The new need – part deux.

Thanksgiving behind us, we are now officially in Buy This For Your Loved Ones season. The catalogs and newspaper circulars are fat and frequent, as all of American capitalism throws its weight behind convincing us that THISTHISTHIS! is  just the thing we need to purchase in order to effectively demonstrate our affection.

I love gifts — both giving and receiving them. I don’t even mind capitalism as much as a good liberal probably should. But this year, I am particularly struck by the disconnect between the incessant drum beat to buy more stuff — and the fact that so many of us can no longer afford what we actually need.

If ever there were a time to direct our funds to supporting not corporations but people, I believe this holiday season might be it. Climate change is progressing even faster than expected; thousands of military families grieve the loss of their dead (or struggle to adjust to the injuries with which their soldiers have returned home); one in four American children lives on food stamps. And honestly, though it certainly feels like this year is particularly bad, the human experience is always one of struggle and need — and, as the song says, we get to carry each other.

So, following you’ll find a short list of organizations that I personally like, to which you might consider directing some cash if you have it to spare, or think that maybe Aunt Bertha would appreciate the gift of charity as much as she might a new scarf. Needless to say, this is but a tiny handful of the worthy organizations and community efforts out there — just find something that’s meaningful to you, and give what you can. That warm glow really is the universe giving back to you….

But first of all! If you want to vet a charity, you can go to the Combined Federal Campaign at the US Office of Personnel Management, the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, and/or Guidestar to get trustworthy information about how the charity in question functions.

And now, my personal list:

  1. Heifer International: “Heifer International is a non-profit organization whose goal is to help end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance & sustainability” — on the theory that if you give a family a fish, they eat for a day, but if you provide them with a clutch of chicks….
  2. Mercy Corps: “Mercy Corps exists to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities”– and they are often among the very first responders to any tragedy around the world. We sent them money during Israel’s assault on Gaza this past winter.
  3. The Heartland Alliance: “Heartland Alliance helps people living in poverty or danger improve their lives and realize their human rights.  Through our diverse programs, we serve people in the toughest of circumstances and that are the hardest to reach, including survivors of violence, torture, and war and people living in extreme hardship or poverty.”
  4. To show support for American troops and their families, Iraq and Afghanistan Vets of America (the founder and executive director of which, Paul Rieckhoff, is often a guest on Rachel Maddow’s show) would be happy to hear from you. The Department of Defense also has links to several organizations.
  5. Sierra Club: “Since 1892, the Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet itself. We are the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States” (and my girl just gave herself a homework assignment to help the polar bears, and collected $30 to send them!).
  6. Israel/Palestine peace advocacy: This list is a good place to start
  7. … or if you want to combine your love for Mother Earth with your love for peace in the Middle East, go check out Friends of the Earth – Middle East.
  8. Hunger assistance: Feeding America — or, of course, your local food bank. (Don’t forget that $5 is a lot more useful to them than a few cans of food — they can always buy far more with your money than you can!)

Ok, it’s a start! Also, I always like the idea of giving presents that also serve to support communities in need — shopping at Ten Thousand Villages, for instance.

If you have any ideas you’d like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments.

We get to carry each other. Happy December!

Thanks and the giving thereof.

Thanksgiving is pretty much my favorite holiday. I know that people just to my left like to use it as an opportunity to talk about all the many things that the arriving Europeans did very, very wrong on this continent and to its inhabitants — and those things were absolutely done, and deserve mention and study and honest, heartbreaking appraisal.

But I would submit — humbly, as is my wont — that the original, nearly-mythological template for the American Thanksgiving ritual is not what the holiday is about. The holiday is about (wait for it) giving thanks.

And I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, who you believe or don’t believe in — giving thanks is a good, warm, and ultimately humbling thing. As with anything human, the holiday is what we make of it, but its bedrock is simple gratitude, and that is a marvelous thing. No gifts other than food and company, no expectations other than that the food be good and the company better.

Now, it’s true: We don’t always live up to those expectations (ask me about the time that my mom’s turkey didn’t actually cook). As with anything human, interpersonal drama sometimes plays too great a role. But that is us — that’s on us, not the holiday. If memory serves, weddings, graduations, birthdays, and trips to the grocery store are routinely marred by drama, too…! Ah, humans!

And so, in the spirit of gratitude, I offer: a list.

But first! I feel safe in assuming that you know that I’m thankful for my husband (who is, and I mean this most sincerely, one of the best men I have ever met) and my children (who are funny and smart and beautiful and healthy) (tphoo tphoo tphoo!), and my lovely home and my own good health. Not to mention friends and loved ones too numerous to mention but without whom my life would likely be rather grim (husband, children, home, and health notwithstanding!). These things go (almost) without saying on Thanksgiving.

But what else am I thankful for? Hmmm….

  1. Barack Obama – Still, and despite real disappointment and a great deal of frustration. His candidacy brought out so much of what is right and good in this country, his victory showed that we truly can access it, and his Presidency, while far from perfect and still rather in its infant stages, has brought us to a place so much better than the one in which we wallowed for eight years that, yes: I am thankful — nay, deep-in-my-bones-grateful — for the fact of President Barack Obama.
  2. The Constitution – Always.
  3. The Declaration – Ditto.
  4. Trader Joe’s – How is it that every.single.thing. that I buy there — fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried — tastes better than almost anything I ever buy at Whole Foods? Have they done a deal with the Devil? ‘Cause I’m all in.
  5. Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover – Ok, best example: The Tide stain stick got fruit punch out of my kid’s dress shirt on the way to his aunt’s wedding rehersal. And when I say “out,” I mean: Disappeared it, entirely. I know not what alchemy this is — again, deals with the Devil come to mind — but until the study comes out saying its toxic, I’mma have one in every drawer.
  6. My kids’ school – I wrote a love note to their teachers in the Chicago Tribune at the start of the school year, something based on a draft I first wrote here, but that love extends to the whole school really. It’s a place dedicated to recognizing and respecting the humanity of the kids taught within its walls at all ages and stages, and outfitting them to meet the world with knowledge, humanity, and a strong sense of self.  I lovelovelovelovelove our school!
  7. xkcd – One of the best things in the history of ever! I truly understand Randall Munroe’s humor about, say, 65% of the time, and get close enough another 20%, and then there are those 15% in which I really, but really, have no idea what he’s talking about. And of those times, it’s still funny, about 90% of the time. I LOVE YOU RANDALL MUNROE! (Don’t forget to check out the mouse-over text, people — it’s often the best bit!)
  8. The internet – No hyperlink necessary — ’cause you’re there! I’m just old enough that I can very clearly remember life as a kid, student, and working adult in pre-internet days, and young enough to have felt immediately comfortable with the technology when it came along, and people, I’m here to say: The internet rocks. What other tool known to humanity allows one to read the founding documents of our democracy, laugh at stick-figures, and learn how best to get stains out of our children’s clothing? All in one place, and without leaving home? I am just old enough to remain both floored and gobsmacked by the miracle of such massive interconnectivity, and I am very, very grateful that it happened in my time.
  9. My family, my friends, my home, my health, and all of the many, many blessings with which I greet my every living day (you didn’t really think I wouldn’t mention them, did you?) – I am lucky, blessed, fortunate, prosperous, positively golden, and my gratitude is positively oceanic.

Thank you.

And happy Thanksgiving!

Idle.

I am rather lazy. Really.

When I share this information with people who love me, though, they poo-poo it. They see how busy I am, how involved I am with family and friends, and they protest. No! They say. It isn’t so!

But, in the spirit of either a word means a thing or it doesn’t, I must counter-protest: It actually is very much so.

If the definition of lazy is “resistant to work or exertion; disposed to idleness” (and it is), then we have hit the nail squarely on the head re: me. Given half a chance, my default mode is idleness (well: book reading. Or hanging out. I’m great at hanging out!), and virtually every one of my exertions is a result of my superego being just a squosh bigger than my id. Because my id would really rather not, thankyouverymuch.

And so we come to poetry. (Really!)

One might easily expect an egghead such as myself — one who loves language and words and the very letters that form the two so much that she collects the letter A — to be into poetry. Like, really into poetry! And I’m not. Why? Because I’m lazy.

Poetry requires involvement and engagement and real application of the heart and mind, and dude — I just want to be idle. So I am, at best, a very poor word geek indeed. I like Auden, I like Dickinson (no relation!), I like bits and bobs of this and that. But more often than not, I just don’t bother.

See? Lazy.

But I’m making an exception here (excuse me for a moment, I have to exert myself), because some things are worth it.

Like this particular poem, translated from Hebrew and brought to my attention by my rabbi and friend, Brant Rosen, from the new book With an Iron Pen: Twenty-five Years of Hebrew Protest Poetry:

Then We Didn’t Yet Know

Then we didn’t yet know
That the Occupation would be forever.
Even when it would be forcibly extracted like a tooth
and tossed behind electric fences
and magnetic crossings
while cement and petrol magnates
traveled from Ramallah to Gaza -
even then it would be remembered longingly -
how young it was, the Occupation,
composed only of Arab women bent over tomatoes
in Jewish fields, men with nylon bags
waiting for work at Ashkelon junction,
jumping into grey service Peugots,
and the Secret Service men who lived three to a villa in Afridar
actually changing their license plates to army license plates before
going off to work, so they wouldn’t be identified.
It was young. In the restaurants they peeled vegetables into large tins, then
fried them, built on scaffolds. There were many organizations.
And they were young:
volunteers with Chinese weapons, poets,
but the Occupation didn’t recognize them,
because it was busy arguing in the classroom whether to return territories or not
and Ofer P., whose father was wounded in the battle of Jenin,
and had shrapnel stuck in his back
said, “In any case, there’ll be another war.”
That’s what his father taught him.
That’s how young the Occupation was,
and look at it now.

Dahlia Falah (translated by Rachel Tzvia Back)

And if that’s not enough, there’s this piece*, performed by poet, educator, and NPR commentator Kevin Coval, an artist whose words have slayed me and flayed me on more than one occasion. Listen, please, because it’s the truth:

I may be lazy — but some words will quicken the dead.

**********************

* I should have noted: This poem is “Hero Israel,” from Kevin’s book Slingshots (A Hip-Hop Poetica).


The wisdom of the Newt (or: Bleak hauser, ctd.)

We sometimes have to put aside the mantel of reason, logic, and passion for humanity, and simply be ourselves, lest we forget what we are really striving for. It is too easy to become disconnected from the very humanity and world we are attempting to save, when we put our heads down and plow ahead, into the fray. – Nefarious Newt, commenting on “Bleak hauser.”

He’s a wise man, the Newt is.

Bleak hauser.

I have never been particularly ill-informed.

Even in high school, I think I followed the news (and struggled to make sense of it) more closely than the average bear — I remember writing in my journal about the Sandinistas, and the re-election of Ronald Reagan. During my only year at an American college (St. Olaf – um ya ya!), I was instrumental in the organization of fundraiser for Project Hunger, and I travelled to D.C. to protest this country’s involvement in Central America. Lord knows that while living in Israel I was up on current events — and I challenge you to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago and fall behind on the news. After graduate school, what did I do? Write and edit for a woman who dealt heavily in issues of social justice, and then began to write my own newspaper commentary. Honestly, I’ve been keeping track!

And yet.

About a year and a half ago I began to develop a habit of reading certain politics-heavy websites and blogs on a regular, and then daily, basis, particularly in the lead-up to and successful conclusion of the ’08 elections.

I’m online, quite legitimately, all day anyway — such connectivity is, in this the 21st century, a fairly basic requirement if one is a writer dealing with current events and contemporary history and (more than the writer likes to admit) new topics about which one may initially know little — and, you know: There’s all this cool stuff on the web! You know what they say: Good writing is 3% talent and 97% ignoring the internet. C’est vrai, baby!

But the habit of searching out and reading the news, and/or reactions to the news, in one form or another, has grown deeper, particularly as I began blogging myself, and as a result, I think that I now know much more, in much greater detail, about what goes into making the sausage that we call Democracy, as well as the one we call Modern American Society, than I ever did before.

And it ain’t pretty.

And, I’m not sure that, in this case, more knowledge is a good thing. Indeed, I think that knowing more has made me more pessimistic, less cheery, more prone to melancholy.

Which, you know, don’t misunderstand: This is a matter of degree. I have always been prone to a certain pessimism, lack of cheeriness, and melancholy (of course, with my grin and friendly demeanour, this is not how I typically present, so it often comes as something of a surprise to new friends. Whee, who doesn’t like a surprise!) — but frankly, I don’t need the help.

I don’t think the answer is, as I was once counseled, to turn off the news. To ignore reality. Reality, not infrequently, sucks, and it is our job to deal with that suckage and work to set it right. My not-knowing won’t make anything better, and might, in a tiny, infinitesimal way, make things worse.

But this weekend, when I was away with friends, I didn’t know a god damn thing. We went for long walks under cerulean skies, watched lady bugs take flight off our jeans, and skipped (or sunk) stones in the waves of Lake Michigan. We ate gorgeous food, drank too much, and talked of nothing and a very great deal.

And it struck me, as I came back to my habit of toggling between Talking Points Memo and the New York Times, Balloon Juice and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Wonkette and Gawker, that re-filling my head with sorrow and worry was a rather head-desking way to re-enter reality. And that perhaps my personal reality is more shaped by those sites and their analogs than might, strictly speaking, be healthy.

That maybe a new balance might be in order: more LOLcats, and less TPMCafe, perhaps.

Perhaps.

I’m not sayin’. I’m just, you know… sayin’.

Good stuff: homesick.

So, as usual, all of that earlier anger about Israel and the Israel lobby made me lonely for home. So here’s a clip of the Israeli singer/songwriter who was for many years my favorite performer in the world, bar none: Jeremy (Irmi) Kaplan. It’s not my absolute favorite of his songs, but it’s a darn good one! Shabbat shalom!

(If you’re interested, here’s another one, from back when we went to see him in clubs whenever we got the chance…).

So… the “Israel” lobby?

Writing in HaAretz today, Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer presents a scathing appraisal of the Diaspora’s Israel lobby. Though he focuses on Great Britain (where he was born, and lived until he was 8), Pfeffer also takes on the lobby in the US, speaking truth to arrogant, self-righteous power across the globe:

… the real problem with today’s Israel lobby, in Britain and the United States, is not with its finances and their lack of transparency but with its entire mind-set. The basic fact is that by its actions, the lobby is now causing Israel more harm than good…. On every level — moral, political, diplomatic, economic, military and religious — this country is being rapidly corrupted and damaged by the continuing occupation of the West Bank. By granting blanket support to all policies of whatever Israeli government happens to be in power, and by branding critics of these policies as either self-hating Jews or anti-Semites, they’re contributing to Israel’s siege mentality and delaying the day when Israelis will finally realize that there’s only one practical and ethical alternative. [emphasis mine]

He goes on:

We are at a pivotal point. The rise of the right in Israel’s last election does not signal that the voters are opposed to territorial compromise and a two-state solution. On the contrary, polls consistently show a clear majority of Israelis favoring this outcome…. In effect, Israelis voted for Benjamin Netanyahu hoping that he’d go against his party’s manifesto. All the signs point to a prime minister on the brink of a decision. He could take the plunge or he could retreat back into his ideological and political comfort zone. International pressure will play a major role in persuading him to make a necessary decision, but the message emanating from the Israel lobby is that should he decide to hold out and play for time, he will continue to receive their unreserved support. Such support could prolong Israel’s procrastination – with deadly consequences.

Other than the fact that I believe Pfeffer gives Netanyahu more credit than he deserves (I don’t see Bibi on any brink, I see him clinging to the Likud’s long-held rejectionist platform. But reasonable people may disagree reasonably), this is pretty much, to the letter, what I have been saying about the Israel lobby for years, and I believe it pretty much lies at the heart of the establishment of J Street, as well. A real love of Israel means helping it to achieve what it actually needs — not blindly driving it further down the path to ruination.

If history ultimately records the rise and fall of the modern Jewish State as yet another Jewish disaster, the folks at AIPAC — and apparently their British counterparts — will hold a healthy share of the blame. The road to hell is paved, as they say, with good intentions.

Particularly when those intentions come vacuum-packed in an almost pathological unwillingness to grapple honestly with reality.

We are all individuals.

So there I am, late last night, reading the New York Times, and lo: Here’s a little piece by the Frugal Traveler, about the search for truly personal souvenirs (accompanied by a delightful picture of a rubber tree seed [bigger than you might think!] in, one can only assume, the Frugal Traveler’s own hand).

Matt Gross, the Traveler, tells the tale of the on-going search, in the course of his journeys, for something that really means something to him — nothing mass produced, nothing kitschy, nothing that Everyone Else Has — something that will “fulfill the French root of the word ‘souvenir’ and help you to remember your adventure.”

Of course, he also always has an eye on the “frugal” side of things, which reminded me of Elizabeth Peters, a contemporary of my grandparents who I also considered a friend, who would save her limited cash until she had enough to travel — and then collect squares of toilet paper, for she could afford nothing else. (And as anyone who has ever traveled outside of their own country knows, “toilet paper” is a very changeable item!)

But what really grabbed my attention was the drive for the personal meaning. I know this drive, for it drives me, too, whenever I’m someplace new. I don’t want what everyone else from far away has. I want something truly rooted in the place, something that means that I, Emily, was there, something that no one else (or at least few someone elses) will carry home in their bag.

Because I’m not like everyone else. I’m not a “tourist.” I’m An Individual.

And that’s where my brain finally rested, last night: The drive among a certain kind of traveler/American/member of Western society to always and forever be An Individual.

I sense that this is something new-ish in human society. After all, society draws us together — ultimately, for reasons of safety. There is safety, as we know, in numbers. Not in striking out on one’s own.

But America highly prizes the individual, the pioneer, the iconoclast. Indeed, this drive to be a non-conformist is so American as to be fully exploited by that most American of industries: advertisers. As Brian first told us: We Are All Individuals!

But those of us who consider ourselves among the country’s intellectual (if not economic) elite in particular guard our differences, often more zealously than we guard our commonalities. I may look like I’m here with all this hoi-polloi, but really: I’m here by myself. I just ran into them on the way.

Of course, I say “in particular,” but that’s probably not the case. I don’t really know the hearts and minds of the middle-to-low brow, or the lower middle class, the working poor, or the flat-out poor. I often think I do, but I really don’t. I think it’s a safe bet that they, like me, don’t want to be considered an unindividuated member of whatever group they are identified with.

But I find this drive curious, because honestly: Who cares? Who cares if I buy a postcard bought by a million other tourists (and yes, when I visit a foreign land, or even Springfield, IL, I am – shudder – a tourist). Why does this matter to me so much? Why do things — objects, experiences — seem less authentic to me if they are broadly shared?

I struggle with this (honestly: struggle) with regard to my passion for U2. They are the single biggest rock band on earth, but I want to believe that they say something really, really special to me. And people like me. Who are, of course, few in number. And special!

I think I wish that I were more comfortable with the common search for individuality — with the fact that no matter what we do or how we do it, where we travel, and what we bring home from the journey, even if it looks identical on the surface, each person’s experience will be different. Individual.

And I really kind of wish I had the rubber tree seed. It’s beautiful!

I’ve had an abortion.

Over at Ta-Nehisi Coates’ place at the Atlantic, there is a lively discussion surrounding one simple statistic:

35 percent of all women of reproductive age will have had an abortion by the time they’re 45.

Now, one can argue with the efficacy of statistics that are dependent on the use of the future perfect tense (“…at current rates, more than one-third [35%] will have had…”), but it’s not like we’re looking at a possible reversal of the trend. If the folks behind the statistic, the highly regarded Guttmacher Institute, are off, they’re off by a matter of percentage points. So I feel entirely comfortable with the phrase “roughly one-third.”

Entirely comfortable, and entirely unsurprised. Abortion is one of the greatest open secrets in American society. We all know that it happens a lot — we just don’t talk about it. God forbid! We need to feel ashamed, horrified, and deeply guilty! Or, if those of us who have had abortions don’t feel that way, we at least know better than to raise the fact publicly. We know how thoroughly we’re judged before anyone even opens their mouth. (Aside from anything else, we’re admitting that we’ve had sex. Shhhh!)

But if we don’t start talking about it, if the roughly one-third of us who terminate a pregnancy in the course of our reproductive lives don’t get more honest and more bold, the Stupak amendment may well do more to take away our right to this entirely legal surgical procedure than any other anti-Roe move before it. As Jeffrey Toobin explains in the New Yorker (thanks, Ta-Nehisi):

Today, most policies cover abortion; in a post-Stupak world, they probably won’t. With a health-care plan that is supposed to increase access and lower costs, the opposite would be true with respect to abortion. And that, of course, is what legislators like Stupak want—to make abortions harder, and more expensive, to obtain. Stupak and his allies were willing to kill the whole bill to get their way; the liberals in the House were not.

He goes on to say (and I can’t tell you the depth of my gratitude when I hear a man saying it):

…as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed not long ago, abortion rights “center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.” Every diminishment of that right diminishes women.

This matters. It really, really matters — the right to choice matters as much as health care reform, because it is health care.

We have to fight against the Scott Roeders of the world (who, by frightening doctors away from late-term abortion practices, are the very definition of “the terrorists are winning”), and we have to fight against the Bart Stupaks (D-MI [D!! In the course of writing this, I discovered that he's a Democrat!!]), and we have to fight against the powerful tendency among politicians to behave as if women’s health is somehow negotiable. As if we are an interest group of some sort — and not half the country, a third of whom will need access to an important reproductive health option in the course of their lives.

You can go to Planned Parenthood, read up on Stupak, sign their petition and send them money (and while you’re at it, you might also look into Medical Students for Choice). You can also call or write to your Representative, Senators, and President and tell them how wrong-headed Stupak is, and why. I frankly think that this is the more important of the activism options, because our elected representatives have to understand that freedom of choice matters deeply to the people they serve, and they will hear that better in personal notes and calls than in any petition delivered by anyone.

Write to them. Tell them your story. We do not need to be ashamed. We need to have our rights defended.

***********************

In 2006, I ran the first of several pieces that I wrote for daily newspapers about the secrecy surrounding abortion. Each opened with the line “I’ve had an abortion. Have you?” Here’s the one that ran in the Chicago Tribune:

Maybe You Just Don’t Know

By Emily L. Hauser
Chicago Tribune
March 16, 2006

I’ve had an abortion. Have you?

The recent decision to ban virtually all abortions in South Dakota has generated a great deal of raucous arguing; many abortion opponents hope the new legislation will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and lead to the reversal of Roe vs. Wade. As usual, the argument suggests the existence of clear-cut opinion, the “supporting” or “opposing” of the act itself.

What is not discussed, of course, are people’s hearts.

Women readers, of course, know their own answer to my question; many of their men would be surprised by it.

Many men don’t know that their wives, sisters or mothers have, in fact, terminated a pregnancy. They don’t know because the women they love fear their response. Will he see me differently? Will he — figuratively or literally — kill me?

So, as a nation and as individuals, we largely don’t talk about it. And when we do, we’re often not honest. The shadow of perceived opinion is very long. We speak publicly as if there were two clear positions — but in private, most of us know this isn’t the truth.

My abortion is a thing of which I’m neither ashamed nor proud. I wish that I hadn’t had to do it, but I did.

The average reader will want to know why — because most of us have a sliding scale of morality.

Even some staunch opponents will agree in cases of rape; others where there is genetic defect; a larger number, if the abortion takes place early in the first trimester; many, of course, think it’s always a woman’s choice.

I believe there is a vast middle ground made up of most Americans, those who feel abortion is neither irredeemably evil, nor free of moral implication. Witness polls conducted recently by the Pew Research Center: 65 percent of respondents don’t want to see Roe vs. Wade overturned; 59 percent feel it would be better if fewer abortions were performed in this country.

At least some of our ambivalence may be cultural. Japanese society maintains a standard ritual, mizuko kuyo, to memorialize aborted or miscarried fetuses and stillborn babies. In a paper discussing the rite, Dr. Dennis Klass, a Webster University psychology of religion professor and a grief expert, writes: “The abortion experience is seen as a necessary sorrow tinged with grief, regret and fear which forces parents to apologize to the fetus and, thus, connect the fetus to the family.”

This describes my own experience well — but I’m an American. I carry a different culture, and I fear that in apologizing, I accept some notion of personhood that somehow “makes” the entire thing — murder. So, I hesitate.

I ask myself: When I aborted my first pregnancy, did I kill a baby? I honestly don’t think so. But did I stop the potential for life? Absolutely. Insofar as life itself is simultaneously the most mundane and most divine fact on our planet, this means something.

But I’m willing to say that I don’t know what that something is. I can only function in the cold reality of my own world — and as such, I alone can judge whether my abortion was a moral choice. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t happy, but it was the least-bad of two bad choices. It was moral.

I don’t know anyone for whom abortion is easy; I don’t know anyone (any woman, at least) who sees abortion as birth control. These choices are stunningly complex. When we deny that, when we talk as if we are all 100 percent clear on this issue, we deny our humanity. And we deny our grief.

And why, in the end, did I have my abortion? I’m not going to record that here. You and I don’t know each other, and my reasons are personal. I don’t need to defend them, and neither does your neighbor, the stranger at work — nor, perhaps, your girlfriend.

Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer living in Oak Park.

A dream dies.

Ah, the life of a contract writer! In two weeks, my big, regular gig — the one that has kept me in regular checks for more than five years — will be going away, and I’ve been too busy working to look for work. Maybe a new career all together…?
Agnes - November 13, 2009

And then, just like that, “hot, sultry salsa dancer” fell off the list of possibilities….

(Make sure to visit Agnes at her online home!)

(Oh, and if you have a job? I’m open!)

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