Big topics, small thoughts (updated)
What is in this article
Brought on by the overturning of Roe vs. Wade south of the border, the ‘Freedom Convoy’ and it’s return here in the north, panic attacks, and the general state of politics, I wander through the minefield of the modern culture wars and trip a few (mines). [AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was written before I was aware of the full decision in the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, including the stripping of health privacy provisions around abortions and the reverting to bans not removed from the books at the state level, and the criminal pursuit of those who made decisions based on what was legal at the time; the extreme right is running amok in the US and I fear the consequences for the world. Suffice it to say I think it represents the opposite of moderation and reasonable behavior.]
TL;DR Big topics are often multi-faceted, don’t truly have easy answers, and modern political reality makes it difficult for reasonable people express their doubts and concerns, and achieve a reasonable solution in real situations involving these topics. Oh, and I fully expect I’ll get attacked by both so-called conservatives and self-proclaimed progressives for what I have to say.
Abortion and freedom
The silencing of the majority’s voice
I believe that most people (including myself, most of the time) feel like we can’t express our discomfort with absolutes on issues like abortion (and freedom), because the vocal minorities on the extremes of the debate vilify anyone who dares to speak against their position, or even those who do not endorse their position.
It seems to me ’the right’ likes to claim it is ’the left’ that always does the silencing, but that is total malarkey. ‘The right’ is even quicker to pull out totalitarian laws that prevent talking about topics they don’t like than is ’the left’. (Witness attempts to censor anything that is not about cis-gender opposite sex relationships (aka ‘straight’ in the old days), to name one). On the other hand ’the left’ wants to very vocally shame and shun (with real financial and life consequences) those seen as wrong.
I think that the majority of folks really are not comfortable with an ‘absolute right’ to abortion,and recognize that an unborn child is more than lump of flesh of no more consequence than a tonsil or gall bladder, but it is clear to me that the majority also recognize that even if abortion on a whim is undesirable that absolute or even extreme and/or rigid prohibitions are also problematic.
That’s why here in Canada we don’t have specific laws around abortion; once the laws that did exist were declared unconstitutional, no government has been able to achieve a consensus on rules around it. Like sex itself, abortion is messy and complicated, and doesn’t fit into the stories told about it.
The irony of the ‘Freedom Convoy’
I won’t belabour the point, but it’s highly ironic that the politics of may of those associated with the misnamed ‘Freedom Convoy’ include total or near-total bans on abortion. Even more insulting is their use of the slogan ‘our bodies, our choice’.
The problem of the course is that the ‘Freedom Convoy’ is not really about freedom, but about the mistaken belief of a significant minority that the vast majority agree with them, and are being controlled or suppressed by secret cabals and power groups, and that therefore the ‘convoy’ groups believe that imposing their ideas on everyone else is really giving most people what they want.
Unfortunately, the disconnect within the notion of, ‘you must do as we believe you want’ seems to escape them.
It does not elude me, however, that the likely kernel of truth in this is that majority does feel unheard and unable to safely speak. Again, that it is at least as much because of the angry, hate-spewing ‘convoy’-type folks as the ‘shamers’ on the left seems to be forgotten or ignored.
How do we get to a point where folks feel free to speak their minds while ensuring that vulnerable are protected and the very real racism, religionism, ableism, and other forms of intolerance and injustice are rectified? That is something to which I do not know the answers (because there certainly will not be a single right answer, nor a ‘one-size-fits-all’, simplistic, solution that really works).
A more personal note, not likely to be appreciated by “macho, macho man”-types, is also a result of a combination of views from ‘progressive’ camps and ‘social conservative’ camps (particularly among certain religious groups), is embarrassing and difficult to talk about, and gives me panic attacks.
This situation is also the result of growing up as an impoverished outsider in small towns, combined with periods of depression and paranoia in university and beyond. These have resulted in my tendency to hunch over and ‘keep my head down’ and keep ‘downcast eyes’.
The difficulty is that when talking with women this at times results in my panicking because my gaze ends up in locations that, both from my former religious beliefs (especially being a ’true believer’ in high school) and my concerns about having my attention where and when it is not wanted (which would be considered a more progressive idea) results in my brain overloading with ‘danger, danger, error, error’ signals.
To say this embarrassing is an understatement, along with being distressing me and making me want to avoid social situations.
The irony of course is that I want to do the right thing, and that is the source of stress.
You could say, in a way, I’ve already been damaged by the culture wars and this is perhaps why I am less afraid of what could happen. In the same was as a result of extreme depression and paranoia I have no fear of hell; I’ve been there, done that.
Considering I’ve already been paranoid that because of my reactions and mental health history that there are those who believe I’m some kind of dangerous psychopath (not my diagnosis; sorry to disappoint those who have watched too many psychological thrillers), I’ve hesitated to talk about this even with mental health professionals. Now, I have decided I am doing better than I have in a long time, and I have a bit of “dontcareanymoreitis”.
Who knows, maybe it will turn out there are others who have the similar challenges and this will help them feel less alone. I can hope that writing this does more good than harm (assuming it ever gets read). I hope, especially, that what I believe is the silent, reasonable, majority will start to assert themselves and push back against the brow-beatings and the attempts to suppress any voice that doesn’t fit the narratives of the extreme.
Oh, and Happy Canada Day, eh?!