I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why American politics can’t seem to get out of the rut on certain issues – two of the biggest domestic ones it seems to me, apart from “the economy, stupid” being abortion and gun control.
Left and Right, Democrat and Republican, are so vehemently opposed on both topics as to render any sensible dialogue impossible. It is rather like trying to speak to a recalcitrant toddler. Why are we unable to accept there is always a middle road, if people are willing to listen? It does not mean total capitulation, it means a common sense approach to very difficult subjects.
I don’t believe most people think abortion is a good thing. I certainly don’t. But it is a sometimes necessary option, for a variety of reasons. No one is advocating it as a form of birth control. Why would any girl or woman chose, without just reason, to subject their body to such a sad and intrusive procedure? But life doesn’t run in straight lines, and things happen.
The whole question of abortion should of course start with sex education. But that is a subject deemed by many in this country as unsuitable for our teenagers. Far better to insist on abstinence. To deny pubescent urges. To deny the fact many of our young people are having sex, often with only the sketchiest idea gleaned from television, movies, whispered conversations and the internet of the ramifications of their actions. The realities of unwanted pregnancies and STD’s brushed over with the blitheness of youth. We are failing our young.
By defunding organisations like Planned Parenthood, who actually receive no funds for abortion services from state or federal government, the risk is being run that the need for abortions becomes greater. Without adequate healthcare for women, including sex education and birth control, particularly in rural areas, the risk of a resurgence in backstreet butchers becomes a very real threat. Along of course with the additional medical costs sometimes required to fix a botched abortion, not to mention the mental anguish a girl or woman has gone through.
Of course abortion is not the only option. How about adoption? But one has only to look at the number of children in Child Protective Services to realise adoption is not always a viable choice. So many children born, unwanted, unloved, abused, discarded. Taken in by the state when parents have failed them. No child deserves to be born unwanted. Left for the state to care for, in the hopes someone will take them into ‘a forever home”.
We need to stop talking about pro-choice and anti-abortion. The very semantics are making the whole discussion even more partisan. Rather we need to address the entire subject as an educational and woman’s health issue, relevant to every one of us. An unwanted pregnancy, whether one seen to birth or aborted, affects every single person in a family.
The same way we need to stop talking pro-gun versus gun-control. Guns are embedded in the American psyche, not to mention the Constitution. Let’s stop talking about what the forefathers of America wanted, or meant, when they wrote their words. Guns are not going to magically disappear. Instead of each side stridently demanding total submission, let’s instead focus on how best to stop, or at least minimalise the chance, of the indiscriminate killing of innocent people, often our children and youth. We are failing our young.
Surely stringent background checks on anyone wishing to have a firearm is a practical course of action? Surely closing loopholes in getting those checks is sensible? Surely those owning firearms do not need multiple action, multiple clip, weapons? The open carry stance, which in Texas becomes legal on January 1st, 2016, is in danger of taking the State back to the days of the Wild West. It takes gun violence away from the screen, or dare I say books, and inserts it in our schools, our movie theatres, our supermarkets, our everyday lives. And no one has the right to instill fear in me when I am out shopping.
Hunting whether one likes it or not, is part of the American way of life for many. As long as those protagonists hunt with a license, with responsibility, and with a view that not everyone has the same passion, they should be allowed to pursue their sport.
But the ease with which some of the mass murderers have obtained their weapons is very, very frightening. The ease with which minor altercations escalate to gun drawing, often resulting in death, is very, very frightening.
We, as a country, have to ditch the fear mongering, have to have the maturity to accept there are aspects of both issues we do not like, do not inherently agree with, and then decide the best way forward is to find a sensible, workable passage for all.
That is what democracy should be about – the practice or principles of social equality.