Thursday, June 09, 2016

Liberal vs. Conservative: Let's Get Ready To Rumble!

I need to address something that seems to be coloring all debate between the right and the left, and that is that I don't think conservatives actually have a clear idea of what the left is in the United States.

The "leftists" label they apply to liberals in the United States is inaccurate, at best. The leftists to which they often refer -- violent anarchist, fascists, statists, etc. -- are actually leftists in the European sense. For example, Mussolini's fascist movement was branded as leftist, even though it shares some common points of philosophy (capitalism unfettered by regulation, for example) with American conservatism. Similarly, Britain's Conservative Party shares common ground with American liberals.

This leads to some interesting dichotomies. For example, conservatives regularly claim they are about personal freedom and getting government out of peoples' lives. Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of conservatism, famously proclaimed that "government is the problem."

For the record, claiming that conservatives are about personal freedom while simultaneously trying to dictate not only when a woman can have an abortion but also implementing some pretty invasive measures to try to talk her out of it is, at best, disingenuous. In particular, I refer to the Virginia law that mandated a trans-vaginal ultrasound before having an abortion so the woman could hear the fetal heartbeat and thus "make an informed decision," when it was really an attempt to shame her into carrying to term after cramming an electronic dildo into her vagina and waving it around. Conservatives like to dress these things up as "promoting women's health," but everyone knows it's bullshit ... it's just another way for a political philosophy that is fundamentally anchored in the belief in the superiority of rich white males to promulgate this view.

Another example of this is the law in Texas that mandated that any clinic performing abortions (which is recognized by the American Medical Association as an outpatient procedure) had to have admitting privileges at a hospital and all the facilities accommodations of a surgical center. These modifications to facilities would often run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This resulted in the closing of dozens of facilities (the actual intent of the law), and as a result there are only nine centers performing abortions in Texas ... and none at all west of San Antonio. This means that some women have to travel nearly 550 miles for an abortion. And because of the other restrictions put into place by Taxes's H.B. 2, a woman now must prepare for a multi-day ordeal because she is required to make two visits to the same provider no less than 24 hours apart -- the first for an ultrasound, and the second for the actual procedure (which, ironically, routinely includes an ultrasound).

In contrast, the left in the United States holds the view that, when it comes to a medical procedure like an abortion, it is a decision that is best left in the hands of the woman and her doctor, and government should butt the hell out. And before anyone gets their bloomers knotted up by saying that liberals are trying to promote their position through legislation, all I can say is, yes, we are. The difference is that conservative legislation on this issue is intrusive, patriarchal, and authoritarian, telling a woman what she is allowed to do and not allowed to do with her own body. Liberal legislation on this issue is simply trying to protect the right of a woman to make her own choice and prevent others from infringing on this right.

I don't have a problem with anti-choice people trying to promote their position through peaceful means. It is well within their rights to make their case as best they can. I will go to the mat to protect an anti-choice activist's right to protest peacefully, and to counsel women on alternatives to having an abortion. What I do have a problem with is trying to promote that view through legislation and mandate a "one size fits all" approach that hews closely to a doctrine espoused by a particular branch of evangelical Christianity.

For the record, I was adopted. When conservatives learn this, they often triumphantly pounce on it as proof of their view point, and the conversation goes a little something like this:

Me: Yes, I was adopted,
Anti-choice Activist: Really? So where would you be if your mom had decided to have an abortion?
Me: Well, I wouldn't be at all upset about it, because I never would have been born. None of the people I know would have felt any feelings of loss, because they would have never known me. The only person who would have been upset by that is my birth mother.
Anti-choice Activist: Well, aren't you glad she gave birth to you?
Me: Of course I am. I've had a good life, I have great kids, a lawn tractor that starts whether I want it to or not, and two semi-dysfunctional dogs that like to bark at individual air molecules.
Anti-choice Activist: But you want all women to have abortions!
Me: No, I want all women to be able to make the choice to have an abortion free from interference. And just because she has a choice to do so, does not automatically assume that will be the choice she makes. And you made the argument for me, when you asked where I would be if my birth mother had decided to have an abortion. You were assuming it was her choice, were you not? You may have used the word "decision" instead of "choice," but the meaning is the same: given two or more options, my birth mother selected the one that resulted in me being born and being adopted by my parents. Yet you want to take that decision-making power away from her and put it into the hands of the government. How is that "personal freedom?"

Yes, I have thought about this a lot. Moving on ...

The point of all this is not a diatribe against the anti-choice movement (although I cold go on for days on this topic). It's that conservatives who complain about "violent leftists" often do not have a full understanding of that the terms actually means, and are often conflating the European definition of "leftist" which includes any radical movement that seeks to upend the status quo, and does not account for their position on the political conservative/liberal spectrum) to the American definition of the word (which includes liberal activists, politicians, and groups ... some violent, but mostly not).

I do not intend to demean conservatives here (I'll save that for another blog post!), only to clarify things. I gotta lie down.

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