Critics of mainstream science frequently dispute evolution or climate change. Whatever their target, a common tactic is to challenge how well mainstream scientists accept these ideas.
In this era of U.S. teachers being “pressured to keep evolution out of the classroom or to teach it as a scientifically controversial theory,” the NCSE has taken the lead to insist that science, not religion and not pseudoscience, be taught in our public school classrooms. It is famously successful in stopping Pennsylvania’s intelligent design law in its tracks in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in 2005. It is working with Zack Kopplin to exterminate the stupidity in Louisiana’s creationism laws, too.
Best of all – and perhaps more encompassing, the NCSE provides resources for everyday science advocates working in the classroom trenches, fighting against not only creationists, but climate change deniers.
Nature’s editorial commended Eugenie Scott’s tireless efforts to make sure that scientists don’t talk over the heads of the general public. “Too often, scientists are ignorant of how students outside their own labs are being educated. In the worst cases, scientists can actually hurt the cause for science education by alienating the people whom they hope to persuade: in their attempts to engage, they may seem condescending or use arcane arguments that fail to connect with teachers, parents, students and other community members.”
The biggest problem I have encountered when talking with creationists is that they don’t understand the science of evolution at all. Often, they simply were not taught it when they were in school. Whether because their teachers shied away from the subject for fear of controversy or, worse, didn’t understand evolutionary theory themselves, for some reason many adults just don’t get it.
NCSE is a fantastic, and necessary, advocate for science, science education, scientists, and science fans. Getting great recognition in such an eminent publication as Nature is no less than what it deserves.
Eugenie Scott is responsible for making NCSE worthy of that recognition. She will be missed.
Graduation seems to be one of those times during the school year when religion rears its head and wants to elbow its way into the public square, disseminating itself messily all over unwilling captive audiences. This year is no exception.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) got involved in an Arkansas case recently, writing a letter to tell the Riverside School District in Lake City, Arkansas, that plans to pray and sing hymns at its sixth grade graduation were unconstitutional. Variations of two different versions of what happened next have made their rounds. In the first story, the school board, possibly at the behest of the superintendent, decided simply to cancel graduation rather than bow to the law. In the second story, the school board voted to abide by the law, but the parents organizing the graduation said that if they couldn’t pray, then graduation at the school would be cancelled. The upshot was that the sixth grade graduation was indeed cancelled, and the organizing parents decided to hold graduation exercises at a local church instead. More uproar has ensued.
Because apparently we’re the only advocates of separation of church and state to be found in Arkansas, the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers was invited to participate in a radio talk show about the kerfuffle. When Alice Stewart, Mike Huckabee’s former spokesperson and the host of the program, told me that her other guest would be the evangelical preacher who enjoyed the spotlight at our fair state’s National Day of Prayer event at the state capitol, I asked her if she had considered asking a representative of a more progressive variety of Christian – one that supports separation of church and state. She said she didn’t know any. Right then and there I probably should have directed her to the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, or Jews, but I didn’t. I agreed to go on the show.
Here’s the TL; DL version of the hosts’s and pastor’s points:
- There’s a war on religion.
- They’ve done it this way forever, so there’s no harm in allowing them to continue praying at public school events.
- The Constitution says we are entitled to the free exercise of religion.
- God is the foundation of our founding documents.
- Many of our founding fathers went to seminary with certainly the intent that God would be incorporated on our money and in our system and society.
- We’ve tried, and we just can’t ever take God, guns, sex, violence, drugs out of school.
- God is everywhere in school forever.
- Our country is built on the principles of God.
- The pledge is a prayer.
- By insisting on leaving religion out of school functions, atheists impose their views on everyone else.
- It’s more important to keep faith in schools than anywhere.
- It’s impossible to take God out of schools because too many religious people are in the schools, and god is in the songs that the school choir sings, plays that the school theater performs, civics and history books, and because there is a federal holiday honoring Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who taught the nation about the Bible.
- We shouldn’t have to wait for another bombing or mass shooting before a school assembly prays again.
- We should not have to care about the rights of minorities in public schools.
- FFRF wanted graduation stopped.
- Public prayer in school isn’t illegal.
- God calls the light day and the darkness night and no one can change that because it’s an order from god. (If you listen closely you can detect that I nearly busted out laughing here. Sorry.)
- If the Constitution allows the pledge, which contains a prayer, then it is resolved that all prayer should be allowed in schools.
- Religion never changes.
- Jesus said always to pray and not to think.
- The word that God gives Christians is in Psalms 1.
- God’s law is higher than Constitutional law.
- If we say “under God” in the pledge at school, we are obligated to continue praying in schools so as not to be hypocritical.
I know, I know. Our first response is “What? They actually believe this tripe?” followed immediately by a facepalm and “Oh, boy. They really believe this tripe.”
1. The War on Religion
Evidently I burned my draft card on this one. Personally, I couldn’t care less what religion someone else practices, as long as they do no harm with it. (Yeah, I know. That’s impossible, unless they keep it totally to themselves, which they never do.) They can have all the fantasies they like about what happens after death, and no one else is affected. We are, however, affected by their dogmatic attempts to indoctrinate our children, deny freedom of conscience to our children and to us, and to curtail the rights of other people based on their fantasies and what someone said their invisible friend wanted more than two millennia ago. So, practice religion all you want – just keep it strictly to yourself.
2. They’ve done it this way forever, so why make them change?
Ah, yes, the appeal to tradition. As logical fallacies go, this one is pretty easy to dismantle. It is also symptomatic of the traditional conservative state of mind, which holds that progress is bad.
Let’s say you’ve got an employee who regularly steals from the till. You’ve warned him time and time again that if he doesn’t stop, you’re going to take legal action. He doesn’t stop. You call the cops. Do we seriously expect the police to say that since you never called them before, you can’t call them now?
Or, let’s say your neighbor is a wife-beater (the POS, not the shirt). He’s beaten his wife at least weekly for all 40 years of their marriage, and your long-suffering family has witnessed it. One day, you’ve finally had enough. The wife has two black eyes and a bloody nose after one of their little tiffs, and you call the cops. Do you want to live in a society where the police say, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but she let him beat her up for 40 years, so she has to keep letting him beat her up. Just use ear plugs and avert your eyes if you don’t want to be aware of it”?
I didn’t think so.
Illegal is illegal. Period.
3. The Constitution says we are entitled to the free exercise of religion.
It sure does. And then it says that the state can’t tell us how to practice our religions. This is the part the religious right loves to forget as they strive to use government-sponsored events to impose their version of God on the rest of us. And impose it they do – at public invocations, in schools, in the laws they pass, and on billboards across the country. Only one of those instances is actually legal. (Hint: it’s the one that has nothing to do with government.)
4. God is the foundation of our founding documents.
The only foundational document that mentions anything about a God is the Declaration of Independence, which wouldn’t have been a founding document if the rebellion had not been successful. In its introduction, it mentions “Nature’s God” and which in the famous second sentence of its preamble says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” One of those unalienable rights, which was added to the Constitution 15 years after the Declaration (it wasn’t there to begin with), says that Americans are free to practice whatever religion they choose, and that the state cannot tell them what religion to practice.
It’s the second part that people like Rev. Hunt and Ms. Stewart and their fundamentalist friends have so much trouble with. In fact, they prefer to ignore it, under the short-sighted and arrogant assumption that their version of religion would naturally be the one established by the government.
5. Many of our founding fathers went to seminary with certainly the intent that God would be incorporated on our money and in our system and society.
Sometimes when religious people say idiotic things, we have to graciously understand that they are grasping at straws. I certainly hope that Ms. Stewart knows the facts don’t support this assertion of hers. I hope she has a better grasp of history than what this particular assertion indicated.
First, let’s look at the education opportunities in the late colonial period. Actual colleges were not easy to find – or, maybe they were, since there were so few of them. New College (now Harvard), the College of William and Mary, the Collegiate School (now Yale), the College of New Jersey (Princeton), the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania), King’s College (now Columbia), Rhode Island College (now Brown), Queen’s College (now Rutgers), and Dartmouth College were the only choices for formal higher education, and the last three in that list were founded after 1760, so it’s unlikely the founders attended them. Without exception, all were associated with religious institutions. However, like the colleges and universities sponsored by religious institutions in the 21st century, none of them was strictly a seminary. Since the founding fathers all obtained what formal education they got prior to the Revolution, these nine schools – and probably actually only six schools – were their only choices unless they opted to go abroad. A number of them whose families had money did indeed send their sons abroad for education at places like Cambridge, London’s Middle Temple (one of the famous Inns of Court where British barristers were – and are – formally trained, not a religious institution), and various schools on the European continent.
So, let’s take a closer look at the oldest six. By 1750, the era when the founding fathers who went there would have been enrolled, only 15% of Harvard graduates were seminarians. William and Mary, the second oldest institution, was founded with only one-third of its resources dedicated to a college of divinity, and separation of church and state was already a thing in Virginia prior to the end of the Revolution thanks to the work of George Mason and James Madison on the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Yale was not founded as a seminary, but as a college of the arts and sciences. Princeton was founded primarily to train Presbyterian ministers, but by the 1760′s was focused on the disciplines valued by the Enlightenment: philosophy, science, and the arts, and by the 1780′s no longer housed a seminary at all. Penn was never a seminary, but was founded, mostly on the advocacy of atheist Philadelphian Benjamin Franklin, as a liberal arts institution. Columbia, also, was founded as a liberal arts school. According to its website, “various groups compet[ed] to determine its location and religious affiliation. Advocates of New York City met with success on the first point, while the Anglicans prevailed on the latter. However, all constituencies agreed to commit themselves to principles of religious liberty in establishing the policies of the College.” Brown University was founded as a Baptist college – not Southern Baptist, but traditional, original, New England Baptist – although Congregationalists, Quakers, and Anglicans all had significant representation on its original board of trustees. Its Charter, granted by George III in 1764, declared its purpose was to prepare students “for discharging the Offices of Life with usefulness & reputation” by providing instruction “in the Vernacular and Learned Languages, and in the liberal Arts and Sciences.” It was not a seminary. Rather, the charter specified specifically that ”into this liberal and catholic institution shall never be admitted any religious tests, but on the contrary, all the members hereof shall forever enjoy full, free, absolute, and uninterrupted liberty of conscience.”
But easily half or more of the founding fathers of the United States of America had no formal education at what we would now consider a secondary level. The state of education in colonial America was such that most people were taught to read and write at home, and additional education was often sought with private tutors. For the most part, our founding fathers were autodidacts – self-taught, widely read, and definitely products of the Enlightenment. They never stopped questioning their world, reading, debating topics as diverse as philosophy, agriculture, and astronomy, and most importantly, they never stopped learning.
I think it is extremely safe to assume that not a single founding father decided to go to a seminary so he could foment a revolution and put his god on the money of a new nation, much less so he could violently rebel against his sovereign specifically to get more religion.
6. We’ve tried, and we just can’t ever take God, guns, sex, violence, drugs out of school.
Maybe it’s just me, but when the good Reverend Hunt said this, I couldn’t help but notice that his deity was lumped in with all the other bad things we don’t want in schools. The clear implication of his statement was that we can try, but we ought to just give up. Sorry, Rev. Hunt, but no can do – not as to any of these things.
7. God is everywhere in school forever.
Indeed, our imaginary friends can be wherever we choose for them to be. Inflicting them on other people is unacceptable, though.
8. Our country is built on the principles of God.
The principles of God that I see when I read the Bible are intolerance, caprice, narcissism, homophobia, misogyny, and violence. Are these the principles upon which our country is built? If so, it’s beyond time for reform.
Rev. Hunt probably meant the Ten Commandments, though, because before they were written down about 500 BCE, people just went around killing, coveting, disrespecting their elders, stealing, and bearing false witness all harum-scarum and willy-nilly. Never mind that Egypt’s laws (3000 BCE), Mesopotamia’s Lagash Code (2400 BCE), Sumeria’s laws (2200 BCE), and Hammurabi’s Code (1795 BCE) predate Leviticus by much more than a millennium, and Sparta’s laws (800 BCE) predate it by 400-500 years. Other codes of law from roughly the same time period as Leviticus are well documented, including the Dharmasutras of the Hindu tradition and the evolved versions of all those laws that went before, as well as Roman law (550 BCE), the Zoroastrian Avesta (600 BCE), China’s Zheng laws (500 BCE), and Draco’s Greek law (620 BCE). It is worth mentioning that our trade and maritime laws originated with ancient Phoenicia (~1200 BCE).
Don’t pretend to know legal or social history if you look at it only through the opaque lenses of your Mosaic blinders.
9. The pledge is a prayer.
In the 1962 case of Engel v. Vitale, the Supreme Court held that prayer led by government officials was not permitted in schools, but did not address whether the inclusion of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance rendered it a prayer. Justice Douglas, in his concurring opinion, said that he believed the religion “honeycombed” throughout our federal laws was not permissible, and that the words “under God” should not stand – and that, yes, the pledge was indeed a prayer.
A 2004 case, Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow challenged the pledge directly, but was dismissed because the plaintiff, a noncustodial parent of the school child in question, lacked standing.
Therefore, I sincerely hope the good Reverend will be willing to repeat this assertion that it is resolved that the Pledge is a prayer the next time some godless heathen decides to file suit to challenge the inclusion of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, because it get us one step closer to getting the words stricken.
10. By insisting on leaving religion out of school functions, atheists impose their views on everyone else.
There’s a difference between religious neutrality and forced atheism. If we were forcing our atheism on the impressionable little school children, we’d be hosting “There is No God” as the cool after-school activity to go to instead of tolerating the insidious presence of “Good News Clubs” that indoctrinate children. We’d be demanding that the school choirs sing Tim Minchin songs instead of classical choruses. We’d start every event with an announcement that there is no god, and repeatedly remind any believers out there that they are stupid to still have an imaginary friend. As it is, we may think those things, but we don’t say them in government settings and we certainly don’t try to scare the shit out of their children to ensure the little darlings will come around to our way of thinking.
Religious neutrality means no one says anything one way or another about deities, religions, or the way those imaginary beings think we should conduct ourselves, much less what they plan to do with us when we die.
11. It’s more important to keep faith in schools than anywhere.
On the contrary, school is exactly the place where things should be questioned and not taken on faith. School is the place where facts should be tested, experiments performed, empirical evidence gathered and assessed, and ideas debated. Critical thinking skills need to be emphasized much, much more. Our children should be taught never to take anything on faith, but to investigate and find truth for themselves. Otherwise, all we are doing is drilling information into their heads without giving them the skills to apply it to reality and to the betterment of the world. I don’t know about you, but I want more for my child than for him to be an automaton that dully repeats whatever he’s been told. Faith is the last thing we need to teach our children in school.
12. It’s impossible to take God out of schools because too many religious people are in the schools, and god is in the songs that the school choir sings, plays that the school theater performs, civics and history books, and because there is a federal holiday honoring Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who taught the nation about the Bible.
Where do I even begin?
Okay, so, there are religious people in schools. Sure. There are religious people everywhere. It does not necessarily follow that everything that comes out of the mouths of those religious people is religious. In a school setting, they need to keep their religion to themselves and teach kids how to think critically, how to solve problems, and what a logical fallacy is. (Maybe by teaching logical fallacies, they will recognize the ones they use on themselves to keep religion alive.)
God is in the songs that the choir sings. Because ecclesiastical patronage is responsible for a considerable chunk of the greatest art and music in history, we neither can nor should avoid some religious songs or art. There is plenty of secular art and music out there, though, and it also should be taught. And if the public school is performing a religious play, someone needs to let the ACLU, Americans United, and FFRF know so a lawsuit can be filed – because it’s illegal. Period.
Religious history is part of human history. The history of the Catholic Church’s political maneuverings is valid study – it has had great effect on the politics of medieval Europe, and despite its lack of stature as an official religion for governments now, it still wields a mighty sword. Its complicity in the Holocaust, for example, should not be downplayed, nor should its interference in human rights issues in places like Africa, where it has helped to spread the HIV/AIDS pandemic by preaching against condom use, and Ireland, where women die because their lives are considered less valuable than the fetuses they carry, sometimes against their will. Religion has a great deal to do with the denial of women’s rights in the Middle East and Central Asia. So, yes, study religion’s effect of world history and current events.
Do not ever make the mistake of teaching public school children which religion is “better” or “correct.” That is establishment of religion, and in this country it is illegal.
And now for Martin Luther King, Jr., who apparently taught us all about the Bible so now we honor him with his very own holiday. I hardly know how to begin to address this idiotic statement, so I’ll just heave a huge sigh and delve in.
Dr. King was indeed a minister. He did indeed connect his faith to his fervent advocacy for civil rights, and frequently invoked his deity and the teachings of the Bible. He wasn’t assassinated for being a minister, though. He died because he was an extremely effective advocate for civil rights and for peace. Dr. King was much more than a minister, and his civil rights and anti-war activism is the reason for that holiday, not his messages from any pulpit. He pioneered peaceful civil disobedience to a degree this country had never before seen. He worked for racial parity and desegregation, something the Bible definitely does not advocate. He worked tirelessly to end an unjust war. The war he wanted to fight was against poverty and the disparate treatment of human beings in American society. That war, at least, was a noble one.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the greatest orators of the 20th century, if not one of the greatest orators in all of American history. His work was rewarded with international acclaim and he was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize because of it. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Four people have federal holidays in their honor: two of them were presidents, one is popularly credited with “discovering” the continent, and the fourth is Dr. King. Could he have done this work without being a minister? Absolutely. Unequivocally. Does he deserve the acclaim he has received? Without a doubt, yes. But not for being a minister. He deserves every accolade he has ever received because of what he did for race relations in the United States 100 years after the Civil War, and for using his popularity and influence to end a horrifically unjust war and to advocate for human rights.
Dr. King didn’t teach Americans the Bible. He taught us something much more important: that all men must be treated equally and fairly. We would certainly appreciate it if the religious right would demonstrate that they understand that lesson.
13. We shouldn’t have to wait for another bombing or mass shooting before a school assembly prays again.
When that next bombing or mass school shooting happens, we still shouldn’t pray – at least, not in school and not as part of a government-sponsored event. Prayer won’t undo it, prayer won’t prevent it, and prayer won’t stop it mid-horror.
Do we really lack so much creativity as a society that we cannot devise another way to honor the dead or mark a tragedy without thanking God for it? Do we really think a prayer will stop malicious and crazy people from socially aberrant behavior? If so, church shootings wouldn’t happen, and legislatures wouldn’t have to make church-goers feel safer by allowing them to carry weapons to Sunday services. And isn’t it ironic that we thank a god for such monstrous atrocities and celebrate the deaths of those killed by saying they’ve been “called home” to that deity? How screwed up is that, anyway?
And this leads us back to good old Epicurus (341 BCE – 270 BCE), another philosopher roughly contemporaneous with the scribes of Leviticus:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then why is there evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
14. We should not have to care about the rights of minorities in public schools.
There is so much insensitivity in this statement that my mind nearly boggled. The majority rules when votes are counted for candidates. When the candidate elected by the majority takes his oath of office, though, he represents everyone, not just those who elected him, and he owes a duty to everyone, not just those who elected him.
We do not operate our society by doing what the majority of people want to do just because the majority want it done. We also look at the public policy behind doing things, the ramifications of doing them, and the overall effect on society.
We also don’t squash the little guy under our heels just because he is poor, speaks a different language, is mentally handicapped, physically challenged, from another country, homosexual, short, illiterate, fat, old, sick, red-haired, of a different racial derivation than we are, of a different religious persuasion, or for any other reason. It’s just plain wrong. When will the Christian right get this through their thick skulls? Seriously, what jackasses!
15. FFRF wanted graduation stopped.
One of the reasons the uber-conservative media is so good at persuading its watchers and listeners that the boogeyman is at the door is because when the truth doesn’t suit them, they change the facts to fit their narrative.
They make us refute their fake facts, and thereby deprive us of the time to make our points. To borrow a phrase from Christopher Moore, this is heinous fuckery most foul. If you have to lie to make your point, you obviously have a crappy argument to begin with. Go home. You’ve forfeited the game.
16. Public prayer in school isn’t illegal.
The hell it isn’t. See Engel v. Vitale, supra.
17. God calls the light day and the darkness night and no one can change that because it’s an order from god.
If you listen closely at this point in the segment, you can detect that I nearly laughed out loud here. I apologize for the audible derisive snort. I couldn’t help it. I did, however, have considerable empathy at that moment with David Silverman’s conversation with Bill O’Reilly about the reason for tidal forces. Evidently the good Reverend Hunt is a flat-earther who does not understand the earth’s rotation or heliocentrism. He thinks it gets light and dark because God says so. We’ll just ignore the fact that we have night and day for the same basic reason as we have high and low tides: gravity.
After all, gravity is just a theory.
18. It is resolved, that if the Constitution allows the pledge, which contains a prayer, then it is resolved that all prayer should be allowed in schools.
Well, he was almost right. It is definitely resolved that prayer is not permitted in schools. Engel v. Vitale, remember? But what isn’t resolved is whether or not the words “under God” make the pledge tantamount to a prayer. The atheist that is me thinks it does, and the religious guy that is Reverend Hunt thinks it does. Therefore, the pledge is a prayer and pursuant to the precedent set by Engel v. Vitale and pursuant to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the pledge shouldn’t be recited any more than the Lord’s Prayer should be.
19. Religion never changes.
The delegates to Vatican II would be interested to learn of this.
So would Martin Luther, who kicked off a pretty serious change in Christianity by tacking those 95 theses to the door of that Wittenberg Church back in 1517. (Okay, fine, so the church door thing may be a bit of a myth. But the invention of the printing press did a heck of a lot to change Christianity because that’s how word of the 95 theses got liberally sprinkled throughout Germany and the rest of Europe.)
In fact, I think the attendees of the Council of Nicea – you know, the meeting at which the books of scripture were either included or jettisoned from what we now call the Bible and the meeting at which the Jesus character was determined to be a god – would find the Rev. Hunt’s assertion patently ludicrous, as would those who attended the other thirteen major ecumenical councils of the last two millennia.
I wonder if Rev. Hunt has a Christmas tree? My money says he is clueless about its pagan roots or somehow thinks no religion changed to accommodate that tradition.
20. Jesus said always to pray and not to think.
Herein lies the biggest problem with religion. “Don’t think,” religious leaders tell us. “Just believe what you’re told.” A gullible, uneducated, ignorant populace is all too willing to accept any popular authority that purports to explain their world.
“You’ve got to have faith,” they say.
I have plenty of faith. I have faith that the sun will rise, because every morning it does, and because scientists have provided a reasonable, testable, consistently provable reason for it happening. I have faith that gravity won’t stop working, for the same reason. I even have faith that my computer will post this little rant when I hit a certain combination of keys – because it’s happened before, because it happens consistently and reliably when I hit those keys, and because there is some computer scientist person who knows how and why it happens. I don’t know how or why, and I don’t pretend to understand it, but because it works reliably and consistently with predictable results, I am satisfied that there is a reasonable explanation for it. It might feel like magic to me, because I just say (type) my incantation and poke my fingers at the right buttons and watch it happen – again and again. But I know people who not only understand why it works, but can tell me why it has stopped working, fix it, and make it work again. Reliably and consistently.
That’s the kind of thing I can have faith in.
21. The word that God gives Christians is in Psalms 1.
Wait wait wait wait wait. Wasn’t the Book of Psalms compiled a long time before the guy who started the whole Christianity thing? Hasn’t the god of the Christians failed to utter one single word to them since that dude’s alleged death in the early first century CE? (Well, except for like, the Book of Mormon, but those people are in a cult and not really Christians, right?) I mean, I thought most of the Psalms were attributed to King David, who lived a full millenium before the Jesus character.
Of course, Christians use the Old Testament, too. But since Christianity hadn’t been invented at the time of the composition of the first Psalm (there’s that old religion changing thing again), it would seem that the Christian god might – just might – not have been talking to Christians back then.
22. God’s law is higher than Constitutional law.
Not in the United States of America, it isn’t.
In fact, the original language of the Constitution never once mentions or even refers to any deity or creator. The only time religion is mentioned at all is in the First Amendment, which says government is to keep its hands off religion. The government can’t tell us how to practice religion and can’t tell us not to practice religion. It also can’t tell us that we must practice religion.
This is not Indonesia, Iran, or Saudi Arabia. We do not have to believe in any gods at all, and no one can tell us what version of which of the 3500+ gods man has ever worshipped that we should worship.
And just to make sure that foreign governments were aware of this, John Adams, this country’s second president, included in the Treaty of Tripoli an affirmation of the secular nature of the American government with the following language in the Treaty of Tripoli, which was duly ratified – unanimously – by Congress in 1797:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
23. If we say “under God” in the pledge at school, we are obligated to continue praying in schools so as not to be hypocritical.
Fine. I won’t say the Pledge, either. Not that I have since I was in elementary school and thought I had to. Actually, I stopped saying the pledge before I was out of elementary school, because by about 5th grade I had had it with religion and with the “because I said so” reasons that I was given for really just about anything. Plus, I thought it was stupid and meaningless to pledge my undying devotion to a piece of cloth. If any piece of cloth could be that important, it would have been the old pink blanket I used to drag around the house when I was a little kid. At least that ratty old thing gave me some comfort and kept me warm.
Rev. Hunt should keep in mind that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have to say the pledge, either, because doing so violates the rules of their religion. Neither does anyone else who doesn’t want to, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 1943 ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.
We’re back to that “free exercise” thing that necessarily goes hand-in-hand with the “disestablishment” thing, and the “freedom of speech” thing that necessarily implies freedom of conscience.
We are free to reject religion, to follow our own consciences, and we are free not to have to submit to someone else’s religion.
Even the religious right’s.
An earlier version of this entry was posted to What Would JT Do?
One of my favorite friends from college is Dave.
Over the last almost 30 years since graduation, we’ve remained in touch. At first it was a phone call or two every year, but with the invention of email (thank you Al Gore!) we’ve managed to become quasi-regular correspondents. I’m a terrible correspondent, usually. I’m guilty of holding an email intending to respond, forgetting about it, then shootingoff one or two sentences to cure my egregious default. I don’t tend to do this with Dave. Oh, there’s the one or two sentence responses, but they tend to be sent pretty promptly – well, promtly for me, anyhow.
No, Dave’s emails provoke long-winded responses from me. Dave and I have never claimed to be politically compatible, but our discussions usually turn up much more areas of agreement than disagreement. See, Dave’s a self-described conservative. Not a Tea Party conservative, absolutely not. Dave’s got two post-graduate degrees – an engineering degree from Dartmouth and an MBA from UVA, so no one has ever accused him of not being a thoughtful, extremely intelligent guy. Well, maybe someone did when we were undergrads together at Colgate, but that only happened because they were drunk.
Dave’s emails have inspired more than one of my blog posts. Today’s is yet another.
Dave wrote me earlier this week, saying,
1. Are the people opposed to same-gender marriage equally opposed to opposite-gender marriages where there is no sex and hence no chance of procreation?
2. What will same-gender marriage advocates protest for if full marriage rights are granted? My guess is clean air and water, safer roads, better schools … Or maybe they won’t protest at all and instead will just get on with their lives like most “normal” people.
‘Tis a silly question, I thought in my best Monty Python accent. Opposition to same-sex marriage tends to be based on religion, not on procreation. And don’t “normal” people get concerned about inequities of our government and culture? So I responded,
- Depending on their reason for objecting to same-sex marriage, maybe.
- The world won’t be fixed when this one unfairness is resolved. We have lots more to protest. Equal rights for women (the ERA in Arkansas can’t seem to make it out of committee). Equal rights for minorities. Freedom from religion-based laws that restrict freedom of conscience. Access to safe, effective sex education and birth control, including safe abortions. Life and health for kids whose parents would restrict their access to proven and effective medical treatment in the name of religion or pseudoscience. Eradication of preventable disease. Vaccination. Food for the hungry. Replacing dictatorships like North Korea’s and North Dakota’s. A stop to corporate abuses of campaign finance laws. A stop to the corporate abuses of the people who buy their products. Clean air. Clean water. Safer roads. Better schools. Alternative fuels. Safer communities. Rehabilitation of criminals. Job training for criminals. Job training for young people who choose not to continue their traditional educations. Preservation of rain forests. Preservation of threatened and engendered species of plants and animals. Funding of scientific research. Funding of medical research. Space exploration. More charitable giving. Rehabilitation of drug abusers. A stop to unnecessary regulation of anything. Complete nuclear disarmament. An unbiased news media. Free healthcare. Free Tibet.
Need I continue?
Dave wasn’t about to let me off so easily.
1. Some people just object.
2. I think that was the point. Move on to other issues. And the people opposed to same-gender marriage won’t have to hear about it anymore. Maybe the people opposed to same-gender marriage will find themselves side-by-side with same-gender marriage advocates on issues where they share common ground. It’s up to them to build on it.
Insert eyeroll here.
I am not in the least optimistic that the vast majority of those opposing same-sex marriage will look for common ground with anyone who does not share their insular opinions. If it happens by accident, sure, but look for it? Don’t make me laugh. They are terrified of anything that shifts their paradigm, of anything that moves their cheese. Those who can ally themselves over issue 1 (we are at war with Eurasia) will be mortal enemies over issue 2 (we have always been at war with Eastasia), and will come back together over Issue 3 (because we have always been at war with Eurasia), only to become enemies again on issue 4. And often they will not realize that they have changed alliances. Because the enemy has always been Eastasia.
We have a crisis in this country right now. It’s a communication crisis, and it can be blamed on the sound-bite and an “Us vs. Them” mentality. People have much more in common than not. Only occasionally do the different sides actually have different goals. It’s all in how the media or their leaders – or both – spin it to them.
Conservative America traditionally stands for smaller government, which theoretically brings with it lower taxes and greater personal autonomy: “freedom.” Liberal, or Progressive, America traditionally stands for social safety, which theoretically brings with it more government involvement and necessarily higher taxes. What is their common goal? They want to be safe, healthy, and financially stable, because only if they have these things will they have “freedom.”
Political party platforms associated with conservative ideals and with progressive ones change over time. The economic disasters of Reconstruction and the Great Depression caused profound changed in the political affiliations of many Americans. So did the political panic of the Cold War. The demise of the Dixiecrats and the fall of Jim Crow has a lot to do with current political alignments. I’ve seen a violation of the basic tenets in both of these diametrically opposed sides just during my lifetime. Political alignments often define issues, and since for all practical purposes we have limited ourselves to only two parties in the United States, our political parties appear to be polarized. And at the moment, as the chart shows, our two political parties are more polarized than they have ever been since the end of Reconstruction.
At the time of the Civil War, the Republican Party was conservative, but not as much as it is today. In 1860, Republicans not only did not want to “conserve” the status quo (which is the very definition of conservatism), they wanted to bring massive change to the economy of half of the country. The war certainly accomplished that. Outlawing slavery all at once undermined the agrarian business model of the nation, which had been overwhelmingly dependent on slave labor to get crops planted and harvested. The more industrialized north did not feel the devastating economic crisis brought on by this change as greatly as did the primarily agricultural South. Emancipation was the most drastic change in property rights in US economic history – possibly in world economic history. The only comparable situation I can think of is the 1861 emancipation of serfs in the Russian Empire – serfdom in western Europe, on the other hand, disappeared gradually over several centuries.
The two biggest cash crops in the South before the war were cotton and tobacco, followed closely by hemp, rice, and indigo. The primary producers of these crops were the large Southern plantations – farms larger than 200 acres – that used significant slave labor. In 1860, plantations with more than 50 slaves made up 4% of all farms, but grew 32% of all the cotton produced in this country. By 1880, farms of that size constituted less than 1% of all farms, and now were paying wages instead of supporting slaves at subsistence levels. Increased costs to produce the South’s primary sources of income dramatically compromised the economic health of the South.
The stereotypical image of the pre-war plantation is of a rich, idle white family surrounded by complacent slaves who did everything for their masters – from the farm labor and cooking to dressing the ladies and caring for the white children. This image is flawed. The white “masters” typically labored in the fields, too, and always had hired hands – both white and free blacks – in addition to slaves. Families owning 50 or more slaves were rare. For that matter, families owning any slaves at all were not in the majority of white southerners. Only about a quarter of southern families held slaves, While wealthier families frequently had a family of slaves in the same house, most southerners were themselves the laborers, the farm hands, and the hired wage earners that they still are today. Most slaves were owned by large planters and worked on the larger plantations. Nevertheless, when the legs are cut out from under the highest-earning industry in a geographic region, the entire region suffers. (No area of 21st century America knows this reality more intimately than Detroit.)
But let’s add other economic costs. At the end of the Civil War in 1865, the Confederate dollar was worthless due to inflation and people in the South had to resort to bartering services for goods. White planters had lost their enormous investment in slaves. They had virtually no capital to pay free workers to bring in crops. Immediately after the war, onerous property taxes were imposed on southern landholders. These taxes were essentially war reparations, and had to be paid in scarce Union dollars. Land owners often could not pay these taxes. The way they had raised money in the past – providing subsistence rather than wages to the families that worked their land to conserve cash income for other purposes – was no longer legal. They had to change their business model entirely, and immediately.
Sharecropping was the answer. Landowners broke up large plantations and rented smaller plots to their former slaves and employees. Almost overnight the South was transformed from a prosperous land-owning populace into a tenant farming agriculture system. The few large landowners who were able to hang on to their property no longer worked the land themselves. Those who were fortunate enough to obtain land at fire-sale prices worked harder than the previous owners to make it produce enough to support their families. Tenant farmers could never hope to wring enough profits out of the land to support themselves in their former lifestyles, unless they were freed slaves, in which case their condition in life was definitely improved.
Now, add to that massive change the fact that for four years Southerners had burned cotton and tobacco rather than allow Union forces to confiscate it. Invading Union troops had devastated the physical structures that constituted the framework of the Southern economic engine, and nearly half of the livestock of the South had been killed during the war. And here’s the kicker: over a quarter of all Southern white men of military age died during the war, leaving their families destitute. Per capita income for white southerners declined from $125 in 1857 to a low of $80 in 1879. Reconstruction officially ended in 1877, but rather than being reconstructed into something viable and prosperous, the South had been further devastated by it. By the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th century, the former Confederacy was locked into a system of poverty. The financial ruin of the South was complete. One hundred and fifty years later, it still has not recovered except in pockets where petroleum production has made the difference.
The resentment of the defeated South at losing the comfort and prosperity it had once enjoyed lit flames of anger among people who had lost nearly everything. That anger was directed externally: toward the slaves they had once depended on or who they had once ordered around with impunity, but who now were raised to the same socioeconomic level as free white laborers almost overnight; toward the educated, industrialized northern states, which were able to resume their former lives after the war; toward the federal government agents who enforced these changes; and toward the speculators who came to the South with carpetbags full of cash to take advantage of Southern economic desperation.
The only real power or freedom that remained to Southerners was in how they treated each other. Free black people were the poster children of Confederate defeat, and because of their lack of education, unfamiliarity with government processes, lack of representation in government, lack of education, and economic disadvantages, they were easy targets. White supremacy ideology frustrated racial equality and ushered in the Jim Crow era. Jim Crow laws had an initial side effect of disenfranchising poor whites along with poor blacks, and almost all black people were poor.
Voter turnout dropped considerably, and the United States Supreme Court eventually declared poll taxes unconstitutional. It was more difficult for the federal government to regulate how people behaved toward one another, though. While many white Southerners who had managed to retain more wealth focused on economic issues, the vast majority of impoverished white Southerners were still indignant that they were caught up in the Southern economic crisis. In the late 1800’s “separate but equal” became the law of the land, cast in iron by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Not only was it perfectly legal to treat the different races differently, it was government sanctioned.
Environmental disaster compounded economic disaster when the Great Depression struck. While the stock market crash of 1929 had relatively little to do with the suppressed Southern economy other than to deprive it of what little wealth it had managed to regain, the Dust Bowl had a devastating effect on the still predominantly agricultural South.
The Depression is notorious for high unemployment rates. People who can’t find jobs have no purchasing power. The South was already economically depressed before the 1930’s, and the “stimulus” of the New Deal sometimes extracted more money than the poor South had to spare. The New Deal is responsible for the progressive socioeconomic reforms of social security, minimum wage controls, and farm subsidies, the latter of which allowed poor Southern farmers a measure of economic security they had never before experienced. It cost the worker more in actual cash, though, and established institutionalized inflation that is unstoppable.
With the end of World War II, the Southern Democrats who had signed on to the New Deal because of their constituents’ dire economic situation suddenly faced a civil rights crisis: those uppity women and blacks who had earned a comfortable living during the war did not want to turn loose of the gains they had made. The Southern white man had gone away to fight and lost enough of his dominance that something had to be done quickly to preserve his way of life. And despite the gains made by women and black people, white men were still in charge of the government.
Enter the Dixiecrat. After the Civil War, Southern politicians wouldn’t be caught dead identifying with Lincoln’s Republican party. The South turned overwhelmingly to the Democratic party in the 1870’s, and until the 1990’s – that’s right, only twenty years ago – Republicans were rarely elected at the local level anywhere in the former Confederacy. There was no point in voting in a Republican primary in the South because there were so few Republican candidates. Local elections were normally determined in the Democratic primaries until the Reagan administration managed to make diplomatic inroads with Southern sensibilities. Rev. Jerry Falwell had a lot to do with that, which I’ll explain in a moment. (The South voted for Republicans at the national level, though.)
Really, it’s all Harry Truman’s fault. The economic demands of the New Deal had started a schizophrenia among Southern politicians. Socially conservative politicians, damned if they would let minorities get the best of them, embraced progressive economic ideas that were sold as a way to lift not just the South but the entire country out of poverty. After Franklin Roosevelt’s death, the liberal and progressive Truman (from the border state of Missouri) got a bee in his bonnet about – of all things! – civil rights. The original idea was to end discrimination in the military, since black and Indian soldiers had made amazing contributions to the war effort. The Dixiecrats and their supporters saw the writing on the wall, though. If those minorities got an inch, and they’d take a mile. Discrimination was entrenched in the Southern way of life, and that was a status quo the whites could not tolerate changing. Those uppity Negroes were trying to take the rightful place of white folks all over again. This was Reconstruction Redux.
The Civil Rights movement put an end to the cooperation between Southern Democrats and their northern counterparts. Once again, those damn Yankees were attempting to force massive change on the Southern way of life, and South was not happy about it.
When I was born at the tail end of the baby boom, Jim Crow was alive and well. The outraged Dixiecrats were being forced to desegregate schools. (My rural eastern Arkansas elementary school desegregated in 1968, the year I started first grade.) The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the gret-grandchildren of slaves a more effective legal tool to fight the racial discrimination that had been institutionalized all over the country. An amendment to it in 1968 further expanded civil rights.
Since the end of the Civil War, Congress had passed numerous civil rights laws. In 1866 Congress overrode President Andrew Johnson’s veto of a bill that said anyone born in the U.S., regardless of race, was a U.S. citizen. In 1871, Congress outlawed ethnic violence against black people. (The KKK ignored this law with impunity.) In 1875 Congress attempted to prohibit discrimination in public accommodations, but the Supreme Court struck down the act as an unconstitutional regulation of individual action. Brown v. Board of Education, which overruled Plessy v. Ferguson to do away with the doctrine of “separate but equal,” was decided in 1954. In 1957, the year the National Guard was called out to desegregate Little Rock schools over the objection of segregationists here, the Civil Rights Commission was formed. And in 1964 the broad Civil Right Act prohibiting discrimination was passed – a hundred years after the Civil War had ended. Laws passed in 1968 (the Fair Housing Act) and 1987 (extending nondiscrimination requirements to government contractors) further expanded civil rights.
We are now 150 years and seven generations removed from slavery. Those without a sense of the history of it see the struggle for racial parity as black people being “given” what white people have “earned.” Affirmative action, designed to promote minority interests when all other things are equal, is seen as favoring minorities, and to an extent, it does. Quotas that reflect the actual population are also seen as rewarding those “lazy” people who would otherwise not be qualified. Those who complain are called either racist or realist, depending upon their audience.
We see the same thing in other civil rights struggles. Homosexuals make up more than 10% of our population, but discrimination against them is still legal. (A 2002 Gallup poll found the number to be 9%, but keep in mind that Kinsey’s research found that sexual orientation is more of a question of degree along a spectrum rather that a bright line.) Couched in terms of the civil rights struggle, which same-sex marriage certainly is a part of, the conservative population resists change, preferring to maintain a status quo. By definition, a liberal is progressive in ideals and outlook. A liberal sees change as improvement in the current situation. This is the exact opposite of conservative ideals, which harken back to the “good old days” when “things were better” and “people knew their places.”
Change is scary to those whose mind-set is conservative. Instead of embracing change with all the promise and anticipation of a liberal, the conservative resists with everything in his power.
What’s another thing that poor people tend not to have that wealthier people tend to acquire? Education. The South and Midwest are less educated, more superstitious, and therefore more fearful of the unknown. A lack of desire to educate themselves is an unfortunate characteristic that brands these types so that they are easily recognizable.
Religion in America is symptomatic of these attitudes. The United States has experienced several episodes of Christian revivalism or “Awakening.” These terms refer to a specific period of increased spiritual interest bracketed by declines in religious interest. Revival or awakening happens regularly everywhere in the world where religion is practices. Eras of economic hardship correlate to increased religious revival. The Enlightenment of the 18th century was a period of spiritual decline marked by searching outside religion for matters of morality and understanding about human nature. The Great Awakening was its philosophical rival in colonial America, and was such a strong movement that its imprimatur is still evident in our national psyche. It was followed by a Second Great Awakening, during which Christian evangelicals really became the institution they now are. Charismatic and emotional speakers rode a circuit to whip the religious audiences into frenzies, and their converts at these tent revivals were so inspired that they carried the word to others, making religious adherence not only fashionable, but necessary for morality. A third Awakening spread especially throughout the Midwest and prompted a new flood of missions to Asia.
Despite the persuasive and educated voices of men like Thomas Payne, Thomas Jefferson, Robert G. Ingersoll, John Dewey, Felix Adler, and George Santayana, the sheer charisma of the evangelicals of the Great Awakenings carried much more weight with a partially literate, largely uneducated public.
We are now in the midst of another Awakening. This Awakening has cemented itself in the disillusioned South and in the Midwest, where the economy of the mostly rural population is largely agrarian and relatively fewer people have higher education. Television and radio have sped and maintained the momentum of this religious movement. I’ll never forget hearing Jerry Falwell (I told you I’d get back to him) decrying secular humanism in the heyday of the Moral Majority. I never understood how he could make “humanism” into a curse word until it dawned on me that the people flocking to listen to him had no idea what it meant.
In this Fourth Awakening, new Christian sects have sprung up like weeds in a previously neatly-tended garden, and the detritus they spread is poison to reason and science. They look backward instead of forward, and are willing to compromise freedoms of conscience to maintain the status quo they treasure. They are the Todd Akins (“Women’s bodies have a way of shutting that whole [pregnancy from rape] thing down”) and Sarah Palins of American politics, and their followers are the Tea Party, and can always be counted on to vote against their own best interest. They are persuaded by sound bites on television and sermons from their ministers. These people are anti-intellectual, uneducated, and irrational. They parrot the words of their religious and political leaders without examining the ideas critically or, apparently, even with any real interest.
Obviously I do not hold much respect for these people. The sign that summed them up for me read, “Keep Government OUT of My Medicare.” The Awakening and the Tea Party both have less traction on the more populated coasts of our country, where people tend to have more education and tend to be exposed regularly to people who are not like them. Familiarity may breed contempt, but it allays fear.
Now, a person who styles himself as a “fiscal conservative” is a different animal altogether from these screaming mobs of illogical idiots with their misspelled signs and their complete misunderstanding of the purpose of any government system. These fiscal conservatives usually bemoan the loss of the Republican party to the religious right and to the anti-intellectuals of the Tea Party. They are right to be concerned. Where reasonable minds can disagree and compromise, unreasoning minds consider dialogue the precursor to capitulating – compromise is to be avoided at all costs.
This is no way to run a government. It is no way to decide public policy. I sincerely wish that rational conservatives would retake control of the Republican party. It’s not that I agree with them, but that I see them as opponents worthy of outreach. I feel like I could work with them, because they will see that we are committed to the same goals, albeit with different ideas as to how to reach them. However, there’s no working with irrational, willfully ignorant, reactionary mobs who see any change at all as a threat to their precious way of life, and who cannot imagine a better future.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell is currently on trial in Pennsylvania on murder charges (among others) because of practices at his abortion clinic. In January 2011, Gosnell charged with eight counts of murder resulting from gross medical malpractice in treatment of patients at his clinics. The eight victims of his alleged murders were seven infants said to have been killed after being born alive during attempted abortions, and one adult patient who was administered an overdose of painkillers during an abortion.
Medical malpractice is the action of medical providers that intentionally or negligently injure or kill a person in that medical professional’s care. From all accounts I have found and read, Dr. Gosnell is at the very least guilty of egregious and frequent medical malpractice.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell is a real-life horror story.
The mistreatment and maltreatment reported by patients and even his own staff is hair-raising. Patients who change their minds about having an abortion, even if their feet are already in the stirrups, must be respected and treated with dignity. Unless the procedure has already progressed beyond a point of no return, it should stop immediately. This is true of any elective procedure, whether it is wart removal, plastic surgery, abortion, or hip replacement.
When I hear of patients infected with STDs because a doctor used unsterilized instruments on them, I am appalled.
When I hear that of bags containing at least 47 aborted fetuses were stuffed into a refrigerator, my stomach lurches. What the hell was the point of that?
My anger rages when I hear a 15 year old girl who changed her mind on the table was physically restrained and the abortion performed anyway. That is abuse. Assault. Battery.
When I think of a live baby’s spine snipped with a pair of scissors, my fury explodes.
Dr. Gosnell has been accused of all of these things. If they are true, he should never be allowed to practice medicine again. Ever. And he should go to jail.
I am not appalled that he was performing abortions. Women need a safe place to have abortions. But Gosnell’s clinic was not safe. Not for them, and not for the babies apparently born there after botched abortions. According to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, “The grand jury went to the scene wearing Hazmat suits.” The scene was littered with animal feces and stray cats had apparently had their run of the clinic.
Why Kermit Gosnell had Patients
Over the past 24 hours hours, the anti-choice media has been bewailing the fact that the case has not gotten much media coverage. I have seen it in my news feed daily over the last month, so until I investigated further, I didn’t understand why they claimed there was no coverage. Seems that the pro-choice media has covered it thoroughly – because Gosnell’s clinic is a harbinger of what will come if abortion is made illegal everywhere. The anti-abortion crowd has not covered it, because of the focus the case trains on illegal and unsafe abortions, which they know will happen with hyper-regulation and limited abortion access through safe, mainstream healthcare channels. Unfortunately, in today’s anti-choice climate, places like Gosnell’s clinic will become more common, not less. When abortions become illegal, vultures like him will be able to prey on more women.
The anti-choice advocates do not want this story covered, because this story will become more commonplace the harder abortions are to come by.
Women determined to abort the fetuses they are carrying will do so, one way or another. They should be able to do it in a safe, sterile environment that will prevent their own death or incapacity. This was where Dr. Gosnell failed. The women who sought treatment from him got rid of their unwanted pregnancies, but apparently often did so at the cost of their own health and safety.
Why should only the rich be entitled to safe health services? Why should abortion be readily available to wealthy patients, but not to poor ones? In one respect, Dr. Gosnell did indeed provide a necessary and desirable service. His method of purveying it, though, was devastating to his patients.
Gosnell is a symptom of a broken health care system. He is the poster child for why abortion services need to be safe, sterile, and sensibly regulated – not over-regulated so that only wealthy women can afford them.
Late Term Abortions for the Poor
When abortion is too expensive for a woman to be able to afford early in her pregnancy – when it takes her too much time to come up with the expense of resolving the problem of an unwanted pregnancy, she is forced to wait to abort the pregnancy. The longer she has to wait, the closer to viability or even to term she must have that abortion. By making abortion difficult to come by and expensive, we ensure that poor women must wait longer than wealthy ones to have abortions. We create the problem that a viper like Gosnell can take advantage of.
Elective late term abortions are not unheard of, even if they are rare. Late term abortions happen because women are either denied earlier access or because of medical reasons affecting wither the mother or the fetus. If a woman has to wait beyond the point of viability, but is still determined to end her pregnancy, she will still do so. And as long as it remains difficult and illegal for her to do so, she will accomplish her goal illegally. Outlawing late term abortions will not stop them. They are rare even without the legal restrictions. Women who are able to end unwanted pregnancies as soon as they can. They don’t wait for the opportunity to kill a baby.
If his patients had had the chance to go to a clean and safe clinic, Kermit Gosnell would not have had a practice. As someone I spoke with said recently, Gosnell’s clinic was “the template for underground and illegal abortion [mills]. As abortion rights get more restrictive, as people seek to find ways to make them even harder to come by, people looking to make money off this human suffering will find a fertile grounds on which to thrive.”
When a “Baby” is not a Baby
A pregnant woman talks about her baby in the present tense, but she has no offspring yet. We refer to saving the lives of babies when we talk about prenatal health care. The anti-choice crowd talks about saving babies’ lives when they talk about not aborting pregnancies. So when is a baby a baby, and when is it not?
A fetus is the unborn or unhatched offspring of non-marsupial mammals – any non-marsupial mammal, including a human, a goat, a bear, or a platypus. (Marsupials do not have a fetal stage. They go from embryo to joey instead of from embryo to fetus.) A fetus is dependent on its mother for oxygenation, which is essential to life.
Viability, or the ability of the fetus to live outside the womb, is the measure the Supreme Court uses to determine the point at which the states may restrict abortions. Prior to viability the fetus cannot survive without its natural life support system: a woman. The point of viability is not a clear, bright line for every developing fetus. Some fetuses delivered earlier may live, while some delivered later may not. Medical advances have made it more likely that younger, smaller fetuses can live if their families choose to exercise those so-called heroic measures.
Until living tissue can oxygenate itself, it is dependent upon its mother and is not a baby. It is living tissue, but it lives a parasitic existence. As long as it lives a parasitic existence, its host may either accept it or reject it. We take steps to reject other parasitic lives dependent upon us, whether the parasite is a hookworm or a paramecium. The difference between these parasites and a fetus is that the fetus is a developmental stage of our own species, made with its host’s own DNA. We are more reluctant to reject our own species than we are to reject another. Once a fetus is born it becomes a baby that any other human can care for. After the umbilical cord is cut and the baby draws its first independent breath, it can be given to a wet nurse, it can be held by any other person or set aside in a crib away from other people completely. It is still dependent, but not for each moment of life. Its sustenance can come from anyone, not only from its mother.
Furthermore, after a fetus is born alive – that is, after it becomes a baby at the magic moment of birth – certain rules go into effect. Those rules allow us to remove terminally ill, dying, doomed, and comatose from the medical interventions keeping them alive. There is no legal requirement that heroic measures be taken for anyone, regardless of how long they have been breathing.
Why should there be a legal requirement that life support systems must stay in place simply because of the short length of time since conception? And why should anyone be legally compelled to provide life support for another person at the expense of her own body?
Someone pointed out McFall v. Shimp in a discussion today. In that case, McFall needed a bone marrow transplant and Shimp was the only suitable donor found. When Shimp refused to donate bone marrow, McFall sued. The court famously found that while Shimp’s refusal was morally indefensible, the court had no authority to order him to submit to personal, physical harm and bodily intrusion in order to save McFall’s life, and would not do so. Personal ethics are one thing. Demanding that another person put himself in harm’s way is yet another.
A pregnant woman unwilling to sustain the developing life within her own body is analogous. Every pregnancy has adverse health effects on every woman, Increased heart rate, edema, sepsis, increased blood pressure, hormonal surges…the list of physical systems challenged and even compromised by pregnancy is long and frightening. Then there’s death. Every woman fears death as a result of pregnancy. A woman may be under a moral obligation to provide healthy conditions for the tissue in her womb that has the potential to develop into a human being; however, she is under no legal compulsion to do so.
That is why women who use drugs and alcohol during their pregnancies are not incarcerated.
A fetus becomes a baby when it is born – when the umbilical cord is cut and it takes its first breath of air. At that moment, it is no longer dependent upon another creature’s continued life in order for it to exist. If a pregnant woman dies, the nonviable fetus inside her also dies, as does a viable fetus not immediately removed surgically.
Too often the terms “fetus” and “baby” are used interchangeably. I’m guilty of this, too. It’s the colloquial vernacular. These are not interchangeable terms, though. One means a creature that has not yet been born; the other means a creature that has been born.
A fetus does not become a baby until it is separated from its mother and living on its own, even if “living on its own” means that some degree of medical intervention is necessary. No one condones severing the spinal cord of an already-born baby who otherwise is healthy and able to survive. If the news reports of the testimony at Kermit Gosnell’s trial is accurate, he may have killed at least seven healthy babies – not fetuses.
There is a difference.
Valuing Human Life and Dignity
Valuing human life and dignity takes many forms. Personally, I value the life in existence more than the potential life. I certainly value the dignity of an existing person capable of feeling indignity more than that of a theoretical one.
The inherent point about abortion is that a woman who is determined to end her pregnancy will do so, no matter how much it costs, no matter what lengths she has to go to, and no matter if it may kill her.
I have witnessed abortion. The life, health, and future of my friend having that abortion while I held her hand was more important than the potential life that was then unable to live outside her womb. To this day, nearly 32 years later, she does not regret her choice, and I do not regret making sure she was able to have that abortion safely. I called home from college and asked my dad for the money. My friend could not ask her parents, but I knew my father would help me without hesitation and he did. I don’t know if he believed me when I said it was for a friend, but it did not make any difference to him. A young woman’s future was on the line.
I have also seen ultrasounds. I’ve seen different stages of healthy fetal development, and I have seen severely malformed fetuses in ultrasound after 20 weeks. One such fetus was also aborted. Less than a year later, performing that abortion would have made a felon out of the very humane and humanitarian doctor who performed it.
The fetal human being suffers no more and considerably less than the animals we humans routinely slaughter to eat, and does so with significantly less fear and trauma. It suffers less than a living human being whose artificial life support must be withdrawn because of health care directives. It suffers for a shorter period of time, too, and its death in safe, sterile surroundings does not compromise anyone else’s life or quality of life.
Abortion opponents want us to believe that abortions will stop if they are made illegal. They won’t. More people will suffer at the hands of butchers like Kermit Gosnel is reputed to be.
Butchers like Kermit Gosnell are the reason Roe v. Wade became necessary.
Butchers like Kermit Gosnell are the reason pro-choice proponents despair of ever-restrictive abortion laws.
Trees are trying to screw me. During a weekend spent dipping oak squigglies out of my pool, airborne jizz of various tree varieties has invaded every one of my exposed orifices, spewed onto my delicate skin, and now has me scratching and sneezing and using up yet another tree’s worth of Kleenex.
Benedryl is now my friend with benefits.
I sleep with it.
DuPage County, Illinois, may not discriminate against Muslims, said a federal court last week. Muslims who sought to build a mosque, complete with a dome and minarets, were denied a building permit because the area where they wanted to locate was already saturated with churches. Obviously, if the Christian community is well-served in a specific area, there is no need to have other religions present. Christians can take care of everyone’s spiritual needs adequately. The county board pointed out that the Muslims had been using space in a local church to meet, so clearly they did not need their own, separate space. The board also said the domes and minarets were too tall, so the mosque itself had to be redesigned to be smaller and set back further from the street.
Islam and its attendant issues aside, I think domes and minarets look awesome.
Churches other than St. Basil’s in Moscow have minarets. For instance, those towering spires on Sagrada Família in Barcelona look an awful lot like minarets to me.
I have personal experience with Sagrada Família and its minaret-like spires, and first-hand experience with why it is the exception that proves the Good Minaret Rule.
In 1983, my friend Mishy and I talked our parents into letting us spend the summer backpacking through Europe. Armed with Eurail passes and Fodor’s, we crossed the pond almost as soon as we had finished our spring finals. The ink was not yet dry on Mish’s diploma.
We made our way from England to Ireland, where we had our hair permed thinking it wouldn’t show as much if we couldn’t wash it very often. Then we crossed to the Continent, visited Paris and the Louvre, then decided to head south to Spain. I really wanted to see southern Spain, because at the time James Michener’s novel The Drifters was one of my favorite books. (My hippie chickness has deep roots.) The protagonists of that book were my age, and traveled all over Europe and Africa in an amazing adventure that set my imagination on fire. I wanted to see every place they had been. In their footsteps, I was making my pilgrimage to the beach at Torremolinos. Of course, we stopped along the way at major places on interest. First, as we crossed the Pyrenees mountains, we learned that the train tracks were a different gauge in Spain than elsewhere in Europe. We would have to change trains at the border, high in the mountains. At the Catalan border town of Portbou, we disembarked and climbed the nearby cliffs to take in a multi-country view, socializing with other backpacking college students from all over the world.
That photo above is one of the last surviving ones taken in Spain with the really awesome 35mm camera my grandfather had given me a few years before. Oh, I tried to take another. That’s where Sagrada Família comes in.
Anyone who has ever been to Europe has experienced the de rigueur cathedral tours. Europe is chock full of cathedrals, because the church has always had a metric shit-ton of money to spend on making awesome places to worship the god who said “there’s really no need to worship me in a building.” After buying some awesome leather in the street market at Portbou, including a pair of fringed moccasin boots made of the softest leather I have ever felt, we boarded the train for Barcelona.
We spent only one day in Barcelona. I’m sure there was plenty more to see, but we felt compelled to leave after only a few hours. We experienced an Omen, and felt it best to get out of town.
Upon arriving in Barcelina, we made our way to Sagrada Família, which Fodor’s compelled us to visit, claiming that no trip to Barcelona was complete without it. At the time of our visit, construction of Sagrada Família had been ongoing for a hundred and one years, and even with modern technological advances, it was woefully incomplete. Its primary architect, Antoni Gaudí, had been tragically killed in a traffic accident in 1926 – a mere 43 years into the project. The cathedral was less than 25% complete at the time, by most estimates.
This is what Gaudí wanted the cathedral to look like:
Yes, those are some serious spires. Minarets. Whatever. But despite Gaudí’s golden image of a well-balanced, elaborately detailed work of art, which looked fussy and over-blown to begin with, we have instead a lavishly detailed, clusterfuck of an unfinished building:
The cranes in this image were digitally removed. Despite being under construction for more than 130 years now, this cathedral is still not finished, and no one apparently has any vision as to how it should look when it is done. They just keep building and building and building, and adding more and more overwhelming detail.
There’s more. Lots more. I haven’t even mentioned the gargoyles, or the cadavers populating the Passion scene, or the weirdly bumpy exterior that clashes with the smooth, Gothic arches. I haven’t talked about the kaleidoscope effects of looking up inside the building, nor have I said a thing about the interior supports that look like neural connections. I haven’t mentioned the flying buttresses, necessary in early medieval times but completely superfluous in 20th century construction. The main thing I thought when I saw the cathedral was, “What the hell is going on here?” Come to find out, no one really knew. Nor, apparently, do they yet know.
In the grassy area near the cathedral, I struck up a conversation with an elderly man sitting on a park bench. He was Italian. I didn’t speak Italian, and he didn’t speak English, but I did speak a little Spanish. We understood each other just fine. As we chatted in our fractured way, I stood to take a photo of the awe-inspiring mess of a monstrous structure that is Sagrada Família.
I put my eye to the viewfinder. Aa I was about to snap the picture, my camera fell apart in my hands.
The lens came out, exposing the film within. The case would not open, so I couldn’t extract the film to save what photos I had taken. The flash fell off.
I am not lying. Sagrada Família, with its excessive detail and its bizarre spires that look like minarets, is so ugly it broke my camera.
So, there you have it. Minarets are gorgeous.
Except in Barcelona.
The San Francisco City Supervisor was the first openly gay politician ever elected to office in California. His meteoric political promise went down in a blaze of gunfire at the hand of a political rival in 1978. Harvey Milk was more than a first, though. He was an inspiration, and may be fundamentally responsible for the favorable light that, with his political ascendency, began to shine on gay and lesbian people everywhere in this country.
On more than one occasion, Harvey Milk exhorted gays and lesbians to come out of the closet. He knew that as soon as homophobic people realized that their children, their cousins, their friends, their neighbors, their colleagues, and their respected icons were gay and lesbian, acceptance of homosexuality had to follow.
That philosophy may be why Dick Cheney, of all people, does not condemn homosexuality. His love for his lesbian daughter prevents him from espousing political and civil rights shackles for her.
There are other gay-friendly Republicans out there, but they mostly keep quiet.
One of them has decided to speak up, though. Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio has announced that he favors same-sex marriage because – guess why? – his son is gay and he hopes his child will be able to have the same sort of loving relationship that his parents have been able to enjoy, complete with the benefits that come with marriage. And it’s okay with him if that relationship is with another man.
Harvey Milk was right!
There was a murder near my neighborhood a couple of days ago. Over at the mall about 3 miles from my house. It’s the nicest mall in the area, if malls can be considered nice. It has a glass ceiling and upscale stores along with the usual franchises that litter every mall in America. I only go there when I have no other choice. I hate malls. I am a mall bigot.
The murder happened right about closing time, down at the food court on the lowest level. A Sbarro’s employee, aided somehow by a compatriot, walked down a back hallway and shot two of his co-workers. One died; the other, a teenage girl, is in critical condition.
Two suspects have been arrested. According to some, they fit the expected demographic: one is 18, the other is 20, and both appear to have dark skin. Pitchforks and torches are at the ready.
My favorite comment on this incident may be from Jen, who frequents the Forbidden Hillcrest Facebook page, and who said,
If you are going to rob your employer and shoot your coworkers, wouldn’t it be more lucrative if you worked at Bailey Banks and Biddle instead of a greasy pizza joint in the mall? How stupid would that person feel in jail in with the population: “I, uh, stole a bunch of ones and some of those Parmesan packets and shot the mfers that wouldn’t hand over the pepperoni.”
We laughed, despite the seriousness of the situation, because sometimes laughter helps ease the ache. This crime was so senseless, and four lives – as well as the lives of their loved ones – are forever changed. But what crime is sensible? Criminals are not exactly known for their intelligence. Witness: their chosen profession.
Forbidden Hillcrest, on whose page Jen posted that comment, reports on crime in and around my neighborhood, spreads rumors about creeks that run red with zombie blood, posts cool photos of how my Hillcrest neighborhood used to look back in its early days, explores the mysteries of Hillcrest today, and makes up stuff about pug stranglers and roving gangs of women vigilantes. Sometimes we wish some of those roving vigilantes were real. Especially when the target of local crime is, well, us.
A couple of weeks ago national crime statistics released for 2012 positioned Little Rock as the 8th worst city in the country in crime. Detroit Michigan is #1, and Pine Bluff, Arkansas, less than an hour down the freeway from here, is #2. Flint, Michigan was third, followed by Memphis, Tennessee, whose metro area includes the area across the Mississippi River in Arkansas. Arkansas boasts three urban areas in the top ten, with an average score 103.87. Now, Michigan’s average scores (150.23) are much worse, with Detroit and Flint at #1 and #3, but the average scores for the two cities in Tennessee that make the top ten – one of which is the Memphis metro area, of course, and the other is Jackson – make it a definite third (86.85).
Why all the crime? That’s something I don’t pretend to know all the answers to. There’s a fellow who chose to comment confidently on the Arkansas Blog as to the nature of the people who committed the crime.
They must have had no opportunities in life and come from a broken home without a father. But I bet you $100.00 that they have the latest cell phones and have some 24 inch chrome rims for day rides main.
I could have ignored that but for the fact that… okay, fine: There’s no way I could ignore that racist crack.
I didn’t get there first, though. Others who are regulars on that blog, like me, jumped in with both feet. The original commenter, who went by the handle “larock72,” responded:
Unfortunately I have worked in a outreach organization for Central Arkansas for many years and have worked with the LRPD. Black America has some major problems that are brought on by the dependence on government. It has created a lazy black nation that lacks in morality. Go bother someone else…..my comments while sarcastic and rude are the truth.
But he wasn’t done. He responded to another commenter who called him out on his racist bigotry:
Listen I am the definition of smart and intuitive. I have worked with many poor and down and out black families. They are the ones who are ashamed of their people. I have nothing against any person! … I am tired of the typical initial liberal response to my insightful posts on this blog…. Oh and – Have a nice day in liberal fantasy camp.
That post sent me back to what he had already written, looking for something insightful. I came up totally empty.
The extreme over-generalization of an entire race (“black America”), not to mention an entire class (“no opportunities” and “dependent on the government”) and an huge segment of society that crosses the lines of race, class, and educational levels (“broken home without a father”) astounded and offended me.
For a little context, let me say that very recently I was the victim of crime perpetuated by four men who happened to have been born black. Every black person I have told about this crime has been horrified at what those thugs did to me – as has every white person and every brown, red, and yellow person – and every other person whose skin falls into a shade somewhere among those hues. The truth is, the vast majority of people, no matter what their social or economic circumstances may be, are law-abiding and contribute to society in a positive way.
I seriously doubt that their race had anything to do with the decision of either group of thugs – these murders or the robbers who assaulted me – to commit a crime. Their antisocial behavior may – may – have been a result of their involvement in a gang subculture. (Young people of white, Latino, and interracial descent in this city are also involved in gangs.) It may have been a result of bad parenting. (There are crappy parents of all colors.) It may have been chronic unemployment and a Jean Valjean-level of desperation. (A lack of jobs disproportionately affects younger people.) It may be attributable to an entertainment industry that glorifies violence, especially violence with guns, especially by young males, regardless of race.
More likely, it possibly could be attributed to the fact that their antisocial personalities didn’t care that they would be spending quality time in prison, because they intended to have a grand time robbing someone of stuff they could sell fast for some quick money.
If race had anything to do with their decision to commit a crime, I submit for consideration the possibility that racist comments by narrow-minded bigots who over-generalize and do not see individuals, but instead see color and stereotype accordingly, contributed to their sense of hopelessness and created an environment in which they might have decided that if that’s what the dominant people in their society thought of them, then they might as well go ahead and do it and get it over with.
I beg larock72 and anyone who agrees with him to please back off the stereotyping and racist bigotry and look into the actual person’s situation. You may not sympathize with this particular criminal, but it may enable you to see beyond the next young black person’s race and socioeconomic status long enough to realize that they are people, too – with the same hopes, dreams, ambitions, desires, and plans for a good future that you and “your kind” have.
“No opportunities,” “broken home without a father,” “24 inch chrome rims,” and “dependent on the government” – these phrases assume an awful lot about the people who committed this crime. At this point, the only thing we know for sure about them is the color of their skin and their ages.
Larock72 condemned an entire race by painting it with the same wide brush. This is the race claimed by outstanding public servants and policy makers such as Barack Obama, Patricia Roberts Harris, Eric Holder, Joycelyn Elders, Andrew Young, Ron Brown, Ralph Bunche, Booker T. Washington, David Dinkins, Harold Washington, Clarence Thomas, and Thurgood Marshall. This attitude tells Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Gwendolyn Brooks that they did not earn their awards and prizes for their amazing contributions to literature on their own merit. Larock72′s comments exemplify the environment that made the civil rights work and sacrifices of Marian Wright Edelman, Harriet Tubman, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and W.E.B. Du Bois so much more difficult and costly than they had to be. Such a sweeping condemnation of an entire race completely disregards the important scientific contributions and inventions by George Washington Carver, James West, Garrett Morgan, and Emmett Chappelle. It ignores the groundbreaking medical research and procedures pioneered by Charles Drew and Daniel Hale Williams. It is the attitude that would have us believe that Mae Jemison never should have been a doctor, much less an astronaut.
This list could go on and on. The people I have listed are only a few of the black Americans who have made significant contributions to our culture and society in the last hundred and fifty years.
If larock72′s position is correct, we should think that the only reason we have black admirals and generals like Colin Powell and Lloyd Austin in our military is because they love violence and killing – never mind their proven leadership and judgment. We should also minimize the gifted performances of Paul Robeson, Morgan Freeman, Sidney Poitier, Will Smith, James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Denzel Washington, and Halle Berry, who clearly were only given their acting roles because blackface went out of style with Al Jolson.
Stereotypes may lead people like Larock72 to think that musicians like Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Ellis Marsalis and his famous sons, the Neville Brothers, Louis Armstrong, and the many, many other black musicians who have shaped the American music landscape were doing the only thing they were culturally suited for: making noise. And what about Muhammed Ali, Arthur Ashe, Tiger Woods, Jackie Robinson, and Michael Jordan? Oh, right – there’s that thing about the extra leg muscle that makes them a different species, but better athletes. It’s only to be expected.
The 2010 Census figures show list the entire population of the United States at roughly 309 million people. Of those, 223 million people, or 72% of all people living in the United States reported their race as white. The black or African-American population totaled 39 million and represented 13% of the total population. These numbers reflect only those people reporting themselves as one race only. In Arkansas, close to 4500,00 people – less than 16% of our state’s total population – are black. So Arkansas has a slightly higher percentage of black citizens than the average state’s black population.
The National Poverty Center compiled the statistics with respect to income gathered by the Census Bureau in 2010, and reports that nearly 15 million – about 38% – of black children live in poverty while roughly 27 million – only 12% – of white children do. Fewer black children live in poverty, but because the black population is so much lower than the white population, a larger proportion of black children are poor.
But even if we look at the disproportionate number of poor black kids, we still see that not only are there fewer of them living below the poverty line, the 38% that do don’t make up “a vast majority,” no matter how we do the math.
So let’s look at who actually receives government assistance. Again, according to the Census Bureau, about 3% of the total population of the United States received public assistance in 2010. Arkansas, despite its greater relative numbers living below poverty level, has a lower participation rate in government assistance programs than the national average. In 2010 only around 20,000 – that’s twenty thousand – Arkansans received welfare benefits, which is less than two percent of our state’s population.
So, 16% of our citizens are black, but only 2% of our citizens receive public assistance. Even if every recipient of public assistance in the state of Arkansas were black, those 20,000 recipients aren’t even close to 50% of the 450,000 black Arkansans.
Larock72 said his comments were sarcastic and rude. I missed the sarcasm, but I definitely caught the rude. To that, I will add: uncalled for, terrifically racist, bigoted, narrow-minded, and dead wrong.
This bigoted jerk claims to have worked in a community outreach position. Given his shockingly negative attitude toward an entire race, I have to question how effective he could possibly be in such a position. His overt racism coupled with his lack of sympathy, insight, and empathy cause me to wonder whether he did more damage than good in such a position. I see absolutely no evidence of truth in his assertions that he is intelligent and intuitive given the overtly racist, shallow and erroneous statements he made, not to mention his complete disregard for statistics.
The government’s own statistics give lie to larock72′s belief that “a large majority of blacks” fall into a cycle of failure. While a disproportionate number of the people who fall into the cycle of failure he recounts may be black, that’s a completely different statement, and one we all would be well-advised to observe.
The reasons people fall into the system and cannot extract themselves has much more to do with the system as a whole – how it helps people, when it helps people, when it declares people ineligible for help even though they still desperately need it, what educational opportunities it offers, what type of jobs it trains people for. One of the biggest problems I have seen is the attitudes of the people who work for the system. They have no clue what their clients’ lives are like on a day-to-day basis, and condemn them for failures. They condemn people for being mentally ill or stressed to the point of not being able to function. Government aid workers and social services case workers alike condemn them for being so overwhelmed by their circumstances that they are grasping at anything that looks like a solution, no matter how tentative.
White people do indeed oppress black people. We oppress them when we paint them with wide brushes that condemn them not for their actions but based on the color of their skin. We oppress them when we shift our eyes away from them and cross the street rather than pass them on a sidewalk with the same smile and nod we would give a white person. We oppress them when we expect them to fail. We oppress them when we assume that they are on welfare, that they are criminals, and that they are irresponsible.
I hope that a day will come in my lifetime when black people do not have to walk into a room of white people and wonder whether they will be received on equal terms. Until that day comes, and as long as black people have a harder time being accepted for the individuals they are rather than a stereotype, they will be oppressed.
Statements like larock72′s contribute to that oppression.
We owe it to one another as human beings.
Today, I am Belgium.
Ergo, I attempt neutrality, knowing at any moment I will be invaded by Panzers.
I would prefer to be Switzerland, safe behind mountains unscalable by any army without elephants.
However, the tanks are at the door. Shots have already been fired across my bow this morning, and diplomacy seems fruitless.
I’ll mix more metaphors as the day draws on…