops a personality and will probably be cute for a few years at the very least... So, an abortion IS the killing of that tissue, that potential human being. Is it "murder?" Not in the estimation of the pro-choice crowd - at least, not in the sense that the killing of a living human being outside a womb is murder. Of course it's not "murder" to people who wish to be left alone to make the decision about whether or not to kill the tissue, the Potential Human Being, without interference from the State.
What we've got on our hands, ladies and gents, is a genuine impasse. People have been arguing about the definition of "murder" since, oh, I'd guess about the time Moses came down and various groups wondered as they wandered lonely as a cloud through the desert a-headin' to the Promised Land - and oy, if they'd only know, they mighta pitched those tents for permanent out there in the middle of nowhere - "Does he mean "kill" or "murder" - and if he means "murder," how do we distinguish between the two?"
If an abortion is "murder," folks, I submit that there is NO such thing as justifiable killing. Because if the killing of a clump of cells is on equal footing with the killing of an 8 year old child by a stray bullet in a gang zone or by a car piloted by a drunk driver or her father after raping her, then there's just no WAY that a killing in a war or a state-designated punishment room can be anything LESS than murder.
And isn't THIS a fine kettle of fish? What we got heah... is a failyuh ta comm-yuuuu-nicate. Or, rather, what we've got here is a classic case of different sets of morality pitting themselves against each other, all claiming theirs is the One True Way and that the others are a one way ticket to Aych Eee Double Hockey Sticks.
Let's say, for argument's sake, that abortion IS murder; that the killing of an 8-week old fetus is comparable to the killing of an 8-year old child. Why is that, do you think? What is the rationale behind equating the vacuuming out of a clump of cells from a uterus with the, say, suffocation of a child? "Every life is sacred?" DO we REALLY want to go down that convoluted route again? Because I guaran-fuckin-tee you, we're coming out exactly where we started. Maybe YOU think every HUMAN life is sacred; maybe YOU make distinctions between "innocent unborns" and "guilty motherfuckers on death row for killing an 8-year old child." Me, I get a little queasy once you start designating "humans" as "innocent" by mere virtue of the fact they haven't yet had a chance to do any killing of their own.
And hell, while we're at it, who gets to decide what "innocence" is? Used to be, if a baby wasn't BAPTISED, a certain church's doctrine taught that said baby was stained with ORIGINAL SIN and thus not INNOCENT enough to get into HEAVEN, for fuck's sake. So tell me again - who decides all these definitions? Where do you get them? `cause I'm thinking you got them from your mother or your church or your auto-didactic travels; but wherever you got them, I can promise you, I've got my own set right here in my pocket, and MY set feels JUST as Right and Good and Proper as YOUR set feels to you - and yet, how can this be? They're almost diametrically opposed in some of the most important areas known to human consciousness! How can this be? Is one of us right and the other wrong? How can we possibly determine that?
Looks like we're better off safe than sorry. After all, if we follow the rule of law and the rules of science, at least we'll know we're not off in fuckin' la-la land, following the dictates of a supposed deity who might actually turn out to be the product of mass delusion or credulity to generations of devious, manipulative, lying motherfuckers who knew a terrific tool when they saw one. Just a for instance. Me, I'm all for people living their lives the way they see fit; worship a turnip if that's what gets your bell ringing; just don't waltz into city hall and try to get laws enacted on behalf of the turnip and what it told you was the One True Way.
As usual, I have got off track. But you have to admit, you simply MUST, that the most logical conclusion you reach when you ask, "WHY is life so sacred, and why do these people care about beings who do not even EXIST yet in the form of the species of which they're supposedly the most "INNOCENT" members, while exhibiting nothing remotely like such fervent advocacy for the living humans already BREATHING AIR who suffer terrible deaths by the minute in every square mile of the world," the answer usually has something to do with the concept of a deity and that deity's rules and regulations for its minions here on Earth. And I'm sorry, your faith may be strong, but no amount of faith in someone ELSE ought to be the rationale for the unnecessary regulation of what I do with my body or my mind or any combination thereof. And it certainly is not an acceptable rationale for inviting other people into the goddamned examination room when I'm getting a pelvic exam and discussing my MEDICAL DECISIONS with my motherfucking PHYSICIAN.
Sorry. Nope. Bottom line: that may well be a human being in there, but it's an awfully TINY one, and I'm going to have to lower the boom. I don't wish to house and feed it for 9 months, let alone 18 years; for reasons whose details are my OWN and NO ONE else's to examine, dissect, judge or measure, I do not wish to carry this potential human being to term. Thusly, I will make my medical decision and MURDER it, if you want to use that term.
And when I'm feeling better after the procedure, you can find me at Damon's, eating part of a freshly murdered COW and what was surely once a charming, life-loving potato.
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