Friday, July 13, 2007

Number One

I have been often accused these days of “only looking out for number one.”

It’s a nice big brush to paint Republicans and conservatives with, just vague enough to not really mean anything, but emotionally pointed enough to prick up inflammation in people who feel like they need others to look out for them.

My response: I can only look out for you after I’ve looked out for myself. If I’m a victim I can’t protect you. If I’m destitute I cannot raise you up. I succeed so that I can help others to succeed.

All I expect it you to want to succeed too, and be willing to work at it. I will not support those who refuse to support themselves. “Cannot” is one thing, “will not” is unacceptable.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

I Have a Dream

It's a small dream I guess, but a dream none the less.

I went and visited the USS Midway Museum last weekend with my husband as a sort of anniversary trip. I ditched the headphones and let him narrate, as he spent a substantial amount of the best years of his life going around in a big square in the Gulf on the USS Essex, which is somewhat similar to the Midway. And yes, I still have a hard time imagining what the musty, cramped, humid enlisted quarters would smell like packed with seventy exhausted young men.

As part of the exhibits being displayed in the hold (bay? big empty spot for planes below the deck? ah, it's a hanger deck) they had a bunch of pictures and documents from the Midway's stay in Japan. The Midway helped solve two problems, the first being Japan's venerability to other powers, and second our lack of strategic presence in the area. The pictures were what amazed me. Japanese officials chatting cordially with Navy Officers, the Emperor being welcomed aboard with honors. This, not fifty-ish years after the Japanese were our bitter and zealous enemies.

Think about it: 1940's: kamikaze pilots and Iwo Jima. 2000: State dinners, anime fans, and trendy sushi joints everywhere.

Here's my dream: in 2050 I want to be excited for my granddaughter, who's just been accepted to an overseas graduate program at one of Iraq's excellent universities. I want to contemplate taking a vacation on my 44th wedding anniversary to beautiful Tehran.

I believe in these people. I think it can happen. I think that plenty of them want it to happen too. I won't give up on this future.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Who'd Have Thunk?

You know the Bible 80%!

Wow! You are truly a student of the Bible! Some of the questions were difficult, but they didn't slow you down! You know the books, the characters, the events . . . Very impressive!

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I haven't read the Bible in five years or so, but I used to read it once a year, to keep on top of the theological arguments I enjoyed. I usually find I know much more about Bible stories than religious people I encounter. I actually spend much of Sunday night explaining the message of the story of Job to a fellow non-Christian.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Abortion and Secular Morality

I had a chance recently to write a short piece on why I believe abortion is immoral, from my secular standpoint. Please find below:

I’ve changed my mind in the past few years regarding abortion. Not very distantly I was a strong proponent of abortion on demand, and would argue with you all day long that human fetuses were nothing but parasitic organisms, owned entirely by the mother and at her complete disposal.

Now I admit that I’ve come to being pro-life. However, I’m more interested in changing people’s points of view so that abortion becomes an archaic, barbaric practice, such as the lobotomy, in the minds of the citizenry at large, rather than outlawing it. I’d rather doctors refuse to perform them out of their own conscience rather than fear of legal action.

You can see from my description that I’m an atheist. I have no religious or Biblical basis for being pro-life. Actually, it was part of this that lead me to my current position. You see, I do not believe in God, or heaven, the soul, reincarnation, or any other enduring spirit that exists outside of the physical body. I believe that the mind is the arbiter of the personality, and on the destruction of the physical components that make up the mind, the “person” will be gone as surely and permanently as the picture from a smashed television.

The clump of cells created by fertilization of a human egg has the singular astounding potential of developing into a human. It will create a self-aware animal that thinks and feels and exists independently, and has the ability to consider both the past and the future. A fetus might grow up to be a human that sows great destruction, or creates a new field of philosophy, or overturns Newtonian physics once and for all. Vastly more importantly, it might grow up to be your average human who experiences happiness and sadness doing all the small things that make up life, who worries about the future and ruminates on the past, and whose ability to do so is one of the universe’s natural wonders.

The deliberate destruction of existing potential to grow into a human offends me like the burning of the Library at Alexandria. It offends me like the Taliban destroying ancient Buddhist statues. It offends me like someone bulldozing Stonehenge because its in the way of where they’d like to plant radishes. It is the penultimate act of failing to recognize what is truly extraordinary and exceptional about humanity.

I already mentioned that I don’t believe in the concept of the soul or reincarnation. The person who could have grown from a destroyed fetus will never come back. They are gone forever. They do not have another chance. They do not go to heaven or come back recycled in another baby. Each fetus is the equivalent, in my mind, of the last existing blueprint of the greatest invention of the long dead grandmaster of a forgotten craft. If we put it in a museum and advertised it as such people would come from all over the world to admire it and feel part of something greater. People tell me tossing that blueprint into the fire because it annoys them in some way is a legitimate moral action. I am repulsed by that attitude.

Hopefully now you can see at least why I think abortion is immoral. I extend this immorality even to cases of rape and incest. The mother may be anguished for approximately nine months. The human that may have grown is robbed of the chance to ever be anguished. Neither will they ever be joyful, feel loved, hopeful, distraught, frightened, or content. The potential that they’ll grow up and want live, and think, and feel just as much as the rest of us do outweighs limited temporal discomfort. I would no more be able to accept someone destroying any human fetus than I would approve of them setting torch to the last library on Earth.

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