Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind.

I was really reluctant to post about this, especially immediately following such a joyous and uplifting post, but it's been on my mind non-stop for the past 24 hours and I have to write about it in order to find some kind of resolution...

While I was lazing around Princeton on Sunday morning, in my hometown of Wichita, Kansas, a man who was passing out programs as an usher at his church was fatally shot. His wife, standing in the choir at the time, was removed from the sanctuary and informed of her husband's death; her screams confirmed to the remainder of the congregation that something was terribly wrong.

Many times people identify a situation as "hitting close to home." In this case, it hit a single BLOCK away from home. I have marked on the map below the location of the Reformation Lutheran Church, where Dr. George Tiller was murdered (denoted by the balloon "A"), as well as my childhood home (where my parents still live) with a pink dot, just to the left of the church's location. It's literally a five minute walk to the church from my house, through a pleasant park, in an area of town sandwiched between several country clubs and affluent neighborhoods. In the Midwest, life tends to be calm and reliable, and you certainly never expect a murder to occur in a church.

I don't quite know how to make sense of what occurred. Most of my friends and acquaintances from Kansas have taken to their Facebook statuses to express confusion and sorrow. Many have gone further and condemned the state of Kansas as a whole. Amidst many collective and similar reactions, a few status messages have stood out because they offer different perspectives, and whether I agree with them or not, I appreciate that they have forced me to contemplate the validity and thoroughness of my own opinions.

One person said: "For everyone who is or is not from Kansas who is evidently "ashamed" of Kansas, please note that Kansas was the home of one of the few doctors and one of the few places that provided late-term abortions so you should be ashamed of this one shooter, not an entire state that seems to provide what the "more liberal" places you moved to or are from do not."

Another person said: "I love how pro-abortion activists are outraged at the murder of a fellow human being. Maybe they will finally realize that murder is evil, regardless of the victim."

The originators of both quotes are very conservative individuals whose political and religious views I disagree with 99.9% of the time. Yet, these quote gave me pause to think. As to the first quote: What does it mean when a conservative person recognizes--and seems to almost admire--the work of a doctor whose practice violates their very moral foundations? Does this offer hope of eventual understanding between people of opposing beliefs?

As to the second quote: Most people are crying foul in reference to the irony of a maliciously murdering pro-live advocate. And there's absolutely no question that these circumstances DEFINE irony and hypocrisy. BUT, doesn't a movie like "Valkyrie" (which I have not seen, but am familiar with the related historical event) praise men who tried to stop a mass-murdering villain? Is everyone truly entitled to their own opinion? What's the difference between a hero and a lunatic? Between an atomic bomb on a nation of people versus plotting Hitler's demise? Was Tiller's murderer simply a successful Valkyrie, albeit on a smaller scale? Is his murderer a hero, to be lauded?

As I alluded several paragraphs above, I haven't changed my views on abortion because of these Facebook op-eds. I have merely called into question the thoroughness of my defense of what I say I believe. I was raised as a non-denominational Christian. I will never be able to shake the lessons that years of Sunday school and summer church camps impressed upon the core of who I am as a person. This is even despite the fact that I no longer ascribe to most of what I was taught and currently feel most connected to Judaism if I had to associate myself with a religion. I am an odd hybrid or paradox, depending on how you see it. I'm the Christian Kansan with conservative parents and simultaneously the liberally-educated, New York City-living, recently-transformed Democrat.

Despite my conservative roots, however, I can confidently say that I believe women are entitled to reproductive freedom. I feel fortunate to never have been in a position in which I had to contemplate an abortion. I respectfully think that unless you actually find yourself in that dilemma it's easy to insist on the veracity of your opinion, whether pro-life or pro-choice. But I will say that I feel complete and total ownership over my body and would be FURIOUS if anyone laid claim to my organs, my blood, my DNA, my fetus. My Freshman year roommate was especially liberal and attended a reproductive rights rally in D.C. and returned to our dorm room toting this sign:

I really couldn't agree more.

I DO NOT expect people who don't agree with abortion to sit back and accept the passing of laws that violate their beliefs. But I do know that when people are extremists on either the Right or the Left, they polarize everyone and destroy all opportunities of proselytizing. Dialog HAS TO OCCUR to effect change.

After all, as Gandhi said:
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.


Erica said...

Interesting post, Christine, on a very controversial subject. I think we can all agree that 'eye for an eye' is no way to live. But you neglected to mention that the reason for such controversy is not just the fact that Tiller performed abortions, they are, quite literally, PARTIAL BIRTH abortions, and a review on precisely what that is might be helpful for those not familiar with why this particular doctor and practice has come under fire: http://www.abortionfacts.com/literature/literature_9313pb.asp

ms. mindless said...

very well put, CJM. i love you even more after this post!