Thursday, September 10, 2009

President Obama, Health Care, Abortion, and the Right's Credibility Gap

One of the Right's talking points against the White House health care plan is that it will allow government-funded abortions. President Obama dealt forcefully with that issue in his speech, specifically: "And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up - under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place."

Predictably, if depressingly, the Right doesn't believe Obama. For instance, Bill Donohue of the pro-life group, Catholic League, said before the speech that there "wasn't a chance" the President would mention abortion. Afterward? Donohue accused Obama of deception.

This obtuse approach to reality has worked for the Right... to a degree. The relentless bashing apparently has eroded support for Obama among Americans overall. But it has also backfired -- Republican unpopularity remains constant.

As a pro-life Democrat I would like to point out a few things.

1. Obama isn't an idiot. His promise to exclude abortion from government funding (as is done in most cases with Medicare, following Hyde Amendment guidelines) is a promise which was made to a huge viewing audience. All he had to do was leave out one or two sentences, and the issue wouldn't have been there. Yes, pro-lifers should keep the pressure on. But they serve their cause badly by accusations of bad faith against a man who apparently has heard them. Why is this? Ah...

2. The pro-life movement has been co-opted by the Right. There are various reasons for that, many understandable. Liberals often (though not always) have been tone-deaf on the right to life for the unborn. But that said, the Right has cynically used pro-lifers (esp. committed Catholics and Evangelicals) to over and over again elect Presidents who did relatively little for the pro-life cause. (Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush both appointed pro-choice justices to the Supreme Court, and it was a Republican -- Harry Blackmun -- who authored Roe v Wade).

3. Right-wing pundits claim that the Health Care bill in its various present forms does allow abortion, despite Obama's express claim that in final form it will not. Again, this is where a bit of civility and dialogue goes so far... yet is not happening. I think pro-lifers should publicly praise the President for what he said, then ask him sincerely to make sure language is included in the final bill establishing his assertion as law. Why not work with the White House instead of -- again -- working on the assumption that everything Barack Obama says is said in bad faith?

Why Pro-lifers Are Acting in Bad Faith

I believe it is our movement, the pro-life movement, which is acting and speaking in bad faith. As a pro-lifer who is also a feminist, I have to bring up uncomfortable realities my Right Wing friends won't like.

Former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg told The New York Times Magazine [quoted in Salon]:

"There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often."

Yes, Ginsberg is pro-choice. But her point deserves careful consideration. This is one reason why, as a pro-life advocate, I cannot be a conservative.

My wife, Carol, and I live full-time in an intentional community of Christians called Jesus People USA (JPUSA). Part of JPUSA's outreach to the wider inner-city Uptown Chicago community we live in is our Cornerstone Community Outreach system of shelters for homeless women, children, and men. We are now, and have always been, pro-life. We are now, and have always been, supportive of both private and government programs aimed at creating a safety net for the women we serve.

Right Wing politics are caught on the horns of a dilemma. They overtly disavow responsiblity to via government programs aid the poor. They proclaim their belief in small government, non-intrusive government. YET.... they proclaim the government's right and even responsibility to intrude between a woman and her unborn fetus.

Barry Goldwater, who in many ways founded the modern conservative movement, was pro-choice. And he based that position on the fact that a woman's right to choose what happened to her own body was the ONLY consistent position for a conservative to take.

I agree with him... that it is the only position for a consistent conservative to take. I disagree with him that it is a good position.

I believe that the government does have the responsibility to intervene, with the exceptions of rape/incest or in the case of a mother's life being endangered. This is being a consistent liberal and pro-lifer.

But there's another layer. The woman's right is a right. If we are going to require protection for the unborn, we must also go to extraordinary lengths to support, empower, and safeguard not just the pre-born child but also the woman and born child from birth through all her or his childhood.

Wait! That's socialism! I can hear it already. But I don't much care for the name calling. I'm just looking for some sort of consistently pro-life ethic, one which forgets about political labeling and focuses on human beings -- both mother AND child.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg's words should haunt us. We say we want life... but what do we mean? I look at the women in our Cornerstone Community Outreach programs, hear my wife talk about how hard it is for them once they leave CCO to find jobs, housing, or even basic health care for themselves or their children.

I've always thought it strange that liberalism became the champion of abortion. But perhaps stranger still is the marriage of the pro-life movement with the political Right.

President Obama presents us with an opportunity. We can, as pro-lifers, support his health care proposals while gently pressuring him to make sure his promise is explicitly contained in the language of the bill itself.

And on a deeper level, we can also allow ourselves to imagine a new pro-life movement, one not rooted ideologically in an anti-womanist, anti-liberal, and therefore self-contradictory soil. Imagine it. Look for it. Help to create it. Talk with pro-choice advocates as though they are human beings rather than demonic entities. Admit that the pro-choice movement's roots are not entirely flawed, especially when it comes to their feminist interpretation of history.

We need to re-conceptualize politics because politics isn't just rhetoric and tea parties and talking heads (left and right) demeaning one another while making private fortunes. Politics is about human lives.

Jesus said "As you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it to me." That is a very political statement. And, I suggest, it is also both pro-life and liberal.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Glenn Beck Implies racially-based Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments Never Happened

(An acquaintance informed me that MY facts were also partially incorrect regarding the nature of the Tuskegee Experiments, namely, that I said black men were injected with syphilis... they were not -- instead, men with syphilis were purposefully not treated over a period up to forty years. I have revised this post to reflect that reality, and appreciate the correction.)

Glenn Beck cites Jeremiah Wright talking about one of America's tragic crimes against African Americans... and he cites it as though it is fiction!

Beck's bizarre mix of nonsense phraseology with ulta-emotive imagery and conspiracy-theorist buzz words isn't enough, in itself, to brand him a racist. But the following comes darn close.

This passage comes from the FOX web site transcript of Beck's show (entire transcript):

GLENN: .... Now, this is from an interview he [Van Jones] did as the head of the Ella Baker Center.

VAN JONES: The white polluters and the white environmentals [sic] are essentially steering poison into the people of colored communities.

GLENN: Have you heard this any has the president ever been around anyone who has ever said anything like that before Van Jones?

REVEREND WRIGHT: The government lied about the Tuskegee experiment. They purposely infected African American men with syphilis.

GLENN: The president of the United States has tried to pass himself off as a guy who just sat in Jeremiah Wright's Black Liberation Theology church for 20 years. A friend. He's like an old uncle. He didn't even notice. He baptized Barack Obama's children. He baptized Barack Obama, but he never heard these things before. And even if he did hear them, he didn't really even notice. Okay, so that's the explanation for the crazy uncle. What is the explanation this time? What is the excuse this time for appointing the same type of radical, saying almost damn exact same words as Jeremiah Wright to an influential position in our government? Is it that you didn't vet these people? Because gee, that sounds like a problem, that our president of the United States didn't vet him enough to know. Is it that the FBI didn't do its job? I mean, we found all of this stuff. Sure, I only have a staff of seven producing books, TV, radio shows, I only have a staff of seven. And all of a sudden we can come up with these things. Gee, you'd think the FBI or the president of the United States would surely be able to find these things.

Let's review here.

Government poster advertising the syphilis study. (Wikipedia, source.)

First, the Tuskegee experiments, where black men with syphilis were sought out by doctors who pretended to treat them but then left them untreated for up to forty years, is HISTORIC FACT. The part Jeremiah Wright apparently got wrong was the claim that our government injected these men with syphilis. However, just how different is it to purposely not treat someone -- and without their knowledge! -- while you, as a representative of their government, tell them you are treating their disease? The nuance is not a large one.

Our government did, however, misrepresent itself as there to cure men some of whom it effectively murdered by intentionally withholding penicillin when that drug became known as curative of syphilis. Need it be said that the wives and any children of these infected men were, by intentional negligence, infected by the men who'd been left untreated? Just how wrong is Wright? Yes, the line is very, very thin.

Second, Mr. Beck, you fail to explain the difference above, leaving in the hearer's mind the impression that the entire story is false. No, most of it is not false. Only the active introduction of syphilis into healthy black men is, apparently, untrue. (I use the word "apparently" because in light of what else went on, I remain open to further revelations in this matter.)

Third, your argument actually ends by shoring up Mr. Van Jones' position -- as you cite historic racial crimes with which to compare his claims of such crimes. (I don't suggest it actually works -- but for those aware of history your argument is at best just more Beckian gobbledygook.)

Tuskegee University's web site summarizes the horror of that Beck-denied history:

For forty years between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) conducted an experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis. These men, for the most part illiterate sharecroppers from one of the poorest counties in Alabama, were never told what disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness. Informed that they were being treated for “bad blood,” their doctors had no intention of curing them of syphilis at all.

The data for the experiment was to be collected from autopsies of the men, and they were thus deliberately left to degenerate under the ravages of tertiary syphilis—which can include tumors, heart disease, paralysis, blindness, insanity, and death. “As I see it,” one of the doctors involved explained, “we have no further interest in these patients until they die.”

Now. What part of that was NOT our government? In short, though Jeremiah Wright has certainly not been correct on everything he's said, this instance is one where he is far closer to historic truth than Glenn Beck, who is exposed as a rabble-rousing racist. There is no excuse. FOX News has no excuse.

You wonder why liberals such as myself view the Right with such grave suspicion and active dislike?

Glenn Beck should be removed from FOX News. But as long as his non-factual jingoism remains popular with a large enough minority of Americans, FOX will keep him on TV. They don't care if he rants for five minutes about how the old artwork on Rockefeller Center is really part of a commie / fascist (never sure which) plot, and how it all somehow ties into Obama being President... and they don't care about him misrepresenting the Tuskegee Experiments as fiction rather than fact. So he'll keep it up.

Meanwhile, I will make it a personal mission to boycott FOX -- not only their news channels but also their entertainment channels. Racism is still alive in America. And I'm not gonna take it.

If other readers agree, please link to this on your blog or face book pages!

[This post has been revised a number of times since earlier today.]

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Twenty Years of Being Married to (and Writing about) My Dearling Carol

Twenty Years with Dearling (September 2, 1989 - September 2, 2009)

Carol Elaine and I sporting our cool mullets.
Hey! It was 1989. Mullets were still cool back then...
(the pic was for our wedding announcement).


I love my wife. This is no great virtue on my part, no real sacrifice. Rather, it is as close to involuntary an act and emotion as I experience. And it is Grace.

In what is surely a writer's act (and smells suspiciously of self-indulgence) I offer links to various Carol-based reflections and inspirations, lyrics and poetry and prose. Some of it is so sweet you'll need to brush your teeth afterward, while a little of it describes biblical "knowing" in ways not normally indulged in by Evangelicals. Then there were the two cancers she went through, taking me along for the scary ride.

Consider what follows my way of letting friends look into a family album of sorts, my way of celebrating these two decades with this singular lover, friend, sister in Christ. Or maybe it is a box of candy... so again, have that toothbrush ready.


The book Trees and Roots and Growing Things, published by Cornerstone Press in 1994, is now out of print but on the web in toto. It began as a present for my wife but was embraced by our house publishing board as something worth printing:

In 2000, we were in the midst of breast cancer treatments for Carol. This inspired not a little anxiety, but also growth, in each of us. I tried to capture some of that with these poems:

Not much later, I was dinking around with the rather adolescent (in my opinion) miming of e. e. cummings' habit of using no capitalizations. It led to breaking a few other rules of English as well, all framed as if on a drive with Carol from Chicago to Bushnell (about a 4 1/2 hour trip) [PG, maybe PG-13 in a few spots]:

My attempt at a lover's dialogue with the Song of Solomon - [PG-13 rated]:

Part I:
Part II:

Carol and I have long been involved with Christians for Biblical Equality. Here is the talk we gave at a CBE Conference in Portand (yes, I wrote it all down, as I'm lousy at extemporaneous speaking):

Two short poems:

"She Is" captures love in the midst of dissimilarity:

And "Rock Tumbler" captures our larger context, the community of believers called Jesus People USA:

And an addendum - Two sermons (neither mentions Carol, both are profoundly influenced by her):

This was a sermon I did in one of my "pinch hitter" moments when the A-string pastors were out of town. It doesn't mention Carol, but her influence on my theology of marriage is profound:

And another, this one rooted in the Song of Solomon... again, Carol so profoundly influences my views of marriage, sexuality, and spirituality!:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

God, Intelligence, and the Mentally Challenged: "Wisdom Is the Knowledge of God's Will" - Robert Kennedy, Jr.

I happened to catch the following remarks on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports," and am writing them down now (TiVo!). Robert Kennedy, Jr., talked about his Aunt Eunice Shriver and how her Catholic faith affected her treatment of her sister. Rose was born mentally challenged. Eunice often took Rose with her on travels here and around the world... Eunice also founded the Special Olympics. Here are some of Robert's comments:

I tuned in mid-sentence... I think Robert was in the midst of talking about Eunice and Rose's parents (Joseph and Rose Kennedy), who decided that Rose would live with them rather than be sent away. He begins here speaking in their voices:

"'She has just as much value as a human being as any other child in this family. Her intellect is absolutely meaningless in terms of the way God sees her, and we're going to keep her in this family.' During that experience, Rosemary flourished. They were never embarrassed, they were never ashamed. They took her in ski races, they took her in sailing races, they took her to meet the queen.

"Eunice at one point, in 1962 my uncle was in the White House, and she looked at this population [the mentally challenged]. There was more bigotry towards them, more prejudice, more disenfranchisement, more alienation than any other population, more vulnerability than any other population. And she decided to be their champion."

Andrea Mitchell comments, "I remember when I was a child, we had a neighbour who was quote 'retarded' and I was his babysitter often. . . but there was so much shame attached to the condition of these children."

Kennedy responds in a deeply Christian (and I would say pro-life) manner:

"She never felt that way about her sister. And I think a lot of that was her Catholic faith, that she believed that every human being has a soul, and every soul is beloved by God.

"Everybody has certain capacities. That first international Special Olympic Games... and I was there in South Bend Indiana in 1987. There was a child who was winning the race, a sprint, and the child fell. The person who was running second went toward the finish line, and just before he crossed the finish line, he stopped, turned around, and went back and picked up the boy who was going to beat him. And they both crossed the finish line together, and they were last and second-to-last. I think that was the spirit of the Special Olympics. And Rune Arteledge of ABC played that over and over again. I think it showed something about sportsmanship that you didn't see in the 'real' Olympics.

I think was something like, Wisdom is not the province of the intellectually gifted. You can have read every book in the Library of Congress and still not have wisdom. Wisdom is the knowledge of God's Will. And it is accessible to these people who are intellectually disabled on the same basis that it is accessible to the rest of us. This child knew right from wrong and he knew what compassion was and he knew what love was. And Eunice was able to see that and say that these children are not disabled in any real sense, it's the rest of us who are disabled for looking at them and looking at this as a disability."

Let's Do Our Homework on Health Care (or) "The Facts, Ma'am. Just the facts."

I'm posting this as a more positive than negative response to some of the crazy anti-health-care-bill stuff out there right now. Released by David Axelrod of President Obama's office, it might calm the waters and (I pray) even convince a few folks to rethink things. I had to reformat it for face book, so any such mess is my fault, not the fault of others.

8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage

Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.

Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.

Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.

Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.

Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.

Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.

Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.

Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.

Learn more and get details:

8 COMMON MYTHS about health insurance reform

Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.

We can’t afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.

Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.

Vets' health care is safe and sound: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The

VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.

Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.

You can keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.

No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.

Learn more and get details:

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now

Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more:

Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more:

Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more:

Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more:

Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more:

The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more:

Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more:

The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more:

[PLEASE... if you find these facts important to you and your neighbors, please repost this as a note on your face book / myspace page, or email it to friends not on face book. --Jon Trott]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chicago Protest for Iran - June 21

Remembering Iran. Please pray. This is raw footage of a protest at Chicago's Daley Plaza last Saturday. I did a fairly terrible job, but maybe someone in Iran, or outside of Iran, will be motivated by it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dialing It Back on Abortion: Jon Stewart & Mike Huckabee Set the Tone

The following guest post comes from Alise McCoy Wright, a cyber-friend of my wife's and mine.

When I was growing up, my parents (and especially my mom) were very involved in the pro-life movement. I believe my first pro-life march in Washington, D.C. was when I was in 7th grade (maybe 8th -- definitely before high school). At that time and through high school, it was a very black and white issue. Abortion was bad. No ifs, ands or buts.

Fast forward to 1997. I've just graduated from college and have my first job teaching in an inner-city school. I'm in a city where I don't know anyone and have only been married for 9 months. I've known for probably a week that I'm pregnant, but kept hoping that I was mistaken. I finally take a pregnancy test and confirm that I am indeed pregnant.

I wish my first reaction when I saw those two lines had been joy, but in reality, it was fear. I was not prepared for a pregnancy and certainly not prepared for a new baby. Fortunately, by the end of the day, I was feeling much better about it and by the time I told Jason, I was absolutely thrilled at the prospect.

But I don't think I've ever forgotten my initial reaction to the circumstance. I was someone who was in a happy (if young) marriage. We had two very supportive families who were able to help us. We were getting involved in a new church and Bible study. Overall, the circumstances were pretty good for us which made it much easier for me to move from fear to excitement. Not every woman has that luxury.

That's not to say that I'm not still pro-life. I still think that in almost all instances it would be better for the woman to choose to have her baby rather than to terminate the pregnancy. As I watch my beautiful daughter growing into an amazing young woman, I have no regrets about being that young mom. But that experience has also shown me that things aren't quite as black and white as I once thought. That there may be other events that play into a woman's decision to continue or end a pregnancy.

Sadly, much of the discourse surrounding this issue is very polarized and polarizing. People on opposite sides are painted with the most extreme brushes and rather than listening, they just shout past one another. Which was why I was absolutely astounded to watch the discussion between Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee on last Thursday's show. In a time when the major "news" networks do their best to get the most extreme voices on, The Daily Show was able to have a very calm, rational discussion. If you have about 20 minutes, I would strongly suggest checking out these three videos.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Despite these men having very different opinions on the issue, they manage to have a great conversation. And in a day where conversations seem to take a back seat to emotionally charged language and one group trying to out-argue the other, this was a refreshing change. I hope that maybe "the news" will take a cue from The Daily Show and maybe encourage people to talk for a change. I think we'd all appreciate that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Life to Iran (For Neda)

Thinking about Iran, and a casual comment made by my friend Mike, I came up with this lyric.

Life to Iran (For Neda)
© 2009, Jon Trott

They’re in the streets of Tehran
And the byways of my mind
Not looking for freedom that’s political
But freedom of an existential kind

And I wonder at their bravery
I tremble sickened at their dying
I see in their eyes that they are me
And I am them, at least I’m trying

Life to Iran
Life to every woman and man
Life to Iran
Face the dragon, I know we can…
I know we can

Protested with them in Chicago
Cost me just an afternoon
They sang the saddest song in Farsi
I felt joy was coming soon

Life to Iran
Life to every woman and man
Life to Iran
Face the dragon, I know we can…
I know we can

Jesus is my start, my end, my love
Their journey is no less than mine
All round the world love’s bleeding
Yet hope’s green ribbon is a sign

Life to Iran
Life to every woman and man
Life to Iran
Face the dragon, I know we can…
We are all Iran…
We are all Iran…
We are all Iran…
Life to Iran.

(all rights reserved)

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Gorilla in this Room is Racism, Republican-style

As the far right's numbers continue to dwindle like a rain puddle on hot July pavement, the nature of those who remain seems increasingly clear. I have little to say on this one. Watch it.

"Michelle Obama's Ancestor a Gorilla" just a joke?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Naomi Wolf Gets Nakedly Honest About Pro-Choice Rhetoric

I hesitate to post this one. As a feminist, though of course a man, I concede Ms. Wolf's own logic fails at points (as far as I can tell). She remains pro-choice. But her naked honesty, transparency, and -- yes -- vulnerability here lead me to urge us who are pro-life to tread carefully in responding. To me, her internal agony is a place to start a conversation between pro-life and pro-choice advocates. Please read it -- even the parts that will irritate you -- with that in mind. What she does is admit that the unborn are human, and that abortion is the taking of a human life. Her existential encounter with those truths is powerful.

Feminist Naomi Wolf Questions Pro-Choice Rhetoric

Democrats For Life of America

This is a great page, even if you are Republican. Especially encouraging is the Obama administration's apparent willingness to meet with and listen to DFLA's spokespersons regarding abortion reduction.

For those of us who usually vote Democrat, perhaps we need to ally with and work alongside DFLA.

Democrats For Life of America

Abortion and the American Left

The below link should have been the first I posted on this issue of liberal pro-lifers. It offers some seriously thoughtful stuff, and is the home page of sorts for a few of the other links I have (or maybe will later on) offer up. One caveat... a lot of these articles seem rather old. I'll try to find some newer stuff as well.

Abortion and the American Left

Nat Hentoff on Abortion

A raft of articles by very liberal, very pro-life (atheist!), Nat Hentoff. As a liberal Christian pro-life advocate, also a feminist, I find his arguments very compelling and would hope to see many of my liberal compatriots consider them. While it is nearly impossible not to want to gag when dealing with Rightist "pro-life" groups who do in fact use the pro-life issues as a wedge in their anti-feminist agendas, I strongly urge feminists and liberals to read Hentoff's thoughts on this. There really is another way.

Nat Hentoff on Abortion

Abortion: The Left has betrayed the sanctity of life

As a liberal who voted for President Obama, but also a pro-lifer who is distressed that many on the left champion the pro-abortion cause, I will be offering some liberal pro-life voices from around the web. Here's one such voice. (And if you want to know how I justified voting for Barack Obama as a pro-lifer, my various articles on that issue can be easily found by browsing this site's topic links.)

From The Progressive magazine. Abortion: The Left has betrayed the sanctity of life

Mogadishu carnage devastates lives

Much of my political commentary has focused on specific American issues. Below is something that doesn't require much commentary... but does require our prayers and (where applicable) action.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Mogadishu carnage devastates lives

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ex-I-Anity (another aimless lyrical moment...)

As usual, my lyrical output reflects a somewhat dark (and obscure?) take on things. Not hopeless, though... was reading Lewis' opening chapter on Natural Law in Mere Christianity. . .

(c) 2009 Jon Trott

What is the inner compulsion
I'm safe, why should I risk myself?
The other is no love or friend
This could end up bad for my health

Instinct's inner voice says
Keep you in you with you sheltered
Another voice is mere whisper
We live to love - true love suffered

Against love there is no law
Against love
Against love there is no law
Against love

I'm not so sure about the moral law
It's a weapon power-mongers hurl
But if you mean the still small voice
I'd sell all to gain that pearl

Against love there is no law
Against love
Against love there is no law
Against love

He'd known girls and men and hurt
She'd always believed in Christ
He was deaf to rules like most fools
And she judged his life was not nice...

[instrumental break]

Face in darkness covered with tears
He cried out in his despair
She heard and felt her pride break
And we who are we to breathe their air?

Up on a cross down in a grave
What do you think it takes to truly save?
Is loving going to win you friends
Or is it going to make you break?

Against love there is no law
Against love
Against love there is no law
Against love
Against love . . .

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Women & Girls, Men & Boys, and Sexuality

The CBE Scroll, dedicated to bringing women and men into full egalitarian mutuality within the Church and marriage, brought up The Effect of Pornography on Women and Girls. In turn, that discussion (to which I contributed some quickly-typed thoughts) began opening out into various linked issues. Some of that discussion began going into sexuality in ways that the folks at the Scroll thought might better be served in another forum. Since I was involved in the discussion, and they figured I was foolish enough to blurt out whatever comes to mind, they asked me to continue any of the more overt discussion points here. So please, digest their thoughts, and if appropriate post there. But if you want to offer more pointed questions / statements, return here.

I do moderate this site, which means when you post your post will not immediately appear. Particularly in discussions of this variety, it is a good idea. One additional note: be wise in using your real name if you post something you don't want everyone on the web to know about you personally. I don't want to stifle discussion -- far from it. But I do want to prevent anyone from getting hurt.

Discussion points might include in part:

1.) From spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends of porn users, how has your significant other's use of porn affected your relationship?

2.) What is relational sexuality meant to be, biblically speaking, and how do pornographic portrayals of sexuality affect its relational meaning?

3.) What does pornography tell us about women? About men?

4.) Some "Third Wave" feminists disagree w/ the Second Wave feminist emphasis on pornography's destructive nature. Anyone who's versed in that discussion is welcome to defend, or at least explain, it here.

5.) Men and women affected by porn, are you desperate to escape its addictive qualities? Are there some of you who have walked in sobriety for a time, and can help others here by telling your stories?

6.) What is pornography? We use the word, but do we always know what it means?

And so on. Ask your own questions as well, of course.

I'd like readers to peruse the original post, and (if so inclined) come back here to discuss. Have at it!

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Political Implications of Loving My Wife

Carol Elaine Trott, standing, heads up a gang of assorted Trott kids in a painting project.

It has been way too long since my last post. Slowly, I'm trying to pull myself back into blogging, so those of you with belief in prayer's efficacy may liberally bathe me in prayers for the discipline to get back to business here.

'Nuff said.

Carol Elaine Durkin Trott, my beloved, is today being routinely scanned for any recurrences of her thyroid cancer back in 2000. Her thyroid was removed then, but every so often she has to be checked to insure no thyroid tissue remains to spread cancer in her body. This is done by injecting Carol with radioactive iodine, as happened a few days ago. Iodine "sticks to" thyroid tissue, and the radioactivity of the iodine will hopefully kill off the thyroid tissue it finds. So in short the test is also a treatment, one of the reasons thyroid cancer has such a high cure rate compared with some other cancers.

The scan's results will come back in a week or so.

Over the past few days, Carol wasn't allowed to be closer than three feet from me. She had to clean up after herself wherever she went, which was limited to within our small apartment. I was put in the position of being her servant for anything she needed. (Ah, say my female readers, a male put into a role he probably doesn't inhabit all that much normally... and those readers would be more correct than I am at all comfortable admitting!) Carol disliked this situation more than I did, I suspect; she's active, a go-getter. Being stuck sitting on a couch wasn't much to her liking.

But as always happens when the spectre of Carol's past cancers -- no matter how ephemeral -- comes to the fore, I find myself feeling a breath of fear on my neck. Fear, but also gratefulness. Carol has survived not only thyroid cancer but also breast cancer, which I discovered while we were being close one evening. My own grandmother died of breast cancer, and it affects many women on my side of our family, some of whom have died as a result. So I fear it. Many others we've both known also died via cancer. Yet others we know struggle at present with cancer, including one of our JPUSA sisters and a Facebook friend of mine, Patsy Moore.

So... I love my wife. I am glad she's alive and tremble just a little even in these routine moments which remind me of our journey through cancer together. Because I am thinking of Carol, then, I offer the following.

* * *

How do I love my wife?

This is a question with at least two very different meanings. The first meaning one might find in the question has to do with my efficiency, my ability, my talent for loving her. Am I good at loving my wife the same way a basketball player is good (or not) at scoring? The question becomes one with pragmatic rather than philosophical / theological implications.

The second meaning touches on the first, but is more a question I ask myself. How do I do this love thing? What is loving someone about? Or, to be specific, what language of love can I speak to best meet Carol's own love-hunger rather than my own hunger disguised as how I *want* her to hunger? Tricky.

These aren't the questions I'll answer here, by the way. Instead, I want to examine how these questions are political questions.

Carol is a person as I am a person, yet she is not me. In my gut, I often believe that her needs aren't quite all that my needs are. In my dark places I think I deserve to have my needs met before hers are met. I also, too often, think that my thoughts are more intelligent, coherent, and (gulp!) true than her thoughts. In short, there is a little fascist in me.

My faith assaults that inner Nazi. "Do to others what you would have them do to you." "Love your enemies." (Oh, yes... sometimes Carol becomes my enemy because she will not be friends on my terms!) " Or, as Philippians 2:3,4 put it, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others."

How does this sort of love radically redistribute my internal values regarding Carol? My material goods? My goals and purposes for what I do, how I do it, when I do it? Carol -- the Other -- looks at me for her own orientation in this world, and as she does this so do I look to her (we are mutuality/egalitarian folks, not hierarchalist/complementarian).

As I try to love her as described by Jesus and Jesus' Apostles, I find my own needs, wants, thoughts, and feelings intermingled with hers progressively. That is, the further we go on together the more difficult it becomes to tell where my own hungers / needs end and hers begin. I consider this the Grace of God.

I also consider it the basis for my politics. If God's Son, He Who Perfectly embodied Love in full humanity as well as full Godhood, demoted himself to become Servant of all... what does that say about a political framework majoring on the gathering of power, the usage of progressively more and more military might, the intentional ignoring of scientists' warnings to continue abusing our planet, and finally the "othering" of those we deem "evil" (a strange term to exclude ourselves from!)?

I love my wife. But I don't love her well at all times. I don't love my neighbor well at all times, either. But both personally and politically, I don't have permission not to try.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Heart is too full to write

On this, the eve of a day with more hope in it than I feel I can endure (though endure it joyfully I will!), I have little to say. May the Lord bless our new President, Barack Obama, with wisdom and the integrity of humility. May we all hold on to this moment of hope in the days, months, and years to come as we face communal hard times. And may we all remember -- especially when disagreements re-emerge between us -- we are neighbors even in our deepest differences.

God speed to our new President, and may Christ heal our wounds.