Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Symptoms and Disease

I’ve written this phrase twice in the last few weeks – symptoms and disease - discussing some political topics with friends and acquaintances.

As I have been thinking about this more throughout the past few days, I think that this is a pretty basic difference between a conservative political view and a progressive political view. (I’m going to be generalizing. I realize that not every conservative or progressive would fall within the box I’m going to draw, but I think it’s fair to say that “most” would.)

It seems to me, the general conservative philosophy is that issues such as abortion, gun crime, homosexual marriage, terrorism, education, etc. are the actual problems with society and can be fixed directly. To me, the progressive philosophy (at least, my philosophy) is that these issues are merely by-products of the real problems within our society/culture. I think that the conservative agenda is full of “quick-win” “short-term” thinking – that does absolutely nothing to actually address the real problems. For example, the conservative viewpoint – “let’s overturn Roe v. Wade and ban all abortions”. I have a real problem with that philosophy. Why? Is it because I support abortions and wish there were more? Of course not. It’s because if that is your answer, you’re still left with women who go get abortions in illegal ways. You have refused to address the real issues, which create the demand for abortion. Conservatives don’t want to address those issues, because they are difficult, they are long-term, and they are expensive. What are those “real” issues? Unemployment, lack of a living wage, lack of affordable health care, the devaluation of life (especially the life of the poor and minority) in our country, lack of community, lack of support networks for single mothers, the inability to provide for a family on one salary, so a father works two jobs and therefore isn’t home to provide direction for his kids, the lack of supportive educational systems, urban planning, etc., etc., etc. On and on goes the cycle. To me – those are the problems that need to be addressed to really reduce abortion in our nation. Will it be hard to do? Yep. Will it take longer than “overturn Roe v. Wade”? Yep. Will it cost more? Yep. But – and this is key – will it go to the heart of the problem? Yep. That is what needs to be done.

I feel that the other issues are approached in similar ways from a conservative perspective. If you oppose gay marriage, the easy out is to push for a Constitutional Amendment – then you don’t have to address more difficult questions of community and civil rights. If you advocate gun ownership, the easy out is to push for less regulation and more education and training instead of addressing the issue of prevalent violence in our culture – especially the poor inner-city areas, and the devaluation of poor and minority lives through an inequitable capital punishment system. To fight terrorists, the easy answer is to send a corps of marines into Fallujah – but then you create five new terrorist volunteers to replace each one that you killed in the battle. Instead the harder, longer road is to address the issues which are developing kids into terrorists – devaluation of life, enforcement of a western culture upon an eastern culture that resists those changes, the rape of the lands and resources of poor and non-white cultures. To improve education, it’s much easier to pin funding on districts teaching to tests than to actually address the difficult issues of malnutrition, single parent homes, latch-key kids, urban planning, white-flight, a culture where education means little to an inner-city kid because what hope does he have to use that education.

Personally, a short-term victory means little to nothing to me if I’m treating, or more likely hiding, a symptom and ignoring the disease. I'd prefer to reduce and/or completely end abortions in the United States. But overturning Roe v. Wade doesn’t end it. It is so much more important to end the vicious cycles that actually push women to decide on abortion. Until you’ve done that, you’ve done nothing.

The conservatives in this country can sit back and pop the top of a bottle of expensive champagne (which they can afford with all those “blessed” tax cuts) if Bush can push through a few justices conservative enough to overturn Roe v. Wade. And then they can rest back on their laurels and think about what a more “moral” America they live in, while all the poor girls - whose boyfriends refused to marry them because he doesn’t have a job and can’t support a family; who can’t afford pre-natal care because their $5.25 an hour job doesn’t provide health care; because they’ve lived with the reality of a teen-age mom, no-dad, having dropped out of school because they had to work to help pay for rent; who have no female role models or mentors; have no way to provide for child-care because they still have to work that minimum wage job to get by; who has seen their friends turn to prostitution; who see and live this stuff every day, every day of their lives – they are going to go find a way to have an abortion anyway.

But at least the “moral conservatives” get to celebrate their “victory”. But it’s a hollow, cold victory. It’s no victory at all, if you ask me.

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