Thursday, 16 August 2012

Wherein I Become Increasingly Irate

Via regular commenter Jamie, the Guardian has up a deeply uncomfortable but utterly necessary piece by American journalist Lynn Beisner on her sincere regret that her mother chose to bring her into the world.

Naturally, it's not an easy thing to read, but you all should read it anyway.  I'd want to flag it up for that reason alone, but if I can be permitted for expanding on such a personal and profoundly emotional piece with  one of my bouts of detached argument (by which I mean detached from the passion Beisner is showing, not that I won't be calling anyone a dick before this is over), I just wanted to pick up on this comment.
What makes [stories from those relieved their mother chose to keep them] so infuriating to me is that they are emotional blackmail. As readers or listeners, we are almost forced by these anti-choice versions of A Wonderful Life to say, "Oh, I am so glad you were born." And then by extension, we are soon forced into saying, "Yes, of course, every blastula of cells should be allowed to develop into a human being."
I'm not sure I'd say the stories themselves are infuriating so much as those who propagate them to score political points, but that's probably semantics. In any case, what infuriates me so much about those who push  these kinds of stories is so many of them are so totally sold on the "if you had your way I'd be dead" argument for this one topic, and treat it with so much utter contempt in any other context (I have no idea if either of the people Beisner discusses are so inclined, which is why I'd rather focus on those using the stories, rather than those providing them).

Where, for example, is there any difference in the formulation "I'm glad abortion was illegal when my mother was pregnant, or else I would not be alive" and "I'm glad refusing people health insurance for pre-existing conditions was illegal when my wife applied for a policy, or else she would not have the medicine keeping her alive"?  Or "I'm glad Obama didn't slash the food stamp program like many demanded he did, or else my children wouldn't have had anything to eat"? [1]

To be clear, I'm not suggesting all three statements should be equally persuasive; only one of those is bound up in denying people the right to control their own bodies, for example.  One can be affected by such appeals without concluding they warrant action.  One can certainly point out that, in fact, society is already managing the best balancing act it can on a given subject, with no action possible that would not cause entirely unacceptable consequences elsewhere (not that there's anything like balance regarding the state of abortion in the US, at an absolute minimum, that would require that people stopped shooting abortion doctors in the head).

No, the problem stems from the hideous idea that the progressive desire to lessen suffering is somewhere between naive "bleeding heart" foolishness and active sedition, irrespective of the testimonies of those who have been damaged beyond most people's imaginings by some policies and saved from that horrible fate by others, except in this one case where they're all heartless monsters who just need to think of the children.

If you want to be a empathy-free moral vacuum and blight upon humanity, that is your right.  But don't come to me with your crocodile tears waving sworn statements from people glad to be alive, telling me how much you're hurting in the name of the innocent.  Your list of those you're willing to see sacrificed is too long for that, and no small few of them match up with those you insisted deserved their chance at life.  I don't know how anyone could twist themselves into arguing "We must ensure these children are born so we can deny them food, housing and medicine once they arrive in the world", but congratulations; you found a way to do it.  Slow-clap for the vampire squids.  Now fuck off.

[1] This might be an appropriate moment to explain Glenn Greenwald's quote on blog banner, which came about when I pointed out to him that Obama's domestic agenda involves body-counts just as surely as his foreign policy does, and so there's only so far he can fight Congressional Democrats on the latter before he runs into problems with the former. 

This did not go down well with Greenwald, who's phenomenal skills with logical thought and argument crafting are entirely tossed aside the moment he's faced with a situation in which there's no one person he can point to as the clear villain.

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