Because I’m pretty sure that in its heart, that coat is brown.

wendy davis big damn hero


Obligatory link for those who don’t get the reference: Firefly, “Big damn heroes, sir.”

Photo source: Patrick Michels / 

UPDATE: Please note this comment by Neocortex just made in the previous thread – all those folks in the gallery last night who yelled and stomped and cheered and brought it home in the last 10-15 minutes are giant Big Damn Heroes, too. Can’t stop the signal!

Texas Senator Wendy Davis literally standing up for reproductive choice.

wendy davisI heard over the Twitter that Texas Senator Wendy Davis needs more material for the heroic filibuster she’s undertaken today in an effort to kill a really, really bad anti-choice bill that otherwise stands to be passed by the Texas state legislature, so I edited my now-thrice posted story of my own abortion. Following you can read what I sent – I hope it helps, but I really wish I could just go and stand in her place for a few minutes. I’m so grateful for what she’s doing – she’s absolutely an American hero.

She has to make it until midnight tonight, a little less than three hours from now – if you have a story you’d like to send, you can send it to Jessica Luther who is in Austin and will pass it on: luther [dot] jessica [at] gmail. (If you don’t live in Texas, just don’t mention your locale).

I’ve had an abortion. Have you?

The current legislative effort to essentially eliminate abortion in the state of Texas has generated a great deal of raucous argument; as usual, the argument suggests the existence of clear-cut opinion, the “supporting” or “opposing” of the act itself.

What is never discussed are the gray areas.

Of course, women within the reach of this story know their own answer to my question; what many of the men in their lives don’t realize is that they would be surprised by the truth.

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? Witness how shocking it was when Wyoming State Representative Sue Wallis, a Republican, disclosed her own abortion in 2011.

As a result of these fears we – as a nation and as individuals – largely don’t talk about abortion. And when we do, we’re often not honest. The shadow of perceived opinion is very long. Publicly we speak 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 person might 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: just over half of Americans think that abortions should be legal in all or most cases; 25% are willing to countenance the idea in very specific instances. Only 16% want to ban abortion outright.

At least some of our national ambivalence reflects more about our culture than anything endemically human: Japanese society, for instance, 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? No. 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 tell you that—as Rep. Wallis said in 2011, it’s “none of your damned business.” 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 wife.


Update on the scheduled executions of Warren Hill and Yokamon Hearn.

Following up on Monday’s post regarding the scheduled executions of two mentally disabled men, Warren Hill and Yokamon Hearn:

Georgia decided yesterday to postpone the execution of Hill until next Monday, “as it makes changes to its lethal-injection protocol… switching to a single drug, pentobarbital, from a combination of three drugs.” Yokamon Hearn is still scheduled to be executed in Texas today.

If you’re in/near Georgia, here’s a list of vigil sites for Warren Hill; if you’re in/near Texas, here’s a list of sites for Yokamon Hearn.

Please go if you can. These men, mentally disabled or not, are entirely guilty of their crimes — and adding to the death toll will help no one, least of all their victims. We need to find a way to not choose death when the option to choose life yet remains.

On Warren Hill, Yokamon Hearn, and the ethics of the death penalty.

UPDATE, 7/18/12: Georgia decided on Tuesday to postpone the execution of Warren Hill until next Monday, “as it makes changes to its lethal-injection protocol… switching to a single drug, pentobarbital, from a combination of three drugs.” Yokamon Hearn is scheduled to be executed today.

When Troy Davis was executed in September, hundreds of thousands of people understood the state of Georgia to have murdered an innocent man.

Georgia now stands ready to execute Warren Hill, a man with mental retardation — coincidentally on the same day, Wednesday, that Texas plans to execute Yokamon Hearn, a man “who has, since early childhood, shown clear and consistent evidence of brain damage.”

Unlike Davis, who was almost certainly innocent, however, Hill and Hearn are guilty of the crimes for which they have been sentenced. Hill is guilty not only of killing his girlfriend in 1986, but also of killing his prison cellmate in 1991; Hearn shot a man several times in the head in the midst of a car-jacking. These crimes are horrific, and I’ll be honest: The fact of either man’s mental disability means little to me in terms of my horror.

But my horror will not be lessened, nor will anyone be made safer, if additional people are killed.

Copious studies have shown that the death penalty doesn’t serve as a deterrent, just as copious cases have shown our legal system’s frightening fallibility. The death penalty tends to be expensive for taxpayers, and legal analyst Andrew Cohen argues at The Atlantic that death penalty cases are too often used to score what amount to ideological points:

At their best, [the Hill and Hearn] cases represent warped legal reasoning. At their worst, [they] represent the cynical use of such reasoning in the pursuit of the unjust and the unreasonable.

All of these are important factors, but they matter about as much to me as does the mental capacity of the two men set to be killed on Wednesday — which is to say: Very, very secondarily.

I realize that the following is neither nuanced, nor analytic, but occasionally the ethics of a circumstance require neither:  Bottom line, the death penalty is wrong. Killing people is wrong.

In a moment of self-defense, in an effort to protect others, or while in the course of a war in which the dead wear uniforms — we have made exceptions for these cases, because sometimes we must weigh one evil against another. Such is human reality. We must sometimes accept that which is unacceptable because we have no choice.

But the death penalty is never such a case. When we execute people — whether they are innocent like Troy Davis and Cameron Todd Willingham, mentally disabled like Warren Hill or Yokamon Hearn, or just straight-up guilty like Scott Peterson — we are making a choice. We are sitting at our desks in air conditioned comfort, going home to tuck in our children and sleep in our beds, getting up in the morning and looking ourselves in the mirror.

And choosing death.

It’s never right. Never.

If you’re in/near Georgia, here’s a list of vigil sites for Warren Hill; if you’re in/near Texas, here’s a list of sites for Yokamon Hearn.

To my mind, these are not vigils simply for the men in question, but for our nation and, if you will forgive me, our soul. If you have a chance to go, please do.

The War on Women and Fridays with Billy.

We’re back! After two weeks of no Billy Bragg for holiday-related reasons, the internet can now heave a sigh of relief. Fridays have regained their Billy-ibrium!

This week’s selection, “Trust,” is a short story, really, told by a woman. One of the things I’ve always loved most about Mr. Bragg is his ability to channel the voice of someone entirely unlike himself — a gay veteran of the Second World War, a Japanese-American victim of internment, or, in this case, a woman who’s been very badly done by the man in her life.

He wrote this song at the height of the AIDS crisis, and the lyrics leave us entirely uncertain: Is she pregnant? Infected? Or just afraid? There’s no way to know, but that fear, that uncertainty — that abandonment — is a thing with which many, many women are all too familiar, and which far too few men have made an effort to understand.

Least of all the men making decisions about our bodies.

There’s been a lot of angry back and forth lately about the phrase “war on women,” and on the recent day that 150 Afghan girls were poisoned for the crime of going to school, I wavered a bit, myself — and then I remembered the state-sanctioned rape that is forced transvaginal ultrasounds, such as take place in Texas every day. People are literally attacking our bodies in an effort to create a legislative reality that inimical to our most basic interests — I think “war on women” is pretty reasonable.

The first line of defense in any battle has got to be information, and in that spirit, I want to encourage you to check out and bookmark the frankly mind-boggling Team Uterati Wiki on which Angry Black Lady and the Team Uterati team are doing yoeman’s labor. It’s a one-stop-shop for information on the people, the places, and the roughly 1,100 anti-choice bills currently pending across the country.

You heard me: One thousand and one hundred.

Women are human beings. We have a fundamental, human right to bodily autonomy, one that powerful people (some of whom are women) are attempting to strip from us, for their own purposes. The only way to win this war is to fight back. Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge, inundate them with our demands, and vote the bastards out come November. And then let’s keep fighting.


He’s already been inside me
And he really didn’t say
And I really didn’t ask him
I just hoped and prayed

He’s already been inside me
And I really don’t feel well
I keep looking in the mirror
But it’s hard to tell

Will he stay by me and take my hand
And hold me till I sleep
Or will he crumble and fall to the floor
And weep
Oh feeble man, Oh evil man

He’s already been inside me
Would he have told me if he cared?
I know I ought to find out
But I’m much too scared

He’s already been inside me
And I know it can’t be good
Nothing feels
The way it should

Will he hold me in his arms again
And wipe away my tears
Or has he already taken
My best years
Oh evil man, Oh feeble man

What is Fridays with Billy?

UPDATE: It’s been suggested to me that this song is “being sung by one man about another man, not by a woman at all.” I can see that, and remember it crossing my mind back in the day, so I mention it here — I can only hope Mr. Bragg himself weighs in someday…! (Knowing his work, it’s entirely possible that he left the song just that vague on purpose).

Good stuff: The singer-songwriter wrote a song for me!

On Saturday night I posted the now-timeless ditty “No the Civil War Really Was About Slavery,” penned, sung and recorded on Friday by fellow Ta-Nehisi Coates commenter HappySurge (aka Sergi Avteniev), and I urged you to go to listen to the rest of his work on Youtube.

Much excitement abounded about the song in yesterday’s Open Thread, so he wrote another, this one in response to the Rick Perry/Herman Cain/Niggerhead brou-ha-ha, called appropriately enough There Are No Racists Here.

Much excitement abounded about that, so he wrote another one — this one a thank you to me! O_O It’s about the death penalty! (You know you’re loved when your friends write songs about capital punishment with you in mind). And it’s really, really, really good. Really.

So, without further ado, I present to you There Are No Racists Here (favorite verse: “Now, if you want to know some racists, Hitler was a racist/ Because a racist is someone who is racist all the time/ Like Henry Louis Gates who wakes up at Harvard teaching hate/ But there are no racists here”) followed by the chill-inducing Two Hundred and Thirty-Four Graves (“everybody said/ You better kill that kid/ He ain’t no good, but he’ll be damn good dead”). Lyrics after the jump.


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