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Well, I see I haven’t written a post in over a week. I’ve started a few, and yet I can’t seem to push myself to finish one. So, I’m just going to sit here with my coffee and not do anything else until I hit that button that says publish.

It’s not for lack of ideas. I wish I could explain. I just feel so impotent when it comes to expressing them, and I feel so buffeted one way, and then another, flitting from subject to subject.

Since the last election I’ve felt so dispirited. All along, I believed that the extreme radical right wing couldn’t ever get very far. That doesn’t mean that I thought that we were headed towards an endless stream of progressive victories. Still, the far, far right, the anti-science, indeed, I would say anti-American, right, couldn’t succeed outside of a few small areas. With 435 voting members in the U.S. House of Representatives you’d expect a handful to be a bit extreme. It’s more surprising from Senators. Yet the recent election leaves me feeling like I ought to do something but not actually wanting to do anything.

A year ago, I met an Australian woman who was going on over lunch about Sarah Palin. She was saying how awful and stupid she was. I found myself getting a little hot under the collar, although I didn’t say anything, because the clear implication was that Americans must be awful and stupid themselves if she was campaigning for Vice President. Then the Australian woman paused and said, “Whatever happened to her?”

I said, “She wasn’t elected.” The Australian woman didn’t really understand that Palin doesn’t have wide support.

Really, I thought these extreme right wing figures were like Sarah Palin, public clowns with no real constituency, put forward by the media because they result in a lot of page views and clicks.

Meanwhile, Libertarians like Glenn Greenwald have the left sitting home pouting over the NSA. Russell Brand tells people not to vote and to meditate their way to a revolution. The far left has been smacking Obama at every turn. They seem to be unaware of the larger context in which the President functions.

I have not doubt that Obama is much more of a centrist than I am. There are a great many issues on which I wish he had been more aggressive, economic policies favorable to the working class being chiefly among them. Yet I’m under no illusion that he had a free hand. I was reading an article on Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and came across the following statement:

I support the president. I think the president has been right. I mean, look at the numbers, look at the job growth, sustained job growth—the greatest in American history. The. Greatest. In. American. History. Why didn’t people run on that? So you know that a bunch of political people say, ‘Well, it is not deep enough, and some people are hurting.’

Despite the fact that I like to think that I’m reasonably aware of politics, I wasn’t aware that the job growth has been that good. I knew the economy had supposedly recovered, but I also kept reading about a recovery in which only the rich had benefited. Canada didn’t play fast and easy with their banking laws and the crash didn’t hit them in the first place. However, it hit Europe. After the 2008 crash, we got a stimulus while much of Europe got austerity. Yes, I follow Paul Krugman and I’m very aware that the stimulus was not as large as many people recommended. But don’t think for a moment that the pressures that pushed many European countries towards austerity weren’t working to push the United States in the same direction, a direction which would have been disastrous according to this article in the Atlantic Monthly from 2012:

Euro zone unemployment just hit a 15-year. German unemployment just hit a 15-year. What can those of us across the Atlantic glean from this seemingly bipolar state of affairs? That austerity, every economic conservative’s favorite prescription for an ailing economy — the medicine Republicans here in the United States are pushing hard — is an utter disaster.

A disaster that the Democrats kept the United States from sharing.

It’s no secret that in the past few years the far right has widened its attacks on women’s reproductive autonomy from an opposition to abortion to objection to contraception. In the past, I’ve toyed with the idea of having a tubal ligation, but now with menopause approaching that seems like overkill. Now, with the recent elections it feels like everything we have worked for for years is up in the air. Yet, who didn’t vote? Young people! And it’s not just a women’s issue, damn it. I have a young cousin that got married and joined the army at eighteen when his girlfriend got pregnant. What, do you boys think that it’s only the girls you don’t care about that get knocked up? I hate to tell you, but it’s your steady girlfriends too. We don’t hear about that much because once a year or two has passed no one wants to admit that they didn’t want their kids and that they only married their spouse due to pregnancy. Meanwhile, the unwed mother is a walking billboard. Anyway, I want to say, “What the fuck do I care, now. It’s your life. Why am I fighting when you don’t care.”

And that’s kind of how I’m feeling about everything.

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When that human being is a pregnant woman in a country with laws to protect the fetus.

I got so upset reading this (ht jaunte) I’m going to add very little and maybe take a hiatus from the internet for the rest of the day. It reminds me of one question I’ve always had for people who dislike abortions but make exceptions for rape. Who determines if it was rape and will that determination be made in a timely manner? Rape is notoriously difficult to prosecute. I do believe that a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty, and that means that occasional people who have committed crimes are let go. Generally, the society thinks acquitting the occasional criminal is far better than imprisoning the innocent. However, deciding if a woman should be permitted an abortion is not a criminal trial. What are the standards? The second time I got pregnant, it was technically a rape because I didn’t consent. I was asleep. However, it would have been impossible to prosecute. As it happens, I didn’t even call the police. It was in the context of a relationship that had gone sour and the situation was very complicated. Even in retrospect, I don’t believe that I should have gone to the police, nor do I think the man should have been prosecuted for rape. I don’t think he posed a threat to other women and a few years later he apologized, after the relationship was over, for some of the thing he had done to me. However, I was able to get an abortion and get out of an abusive relationship because we have laws that allow “abortion on demand” in the early stages of pregnancy. Had that not been the case, would I have had to go to the police and accuse my live-in boyfriend of rape, with consequences for his life that certainly would have been greater than I believe he deserved. He came to regret what he had done, he understood it was wrong, he lost a woman he wanted to marry and I have no reason to think he ever did it again. That is a just and reasonable outcome in my mind. Would exceptions for rape include situations like mine, ones that would be hard, if not impossible, to prosecute under criminal laws?

At the risk of getting other feminists mad, I have to say that I don’t believe all rapes are the same. In the case of the woman in Ireland who is being force-fed after going on a hunger strike because she was denied an abortion, the rape is described as “traumatic.”

Shame on the Irish Independent for the way it was reported there. No mention of the rape. No mention of the rape. No mention that “preventing her from starving herself” was force feeding. No mention that she was an immigrant with limited English. No mention that she couldn’t leave the country due to her immigration status. I’m so upset, I don’t even think I can continue to look for more information. Normally, I make an attempt to at least get my facts straight before writing.

Does anyone understand the pain this woman must have been in? Does anyone care? Is she just a piece of meat for men to do with what they want? A piece of meat who mistakenly thinks of herself as a human being? Does anyone understand that this woman is in a living nightmare?

Oh, yeah, are they going to starve the child to death and throw its body in a former septic tank?

I was looking for a phone in an isolated area. The campus had about as many acres as students, but there were only a handful of public telephones. There were several near the cafeteria and that was where I would go to call my parents about once a week or so. That, however, was one of the most public places. There were two dormitories about two miles away from the center of campus. I had rarely ever even been in one of them, but I had a vague recollection of having seen a pay phone there, so I walked over.

The walk down the narrow curving road with woods looming on either side reminded me of a recurring dream I’d been having for about a year. In it, I was riding a bicycle on a road very much like that one, perhaps slightly curvier. Slowly, I would lose my eyesight until couldn’t see the road anymore. I would try to stop, but instead I’d be speeding up. Through partial vision, I could barely see the road well enough to follow it. Finally, I wouldn’t be able to see anything at all and I would crash. An anxiety dream, it was almost ridiculously easy to analyze.

A precocious student, I had graduated from high school early and received a nice, big, fat helping of scholarship money to attend this private liberal arts college. My first year, I loaded up on courses and was taking more than the suggested number of credits. My grades were excellent. Then my social life began to fall apart and, with it, my grades. I changed majors. Then I changed majors again. A year earlier, I went through a phase during which I didn’t bathe, didn’t get out of bed for days at a time and ate nothing but peanut butter. I received grades of incomplete in all the classes I had taken that semester. I had a year to make them up. The previous semester, the fall semester of my junior year, I finally settled on literature as a major for no better reason than I liked to read and it seemed to come easily to me. Read a few books. Mull them over for a day or so. Churn out twenty pages. I could do that even as I was falling apart. In fact, I felt as if I was finally beginning to put myself back together.

That’s where the anxiety dream came in. Unlike when I was younger, I no longer had a plan. I couldn’t see where I was going, I was just trying to navigate each curve as it came up on me. My grades were finally back up. I was attempting to make a few friends who were not part of a New Age cult. Did I really want to study literature? That certainly hadn’t ever been part of my plan, but now my plan was just to get the hell out of this fucking hell hole of a school with a bachelor of arts degree and my brain intact. What would I do after that? I barely had a clue.

And I had been so alone throughout all of this. When you’re young, and pretty, and talented, and bright everyone wants to be your friend. When you’re lost and confused, no one knows who you are. With help from no one, I was getting back to being someone people actually wanted to know.

Now, there was this.

The dormitory was a converted mansion. It was an odd building. Heavy and dark, it looked as if someone had tried to build a set for a production of Wuthering Heights without ever having so much as seen a picture of England. The first floor was a series of rooms, a kitchen and several other rooms with seemingly no purpose. It was the middle of the day while classes were in session and the dormitory was almost empty, as I had hoped. I walked into one of the purposeless rooms that had an array of institutional furniture that seemed nearly random. An indestructible club chair. A table. A couple of dining chairs. In the corner, as I had recalled, was a pay phone.

I dialed the phone number of the man I had met on New Year’s Eve. It was a long shot that he would even pick up the phone at that moment in the middle of the day, but he did. Without any introduction, I blurted out that I was pregnant, that I would probably have an abortion but male friends of mine had convinced me that it wasn’t fair that women make this decision on their own, so that if he wanted me to continue with the pregnancy we could talk about that. I had planned to add that he’d have to want sole custody, but I can’t recall if I got that far.

How did I know it was his?

Because he was the only man I’d fucked recently.

He didn’t believe me.

Fine, I was planning on having an abortion anyway. I was just trying to be fair to him.

Then this man about whom I knew next to nothing except that he loved Kant and had a larger than average penis, launched into one of the more shocking speeches I had heard at that point in my life. He accused me of trying to trap him into marriage. His family were aristocrats. They would never accept this. I was just a common slut and I was trying to trap him into marriage. He was outraged.

I never spoke to him again.

I’ve been writing down my experiences as a way of understanding why I believe some of the things I believe and why I hold some of the political positions I do. This conversation resulted in me feeling somewhat skeptical of men’s rights advocates when they complain that it is not fair that they have no say in abortion decisions. It’s not that I feel that they are disingenuous about their own position, but that they don’t actually represent men in general. Most men, I suspect, don’t really want the responsibility that this decision entails. Women have abortions, men don’t. Women have to bear the responsibility and the stigma. Many men, perhaps most, would prefer to keep it this way. However, I think I did the ethical thing in approaching this man, and it was obvious that he would have preferred that I hadn’t. I don’t know his position on abortion, but he was a practicing Catholic. One word and I wouldn’t have had an abortion. I don’t think he wanted that responsibility.

A while back, Dan Savage expressed the opinion that women should inform a man if they are going to have an abortion. I agree with everything he says, even the part that many feminists objected to, that the man’s desires should be taken into consideration. However, I think he is underestimating humans’ potential for denial and self-deception when he writes:

Guys need to know when they’ve dodged a bullet, CL. Being made aware that he came this close to 18 years’ worth of child support payments can lead a guy to be more cautious with his spunk—and, in some cases, more likely to support choice.

There’s an interesting assumption that Savage makes here, that what they are dodging are child support payments and not custody of a child, because the only way I would have considered carrying that pregnancy to term is if the man had agreed to take full custody. I can’t be sure, but I strongly suspect that the man in question barely remembers this incident. He probably doesn’t acknowledge having dodged anything at all. It would be all to easy for him to rationalize it away. The incident changed the course of my life and I suspect it didn’t register for him at all.

It was also my introduction to notions about social class. Growing up in suburbia in the United States in an environment in which people ranged from the upper end of stable working class families to the lower end of the professional upper middle class, I was only faintly aware of class differences that weren’t simply linked to income. I’ve had a hatred for social class ever since.