Individualism and Abortion and Gun Rights, oh my!

4 Jan

Did you guys read this article in the New York Times from yesterday (January 3, 2014)?  It’s about abortion restrictions.  It’s basically like an abortion restriction round-up from the last two years AKA all the articles that made me and my friends REALLY mad (plus Wendy Davis!)* smashed up together into a two-page summary.  So, yea, if you need to be reminded of all the shitty things that happened in terms of women’s access to abortions, then read the article.  I mean, I know there is nothing I like better than reading about that shit first thing on a Saturday morning.  Anyway, I just have a few little things to say about it.

Just to get this one thing out of the way: it makes me so fucking angry.  I wish there was a way for me to record myself saying those words because there is an intonation that I think is incredibly important to really getting the message across.  You must seethe when you say it.

As one does, I have been thinking quite a lot about individualism.  I think this country has gone absolute bat-shit crazy about individualism.  God forbid you mention the idea of relying on others and you’re a communitarian, or, as some would say, a socialist (although the two words actually mean different things).  Personally, I wear the badge of communitarianism happily and proudly.  I like it because it doesn’t completely dismiss the importance of the individual, but it says that traits held by individuals are largely formed by the community that surrounds them.  So like, I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t grown up where I grew up and around the people whom I grew up around.  I think this is a belief that is held by most people if you ask them (as long as you stay far from words like ‘socialist’ and ‘collectivist’).  When you step up to the policy and governmental level, however, getting anywhere close to the idea of communitarianism is hugely problematic.  Remember the whole “you didn’t build that” fiasco with Obama and Romney during the 2012 campaign?  I think that Obama’s sentiment, that the business built by someone is reliant upon the foundation laid before them, is pretty much communitarianism.  It isn’t dismissing the importance of the individual’s contribution to society.  Instead, it emphasizes the fact that the opportunity to build the business wouldn’t have presented itself had the infrastructure — be that physical, political, or cultural — not been previously created.  We are all connected to what came before us and what comes after.  Basically, we don’t all start from scratch.  If we did we would just be running around and around on a defective hamster wheel, getting nowhere and seriously in need of WD-40.

This is all connected, I promise.  Just bear with me.  So we have, on the national stage, this ridiculous idea of the individual that is connected to the American Dream which, if you ask me, no longer really exists.  That unquestioned devotion to the boot-strappers mentality is part of the poison that has leached throughout our entire national conscience.  It’s like a fantasy to think that we live in a society in which someone can come and make something out of nothing.  And you know what?  Sometimes the fantasy is borne out.  But that story is becoming more and more rare.  Economic mobility in the United States is less likely than it was in previous generations.  According to a chart created by Miles Corak, professor of economics at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in Ottawa, among “developed” nations, the United States has the highest level of inequality and one of the lowest earnings elasticity (or the lowest intergenerational mobility).  And yet we still cling to this idea of individual opportunity, that we all have a chance to better our lot, without paying any attention to the role played by opportunity.  Our parent’s wealth, our geographic location, the color of our skin, the levels of education attained by those before us, our debt loads.  These things all matter.  We do not each exist in some weird vacuum, unaffected by what came before and yet capable of achieving our wildest dreams if only we work hard for them.  Other things, things beyond our control, matter also.

So, now here we go.  Now this is where it all starts coming together.  We have this idea that we love, as a nation, of individualism and opportunity, except for when it comes to social issues and then we think, or at least some of us think, that what happens inside the body or home of our neighbors is our business.  Many of those same people who got mad at Obama for suggesting that infrastructure mattered to the success of the Republican candidate also think it is their moral responsibility to regulate what a woman decides to do with her own body, with her own pregnancy.  Many, though not all, of them are also the same people who cling crazily to their guns.  Not even literally, in some cases, but what the guns represent.  This idea of the rights of the individual and the need that each person has to protect him or herself from the government because the government, in all its lumbering bureaucracy, is coming for them.  Seriously, people, if we couldn’t manage gun control after Newtown, and if we couldn’t all laugh Wayne LaPierre off the stage for his suggestion that “the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” AKA lets arm guards at all school to protect the kids (with no real attempt to explain who in the world would pay for it) then the guns are safe.  But that’s not even the point.  Here’s the point.

I see a serious disconnect, as many people do, between gun rights and abortion rights.  I know that maybe this is like comparing apples and oranges, but it seems to me that a lot of the states that are protecting their guns and limiting women’s access to abortions are, well, the same damn states.  So let’s take one second here.  I read this article in the New York Times a few months ago about this face-off in Dallas between a group of three women associated with the gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America having lunch and talking about stricter gun control and a large group of men and women, members of Open Carry Texas, standing outside the restaurant strapped with shotguns, hunting rifles, AR-15s and AK-47s.  The Open Carry people had no intention of hurting the women physically, what they did want to do was intimidate them.  Which they did because there were roughly 24 of them with long-guns strapped to their backs.  I don’t know anyone who would willingly, and without fear, walk out of a lunch meeting and then through a large, intimidating group like that.  Both groups, it can be argued, were exercising their various rights, but only one group had the ability to kill members of the other.  This is where individualism, I think, should be curtailed.  When your individual choice has the potentiality of impacting the individual choice of another person.  My ability to choose to have an abortion in no way impacts another person’s right to choose not to, but someone else’s decision to carry a gun could potentially end my life.

I know, I know, people are going to say that I am choosing to end the life of whatever is growing inside my body. Honestly, I am more concerned with myself, or with other women, than I am with a ball of cells.  Maybe that is heartless but it’s true.  I am more concerned with the life that is as opposed to the life that may be.  I guess all of this is to say that I am confused.  Why are your guns okay but my morals are not?  Why can you build an empire without any consideration of those who paved the way for you because you are an individual and therefore the only unit of import, and yet you can regulate what I do within my own womb?  Why are you as an individual more important than me?  And how does my decision to end a pregnancy impact your life in any way?  The answer:  it doesn’t.  You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too.  You want to argue individualism and rights?  Fine.  But be consistent.  Don’t be so arrogant as to think you know what is better for half the population.  And while I am at it, if you are going to try and regulate abortion access, why do it across class lines?  The result of the way the “right to life” people have approached this issue is to make access more difficult for those women living in rural areas, for those with full time jobs, for those with limited money and transportation opportunities.  Jennifer Dalven of the ACLU said, “Increasingly, access to abortion depends on where you live.  That’s what it was like pre-Roe.”  I would argue that it also depends on what you have, or don’t have.

Listen, if people are going to argue that the American Dream is still around, that we all have the ability to achieve whatever it is that we want, stop erecting roadblocks for women, and specifically for poor women, and more specifically for poor women of color.  Either that or just come out and say it:  you want a country in which only people that look like you can achieve the American Dream because, from where I sit, that is exactly where we’re headed.

*Did anyone else stay up really late during Davis’ filibuster in the Texas Senate?  Seriously, having live feeds of Senate buildings is genius.  Also, I cried.  Just in case you were wondering.  I was so impressed by her and her colleagues, so speechless by the tens of thousands of people watching and so excited to be Twitter communicating with other people who were watching it I really just couldn’t even stand it.  Who knew government could be so engaging?

6 Responses to “Individualism and Abortion and Gun Rights, oh my!”

  1. gunsafetypro January 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    The gun prohibition movement and the abortion prohibition movement are very much mirrors of each other.

    • FranklyRebekah January 6, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

      I don’t actually think that is the case. I suppose there are similarities between the two, for example the fact that people who are full-stop anti-choice and those who are completely anti-gun are not open to the idea of individual choice. That being said, however, the main goal of anti-choice groups is to completely end abortions by chipping away at access. The goal of many gun control groups is to limit specific types of guns and where they can be carried. I am sure there are people who are against people hunting and whatnot, but I think the majority of people who take issue with guns are more concerned with this need that some pro-gun people have to secure access to all types of guns, despite usefulness. There is, in my mind, no need for a civilian to own assault rifles. Let’s face it, if people really support gun rights as a way to fight off the government, they are going to be out armed. No matter what weapons civilian groups amass, they are no match for the US government. That might be sad and scary for some but it’s true. Have guns, sure! But be reasonable about what guns you have. That’s what I think.

      • gunsafetypro January 7, 2014 at 12:32 am #

        The anti-choice movement relies on piecemeal restrictions the same way the gun prohibitionist movement does.

        I really don’t see why someone’s basic right to self-defense should be contingent on their socioeconomic status.

      • FranklyRebekah January 7, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

        Oh I see what you mean. To be entirely honest with you, I don’t keep as close a watch on gun control and the likes as I do the abortion debate. And as I said before, I don’t personally have a problem with anyone’s right to self-defense, I have a problem with people extending the definition of that right to include completely unnecessary firearms. And I didn’t know that people’s rights to self-defense were contingent on socio-economic status. Explain?

      • gunsafetypro January 7, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

        Gun prohibitionists often push for laws that purposely raise the cost and incorporate discretionary licensing of legal ownership (without any benefit to public safety) to a point where only people who politically connected/famous/wealthy can own one.

      • FranklyRebekah January 7, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

        Interesting. Well, you learn something new every day! Thanks for the info.

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