Striking a “Roe” Nerve: the troubles of Gov. Palin

Palin’s personal life, however, is not the only thing at issue. It goes far deeper than shrewd politicking that both camps share. There is a big elephant in the room, and neither Republicans nor Democrats would dare talk about it. That elephant’s name, is Roe v. Wade…

Barely had Alaskan Gov. and Vice-Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin been announced by Republican candidate John McCain when she was immediately interrogated for intrigues both political and personal. Perhaps the more critical of them would be her firing of a subordinate for failing to relieve a trooper of his command after divorcing her sister.

What is getting more press, however, is the revelation that her 17-year old daughter, Bristol, not only was pregnant with a child, but also is the real mother of the kid afflicted with Down’s Syndrome, whom Gov. Palin claimed was her child. This has since become the point of attack for Democrats and intellectuals who claimed that Palin’s efforts to cover it up was “typical” of the Republican camp who would twist the truth to win the popular American sympathy, as they did with Iraq. To further douse the issue with flame, more news adds that Palin, as McCain was, opposed the introduction of Planned Parenthood and sex education programs, preferring natural abstinence. The critics have begun to trumpet that Palin is now a hypocrite and a failure, the latter in her roles as a leader and-the sharpest criticism yet-a mother.

Never mind that Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama personally warned about attacks against political opponents’ families (“We don’t go there,” or words to that effect), the critics are one in twisting the knife in the Republican VP hopeful. It’s useless to reason that these critics are just “poisoning the well” (discrediting an idea by attacking the character of the one supporting it) or “judging the character from his association” (e.g., Robert is a God-fearing, loving, family-man. Robert is a Nazi/Republican/insert another stereotype here. Therefore, Robert can’t possible be God-fearing, loving or even a family man. It’s probably just a ploy). Both sides have been committing this with wanton abandon to even matter. We need to get to the actual heart of the issue.

Getting Things out of the Way

Palin’s lying about her daughter’s child speaks either of political savvy-shrewd politicking that both camps share-or a mother’s protectiveness. Her personal life, however, is not the only thing at issue here. There is a big elephant in the room, and neither Republicans nor Democrats would dare talk about it. That elephant’s name, is Roe v. Wade…

To illustrate this, we look at a previous issue: Senator Nancy Pelosi’s misquotation about Saint Augustine’s views on abortion, while used as weaponry by the religious, conservatives and the Catholic Church, received little press on mainstream news, or among bloggers. The pregnancy of Palin’s daughter received further vitriol by the fact that Palin was against Planned Parenthood education and abortion, the latter institutionalized by Roe v. Wade.

Both candidates have been dancing around this moral issue throughout the campaign, as being “candidates of unity”, they would not want to alienate potential voters. Obama would not strongly and vocally support abortion among the Republican states, and McCain would not voice the intention of overturning the Roe v. Wade among Democrats, some of whom admire his “maverick” attitude. Most significantly, invoking Roe v. Wade would certainly define “battle lines” among Conservatives and Liberals, as had happened when Kerry made the mistake of publicly promising to expand “gay rights” to the horror and chagrin of Conservative voters.

So the “big elephant in the room” is abortion. From Iraq to inexperience to association with Bush to Islamophobia, the respective campaigns have been skirting very real moral issues that define party lines, among them artificial birth control. Gov. Huckabee threatened McCain’s Republican nomination because the latter did not speak strongly enough on these issues. Democrats decry McCain as just another typical Republican because among other things, his position on the moral issues, particularly artificial birth control. There is no use not reopening the still fresh, festering wound that is the issue of abortion, as eventually it will surface in one form or another.

Moral Authority:

The Republican Argument

Conservatives worry of the “moral stagnation” that has afflicted modern liberal thought. The main concept in this is “sin”, or the concept of “actions that defy God’s laws”. Abortion is one such “sin” because they consider the act as the killing of a life, as is the use of contraception, though the latter gets far more complicated. (But remember that there are battle-lines drawn here; and you will not see Democrats use “kill” and “fetus” in the same sentence-perhaps “kill” can be conveniently replaced with “terminate”).

If we are to set aside the argument of the “sin” of abortion as the act of “hurting God”, and focus on the more secular, palatable reasoning for the liberals, the core concept left is that of choices and consequences. The concept of fiery damnation in Hell and spiritual redemption in Heaven espoused by Christians and the religious is actually a system of “choice and consequence”; a Man is free to choose to go against his God or to follow His teachings, and, respectively, as a consequence is free to choose to go to Hell or Heaven. They attribute this spiritual aspect to abortion, and contraception.

The more blunt issue within artificial birth control lies in the concept of the sexual act itself. Christian teaching has tried to envelop sex within marital concept, that is, an act strictly within the ambit of marriage. The first consideration among Conservatives and the religious is that sex is an inclusive act in the creation of the family, and the defining act of love among married couples. The second consideration lies in avoiding premature or unwanted pregnancy, and the inherent structure of a “disjointed” family, that is, less one parent (or, in tragic circumstances, two). Natural abstinence, in this case, is the simplest form of birth control acceptable to Conservatives, as it is simply not having sex, either willingly among married couples or at all in unmarried ones.

God out of this Equation:

The Democratic Argument

Artificial birth control, however, betrays a lifestyle and the modern school of thought towards these consequences: the “sexual drive” cannot be “repressed” and therefore must be expressed when it occurs in an individual (The concept of love is an optional parameter). Not only has sex been pulled out of the marital context, sex in marriage itself is treated with disdain or as monotony. Resigning to the force of this ideal, Conservatives would at least find comfort in that at least a form of a family is created, either with the decision of the single mother, together with her immediate family, to rear the child, or the choice to give the child away for adoption, as portrayed in the recently successful independent movie Juno. With the advent of the various forms of artificial birth control-from intricate operations on the sex organs to the use of the rubber-even these consequences have been circumvented. These various methods have their respective moral “shades of gray”, but the one that gets the most flak from the religious groups is the contraceptive, a sort of “proto-abortion”, so to speak, that k–“terminates” the undeveloped ch–fet–embryo–I mean, “not-a-living-thing-thing”. Abortion is the most exposed of it, as it is the closest to (and to the religious and Conservatives, a form of) infanticide. It is the last act committed when all the other “failsafes” have failed. At the heart of the “abortion” debate is the issue of whether the “terminatee” (the fetus) can be classified as a human being.

The liberals and the secularists decry the Conservative views against artificial birth control as “antiquated” and out of touch in the modern, millenarian world. The prohibition of extramarital sex once had the potency of prohibition against alcohol in the 1920s (meaning little or none at all); now the cause against it is all but dead. The major moral authorities have since been discredited, as mostly they are figures within “institutionalized religion”, an equally “antiquated” concept in a world where truth and the concept of right and wrong is how the individual interprets it. The liberals reason that these “moral codes” were not instituted by God but by the different “religious blocs” with their individual interpretations. Right and wrong, therefore is not to be determined by these “Bible-thumping fascists”, but by the individual’s interpretation of it.

Where does God fit in this equation? He is, after all, the penultimate cosmic religious authority being interpreted by the various religions. Does He even matter? What if the various religious denominations “invented” Him as a way to keep the “superstitious religious” subservient? What if God was “invented” by Man as a convenient ideology until the millenarian, modern age, when recent ideological developments have proven that He is no longer “useful”? Therefore, as Sartre quite correctly proves, the modern world has killed God, because the modern lifestyle has been set in such a way as He is no longer convenient, or useful. God is practically dead. Those who have not completely taken this logical course would leave God’s law of right and wrong to their own personal judgment. So technically, God’s law is left to subjective discernment, and therefore…

The Gray Areas

For every issue, there are always gray areas. Abortion might emerge, as a choice if a pregnant woman is critical enough as to possibly not survive childbirth. Conservatives will rally to the defense of the child, while the liberals will rally to the defense of the woman. Technically, this is actually a choice between two lives hanging in the balance, and which one should be fit to survive. Artificial birth control-and abortion, for that matter-may seem ideal to the couple that have had already numerous children, and would find another one as an “economic” burden. While the religious, the Conservatives and various pro-life groups have opined abstinence and the “cycles” method, these are admittedly not effective (given the modern “appetite”), and while the “giving up for adoption” is viable after birth, the pregnancy itself will be difficult. Possible alternatives may be that the government will provide a special service-complete with medical staff, equipment and adequate “health compensation” for the mother-to the parent who would give her child up for State adoption. This could be cumbersome, as again, the pregnancy would be difficult for the mother.

Bristol Palin’s case is actually two gray areas: teen pregnancy is generally treated with abhorrence and disgrace, as the teen mother is seen as throwing away her life with both her (“unprotected”, to liberals) act and the subsequent consequence. Add to this the social pressure in and out of the campus. Mostly, the parents would push their daughter to the abortion themselves, or the daughter will try to have it in secret. Even worse, a child fated to be afflicted with some form of mental disease, as Down’s Syndrome. From the reaction of some of the bloggers (one even attributed the Down’s as a consequence of incest), autism is generally seen as a “fate worse than death” sentence among families. Usually, the “unconceived” that have been predicted to have this affliction are immediately “terminated”, as it would be cruel to have them “suffer” (yes, this is similar to the concept of “euthanasia”). The very fact that the Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin chose to have the child reared up-in spite of the various reasons for her subsequent cover-up-is a great judge on her character. Whether for good or for ill, I will say no more.

The final gray area I will discuss here is an extreme, but very tragically real issue: children borne out of rape. Victims of this physical, moral, and utterly abhorrent act will feel violated, and the thought of a child growing inside of them would be an extension of this violation. Groups championing women’s rights may be divided on that issue, depending on their respective side in the issue of abortion (which is still separate from the issue of artificial birth control): the radical feminists may say that to rear the child would be to further the victimization of the woman, while the other side of the spectrum will say that the child is not at fault, and therefore should be spared.

Everything to Account

This issue has therefore been brought to the open. While the other issues are equally significant, the fact that this one issue has not been tackled, save for short statements of support (“Roe v. Wade will not be overturned”, “Roe v. Wade will be overturned), is testament to the “tightrope walk” that both candidates are making towards their potential voters. Consequently, tensions are high, and frustrations (vented to a wholly different, but probably related, issue) erupt frequently.

The other issues also weigh pros and cons among the candidates: a short summary of them may be made. While McCain may have been wrong in supporting a war that deflected resources from Afghanistan, his tactical opinion on the troop surge, with its somewhat successful results, may have been otherwise correct. Obama’s position is not anti-war, but anti-Iraq war; he would favor a limited engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, possibly in the same verve as the US involvement in the Balkan wars during the Clintonian era, or Kennedy/Johnson’s “limited war” (which gradually escalated to full conflict) in Vietnam. Obama’s military policy is sound and very good, but judging from the escalating number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan before the Iraq war, and the recent, resurgent Taliban insurrection, and the possible “reshifting” of al-Qaeda insurgents back to Afghanistan, the latter may devolve to a second Iraq.

Economically, both the Republican and the Democratic solutions are still iffy. The problem: the economy has gone to such a downturn that average Americans are not able to sustain the basic necessities from medical insurance to mortgages. While welfare and health care does insure that the average American will stay afloat, this does not solve the main problem of the lack of “purchasing power”, possibly aggravated by the consequent tax increases. Likewise, tax cuts will increase the “purchasing power” of the average American, but not high enough to meet the basic necessities. Even worse, health insurance and social welfare would be reduced.

There are reports that say Obama is advocating pulling out of the global market (i.e., the WTO), as globalization has caused the American industries to utilize foreign labor, as it is cheap compared to local American one, causing massive unemployment. The United States, ironically, was once the prime promoter of globalization, back when its markets were crushing local Third World competition. (“America for Americans”, perhaps?)

McCain, for his part, is continuing the Bush doctrine of alienating the “Axis of Evil”, by taking a hard Cold War approach towards countries as Iran, North Korea and-yes, even-Russia. Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad probably maintains power and popularity by using the “American card”, that is to unite the country in its hatred towards America. Whether or not this is a political show (as is, if we are to believe, their “efforts” to absorb Iraq into their sphere of influence). Russia, as we have seen, is exposing the weakness of American foreign policy, though Vladimir Putin is too cold, pragmatic and calculating to precipitate some form of “nuclear holocaust” as some of his Soviet predecessors might have had. Obama’s approach of “negotiation” with Iran, and Russia would therefore stand out as weak. In either case, we have yet to see either candidate take a strong, successful foreign strategy.

This, together with other issues comprises the contention between Democrats and Republicans. It is not a simple popularity contest, though Barack Obama is riding to the Kennedy-King comparison, with his high-handed rhetoric. Neither is it a simple gauging of performance, as McCain would stake in his war service. (John Kerry used that argument ad nauseam).

If only it was a simple election in a Third World country, the conflict will be a conflict of personalities. No, it is a war of ideologies, between the Conservative Right and the Liberal Left, one with religion and one with atheistic-secularist ideology. It is between the “redneck” farm folk, and the “elitist” city dwellers. Pro-life and pro-choice, stem-cell and anti-, tax cuts and welfare. The issues are so clearly delineated that whoever wins the election will find it very hard, if at all, to unite the two factions.

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