“War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning”
The intransigence of far right and far left voices on abortion have contributed to the polarization of America. Our current divide is so deep that some believe a second civil war is possible. I do not see that on the near term horizon, but I nonetheless fear for my country simply because we are no longer able to govern ourselves. Our form of government necessitates compromise, and too many of our elected officials have simply lost the ability to concede any ground in order to pass laws that most of us would support. Why?
It’s been years since I’ve read the book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges. The book is good; read it if you haven’t. But the title says it all. Try to imagine Compromise Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. It just doesn’t work, does it. So it’s war, then.
Obviously, when one group of people feel aggrieved, they will agitate for change. But what America is experiencing right now is a situation where life is fairly good, and, in my humble opinion, not much is so awful that we must take to the streets to push for revolution. Still, politicians have to distinguish themselves from the opposition on some grounds, so many of them poke around in the muck until they find a wedge issue that will work for them.
Abortion has a been a fundamental wedge issue for over 50 years for conservative Republicans who have other priorities. Their focus on abortion has been very useful in working their way toward a Supreme Court that is conservative on this and many other issues. Democrats have never been able to focus so entirely on the Supreme Court or the appointment of lower court judges, and, as I said, “compromise” doesn’t fit campaign rhetoric, so here we are with a high court decision that doesn’t square with what a majority of Americans want.
I ran a test question past a group of friends recently; their reaction explains exactly why we are where we are. My question was this: If Congress were to consider national legislation that allowed abortions, unchallenged, within the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, with protections for the life of the mother, would you encourage your representatives to support it. Howls of condemnation erupted. What would they support in order to settle this issue so that we could change the election landscape and pay more attention to other issues?
“Roe!” they said.
“We’re not going to get Roe,” I said. “The alternative is continuing warfare on this issue and sidetracking of every other important issue.”
One friend mentioned that Ireland had legalized abortion via a public referendum. I quickly looked up the Irish abortion law: 12 weeks! Yes, with provisions for mom’s health later on. The fact is that Americans, who look to Europe with envy, don’t realize that no European nation has an abortion law as generous as Roe.
My personal preference would be that the government just stay out of my private life; I’m surely not going to get that wish. But I would accept a compromise on abortion that protects the life of the mother. Would you? Or is this war the force that gives your life meaning?
Here are some resources to save you the trouble of searching:
Gallup: Public Opinion About Abortion
Pew Research: Public Opinion on Abortion
Abortion Laws in Europe