My Covid Loss

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It’s July 20th, 2020 and I’m trying to think of a word that encompasses what the last 4 months have been like for me, what it’s been like for everyone in their own way. I haven’t met a person yet that hasn’t had to ride the pandemic wave (or is it a burn?) without some other personal deprivation taking passenger seat in this wreck.  Whether it’s not being able to gather for worship or participate in the sacrament of Eucharist, having to postpone your scheduled wedding, having the unmediated care removed from your prenatal care and birth, not being able to have the support of family after suffering a heart attack.

 

Demon. Maybe that’s the word.

 

On March 16th I had been back to work for 9 months since giving birth to my son Wyatt and taking maternity leave. 2019 saw a financial setback since I don’t get paid leave but we planned for it so we would be ok with one lagging year. By the beginning of March the US had been growing worried about the coronavirus Covid-19.  It had swept China, Italy, more of Europe and was starting to become a tenable fear.  March 11th WHO declared Covid a pandemic. March 16th Governor Walz (and Governors of all the other states) announced the closure of 11% of the labor force in Minnesota. In two weeks a record one-third of a million workers filed for unemployment insurance. When I went to work that Monday the language was unclear and I still didn’t know whether my industry was supposed to be furloughed. At 8 pm that night I received word that I am not allowed to go to work anymore.  The furlough was in effect until March 27th.  I had to scramble to get my personal belongings from my workplace.  How was I going to pay for daycare? How could I take my kids out and maintain their spot?  It was a two week increment that left things unsteady and unknown, not enough time to make any big decisions because potentially I was back to work March 30th.  Little did I know these small increments would expand to just less than 3 months.  I immediately applied for UI.  I had worked since I was 15 and had never been on UI before.  I was a novice.  Turns out I ticked a wrong box and was sent into an administrative Bermuda triangle.  I was told my employers HR could not help me.  I called the UI phone number relentlessly.  At this point I have my kids home with me, I took them out of daycare as we all got our bearings.  I’ll never forget those phone calls to UI.  I would be on hold for 3 hours everyday only to have my call disconnected.  My 3 and 1 year olds would be tearing into something or getting hurt or screaming or crying while I’m waiting to have word about the money that will pay our bills which is less than half of ones income if you didn’t know.  For 17 days my UI was stalled.  I didn’t know if it would ever come.  I was hurtling, sanity first, into despair.  I could not believe what was yanked out from under me and was still learning what the potency of this virus is.  I was a puddle of mixed emotions. Disbelief, despair, fear, anger and I was forced to depend on an institution that was unreachable, that doesn’t know me, for whom I am an abstraction, a number, a case.  I’m not even the worst of it though.  In Washington State my sister was denied UI for 8 weeks.  You see, out there they paid out $650 million in fraud to hackers armed with people’s data from previous breaches.  In order to rein in the deficit they halted all eligible claims, income that people desperately needed NOW.  It was starting to feel like we’re a cat’s plaything. To their credit, I can’t imagine being the “one in charge” of all of this. Obviously no choices were easy and that’s simply what they were, choices.  Choices based on the expert’s best predictions and guesses.  I studied the experts findings too.  After all, these guys were informing the policy makers.  I subscribed to podcasts, I would spend 6 hours a day watching the news, I logged into CIDRAP to study the studies.  This is what led to the country boiling over, the experts didn’t agree.  Dr. Osterholm disagreed with his colleagues at WHO and the CDC had a different opinion than Osterholm and…Fauci…well, the opinion was evolving and the evolution was impacting peoples lives in substantive ways.  Osterholm admits that there is still so much they don’t know about Covid-19.  He also admits that the policy makers have to consider the culture with which they’re imposing restrictions.  What type of mores and expectations do Americans have? He also admits he saw his grandkids for Fathers Day.

 

DJQWE1423This last point makes me feel really slighted.  The last time I saw my dad was Christmas and I regret never getting a picture of him with 9 month old Wyatt.  In fact I never got a picture of him with Wyatt at all.  I thought I had time.

 

 

 

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I didn’t get to see my dad in March for Wyatt’s first birthday because of Covid.  I didn’t get to see my dad for Fathers Day because of Covid.  I didn’t get to see my dad at the hospital in May after a heart attack because of Covid.  I didn’t get to see my dad at home while he was, as I was told, recovering because of Covid.  Then in June my mom is hospitalized and I don’t get to support her at the hospital because of Covid.  Both my parents NEED advocates.  The telephone game is not enough.

 

I thought my dad was recovering and he was actually dying.

 

I desperately wanted to see him but was told it is too risky because of Covid.  I wish I would have trusted my gut and saw him anyway.  My sister from Washington State had come in town to help care for our mom and she made a date to see my dad on Saturday July 11th.  I have to admit I was jealous.  I had wanted so badly to visit him during this Covid-demon.  During their lunch he was in a real bad way.  He struggled to catch his breath, he was literally freezing to death.  On the drive home he died in the car.  The day I was told the news of his passing, I had been running through the sprinkler with my kids and we were just putting kabobs on the grill.  At least during the pandemic-demon there was summer and outside.  While I was running through a sprinkler my dad was in the throes of losing his life.  I got the phone call and was in disbelief again.  Four months ago it was the loss of my livelihood. Now it’s the loss of my dad. I picked up my sister and drove an hour up to Cambridge, MN to view him one last time, to view him for the first time since Christmas.  He was lying on a hospital bed with his feet relaxed to the side, shoes still on. I scooted a chair across the floor to his bedside and told myself “shh”, he’s only sleeping right? Overwhelming disbelief.  I took my mask off and looked down on his face.  The Covid-demon didn’t matter anymore.  It had infected my life without infecting me and now he’s gone. Not from Covid but from regular sicknesses that have been taking people’s lives since the beginning of time.  Death is a sure thing that no amount of safety will prevent.  Safety may flatten the curve but what it did for me was keep me from the things I call life.  It kept me from doing what I know in my heart is best.  We’re all trying to do what is best for each of us and that is an individual thing.  Someone else’s Covid story involves losing their dad to the devastating effects of Covid itself.  Ironically my dad didn’t die of Covid but he died gasping for breath nonetheless.

 

Covid didn’t take time off even after my dads death.  We were told by the funeral director that we could not publish the date and time of his memorial service for fear of attracting a large number of loved ones which would make impossible social distancing.  We had seen a very large, public, indoor funeral for a person that wrongly lost his life, hundreds, thousands in attendance, and I wondered doesn’t my dad who is also a valuable child of God deserve a memorial with ALL his loved ones who wish to be there?  In our grief we pressed our foot down and the funeral home relented.  His memorial took place in the Rice St. neighborhood he had carved a life in and at the church he went to school.  During the Lords Prayer, with the doors open in the back on a hot sunny day, his biker buddy cranked the throttle on his Harley Davidson and I literally imagined my dad’s soul joining his Maker on the highway to heaven.  The day moved me.  You always imagine how losing someone will affect you, at least I do, but it’s out of your control.  My body just wept and I couldn’t stop it.  I think it was the mounting pressures and mixed emotions these last four months had burdened me with.  This force, like a herd of bison, trampled over me.  It had tarnished friendships, it had deflated my spirit, it had made me question how courageous would I be if everything was taken from me?  Would my gaze be toward the Lord?  This Covid-demon had shone me for who I really am.

 

Weak.

 

By weak I mean I have the same nature affliction that John Piper describes going to battle with here.  Selfishness, self-pity, blame, anger and sullenness. The Covid deprivation made me realize how dependent I am on the things of this world.  Niceties, comforts, property, ownership, self-sovereignty, freedom, the company of other people.  And how much I failed to lean into the cross.  For too long, deprivation ruined me, reduced me, and laid bare my faults.  And this was just the deprivation of American freedoms.  What if it wasn’t just a deprivation but a brutality?  What if I was a number in a concentration camp?  Oh how weak I’d be!  My mind knows that the things of this world are temporal but my desires cling to them as if life itself is only the things of this world.  But life is full of the glories of God.  Glory that is attainable even in earthly deprivation.  With the loss of my dad under the banner of Covid I am going to battle with my faults again, may my soul prevail over my flesh.

 

Memorial Weekend 1979- cabin
Memorial Weekend 1979 (my age, 38 yrs old)- cabin

When I think of everything my dad had lived through in his life from 1939-2020 I imagine all the major challenges and frights and losses he had and yet he never despaired.  He seized the day as the old trope says.  He really did.

 

May God equip me with courage, resilience and hope when everything is taken from us except our life and even when that last vestige of property is taken from us as well may we find peace in knowing we have our eternal Father who breathed into us the breath of life, found value in our existence and welcomes us back home.

 

 

 

One last immortal post script for my father:

1984-10 Circle Drive 55014
1984

 

My dad, Dale, was 42 when I was born, the last chance for a boy out of a handful of girls.  God gave him one more girl- Teresa Dale. For the formative part of my life he was an excellent provider.  Oil changes, boot-strap perseverance, livelihood for the family, a strong blue collar work ethic.  I love him for that.  But for the last decade he let us glimpse his vulnerability, hugs and “I love you’s” became important, timely.  He’s always been so strong but this was a new strength- tenderness, graciousness, calm.  The kind of resolve a man gets when he’s focusing his life on what matters. What it made clear to me is that I was just getting to know him.  All his life his animated stories had outsized him and now I was meeting the man the legends are about.  A man of nine lives.  A man who should have written a book.  A person, a soul.  A father who always loved his daughters, even that one four decades younger than him.  A man who dedicated himself to the honor of those he loved.  A man who loved life.

 

He was proud of us four strong women, all girls, which is just what he needed.  And even though I was just getting to know him I am assured that he lived a full life and that he loved us.

 

We love you dad.

My Covid Loss

Arguing The Death Penalty

I’m going to make a case as to how the death penalty is the only moral response to certain highhanded crimes, how the death penalty upholds human dignity and how the death penalty is indeed prolife.

 

It is thought by the anti folks that punishing a deserving man with the death penalty is mere revenge and therefore cruel but a man, even a criminal, has a right to his just deserts, no more, no less.  When the punishment doesn’t fit the crime then the criminal in a mere subject that the justice system tinkers with in its own subjective pursuit. As C.S. Lewis says, this humanitarian theory removes from punishment the concept of desert and the concept of desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a punishment can be just or unjust.

 

Next I will enumerate popular arguments and rebuttals to those arguments.

 

The Risk Of Executing The Innocent

 Imprisoning innocent people is also wrong, but we cannot empty the prisons because of that minimal risk. If improvements are needed in the system of representation, or in the use of scientific evidence such as DNA testing, then those reforms should be instituted. However, the need for reform is not a reason to abolish the death penalty. Besides, many of the claims of innocence by those who have been released from death row are actually based on legal technicalities. Just because someone’s conviction is overturned years later and the prosecutor decides not to retry him, does not mean he is actually innocent. If it can be shown that someone is innocent, surely a governor would grant clemency and spare the person. Given our thorough system of appeals through numerous state and federal courts, the execution of an innocent individual today is almost impossible. Our present system of capital punishment limits the ultimate penalty to certain specifically defined crimes and even then, permits the penalty of death only when the jury finds that the aggravating circumstances in the case outweigh all mitigating circumstances. The system further provides judicial review of capital cases. Finally, before capital sentences are carried out, the governor or other executive official will review the sentence to insure that it is a just one, a determination that undoubtedly considers the evidence of the condemned defendant’s guilt. Once all of those decision makers have agreed that a death sentence is appropriate, innocent lives would be lost from failure to impose the sentence. Capital sentences, when carried out, save innocent lives by permanently incapacitating murderers. Some persons who commit capital homicide will slay other innocent persons if given the opportunity to do so. The death penalty is the most effective means of preventing such killers from repeating their crimes. The next most serious penalty, life imprisonment without possibility of parole, prevents murderers from committing some crimes but does not prevent them from murdering in prison.

The mistaken release of guilty murderers should be of far greater concern than the speculative and virtually nonexistent risk of the mistaken execution of an innocent person.

 

The Death Penalty Is Racist And Is Applied Arbitrarily

 While it is true that it is mostly white victims that place murderers on death row (75% of death row inmates killed a white victim). More whites than blacks are executed (56% whites, 34% blacks). While most murderer-victim pairings are same race, whites kill whites, blacks kill blacks, white victims will land a murderer on death row more often than black victims even though 52% of homicides are black victims and 43% of homicides are white victims. It’s also evident that sentencing is arbitrarily handed down. Meaning one case will get the death penalty and a seemingly similar case will get life in prison. The overarching thesis is that the application of the death penalty is unfair.

Discretion has always been an essential part of our system of justice. No one expects the prosecutor to pursue every possible offense or punishment, nor do we expect the same sentence to be imposed just because two crimes appear similar. Each crime is unique, both because the circumstances of each victim are different and because each defendant is different. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a mandatory death penalty, which applied to everyone convicted of first-degree murder, would be unconstitutional. Hence, we must give prosecutors and juries some discretion. In practice, the death penalty does not single out the worst offenders. Rather, it selects an arbitrary group based on such irrational factors as the quality of the defense counsel, the county in which the crime was committed, or the race of the defendant or victim. Almost all defendants facing the death penalty cannot afford their own attorney. Hence, they are dependent on the quality of the lawyers assigned by the state, many of whom lack experience in capital cases or are so underpaid that they fail to investigate the case properly. A poorly represented defendant is much more likely to be convicted and given a death sentence. Even if the death penalty punishes some while sparing others, it does not follow that everyone should be spared. The guilty should still be punished appropriately, even if some do escape proper punishment unfairly. The death penalty should apply to killers of black people as well as to killers of whites. High paid, skillful lawyers should not be able to get some defendants off on technicalities. The existence of some systemic problems is no reason to abandon the whole death penalty system. After all there are systemic problems with imprisoning people as well. Should we empty the prisons? No. We maintain a justice system even while there are systemic flaws.

 

It Should Not Be Within Mans Power To Take A Life

Why should it be within mans power to mandate life imprisonment? Or mandate treatment? Or mandate anything?

Victims have the right to punish wrongdoers and the reasons for creating a state include reasons for potential victims to transfer that right to the state and avoid the chaos and vengeance of vigilante justice. After all, retributive justice is not revenge because it hands a criminal his just deserts whereas revenge, propelled by emotion, is not concerned with giving a criminal no more than what is just, revenge is concerned with satisfying the rage.

Because we have a system of justice in our society that is based on the inalienable view that all people are made in the image of God and endowed with human dignity we correct misbalances and it is right to do so as long as the punishment matches the crime.

 

Man Shouldn’t Play God

 See my post here.

 

The Death Penalty Is Cruel And Unusual

When someone takes a life, the balance of justice is disturbed. Unless that balance is restored, society succumbs to a rule of violence. Only the taking of the murderer’s life restores the balance and allows society to show convincingly that murder is an intolerable crime that will be punished in kind. For the most cruel and heinous crimes, the ones for which the death penalty is applied, offenders deserve the worst punishment under our system of law, and that is the death penalty. Any lesser punishment would undermine the value society places on protecting lives and life in general.

In 2011 Anders Breivik killed 77 people, mostly children, the largest mass shooting in modern history. He was deemed sane and sentenced to serve 21 years in prison “in a three-cell suite of rooms equipped with exercise equipment, a television and a laptop.” That’s 100 days of posh prison time for each person he murdered, with a legal release possible at age 53. After his 21-year smack-on-the-hand for killing 77 people, Breivik could be kept there indefinitely by judges adding a succession of five-year extensions. This is thought of as the more humane punishment for murderers in contrast to the US whose criminal justice system is thought of as “cruelly punitive”.

What’s ironic is that Norway’s humanitarian theory is cruel and unusual because it removes just deserts from punishment and imposes therapeutic means of punishment that is subjectively devised and handed down. If it’s up to judge’s subjective therapy then should it not be in the hands of experts? After all we’re talking about prescriptions, not just deserts. The Humanitarian theory, then, removes sentences from the hands of jurists whom the public conscience is entitled to criticize and places them in the hands of technical experts whose special sciences do not even employ such categories as rights or justice. If a criminal’s sentence does not have to accord with what he deserves, it does not have to be just. At that point we are all at the mercy of those who are in power to call anything we do a crime and give it any therapeutic or remedial solution they choose, including gas chambers and medical alterations.

At each appeal Breivik will be assessed by a panel that will take no note of just deserts, they will solely ponder him- is he remorseful, is he rehabilitated, is he no longer a threat?  77 dead children won’t even exist in the periphery, only two subjects- the moods of the panel and the sales pitch of the murderer.

Wrongdoers have a “right to be punished” such that not punishing them with just deserts wrongs them. What is meant is that wrongdoers have the right to be treated as the kind of being who can be held responsible and punished, rather than as sick or dangerous beasts.  It is more respectful of normal humans to treat them as beings with the kind of dignity that comes with being responsible for their choices than not. Treating normal humans as merely more or less dangerous animals, whose behavior can hopefully be modified with threats and rewards is to over-extend the medical model. The medical model should be applied only to those whose mental capacities are distinctly sub-normal. Which speaks to the therapeutic sentence. Retributive justice maintains the dignity of the wrongdoer whereas therapeutic sentencing (sentencing concerned with rehabilitation or deterrence and not just deserts) treats the wrongdoer as sub-human. It is exactly because he is a human being with dignity, with all his faculties, who chose an evil act by free will that restoration should be just deserts.

 

 

Retributive justice is the only objective (because it is exactly what he deserves, no more, no less), humane (because it maintains his dignity as a human being with faculties of free will and reason) and prolife (because it treats life as valuable and profoundly worth protecting) sentence of justice there is.

Arguing The Death Penalty

Baby Registry List

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These are the must-haves and the didn’t-need essentials when you’re expecting your first baby. Of course it’s my opinion within the context of my own experience. Every baby is an individual person with different needs and wants. But I still think it’s a pretty universal starter kit from someone who had thoroughly researched baby items and scoured other blog lists on the internet only to find items I never needed 6 months into my first baby’s life. Now I’m on my second baby- a 3 month old- and, though they’re very different babies, the items that were useful still are and luckily I can reuse what I had. What a savings! Here’s the list:

  1. Rock and Play (I needed this with Isla, my first, but not with Wyatt, my second. With him we put him in the crib for sleeping but for her she spent a good deal of time sleeping in this next to our bed. I think she needed the rocking feature more than he.) 
  2. Diaper pail and refill bags
  3. Infant Tylenol
  4. Formula (start with a small sample to see which brands and kinds they like. My daughter liked Enfamil Gentle Ease and my son likes Similac  Pro Advance. With both my kids I never produced enough milk so I had to supplement with formula.)
  5. Baby Bath Tub
  6. Onsies and Pants
  7. Footed long sleeve body suits
  8. Fingernail clippers
  9. Bottle brush/dry rack
  10. Muslin burp cloths (These are the most absorbent.)
  11. Plush blankets and swaddle blankets
  12. Diapers/wipes
  13. Underarm thermometer
  14. Diaper rash ointment A & D
  15. Socks in 0-6 months, 6-12 months and 12-24 months
  16. Diaper bag
  17. Bulb syringe and saline drops
  18. Kleenex
  19. Cotton hooded bath towels

    (They sell them in polyester which is so strange and non-absorbent. Make sure to get 100% cotton.)

  20. Mobile activity gym
  21. Baby body wash and bubble bath
  22. Baby bouncer
  23. Baby swing (We bought the 4moms swing and have hated it from day one. It starts knocking and bucking when the baby moves so I would do something like the link this time.)
  24. Newborn antiscratch mittens and the size up in case your baby is big. By 2 months you don’t need those anymore.
  25. Breast pump
  26. Bottles with various nipple sizes and ounces (nipple: NB, 1, 2, 3)
  27. Baby carrier (I didn’t care for the Boba fabric ones. I felt like the baby was falling down.)
  28. exersaucer (they love these when their core strength appears around 5 or 6 months)

 

Things that were useless:

  1. Pacifier thermometer
  2. Nursing pads (but I didn’t produce much milk)
  3. Baby powder (Advised not to use by pediatrics now.)
  4. Hoodies and t-shirts (Hoods get in the way and t-shirts ride up.)
  5. Bottle warmer
  6. Boppy (Although this did come in handy for my broken tailbone so maybe get one just in case.)
  7. Rubber duck that reads bath temp. Just use your wrist.
  8. A bunch of bath toys. Isla plays with 3 things.
  9. I barely used our porta crib. Don’t get a fancy one. Just a container for sleeping is all that’s necessary not the mobiles and changing stations and infant convertible stuff.
  10. A pacifier (neither of my kids used them)
  11. Stuffed animals. Isla just started carrying those around at 2 years old.

 

Also, things you’ll want for yourself:

Lavender Epsom salts (a few bags because you put a whole cup of them in the bath for sitz baths that your OB will want you to take 3 times a day. How on earth will you find time? I have no idea! I was lucky to do once a day. Another tip: no more than 15 minutes in a sitz bath each time. You do not want your stitches to fail like I experienced.) 

Pads

Maternity lounge pants (black) and maternity tank tops, a sweater, flip flops, maternity underwear (Black. Those mesh panties they give you are a joke. You can use your own underwear.) for the hospital.

Advil

Miralax (Colace did nothing for me and you do not want hard stool.) 

 

I hope this was helpful and just remember that these items just make parenthood more convenient but they shouldn’t be intimidating or overwhelming. And also, babies are just the best!

Baby Registry List

Central America’s Northern Triangle Migrant Crisis

The Associated Press published this article on the treatment of migrant children in the US.

These are the conditions in Honduras.

It is a criminal offense for individuals or media to engage in terrorism but the definition of terrorism is so broad that it includes peaceful protests.

A cyber security bill severely harms free speech by compelling companies that provide internet to censor content.

Security forces have opened fire on protesters demonstrating against voting corruption which has resulted in deaths.

3/4 of the 10,000 unit police force is corrupt, involved in embezzlement and organized crime.

Judges are not independent and face interference from the executive branch.

There is a dysfunctional justice system and low prosecution rates.

Honduras has the highest murder rate for a country not at war.

The current President doctored the constitution to allow for a second term causing a flash of protests.

Honduran citizens have no physical security, property rights, independent judiciary, political stability, rule of law, or functioning civil society. Similarly Guatemala doesn’t have these. Many factors in their history have contributed to the current condition of the northern triangle nations (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) such as foreign fruit tycoons exploiting workers, the local government seizing private farmland to sell off to fruit tycoon operations, dependency on one cash crop for economic sustenance (banana republic), severe crop blight that ravaged the economy, war, political revolutions, coups, Soviet-backed dictatorships, US disinterest in the region following the Cold War, inability to bounce back from these devastations. Simply put, they have a very poor people, very corrupt authorities and very criminal gangs.

So there is a humanitarian crisis in the region and many people are risking their lives to trek 1,000 miles with the intent of entering the US illegally, in fact half of migrants entered the US illegally in 2015.

Then there are pro-immigration advocacy groups who organize, orchestrate and coach migrants who are headed to the US-Mexico border. Instead of saying you’re coming to the US to work you should say you’re coming to the US because you’re fleeing persecution. In most cases that’s true. But it colors their migration with a belief that America is an open border nation when in fact we’re not. There is a rule of law migrants must adhere to, an immigration process. The destabilized nature of Central America is a deeply complex situation that has no simple fix. So migrants will keep coming. It’s not extraordinary for the US to want to guard its border, its resources and its people from the influx of a destitute people fleeing a destitute country. That’s a geopolitical statement.

Then there is the ethical sphere of the crisis. For the migrants that are here, what do we do about them? The US has a reputation that we adhere to, an ethical standard to treat people in a way that honors their civil rights. Especially the most vulnerable- children. Does that apply to illegal immigrants? I’m not asking a legal question. I’m asking an ethical question. My opinion is yes- when it’s children. Well that requires infrastructure spending to the tune of billions of dollars ($6 billion is one figure I read) to create medical facilities that languishing migrants are sent to so that they are removed from mere processing centers and detention facilities and treated humanely. We currently don’t have the infrastructure to be caregivers for migrants. The infrastructure we do have is for immigration processing but even that is not sufficient or efficient. There needs to be more immigration judges at the border streamlining immigration processes. There needs to be better communication within the levels of bureaucracy. When it’s an ethical question, we’re talking about throwing a lot of money and hands at the problem. Migrants depend on this inclination we have. They assume or at least hope that we overlook the criminal entrance for the sake of being humane. That’s a breathtaking undertaking though. How does a nation, even the most wealthy nation, be a guardian for all the destitute people of the world? How about just those on our doorstep? If I’m known as the lady who will always take in kittens the boxes of kittens on my doorstep will keep growing until I am maxed out.

Because the political stability remains rancid in the northern triangle, the ethical response will, ad infinitum, be exhausted. And everyone has an opinion to throw at it but what’s the solution? What’s for sure is the whole problem is devastating and emblematic of our existential fallenness. I think all US citizens have their heartstrings pulled for migrant children. A two year old put at risk by somebody (parents?!), but the risk they’re leaving is bigger than the risk they’re taking so he’s sent across a thousand miles, emaciated and sick he shows up at a US border facility that is a processing center, not a medical center, we have no border infrastructure to be his caregiver, in desperation he’s put in another older child’s care, agents scramble to find clean diapers for him (yes I’m willing to assume with confidence that the border agents are not sinister), fellow migrants try to convince him he can trust a shower. It’s all so devastating. And then the next month thousands more.

The problem is huge, there’s no simple solution and I don’t know where to begin. I think that’s where the forces that be find themselves too.

Central America’s Northern Triangle Migrant Crisis

Baby Boy

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This dedication is harder for me to write.

 

I wrote a dedication to our daughter, your sister Isla, when I was 27-weeks pregnant and now I’m 27-weeks pregnant with you and I want to write an address but I have so many fears linked to your sex. At our 14-week ultrasound we learned that you are a boy. At the 20-week ultrasound it was confirmed that you are a boy. Ultrasounds can be wrong so we will have a girl and boy name ready at birth but…It’s A Boy! This news was an acclimation. We already have a girl, whom we are familiar with and, well, why rock the boat? I grew up with sisters and we are a female dominated family. It’s what I know. Your father grew up with all brothers and the stories of his youth are rebellious. Is this rebellion your fate? I hope for a rebellion of a different kind; a revival!

 

All individuals are different so our boat will be capsized and we will either sink or swim, probably both in different seasons. I get wrecked with worry concentrating too much on my earthly efforts as your mother and the presumption that you will fall in line with cultural stereotypes, stereotypes that I have experienced personally. I worry that if I miss this lesson or that bad-influence friend I’ll lose you but… I never had you. Firstly, you’re God’s. Secondly, you’re yours. Mine you never are from beginning to end. Yet I will pour forth my heart for you and hope that you return the love. There is a duality that exists within parenthood. I am free from guilt because you are a soul, a body, a consciousness, and a conscience apart from me yet I am accountable for your direction. Not only me, your father too. Two floundering swimmers lost at sea. Two pitifully fallible people and the pressure is on to produce an upstanding progeny. Lord help us.

 

Who will you be? How will you hurt yourself, be hurt and hurt others? Will you be reckless, careless and danger attracted? These stereotypes scare me. Will you set sail into adulthood never bearing in mind to look back in my direction? You’ll be busy. Or worse, will you become lazy and indifferent? I remind myself I don’t have to worry so. You are not mine. But I will have to tread those turbulent waters. The current will be framed by your biological sex. How much you fall in line with stereotypical trends will be up to your spirit wrangling your nature. How hard you’ll have to fight and how strenuous your uphill climb will depend on those very unequal attributes you were given anatomically. Your nature will attract you to choices, what choice will you make? The man you’ll be, the spouse you’ll be, the neighbor you’ll be, and the son you’ll be is your pursuit. Even as I speak of who you will become, it’s never fixed.  You will choose anew every day and every season.  Will you choose the light or the dark?  I hope the attractiveness of the light outshines the dark.

 

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It’s providential that I’m having these anxieties in the Christmas season. As the Maker would have it there is a baby boy who, as a man, saved us sons and daughters. Christmas is the commencement of a life that will include deep suffering. In that image we, too, suffer but that suffering is followed by glory:

 

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” -2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Our suffering: “is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4: 17-18

 

So there is a boy that brings good news and I am pregnant with a boy who brings…who knows, but I’ve decided I’m joyful it’s a boy. I will joyfully receive this baby boy just as we receive Christmas.

 

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Like our daughter, I will look forward to the reward of that first smile, the month when you can sit up, the month when you can walk and the most rewarding so far; the months when you start talking. “I wuv you!” There is grace out there; hugs, kisses, laughter, funny moments, the brightness in a child’s eyes, even just holding hands. We are not alone son; that is our mercy. For, He rules the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, He stills them.

 

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am

Baby Boy

Forgiveness

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Have you ever been hurt so badly that forgiveness seems like a contemptible commandment? Of course you have! Haven’t we all?! And even if your personal life has squeaked by largely unscathed there is the horror of the Holocaust that makes us remember. There is pain, misery, evil and death out there. Even in your home those things reside, rearing their head between moments of joy or peace, like a whack-a-mole. Can’t I just whack that thing once and for all? Do you find your exhaustion and your resentment festering until it becomes as C.S. Lewis describes- “a black we wish was blacker”? In other words, if you found out that some indicting point of view you have about someone is untrue would your reaction be ‘phew, he is not as bad as I thought’ or steadfastness in your indignation that your hatred has to be well founded? Aren’t we all guilty of the latter? We want people to be as guilty as our feelings sentence them with. But the former is the type of love forgiveness is rooted in.

 

Lewis thought Chastity was the most unpopular virtue. That is, until Forgiveness. We are called to love our neighbor as ourself but within that paradigm is your enemy. If everyone around you are idiots or more nefariously, corrupt, how can you love them? What does that look like?

 

Here is what forgiveness is not. It is not feeling fondly for the person. It is not finding them attractive. It is not thinking them nice when they have not been.

 

“This is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making them out that they are not really such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are.” –C.S. Lewis

 

Forgiveness does not reduce the hatred we feel for the wretchedness of the wrongdoing. We ought to hate it. It does not mean that the subject of the wretched act ought not be punished. Punishments and governing authorities are anointed to administer earthly justice. Deserved punishment is a wrongdoer’s right as a human being. Because we are ‘selves’ or self conscious sentient beings or made in the image of God (whichever way you want to put it), because we have that level of dignity above all other creatures and life forms on the planet is why just deserts matter. Forgiveness doesn’t negate retributive justice. So, depending on the trespass, jail or prison or death may be necessary. For the Gestapo this is necessary. But even in the execution of the punishment we should, as Lewis says, “feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves- to wish that they were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good.”

 

What does forgiveness look like for a spouse, friend or family member who hurt us personally? It means loving someone who is sometimes unlovable. But then, are you yourself ever unlovable? Yes. We all are. Whether it’s that I must always be right or that I mentally reduce my loved ones to fools when their interests or idiosyncrasies or delights seem below me. Whether it’s having unreasonable standards or being perfectionist. Whether it’s glossing over my own wretchedness to go out of my way in pointing out theirs. Whether it’s my impatience, my intolerance, my misunderstanding, my anger, my rudeness, my frustration: MY EGO, these all make me deplorably unlovable. Even in my ‘noble’ hope that my loved one be cured of their unlovable affliction, which is an aspect of holy forgiveness (we are called to approach forgiveness with hope for redemption) we still miss the mark with this focus. Even reading this essay you have someone else in mind. You’re thinking of someone who may or may not deserve your forgiveness. Which leads us to what forgiveness IS.

 

Lewis sums it up so well here:

 

“For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life- namely myself. However much I dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”

 

Isn’t that sharp?! There is someone in this universe that you always go out of your way to forgive. Yourself. When you’ve done something awful (and you have! We all have.) how long does it take you to forgive yourself, an hour, a day, maybe for the more brooding personality a month? Then you carry on enjoying your own company and finding yourself quite worthy and deserving of good things. That is what forgiveness looks like. But what forgiveness is is this: love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a challenging call because ‘our self’ is our constitution that we’re stuck with, that we can’t be rid of, that we can’t abandon so forgiving it is not only built in but necessary. Another’s self isn’t lodged in our being. We can abandon it. But how much more selfless and good and glorious is it to choose to love an abandonable person than the automatic and choiceless act of loving ourself? You would wish your loved one would choose love for you. Through your wretchedness, your guilt, your sorrow you wish for forgiveness and love from them.

 

So do they from you.

 

Forgiveness says, you have done an evil thing; nevertheless, I will not hold it against you. I love you.

 

This is why forgiveness is unpopular, radical and HARD. But for ourselves it is simple. We should extend the generosity we give ourselves to other people. That is love.

 

To love is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully in your hobbies and your vices, avoid all entanglements, lock it up safely in the coffin of your selfishness. But in the coffin- safe, dark, motionless, airless- it will change. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to heartbreak isn’t safety, it’s damnation. The only place you can be free from the danger of love is Hell.

– paraphrase of C.S. Lewis

 

 

Forgiveness

With Life Comes Death

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Ever since my daughter’s birth there has been a looming… I really couldn’t put my finger on it… just, a wave of mourning. I feel scandalized putting this intimate feeling to print. It recently occurred to me what this funereal feeling is. Each month I look forward to with my child is a month of my finite and mortal life that has passed by. She just turned one and a whole year, poof, gone. For her, each day is the beginning of the rest of her life while my days are half used up. With the birth of the next generation in my little family I have intrinsically passed the torch. She is the flame bearer. Now my days are spent grooming her to blossom. I no longer matter as much. My contribution was born and now I wilt into the background. It is my daughter’s turn. Don’t get me wrong, I love that she is just beginning and I get to witness all her firsts just as my mother witnessed all my firsts. I wonder if my mother felt the weight of entropy in her life as I took my first steps, as I moved out of the house, as I moved on with my life?

 

I had never been afraid of death. I smugly felt ‘if my time is up it’s up’ as is a luxury of youthful thought. Two things afford a young person this carelessness. The first is that they haven’t acquired many things they love yet and the second is that death is a far off threat. How will I feel when I’m 60? How will I feel when I or my husband get cancer? I think I will wonder, “How did I get here?”

And you may find yourself
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?

Letting the days go by.

-Once In A Lifetime by The Talking Heads

Isla makes me afraid of death. She will enjoy the years that have already passed for me and then she will lose me just as I will lose my mother. None of us quivers in our boots at funerals because we are still alive taking for granted all the days we’re endowed with. We drive away, get back to our kids sports practice, go to sleep, wake up. The sun is on time. We continue living. Eventually our family photos end up in a dusty flee market and the future buys them up for Halloween decorations.

 

There are generations of influential people in graveyards. Are there more dead than living? This is a tangent, but did you know there are thousands of pieces of debris orbiting the planet in low-earth space? Thousands of pieces of junk left behind by previous generations tethered to our conscious. The memories and buried bodies of people are earthly relics tethered to our conscious. We know they existed because there are traces of evidence but their imprint is a whisper in the wind until it becomes untethered and gets swallowed up by the universe.

 

So while Isla’s body is feverishly repairing and replacing cells my body is rusting. Eventually I will have crossed the threshold and my body will degenerate. I will grow mindful and ruminating while my daughter has perhaps bore a daughter herself. Finally I will breathe my last breath, drift off into the supreme deep sleep, and my daughter will hold a funeral. I will be remembered until some day I’m not. By then a fourth generation will take her first steps.

 

What is it all for?

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As I become more acutely aware of my limited days I can’t help but feel panicked. I don’t want to die.

Too late, my time has come,
Sends shivers down my spine,
Body’s aching all the time.
Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.

Mama, I don’t wanna die

-Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

How do I not languish in despair? I am in bondage to death.

 

This is how.  I know of no other way.

 

We do not lose heart, although our outer body is decaying, our inner soul is being renewed day by day. We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly body is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, a house eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this temporal life we groan, being burdened, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. His life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight — we are of good courage.

-paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

 

While someday I will be done here, I will not be finished.

With Life Comes Death

mother!

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This is an artistic film. I think the thrilling scenes are enough to carry a mainstream viewer but the artistic pace toward the climax is slow. Or rather concealed. Evil doesn’t start out bombastic and in your face, it starts with little background-noise slights and then more overt wrongs until it scandalizes into grand evil. Film critics have had contrasting reactions from “vile, contemptible, an embarrassment to Paramount Studios” to “riveting, masterpiece, visually striking.” It is downright Aronofsky and should be sealed with his family crest!

 

This nightmare (is this a dream?) is a Christian allegory.  That’s what I see.

 

‘He’ (Javier Bardem) is the Creator God, the houseguests are depraved mankind, the baby is the expiating Christ given as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, the carbon crystal is the seed of life and the forbidden fruit (the perfect genesis that belongs to God alone).

 

But who or what is mother?

 

Some critics have said this is a story about mankind ravaging mother earth, where Jennifer Lawrence’s ‘She’ (there are no names of characters only Him, Her, She and He) is the world. I think that’s too lazy an interpretation. There are too many things that wouldn’t add up. If it’s a lecture on the despicable way we treat the earth then what does the innocent son of man have to do with it? What of God’s taking earth’s love and recreating? It seems God’s preoccupation is with man. He says, for a creator “there is never enough.” Else, there would be no creation. He must bore forth. For the act of creating is out of desire to yield something ‘other’ than thou. God’s constitution is conceiving. He conceived of the earth but his fondness is for humanity.  This has me thinking about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Christian Trinity- that perfect relationship, why more, why us? I’m not sure this film presents the relationship between God and His creatures in accord with Christian doctrine but it is an allegory and a work of art. That these themes are even given screen time is groundbreaking to me in an industry that’s void of existential thought beyond ‘I’.

 

If She isn’t simply mother earth could she be Lucifer? Lucifer after all is a fallen angel who had protected the throne of God just as She protects His writing room and His cherished tree of life- the carbon crystal. There is also great parallel of His poet’s words and the word of God. There is even anointing done with ashes, by God and his priest, of his fan followers, blessing them; “receive his words.” The allegory goes on. Lucifer was exceedingly beautiful. Lucifer grows loathsome of service to God. ‘She’ is a stridently sacrificial yet jealous character. Yearning to have Him to herself, to have His gaze exclusively upon her, to have first priority when viewing His work of art. Then Lucifer is cast out of heaven and upon judgment is burnt by fire and disintegrated into ash. Jennifer Lawrence’s ‘she’ forebodes about the apocalypse. The narrative in mother! displays genesis through the book of revelation.

 

Or maybe lowercase mother is simply a person. She is the commoner with the womb that carries Jesus. The same person who seeks a word with him on his walk up to Calvary to whom he says “My mother is someone who hears the word of God and does it.” Lawrence’s She is sick of God’s plans for their household. She is the commoner that is enchanted, even moved, by God’s word but doesn’t accept the radical regeneration that’s required. Her idea of service is still prideful. She doesn’t do it 100% for God, she does it for herself. The home is her work, the womb is her work. He receives praise for His work, She wishes for praise for Hers. This isn’t simply a presentation of misogynistic burden shouldered by women. All un-regenerated people are saturated in self-glory, unable to free themselves from that outlook.  Unable to abide the leadership of Him.

 

There are plenty of stories in the bible that have God resetting the course. Outmoding animal sacrifice for the ultimate blood sacrifice Jesus Christ, Noah’s ark and the great flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. Now, whether the recreation in the film means God as a frustrated amateur that just can’t seem to get it right and narcissistically scraps His work so that He can receive more love, more adoration next time or God as the perfect creator that, out of abundance of love, painstakingly gives second chances, there is artistic license with this. Does the creator ‘He’ create out of an absence and a desperation for more or out of an abundance and a selfless choice to share?

 

This film reminded me a lot of Aronofsky’s earlier works. There were beautiful cinematic scenes that reminded me of several films. There was Requiem For A Dream in the pulsating organic walls and delusional visions. I saw Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist with the opening and closing sequences of nature insidiously consuming civilization with its tentacles. I saw Gone Girl in the scenes of the crazed fans and paparazzi. I saw Children Of Men with the war ravaged trenches and slummed refugee camps. The decent into Hell was almost as if an elevator were taking you through the generations of the earth’s crust with each layer being an egregious era in mankind’s history.

 

One thing Aronofsky got spot on is the depravity of man. And I’m not talking about the stereotypical political jargon that a bleeding heart (no pun intended) would sentence you with but rather the curse we’re ALL under. One thing that struck me is the brilliant way Lawrence’s She, whether Lucifer or person or planet, is cast as someone you’re sympathetic for. Of course!…the barging in of houseguests should incense her, of course she shouldn’t forgive the ravenous mob, of course she should be paid more attention to for her sacrificial acts of service and steadfast support of her poet-genius. Of course She should have glory! That’s how mysterious, how outside our mortal comprehension, how ugly to our unregenerate souls, God’s plan is. We see Her as painfully taken advantage of and flogged again and again to the point of total annihilation while He coolly forgives. What is justice for Her? It would be too simple to present sin as the mob but the road to Hell is paved with human good intentions that are apart from His plan. God’s plan is so radical, so rebellious, that forgiveness for a murderous mob is among his orchestration. Certainly God’s justice is mysterious to us. Where His radical love and justice leads in the bible versus where it leads in the film are different paths.

 

There are so many layers to this film I need to see it again. I’m delighted to see such transcendent themes in a star-studded film. It makes you wonder, like Michael Knowles said in the Daily Wire, if Aronofsky hasn’t paid lip service to the Mother Earth interpretation simply to con mainstream audiences into watching the Bible for two hours.

mother!

A Reflection On The Life Of Our Baby Girl

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Nine months ago I wrote a prayer for our unborn baby when I was 27 weeks pregnant. Now our baby girl is 25 weeks old and I was not wrong about my own struggles. There is a huge amount of helplessness a parent feels for their child. When she bursts into sobs after previous contentment you try the few desperate consolation tricks you know and then you dissolve into an exasperated defeated shoulder shrug. You have no idea what’s wrong. Then she’s sick with pinkeye and a cold and has a 101 fever and you don’t know what to do. You ask your husband what to do and he, likewise, doesn’t know. Meanwhile someone’s life is in your hands. You are her creator and her sustainer.  You are her anchor; an anchor that is ill weighted sliding across the bedrock while the boat is kicked up by storm.

You find that it’s a relief when your sister, mother or mother in law (anybody!) wants to hold her because all the baby does at this point when she’s not eating, sleeping and filling diapers (and those things have easy remedies, phew) is a lot of looking around. Looking around while in the bouncer, looking around while on her playmat, looking around in your arms, looking around in the stroller. The looking around and smiling is nice. She’s content. She’ll even let you snuggle her for 5 seconds straight. But then it wears into fussing and there’s nothing more to offer of locations and positions of looking around so what now? You want to hold her? Be my guest. I tell myself I’ll understand her better when she can walk and talk and that happens soon, right? Well no, not soon. Come to find out, full articulated sentences don’t happen until they’re 25 years old so I think I’m in for it.

Still, and this is our purpose as parents, right?  My one goal for Isla is goodness. Not chiefly goodness for her (though I wish her that joy too) but goodness from her and I constantly wonder how soon the instilling of that starts. I find that, often, I’m waiting for some demarcated time when this or that starts. I’ve come to realize that life just happens, it’s happening while you’re waiting and then you’ve missed what you should have been doing the whole while. It’s easy to view your child as a baby still, even when they’re 15 or 24 months old. To view them too young to grasp lessons but I read somewhere that as early as 9 months your child learns the tool of manipulation. I believe behavioral expectations are best instilled early on so when do I start? At 5 months old she obviously doesn’t intend to scratch or hit, that’s just her primitive reflexes and motor skills still being refined. But soon it won’t be an accident and how do I reason with her then? And what about the lesson your child wants to engage you in? Children have a way of revealing their souls to you when you’re running 15 minutes late for work or when it’s well past bedtime. Will I miss moments because life is passing, I’m exhausted and I didn’t hear the movie soundtrack cue: crucial life defining moment happening in 3, 2, 1?

What will her genetically given personality be? This really frightens me. I will try my best to groom her to fight her nature. This is what civilization is; fighting one’s nature for the well-being of the collective and the well-being of one’s own life as the natural state of humanity is barbarism. But a parents guidance only goes so far and then it’s just eccentricities of her personality at work. Will she be naturally strong-willed, will she be stubborn, will she be easily angered? Will she be laid back, will she be understanding, will she be empathetic? How hard will she have to fight her nature to be civilized and how hard will it be for me to wrap my mind around her eccentricities and imagination.

Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.  -C.S. Lewis

How big of a deal will the arguments of ‘keeping your bottom on the seat and your feet on the ground’ be for her future? Will my laziness in this area lead to a laissez-faire adult that doesn’t respect or have reverence for personal property and etiquette? How do I groom her with my values when my values are more and more archaic by modern standards?

Not only will I be fighting my child’s will but I will be fighting popular culture to raise my child as well. Popular culture will be telling her that her desires are paramount to any old crusty institutionalized idea of truth. In fact she’ll hear that there is no objective truth only one’s own made up conclusions on the matter. She’ll hear that the only area that the concept of ‘universal’ is applied to is love. Love is all you need, right? When I tell her “wrong” I will be chiseling through layers and layers of cultural-consciousness sediment that will feel violating to her. Man, do we have our work cut out for us.

I’m not sure God wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to love, and be loved. But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and the whole world is our nursery. Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others, and that something is suffering.      -C.S. Lewis

Yet…

Isla is on the verge of a belly laugh. She hasn’t gotten there yet. So far her giggle is more of an ‘aheh’ sound but I eagerly look forward to the day of the full belly laugh. And I still look forward to dandelion seeds blown off a stem for the first time through her eyes. She has already seen the sky and I the reflection in her eyes. Not too long until she understands what ‘the sky’ means in all it’s vast and glorious beauty. There is a whole universe out there created for only one small and precious Isla and when her eyes light up with the knowledge of that I can’t wait to see the reflection of God casting back at me.

God lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.  -C.S. Lewis

A Reflection On The Life Of Our Baby Girl

Abortion: what’s life got to do with it?

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This is a ‘hot button’ issue, right? There are ebbs and flows in the cultural consciousness on abortion. It comes to mind and then it represses. Not long ago it came to mind because of the Center for Medical Progress and it’s expose of videos describing the procuring of fetal tissue from abortions. August 22nd , 2015 was an organized protest at Planned Parenthood grounds in 342 locations across the country with people totaling around 62,000. Remarkably, in St. Paul, MN there was one of the largest crowds with reports estimating between 4,000 and 6,000 attendees. Again in St. Paul on January 21st, 2017 there was an organized protest rallying on behalf of women. This time turnout in St. Paul was as many as 100,000 by some news reports however in this march not all females were represented. Half the unborn that are terminated are of the female sex.

Let’s discuss the emotions resonating on this subject because they always surface, they’re always deeply felt and we are after all a feeling creature as well as a thinking creature.

Being female biologically and socially is a suffering lot!

A pregnancy is a burden. That’s how many if not most women feel and they’re not wrong. Our body is going to change uncomfortably; our life is going to change uncomfortably. We are taken hostage by an organism that perhaps was unwanted. We may feel resentment towards our predicament and the baby. We may feel exhausted, depressed, deprived, defeated. We may feel unfairly saddled. We did not ask to be born with female biology and pregnancy is not all we amount to. Especially when we did not plan on becoming pregnant. We may have no maternal drive. If she is single, she is really suffering. She will probably feel alone and unprepared. How scary to foster a life with no help from the father. To go through the agonizing ordeal of childbirth, changing diapers, potty training, the all out war, sometimes, of teenage years not to mention scraping by for food, shelter and money. Scraping by for sanity.  It’s revolting how indifferent many men are to abandoning their children and I can see how it would leave a woman feeling furious. The situation of being pregnant with no father has to be one of the most alienating and devastating feelings a woman can feel.  It’s violating.

Then there are the thoughts. Why me? Millions of men have casual sex and are not left with the burden of pregnancy and often not saddled with the responsibility of raising the child. Many women have a normal sex life and don’t end up pregnant on the first time without birth control or the time birth control failed. I don’t want and shouldn’t have to. Period. These thoughts and feelings are legitimate. It’s automatic to turn a deaf ear to people who disregard these truths. That’s why it’s important to acknowledge that some pregnancies are crises. In fact, at least 890,000* pregnancies in the US are crises. That is approximately how many abortions occur in this country a year.

There is another crisis for females, the 445,000 whose lives are taken every year in this country because of abortion. This is a truth as well. Since I’m a feminist I find this truth to be pretty sobering. It’s easy to think of an embryo or a fetus as a clump of biological tissue that’s simply dividing and not living or living but not a person. It’s easy because it allows abortion. The cognitive dissonance that takes place knowing abortion is legal but that it’s a human baby being aborted is just too hard to take, it must be wrong. So we excuse it. Then you get to be 34 years old, in my case, and you think about human life and how much more life you want to live (130 years old? Yes please!). My heart feels heavy for these people that didn’t get to live. How blessed that I get to live and suffer and love. My mother chose what was going to be upsettingly hard and I got to have a life.

I have a fond client at work that revealed to me that she is the product of a rape. Her mother was raped while living with a family friend when she was just a teenager and became pregnant. That baby is my client who has since had a family of 5 who have since had their own children. She married and they’ve been married 50 years. I’m sure she has suffered in life and her mother absolutely suffered but my client got to live and I’m glad I got know her.

A little background about me: I used to be pro-choice and not the decent pro-choicer that says “I’m pro-choice but I would never personally have an abortion.” Nope, I was indignant that it’s my sovereign body and I can do with it what I please and if I became pregnant I would have one. A libertarian, maybe even anarchist, feminist. However, there was always a feeling that it would be gravely wrong if I did. It wasn’t until about 22 years old when I put intellectual thought into it that I started to see the issue clearly. Abortion is many heady things but ultimately it is the taking of another person’s life and how can I be complicit in that if I expect to keep my own sovereign life?

I’ve belonged to different debate groups on various political and religious topics and I’ve been following one on abortion recently and the vitriol I see in there is astonishing. Often I’m amazed. Mostly I’m sickened. I’ve always wanted to compile arguments on the topic but it’s so heavy I’ve never gotten around to publishing one. Actually, the topic of abortion is so polarized that it’s been too daunting and I haven’t had the courage or the perseverance. But here goes. This has taken a long time (5 years I’ve been working on this) and lots and lots of research but these are the most cogent responses to pro-choice arguments I’ve heard. I myself have learned a lot about embryology. The science is amazing!

*this is an average, see below arguments for the most recent CDC estimates of abortions performed

 

Abortion is legal and that’s why it’s ok

A parallel can be drawn here from the abolitionist movement of the 19th century. The abolitionists were opposing the rule of law underlined by the Supreme Court in its Dred Scott opinion that people of African descent, whether free or slave, are not considered part of the American people. They are property of their owners, no more than that. Now we see prolifers, who are aware that the Supreme Court has erred before, opposing the rule of law in the decision of Roe which states that the unborn have never been recognized as persons in the whole sense just as slaves were thought of as 3/5 of a person and not whole persons. So, like the slave, the fetus is property and the owner can dispose of it. Like the abolitionists of the 19th century the prolife movement is involved in a massive civil rights movement. After all, since the Roe decision, 43 years ago, in the US roughly 40 million unborn babies have been terminated. Worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, 40 million are terminated each year. Worldwide, unborn girls are terminated at higher rates than unborn boys with roughly 163 million girls that have been aborted since 1973. Thus the prolife effort is a womens movement and a civil rights movement.

As history proves the law is not always aligned with what’s right.

 

 Bodily autonomy

The basis of the Bodily autonomy argument is ‘women have the final jurisdiction over their own bodies. Nobody can claim a right to her body that goes above her own right. Nobody can use her body without consent. Women cannot be forced to donate organs or blood to someone else. A fetus must survive on a woman’s body so the woman has a right to withdraw her consent and her body at any time.’

Follow this thought all the way through. Women have ‘final jurisdiction over their bodies’. Then society would have to be accepting of women who do drugs, drink alcohol, go tanning, go skydiving at 6 months pregnant. It also follows that one must support abortion at any stage if one supports the bodily autonomy argument. How is a woman’s body any less autonomous at 8 months pregnant than 6 weeks pregnant?

Also, why would bodily autonomy only apply to pregnant women? Children have demands on the mother’s body even after birth. Whether it’s waking up in the middle of the night for the crying baby and nursing, working long hours to pay for their food and clothing, carrying them around when they cannot walk, etc. An argument for absolute bodily autonomy means that it can’t be illegal, or considered immoral, for a parent to withdraw from providing these things for the child.

If we can do what we want with our bodies then it becomes difficult to launch a moral or legal attack on a man that chooses to pleasure himself at a playground. According to the argument he has bodily autonomy.

Truth is our bodies are not absolutely autonomous. Any claim or responsibility placed on me, automatically includes a claim and responsibility on my body. Whether we are expected to pay taxes or drive the speed limit or provide a safe and sanitary home for our children, we are using our bodies to meet these expectations. We experience and participate in life with our bodies. Absolute bodily autonomy is inexorably linked with personal autonomy. If my body is absolutely autonomous, my person must be absolutely autonomous, and if my person is absolutely autonomous, then my very existence is absolutely autonomous, and if my very existence is absolutely autonomous, then it is simply unacceptable and immoral for anyone to expect me to do anything for anyone at any point for any reason.

Truth is our bodies are autonomous in some situations and not in others. We must decide where abortion falls in our classifications of protection against bodily autonomy and why it belongs there. If you contend that abortion falls within the limits on bodily autonomy, that you should be legally allowed to abort the life, you must justify that belief beyond simply reasserting our right to bodily autonomy. What is at stake in abortion is the mother’s lifestyle vs. the baby’s life.

 

The embryo/fetus is a parasite

 The basis of the parasite argument is that a parasite feeds off the host just as a zygote, embryo or fetus, depending on its stage of development, feeds off the mother.

This argument is flawed because it is not scientifically correct. A parasite is an organism of one species feeding off the body of a completely different species. A human embryo or fetus is an organism of one species (Homo sapiens) living in the uterine cavity of an organism of the same species (Homo sapiens) and deriving its nourishment from the mother (is metabolically dependent on the mother). This homospecific relationship is an obligatory dependent relationship, but not a parasitic relationship.

A parasite is an invading organism — coming to parasitize the host from an outside source. A human embryo or fetus is formed from a fertilized egg — the egg coming from an inside source, being formed in the ovary of the mother from where it moves into the oviduct where it may be fertilized to form the zygote — the first cell of the new human being. A parasite is generally harmful to some degree to the host that is harboring the parasite. A human embryo or fetus developing in the uterine cavity does not usually cause harm to the mother, although it may if proper nutrition and care is not maintained by the mother.

A parasite makes direct contact with the host’s tissues, often holding on by either mouth parts, hooks or suckers to the tissues involved (intestinal lining, lungs, connective tissue, etc.). A human embryo or fetus makes direct contact with the uterine lining of the mother for only a short period of time. It soon becomes isolated inside its own amniotic sac, and from that point on makes indirect contact with the mother only by way of the umbilical cord and placenta.

Therefore a parasite is an organism that associates with the host in a negative, unhealthy and nonessential (nonessential to the host) manner, which will often damage the host and detrimentally affect the procreative capacity of the host (and species). A human embryo or fetus is a human being that associates with the mother in a positive, healthful essential manner necessary for the procreation of the species.

 

If abortion should be illegal then miscarriage should be illegal

 The basis of this argument is that just as abortion is the termination and cleansing of the embryo or fetus from the womb so too is miscarriage.

Miscarriage is an act of nature. Abortion is the deliberate termination by a human being of another’s life. Just as it is absurd to have laws that make trees falling down in forests because of lightening strike illegal so too would it be absurd to make an act of nature, miscarriage, illegal.

 

The fertilized egg is not a human until it implants on the uterine wall

This is easily exposed as a non sequitur — a logical fallacy, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. The fact that many human embryos die at an early stage of development (pre-implantation) provides no evidence whatsoever for the proposition that they are not embryonic human beings — no more than comparable high rates of infant mortality in most places before the 20th century showed that infants were not human beings.

From the zygote- single-celled- stage onward this new organism is distinct, for it grows in its own direction. It is human — obviously, given the genetic structure found in the nuclei of its cells. And it is a whole human organism — as opposed to what is functionally a part of a larger whole, such as a cell, tissue, or organ — since this organism has all of the internal resources and active disposition needed to develop itself (himself or herself) to the mature, adult, stage of a human organism. Given its genetic constitution and epigenetic* structure, all this organism needs to develop to the mature stage is what human beings at any stage need, namely, a suitable environment, nutrition, and the absence of injury or disease. So it is a whole human organism — a new human individual — at the earliest stage of his or her development.

Clearly, implantation — the embryo attaching himself or herself (sex is determined from the very beginning) to the uterine wall of the mother’s womb — is only an important stage in the life cycle of the already living and internally self-directed growth of a human being. This stage does not create any fundamental change in the direction of growth of the embryo. From Day One, the embryo has been preparing for this interaction. The uterus provides a suitable environment, nutrition, and disposal of waste, but not a new program or instructions for a new trajectory of growth — the instructions for his or her full self-development to the mature stage of a human organism have been present within the embryo’s genetic and epigenetic constitution from the zygote stage (Day One) on.

*epigenetic means changes in a chromosome that affect gene activity and expression

 

The fertilized egg is not a life it’s just a cluster of cells

Human embryos, whether they are formed by fertilization (natural or in vitro) or by successful somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT — i.e., cloning), do have the internal resources and active disposition to develop themselves to the mature stage of a human organism, requiring only a suitable environment and nutrition. In fact, scientists distinguish embryos from other cells or clusters of cells precisely by their self-directed, integral functioning — their organismal behavior. Thus, human embryos are what the embryology textbooks say they are, namely, human organisms — living individuals of the human species — at the earliest developmental stage. In other words they are alive at the moment of conception.

 

Ok, so the embryo or fetus is a life, it is a human being, but it’s not a person

There is the concession that all “persons” are “human beings,” but they would deny the reverse of that proposition, namely, that all “human beings” are “persons.” Approaching this question from the most neutral starting-point possible, one would be compelled to inquire: “What is a human being?” Notice that the focus of this question is the broadest one possible, the neutral and impersonal pronoun “what.”

The most common answer that one could receive to this question–and indeed the most logical answer–would be that a human being is one who is a being (i.e., one who is in existence) and one who is a member of the human species.

With this answer the inquiry has logically and inescapably progressed to the personal pronoun “who.”

Under this process of analysis, which is certainly neither an a priori sort of reasoning from some preconceived conclusion or assumption nor “a leading question” (that is, a question suggesting the desired answer), we nonetheless end up inescapably at the conclusion that the “who” of the human being is a “person.”

Accordingly, from the standpoint of language and logical analysis, the legal separation of “human being” from “person” is artificial and arbitrary, and certainly not rooted in language, logic, or common understanding, nor in medicine, law, or history.

When a ‘human person’ begins to exist is a philosophical issue.  By contrast, when a ‘human being’ begins to exist is a scientific issue. Accurate science should be the starting point for resolving the philosophical question, not the reverse. 

Personhood is properly defined by membership in the human species, not by stage of development within that species. Personhood is not a matter of size, skill, and degree of intelligence or viability outside the womb. Viability is an arbitrary concept as its timeline is in constant change depending on technology. Even a newborn healthy baby would not be viable were it not for the assistance of the mother for nourishment, changing of the diaper, providing shelter, etc. It is dangerous when people in power are free to decide whether other, less powerful lives are meaningful as we have seen in three generations of cases: Scott v. Sanford [denying rights to slaves], Buck v. Bell [denying rights to retarded people], and now a third at Roe v. Wade [denying rights to unborn children].

All of mankind is a what (human being) and a who (person) no matter stage of development. Therefore every member of the human family is entitled to the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection of the law.

 

The fertilized egg is alive and a human being but it should have no legal protection until it’s viable

As shown above viability is a flimsy argument at best. The definition of viability is a. capable of living, b. capable of functioning or developing, c. capable of existing successfully. Every human being cannot live in the universe without help. Man is a very unviable creature in the universe. We need shelter and clothing from the heat or cold, we need replenishment of food and water that we must seek out. Nature is constantly working to terminate us. Whether it’s the elements or bacterial infection or viruses or disease we have to fight to stay alive. Contrary to post womb life a baby in the womb has the coziest life-nourishing environment in which all necessities are adequately provided with no self conscious effort at all on the baby’s part. So I would argue that born human beings are less viable than unborn human beings because the unborn need an interruption to die and the born need an interruption to live.

 

A woman has a right to constitutional privacy

In the vein of this argument is this example: the US constitution sanctioned the denial of personhood status to slaves for the first several decades of this country’s existence. This fact served as an argument to amend the Constitution, not as an argument for the moral permissibility of slavery.

When Roe v. Wade was being decided it was assumed that the substantive due process clause protected a woman’s right to the liberty of terminating her pregnancy within the privacy of the relationship between her and her doctor. However, when deciding in this case, there was no right to privacy in the constitution whatsoever. Moreover privacy is negated when it directly affects the life of a third party (the unborn baby).

Whether or not the unborn child, too, has protection of life, liberty and pursuit of property, which is what the 14th amendment is all about, begs the central question.   This question is the personhood of the fetus (the 14th Amendment grants persons an explicit right not to be killed unless convicted of a capital crime). Even Justice Blackmun, who delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court, admitted as much. Let’s suppose for sake of argument that the Court, as it claimed, had no standard for defining the beginning of personhood. Logically, if you don’t know if something that you wish to take the life of is a person do you not err on the side of not taking its life? How about this illustration: if there were one hundred pills on a table and one of them was deadly poison but you didn’t know which one, would you take a pill because you don’t know for sure which one is poison? You would not. You would err on the side of safety for the human life-yours- and you would take none. Rather, in one fell swoop that left legal scholars from across the spectrum of jurisprudence baffled, the court overturned the popularly imposed laws in the vast majority of states because it couldn’t decide whether or not it ought to.

 

The feminist argument

 The basis of this argument is that abortion rights are fundamental to the advancement of women. They are essential to having equal rights with men.

In reality early feminists were prolife, not pro-choice.   Women’s rights are not inherently linked to the right to abortion. Actually the basic premises of the abortion rights movement are demeaning to women because they presume a pregnant woman doesn’t have the psychological, emotional, financial, physical, intellectual means to support the life they, except in the case of rape which is 1% of abortions, helped create. Feminists should celebrate a woman’s inherent biology to produce children. In fact, abortion has become the most effective means of sexism ever devised, ridding the world of multitudes of unwanted females. The statistics reported between the Guttmacher Institute and the CDC estimate between 730,000 and 1.06 million abortions occurred in the year 2011 (the most recent year the CDC has produced figures) in the US, although reporting is voluntary and not required which means it could be more. That places the taking of female lives between 365,000 to 530,000 a year just in the US. Female abortion deaths worldwide are 21.5 million.

 

Consent to sex is not consent to gestate

 A Daily Kos writer put the argument this way:

Sex and pregnancy are not a one-to-one. Sex can and does happen when reproduction is not possible, and it is not guaranteed to lead to reproduction even when it is possible. An undesired development does not mean that you’re stuck following through, letting nature take its course. If I get behind the wheel on an icy day and my car starts sliding for the ditch, I’m not honor bound to crash if I can prevent it; consenting to drive doesn’t mean that I’m consenting to crash. Why does it follow that conception through consensual intercourse necessitates gestation and motherhood? Our species has no problem correcting non-optimal outcomes when possible. We set broken legs. We perform surgeries. We treat cancers and diseases. We terminate unwanted pregnancies.

This analogy is flawed. If your car is veering towards the ditch on an icy day you are not duty bound to let it slide into the ditch (which would presumably be a negative outcome for you). But if you veer your car purposely toward another car so as to take the driver’s life you will be prosecuted because willfully taking the life of another person is morally and legally reprehensible. It is only in the early stages of life (prenatal) that the SCOTUS has deemed taking a life legal though it is still immoral. The central point to the argument is another’s life. That’s what’s missing from the icy day analogy or even the surgery, cancer, disease part of it. None of those scenarios are another life of our same species.

Reproduction is not always the outcome from sex. This is true. But reproduction is the natural development from sex when it does occur. Denying that is insane. Our Western society has become increasingly deluded when it comes to the natural process at work with sex. We’ve taken the natural end out of the means. Just as we think we can cheat death, we think we can cheat life. We truly believe sex should have nothing to do with procreation. It’s really self-loathing. Are we trying to wipe out our species? Nature does not care what you consent to. I do not consent to die but I will die. Death is the natural end to the means just as with sex a baby is the natural end to the means. However, unlike natural death, which will take your life no matter your actions, one truly does have a choice with birth. One can choose to abstain from the act that creates the action they don’t like. But if one chooses to have sex they’re taking the gamble of creating another life. Rather than ‘gamble’ I would call it responsibility. Through sex there will always be the chance of taking responsibility for another’s life. Sure, it makes sex more sober. It is only in the West that sex has been mutated into a purposeful means without an end. A willful impotency. You tell me what’s more sober.

 

Pro-life arguments are the imposition of religion on a woman’s rights

This argument is based on the misnomer that the subject of abortion is women’s rights rather than an unwanted baby being aborted. Just as there are religious people who support the right of the unborn to live so are there secular people. The United States (and many other countries) has a constitution with the most basic value set to law that protects the unalienable right to life. It is natural to protect life. It advances the species. Many say it’s God-given, some say it’s nature-given but few deny it. I have a right to live just as much as you have the right to live, this we all* agree on. Ironically, the 14th amendment is all about this right even though the SCOTUS subverted the meaning with regard to the unborn. The unalienable right to life is agreed upon by the irreligious just as much as by the religious. The question is does this right extend to the embryo/fetus? When people say ‘keep your church off my body’ it literally makes no intellectual sense. Because a) we’ve established that there are secular and religious people who support the right to life, b) the pro-life movement is not dictating what you do with your body, it is concerned with what you do to another’s body.

*except the insane and sadist

 

Abortion helps solve the problem of over-population

Overpopulation is one of the biggest fallacies in Western thought. It overlooks the nuances of civilization and just plain isn’t true. Urbanization explains one of the nuances. People naturally flock together which creates dense urban cities that can become over-populated but this leaves vast rural areas under-populated. The world currently produces enough food to feed 10 billion people, and there are only 7 billion of us. That is, with 7 billion human minds at work, we produce enough food for 10 billion human bodies. Imagine how much food we can produce with 10 billion minds! Oceans cover 70 percent of the planet’s surface to an average depth of 6,000 feet.  You cannot use up or destroy water; you can only change its state (from liquid to solid or gas) or contaminate it so that it is undrinkable. What about fresh water? Freshwater withdrawals have increased seven-fold since 1900 while the world population has increased only four-fold. This suggests our ability to access usable water increases faster than population growth. But we’re growing exponentially! No, we’re not. Our rate of growth is slowing. Between 1950 and 2000, the world population grew at a rate of 1.76%. Between 2000 and 2050, it is expected to grow by 0.77 percent. About 48% of all people live in a country with below-replacement fertility meaning there are not births replacing deaths. Every man, woman, and child on earth could each have 5 acres of land. If we wanted to squeeze close, everyone in the world could stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the island of Zanzibar.

Furthermore, who gets to decide who lives or dies for the noble cause of population control? Perhaps those who are the most concerned should take the martyrs position for their cause and take their own life rather than asserting their personal hierarchy and condemning the just-starting-out lives to death.

 

The unwanted unborn would have no quality of life.

Again, why should someone else get to decide what is considered quality life for a person and which lives are expendable and which are not? Which lives are superior and which are inferior? If you were just thinking mathematically would it be better to have a little life or no life? Would it be better to have a hard life but still a chance or no life? Think if it was you? Either way, the judgment about the quality of someone else’s life is not yours to make.

 

The Chimera argument

 A natural human chimera explains a few different anomalies. The most common kind of chimera is a blood chimera in which twins in utero share blood supplies and DNA through connecting placentas and in turn have cells from the twin sibling in each of their bodies or a mother and fetus could share cells resulting in ‘populations of DNA’: one set of DNA may appear in the lungs and another set in the kidneys of the mother. Another type of chimera is the absorption of a fraternal twin in utero. This means that one embryo absorbs the sibling embryo and ends up having DNA of another person in their body (or, in other cases, another person’s body parts or a calcified body). Legal cases have been brought forth, in which a mother did not share DNA with her children because the DNA cells that transferred to her children were that of her absorbed fraternal twin. This puts into question the irrefutability of DNA testing and also has political implications when defining when life begins. It also begs the question: is the stronger twin committing homicide when it absorbs its living fraternal twin?

Just like a miscarriage, which occurs naturally, so too does the anomaly of the Chimera.

As science already knows a new and separate human life begins at conception. A full DNA set in a human body has 46 chromosomes. A sperm has 23 and an ovum has 23 chromosomes. Upon fertilization, immediately, a cell with 46 chromosomes is created and an individual human life has begun.

Of course what’s happening here in the case of a human chimera is that an embryo absorbs the living embryo of its sibling and does so impulsively, naturally and without any deliberate intent. In other words it’s accidental, an anomaly. Regardless of the anomaly of absorption and harboring populations of another person’s DNA the embryo is still a self directed, individual human being. The organism is still human and alive and inherently worthy of protection. When a woman has an abortion she has the sentient capability of making the choice to do it or not with the deliberate intent of terminating another’s life.

Abortion: what’s life got to do with it?