Monday, April 11, 2016

The whole is more than the sum of its parts

A few years ago, a student who was apparently intrigued by my interpretation of economic geography came to my office to chat with me.  He was a non-traditional student who was also a naturalized citizen after his formative years in a large South American country where the Iberian Romance language is not Spanish.  (How about that for a clue, eh!)

We freely talked about a whole bunch of topics.  Including abortion.  He was opposed to it, he said, and added that he was a born-again Christian.  He asked me where I stood on this issue.

When people ask me, especially when we have established our interests in constructive discussions, well, I have no hassles sharing my thoughts.  I told him the long version.

During my internship way back when I was in graduate school, during a lunch time walking around in downtown Los Angeles, I came across a pro-life (anti-abortion) rally.  It suddenly clicked in me that I was neither in the pro-life camp and nor was I in the pro-choice camp.  To me, aborting a fetus is murder, yes.  Because, pregnancy is the only way we know how to create a human life.  Until science figures out some other process, abortion means terminating a life.

However, it is justifiable homicide even well into a woman's pregnancy.  If she decides to terminate the pregnancy late in the second trimester, yes, she has the right to do so.  Women choose to do it because they know that is the best possible outcome.  Who am I to say otherwise.  I cannot imagine the emotional decision-making process that a pregnant woman goes through.  "Imagine" is important here--given that I am a male who has no idea about what it means to be pregnant and, that too, unexpectedly.

Of course, that student was completely taken aback with such a view.  Especially because he knew that I am an atheist.  But, to me, such a stand is not anything strange.  As I often write here, all these are a part of a drive to understand what the point of my existence is.  The meaning of life.  In these contexts, I am, therefore, almost always saying yes to Camille Paglia, like in the following:
Although I am an atheist who worships only great nature, I recognize the superior moral beauty of religious doctrine that defends the sanctity of life.
I truly cherish and value the sincere sanctity of life arguments that sincere practitioners offer.  They--not many there are who are sincere--and I are fellow-travelers in the quest to understand the meaning of life though our preoccupation with the meaning is from different perspectives.

I like the way Paglia concludes as well:
A liberal credo that is variously anti-war, anti-fur, vegan, and committed to environmental protection of endangered species like the sage grouse or spotted owl should not be so stridently withholding its imagination and compassion from the unborn.
If only we can de-link the cheap politics from such profound discussions!


Ramesh said...

Kudos to you for such a reasoned positioned on the abortion debate. That is a well thought out position. And yes, if the debate was less shrill and more substantive, then progress can indeed be made. Delegating that job to the Supreme Court is the worst of all options.

By the way, a more appropriate debate with the student from the large country in S America, not speaking Spanish, would have been whether Garrincha was actually a better player than Pele :)

Mike Hoth said...

He wanted a discussion, Ramesh, not a lecture! That certain country takes futebol very seriously.

Abortion is a difficult topic to discuss because it is difficult to properly categorize. I oppose it for reasons I find to be logical and for moral reasons, but supporters would find my morality to be poorly based on religion and my logic to be heartless. I often find their morality faulty and their logical positions incorrect. It is very, very difficult to find a middle ground and most people are unwilling to search for one. When people do reach a middle ground, it is often only a few minutes before they find themselves polarized once more.

I dare not begin such an discussion here, lest I manage what even Sriram could not when he declared God to be irrelevant on Easter Sunday. Tempers (mine, at least) would flare and our chats are too friendly for such things.

Sriram Khé said...

Yes, I want discussions on such matters. It is far too easy to duck absolutely important matters like abortion, when in reality those are the very issues that also define how people decide on whom to vote for. Abortion is one of the proverbial elephant in the room that often is not discussed, except by sleazeball politicians who elevate themselves to a moral high ground that they don't deserve.
I don't imagine there is a middle ground on this issue. But, I would very much like everybody to reach a bottom-line based on their own clearly articulated view. And then--here is the key--to see how consistent their moral framework on abortion is with their frameworks on other social issues. For instance, the moral consistency with capital punishment, with the homeless, with wars, with waterboarding, with ...
And, yes, the SOCTUS is the last place where this issue should be resolved. But, like democracy being the best of all the horrible alternatives, here too it is the court that decides.

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