Woman Enough to March?

On November 2, 2016 I joined Pantsuit Nation, an online community of Hillary supporters.  The group, now almost four million strong, comprised people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, united by our support of Hillary and fear of a Trump presidency.

I posted an introduction after joining, which you can read here.  And I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by the welcome I received.  Over 3,600 people liked my post, and there were 412 comments.  Many people asked for permission to share what I had said elsewhere.  I was showered with love and affirmation, not only from fellow pro-life Catholics but from people of every imaginable ideological stripe, including many, many pro-choice women.  After a year of feeling adrift and alone, it was a heady sensation.

Too bad it didn’t last.

It turned out that without Hillary to hold us together this great movement of women is breaking down along tired and predictable lines, and those of us who are both pro-life and progressive are left out in the cold once more.  The New Wave Feminists, erstwhile official partners of the upcoming Women’s March on Washington, are now officially NOT.  Pantsuit Nation now overflows with post after post of women sharing their positive experience with abortion.

I felt this backlash coming and it’s one reason I’ve mostly only lurked on the pages of the state and local offshoots of Pantsuit Nation.  I’m so tired of being marginalized for one reason or another.  I am sick at heart over the notion that there is only one kind of feminist–our pro-life feminist foremothers be damned!–that the right to unlimited abortion apparently trumps all and that some of us are not woman enough to participate in a Women’s March!  As I posted on Facebook, “It’s like you are not an actual woman if you are not pro-choice.”

Rebecca Bratton Weiss makes an excellent case for why the feminist movement needs to embrace pro-life feminists.  This resonated with me especially:  “We have risked personal and professional relationships in our staunch opposition to Donald Trump, our refusal to accept him as representative of anything remotely pro-life. I personally lost a business associate when I spoke out against his boasts of sexual assault, and the latent misogyny in those who dismissed this as ‘locker room talk.’ I’ve been spied on and screen-shotted by right-wingers who seem more interested in controlling women than in saving lives.

I, too, was attacked for my constant opposition to Donald Trump.  As I wrote days before the election:  “Already today I’ve received tweets hashtagged hypocrite, babykiller, and cafeteriaCatholic.  It’s just another day in an election season during which I’ve been unfriended by an actual family member, deemed excommunicated by the friend of a friend, and attacked in a public Facebook post by someone I thought was a friend, all because I shared political articles that they didn’t agree with.

Alice Paul, author of the original Equal Rights Amendment, said that abortion is “the ultimate exploitation of women.”  For pro-life feminists who risked a lot to vote for and publicly support Hillary, it’s adding insult to injury to not only end up with Trump as President but also to be sidelined by those who should accept us as allies.

Note:  I am happy to report that the Knoxville Women’s March has chosen not to officially adopt the national march’s platform and is aiming for an event that is unifying and non-partisan.

I’m a Pro-Life Catholic and I’m with Her

A few days ago I was invited to join a secret Facebook group.  I posted what follows by way of introduction and was overwhelmed by the support, understanding, and acceptance I received, even from people whose beliefs are very different.  Because so many people wanted a way to share what I had written, I decided to post it here with some slight editing to account for the potential wider audience.

As a devout pro-life Catholic, this election season has been a very trying time for me. Never in my lifetime has there been a candidate for President who aligned perfectly with my religious beliefs, and I have dealt with this in various ways in each election.

I wrote for the local Catholic press for many years, including writing a column specifically on life issues. I was the chair of our Diocesan Respect Life Committee and have 25 years of pro-life activism to my credit. I blog about life issues frequently and post publicly about them on Facebook. And I’m the mother of five children!

Yet none of this has stopped my being the target of vitriol from right-wing Catholics, many of whom will clearly do ANYTHING to justify the fact that they really just want to vote Republican. I’ve been talked down to, threatened with excommunication, and attacked, even as I have tried to create space for discussion on my Facebook wall and explained the Church teachings on voting and conscience which support my actions.

This year, I am voting for Hillary with a clear conscience. Despite my deep disagreement with her views on abortion it is quite clear to me that her other positions and her proposed policies are more in keeping with the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life and social justice (not to mention the fact that she is way more qualified, not dangerous, and won’t bring disgrace to the office!). I am not holding my nose while I vote either–I am excited to be with Her!im_with_her

For more of my writing about Catholicism, voting, and politics, see the partial list below:

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do?

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do? (Part 2)

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do? (Part 3)

Catholic to my Toes

VOTING:  Not Toeing the Party Line

Talking to Kids about Politics

It’s Just Not Fun Anymore

Catholic Voting 101: A Guide for the Confused

Why Is This Election Different?

VOTING: Not Toeing the Party Line

democrat-to-the-toes

After I was recently accused of being a “Democrat down to my toes,” my daughter bought me the socks in the picture above.  And while it’s true that I call myself a “pro-life Democrat” in my Twitter bio, the reality is somewhat more complicated.

My earliest political memory is going door-to-door with my mother handing out George McGovern flyers in 1972 when I was five years old.  I knew that he was a Democrat and we were too.

Next up was Watergate, and the graffiti on the wall of the unfinished part of the shopping mall in our neighborhood demanding “IMPEACH NIXON!”  What more proof did I need that voting Democrat was the way to go?

Since all my family were Democrats it was a rude surprise to me to be the only nine-year-old who raised a hand in support of Jimmy Carter in our classroom election in 1976.  That was my first introduction to the fact that most people in East Tennessee were not on the same page as me politically.

All this seems to be pointing to someone who has voted the Democratic ticket her whole life, right?  But if that’s what you were thinking, you’d be wrong.

I turned 18 in 1985, so I had to wait a long time to cast my first vote.  Longer than you’d expect, because I was in college in 1988, and didn’t send off for my absentee ballot in time.  I would have voted for Dukakis without a second thought, in fact without any thought at all, because I was a Democrat and if you are a Democrat you vote for the party’s nominee, right?

A lot changed in four years.  I cast my first Presidential vote for a REPUBLICAN.  I remember how clear things seemed to me in 1992.  Abortion was the gravest possible evil and George H.W. Bush was pro-life.  What other issue could compare?  By 1996 I was having second thoughts about single issue voting.  I couldn’t see that my pro-life vote had made any difference–Roe v. Wade still stood.  Clinton and Gore held to a pro-choice position, I never thought they were that enthusiastic about it.  And I agreed with them on just about every other issue.

So I was 29 years old before I ever voted for a Democrat for President!  I voted for Gore in 2000, and that was the last time.

I’ve written elsewhere the whole ugly story of 2004.  I may well have voted for Kerry, not especially enthusiastically, because of the Iraq war, but I was nine months’ pregnant and bed-bound.

By 2008 my conscience was pricking me.  I didn’t think it was WRONG to vote for a pro-choice candidate, but it felt wrong for ME.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, but neither could I bring myself to vote Republican (mind you, I wasn’t actively TERRIFIED of the Republican nominee–I just didn’t like his positions!).  So I went to the polls, voted in the local races, and didn’t vote for President at all.  I wanted Obama to win, I wanted our country to have its first black President, but I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for him.

In 2012 I felt even more strongly that I couldn’t vote for Obama, whose enthusiastic pro-choice views, cavalier disregard for religious freedom issues, and fondness for drone strikes turned me off even as I continued to like him personally.  Yet neither could I bring myself to pull the lever for Romney, whose pro-life commitment seemed lukewarm and whose positions left me cold.  That time I chose to vote None of the Above as a way of registering my dissatisfaction with the choices presented to me.

And this year . . . well, that will be the subject of another post. 🙂

So what does any of this mean? Am I a Democrat? A Republican? An Independent? Does it matter?

I have been known to refer to myself as a pro-life Democrat but that’s really just kind of a shortcut.  Most people know more or less what the two halves of that label stand for, so they can get a good idea of my beliefs in most areas if I call myself that.  And there really is an organization called Democrats for Life, but I haven’t signed up just yet.  Tennessee has open primaries, and I like voting in the Republican one because that’s where my vote can have more impact.   I have attended Republican political events and felt acutely uncomfortable at the cheerleading for positions I find reprehensible; I have a feeling I’d have a similar reaction to some topics that would come up at a Democratic rally.  I certainly don’t see myself donating money to the DNC or being a card-carrying party member.

Anyway, I hope you can see why it infuriates me to be told that I am a Democrat down to my toes, looking for any excuse to vote for a Democrat, when I attempt to explain why it’s not a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for a pro-choice candidate.

 

Catholic to My Toes

Twelve years ago, dismayed at all the misunderstandings and hatefulness I was seeing among Catholics over the Presidential election, I decided to write a column about it for the East Tennessee Catholic.  I thought I could dispel those misunderstandings and the hatefulness would cease.

Boy, was I wrong, wrong, wrong.

I was on bed rest (Lorelei was born just after Election Day) when the reactions to that well-intentioned column started coming in, but if I hadn’t been I might have taken to my bed anyway.  And if I had seen where we we’d find ourselves twelve years down the road, I might have never gotten up again.

Already today I’ve received tweets hashtagged hypocrite, babykiller, and cafeteriaCatholic.  It’s just another day in an election season during which I’ve been unfriended by an actual family member, deemed excommunicated by the friend of a friend, and attacked in a public Facebook post by someone I thought was a friend, all because I shared political articles that they didn’t agree with.

Rarely do I say anything about what my friends post on their own Facebook walls–with the rare exception being to offer a Snopes link to correct a blatant untruth.  I have never unfriended someone because I disagreed with their views. I welcome respectful discussion and try to learn from others and to at least understand why they believe what they do.

I’m a bad Catholic, of course.  I fall short on an hourly basis.  But I’m NOT a cafeteria Catholic.  Ask anyone who knows me and pore over every word I’ve written and try to find an example of any time I have EVER dissented from Church teaching.  You’ll need more than good luck and a magnifying glass because you won’t find anything.

The friend who attacked me on Facebook accused me of being a “Democrat down to my toes.”  I’ll write more about party affiliation another time, perhaps, but what I am down to my toes is CATHOLIC.  That’s my core, that’s my worldview, and EVERYTHING I believe and the way I try to live my life–including my political life–springs from that.

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See Planned Parenthood Top Doctor Talk Fetal Tissue Harvest over Lunch

The video below is not for the faint of heart–although it contains no graphic images. But there’s something stomach-turning in watching a doctor discuss the harvesting of fetal body parts over lunch as she takes bites of her salad and sips her red wine.

I couldn’t help thinking about this scene from The Return of the King showing Denethor, Steward of Gondor, munching away as his son goes to fight to his (almost) death at this father’s command.

I’ve always been horrified by that scene but this is REAL LIFE, y’all.  Dr. Deborah Nucatola is Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, and she was caught on tape thanks to an undercover investigation by this organization.
If any of my pro-choice friends are still reading, what do you think about this? If you are a Planned Parenthood fan, does the possibility of their profiting by the donation of fetal tissue affect your opinion? What do you think of “doctors” who would change the way they practice medicine in order to procure the tissue that is most in demand?
If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, here are some choice excerpts:
So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.
[A] lot of people want intact hearts these days, they’re looking for specific nodes. AV nodes, yesterday I was like wow, I didn’t even know, good for them. Yesterday was the first time she said people wanted lungs. And then, like I said, always as many intact livers as possible.
And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex . . .. So I mean there are certainly steps that can be taken . . . Under ultrasound guidance, they can just change the presentation . . . So the preparation would be exactly the same, it’s just the order of the removal of the products is different.
I don’t have the stomach to read or watch any more, but if you wish to, the links are available here.
UPDATE: America Magazine has published a balanced review of the unedited footage from which the above video came, which I would encourage you to read.  My own outrage is less over the question of the sale of the parts than over the successful dehumanization of the unborn evidenced by the doctor’s demeanor.
UPDATE 2:  While standing by my observations on the dehumanization of the unborn depicted in the video above, I am providing a link into the investigations into the allegations, many of which are complete and did not find any irregularities.  Thank you to Molly McMahon Martin for pointing this out and providing the citation.

Brave New World: Gender Selection

I haven’t tackled a topic like this in a while.  But, y’all, I can’t write about pretty graveyards and fall hikes all the time.
Today I read this story  about an Australian woman who traveled to the United States to undergo in vitro fertilization and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to achieve her desired goal:  a baby girl.  “The process involves harvesting a woman’s eggs, injecting each one individually with sperm, then growing the embryo from a single cell to around 130 cells, at which point it’s possible to tell whether the chromosomes are XX or XY. Only embryos of the desired sex are transferred to the uterus.”
Here’s just one example of a facility in our country that provides this service.  From their website: “While the desire to choose whether a baby would be a boy or a girl has been present throughout human existence, it is only recently that the technology to do so has become clinically possible and available. With improvements in gender selection technology, demand for gender selection has also been growing steadily.”
There’s that slippery slope that I’m always being told is a logical fallacy! It goes on to say, “Sometimes gender selection can be “non-medical” or “elective.” In such cases, a child of a specific gender is desired without obvious medical indications. The most frequent indication for such gender selection is “family balancing,” when one gender is already represented in the family unit and the other gender is desired.”
Which makes me say, WHY IS THIS LEGAL AND WHAT ON EARTH IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?
Y’all, please understand, after three boys in a row I was very much hoping #5 would be a girl.  I also was hoping #4 would be a girl!  Instead we got William, and unlike the lady from Down Under, I did not “[sob] with disappointment to discover I was having a second son … and then a third.”  
Anyway, I understand the DESIRE for a daughter.  But most of us just suck it up and appreciate the children we have.  Maybe we accept that God knows what he is doing and set about parenting the kids we were lucky enough to get.  Maybe we realize we should be grateful for conceiving in the first place and for producing a healthy baby of any gender.  Remember when our mothers were having kids, and there was no way to know in advance what they were having, what they said when people asked if they wanted a boy or a girl? “I don’t care what it is as long as it’s healthy.”  I haven’t heard that in a long time; have you?
Five Kids
I know that, to a childless woman struggling with infertility, I might seem ungrateful because I already have three healthy sons. But unless you’ve experienced “gender disappointment”, you can’t understand how crippling it can be. My desire for a daughter caused me to spiral into depression and left me virtually housebound. Every time I went out, toddlers in pink seemed to taunt me.”  
If “gender disappointment” was so “crippling” to her, what she needed was not a daughter, it was therapy and lots of it.  She doesn’t just SEEM ungrateful, she IS ungrateful.  One can only imagine what her sons will think of all this when they come across this article online in the future–if they don’t already sense her feelings toward them now.
And what about that little girl, who has a lot of expectations heaped upon her already?  My Facebook post on this topic has generated some indignant comments.  One person said, “I hope the little girl likes karate instead of ballet!”  Well, you know, since ALL KIDS tend to do the unexpected, and since they are, you know, INDIVIDUALS, that’s just as likely as not.  There’s no one kind of “girl” and no one kind of “boy,” which is why I always find these stories about “gender balance” so ridiculous, and why I always think it’s funny when people think one boy and one girl is the ideal complete family.  My three boys are NOTHING alike.  My girls are not much alike either, and their gender is only one part of what makes them unique and special.
There is so much about this story that is disgusting.  The fact that she paid $50,000 for this procedure.  That could have been used to send one of her boys to college.  Or to fund the adoption of a daughter. The fact that this is a for-profit venture in the first place. From an article in Slate:

“Just over a decade ago, some doctors saw the potential profits that could be made. . . They coined the phrase “family balancing” to make sex selection more palatable. They marketed their clinics by giving away free promotional DVDs and setting up slick websites.  These fertility doctors have turned a procedure originally designed to prevent genetic diseases into a luxury purchase akin to plastic surgery. Gender selection now rakes in revenues of at least $100 million every year. The average cost of a gender selection procedure at high-profile clinics is about $18,000, and an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 procedures are performed every year. Fertility doctors foresee an explosion in sex-selection procedures on the horizon, as couples become accustomed to the idea that they can pay to beget children of the gender they prefer.”
Then there is the immorality of the procedure itself.  What happened to all those little boy embryos, after all?  They were discarded.  Her own children, and she threw them away BECAUSE THEY WERE BOYS.  And where is all this headed?  Do you really believe that selecting for other desired qualities won’t be a thing in the future?  From the Slate article: “In 2009, [Dr.]Steinberg came under a worldwide media firestorm when he announced on his website that couples could also choose their baby’s eye and hair color, in addition to gender. He revoked the offer after receiving a letter from the Vatican.” Thank God for the Vatican, is all I can say.
Says the happy mother/satisfied client:  “It’s not about playing God, it’s about giving women reproductive freedom.”  Um, no.  It IS about playing God. And it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

Get Out There And VOTE!

vote here 2Tomorrow is Election Day!  If you are like most people you either 1) already voted early or 2) aren’t planning to vote at all.  Yes, that’s right, not even half of the people who are eligible bother to vote in midterm elections.
Not me, y’all.  I’ll be voting tomorrow, and, remembering fondly my own childhood, I’ll be bringing Lorelei along so that she can push the buttons.
Lorelei patriotic
I always feel a little excited on Election Day.  Midterm elections aren’t as exciting as Presidential elections, of course, but here in Tennessee we have some pretty important matters on the ballot.
Amendment One has certainly gotten the most press.  I’ll leave it to you to Google the exact wording if you are interested, but a yes vote on this amendment will give the legislature authority to enact laws restricting abortions and regulating clinics that perform them.  It’s been met by predictable hysteria from the pro-choice folks, many of whom have probably fallen for deceptive advertising, but I promise you this amendment will NOT ban abortions; it doesn’t overturn Roe v. Wade; and not even the most pro-life legislator is going to attempt to ban abortions in the case of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life.  I will be voting YES for this amendment.
Amendment Two has gotten a lot less attention, as it’s about judges, a topic that doesn’t tend to inflame the electorate.  I’m voting NO on this one, going on the recommendation of my husband, who is an attorney and knows more about this than I do. (For the record, John and I frequently come down on opposite sides of political questions, but if I haven’t had time to do my own research I will just ask him to tell me who I would want to vote for–not who HE is voting for, mind you, but who he thinks I would want to vote for based on my beliefs–and he tells me.)
Amendment Three wants to make it part of the constitution that there never be an income tax in Tennessee.  I find that silly.  I don’t particularly want to pay more taxes, but I’d be delighted to swap the sales tax on food for an income tax–I think we’d come out ahead.  Anyway, there’s no need to amend the constitution over it, so I vote NO.
Amendment Four has to do with lotteries.  I was and remain against the lottery, but we have it now and I doubt it’s ever going away.  This one is about whether to allow veteran’s groups to raise money in this way as other non-profits already can do.  That’s another YES.
We also get to vote on selling wine in the grocery store.  Who’s going to say no to that?
See below for more information and get out tomorrow and vote your beliefs–and if you stay home,  don’t complain after the fact!
[voterinfotool]

Thinking outside the Box: Ten Pro-Life Groups That May Surprise You

So I kind of went on a tear on Facebook the other day.   I flipped out just a little bit.  Here’s what I said:  “When certain people assume that “women” all believe the same things and support the same issues I get really, really irritated. It’s patronizing and ANTI-FEMINIST to act like all women think the same way and have the same opinions.”
What brought this on?  The sanctifying of the latest liberal media darling, Wendy Davis.  As Kirsten Powers stated, I don’t stand with Wendy Davis.  She does not speak for me, nor does she speak for a majority of women, and I am tired of reading articles that assert that women as a group embrace all of the same interests and convictions.
Kirsten Powers cites a recent National Journal poll in which 50% of women FAVORED a ban on abortions after 20 weeks.  According to Nate Silver, more women than men support such a ban!  Even 33% of Democrats support it–a sizable minority that Democratic leadership would do well to note.
Seventeen of my friends liked my Facebook status–several of them liberal women, I am pleased to report–indicating that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like being told what I think or what I should think.
I didn’t stop with the Facebook status, though.  Since clearly there is a lot of misinformation out there about who is against abortion (hint:  it’s not exclusively old white Republican men) I started posting information about surprising (that is, if you are close-minded and like to put people in boxes according to categories) groups that oppose abortion.  And I would like to share some of those groups with you.
1.  Feminists for Life:  “Women deserve better than abortion.
2.  Democrats for Life:  “We believe in the fundamental worth, dignity, and equality of all people.  We believe that the protection of human life is the foundation of human right  authentic freedom, and good government.
3.  National Black Pro-life Coalition:  “The National Black ProLife Coalition is a network of prolife and pro-family organizations committed to restoring a culture that celebrates Life and Family cultivating Hope in the black community.
4.  Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians:  “To challenge the notion of abortion as acceptable, to bear witness to the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Trangendered (GLBT) community that abortion rights and GLBT rights are not one and the same, and to work towards those alternatives that are life-affirming as well as pro-woman.
5.  Atheistic and Agnostic Pro-lifers:  “… because life is all there is and all that matters, and abortion destroys the life of an innocent human being.
6.  New Wave Feminists:  “New Wave Feminists are here to take feminism back from those who have corrupted it.  Sometime before we were born our womanhood was traded in for a handful of birth control pills, the “privilege” to pose for playboy, and the “right” to abort our children so we could work a desk job.  We embrace the early American feminism of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, which was righteous, virtuous, intelligent and moral.
7.  Secular Pro-life:  “If you are pro-life because abortion violates the Constitutional right to life, science shows that human life begins at conception, abortion hurts women, or for any other non-religious reason: make yourself at home! Here you will meet like-minded atheists, theists, and agnostics who are eager to save lives and fight the media portrayal of pro-lifers as “religious extremists.”
8.  Libertarians for Life:   “Libertarianism’s basic principle is that each of us has the obligation not to aggress against (violate the rights of) anyone else — for any reason (personal, social, or political), however worthy.  That is a clearly pro-life principle.  Recognizing that, and seeing the abortion-choice drift within the libertarian movement, Libertarians for Life was founded in 1976 to show why abortion is a wrong under justice,  not a right.”
9. Students for Life:  “Our mission:  abolish abortion in our lifetime.”
10.  Pro-life Pagans:  “If the Life of a single tree, flower, or frog, is to be respected then why not our own? If fertility is sacred and to be celebrated in 3 festivals a year then why would we commit the opposite of life and fertility?
I’ll stop with ten, because it’s a nice round number.  I’m sure I’d find more, if I looked.
UPDATE: I didn’t exactly look, but I’ve stumbled across a few more I’m going to add to the list.
11.  Pro-life Liberals:  “We support the right to life and quality of life both before and after birth.”
12.  The New Pro-Life Movement:  “The mission of the The New Pro-Life Movement (NPLM) is to reexamine what it means to be pro-life in the 21st century.”
13.  The Jewish Pro-Life Foundation: “We seek to save Jewish lives by promoting alternatives to abortion in the Jewish community.
If you are pro-choice, I hope you will stop and think the next time you assume that all women agree with you, or should agree with you just because of their gender.  If you are a conventionally conservative religious pro-lifer, I hope you will find some new allies in this list and realize that it’s just as bad for YOU to assume that no one could possibly be [fill in the blank] and be against abortion.
prolife kids

Not This Woman's Issue

If you’re on Facebook you can’t escape knowing that today’s the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  If you have a diverse group of Facebook friends like I do you’ll have seen a bewildering array of contradictory posts, some commemorating the day as a tragedy, others as a triumph.
Well, I’m assuming by now you know how I view this anniversary.  And I’m here to speak for the women, who, like me, don’t think the unlimited right to abortion is something to celebrate, and who are tired of hearing that “reproductive rights” is the number one women’s issue.
For want of a better way to describe myself, I’ll say I am a pro-life Democrat.  I’m intelligent and well-educated, not a religious fanatic or a “right wing nut-job.”  And I don’t call abortion a women’s issue–I call it a civil rights issue.  Which means that it should be of concern to EVERYONE, not just women.
It’s a constant source of amazement (and distress) to me that people who agree with me about almost EVERYTHING else–attachment parenting, gun control, social programs, all that “bleeding heart liberal” stuff–part ways when it comes to protecting the unborn, the most helpless and voiceless of all.
 

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Talking to Kids about Politics


I just saw a tweet from an online acquaintance who was upset because her little kindergartner came home with the news that her classmates had told her that “Obama kills babies.”
Now that is all kinds of wrong for all kinds of reasons.  Number one, it’s factually inaccurate and intellectually lazy:  Mr. Obama supports legal abortion; he does not kill anyone.  Number two, no five year old needs to know anything about abortion or baby-killing of ANY kind.  Let’s preserve their innocence as long as we can.
And then there is number three, the subject of this post:  no five-year-old came up with that language independently.  Someone they trusted and respected, most likely a parent, TOLD them that.  Which means that their parents have introduced inaccurate, inflammatory information into their innocent intellects in the interest of indoctrination.  And that’s not how I believe we need to be talking to kids about politics.
I don’t believe in indoctrinating children. (Some of you are probably laughing because you know I am raising my kids Catholic and certainly that implies indoctrination–but moral and religious indoctrination is another story and we can argue about that another time!)  What I like to do is to present kids with a variety of ideas, answer their questions, see what they come up with, and correct any misinformation.
So when the subject of the death penalty, or abortion, or any other controversial issue has come up, I’ve explained it to my kids in the most neutral way I can.  Then I wait for their reaction.  Most recently it has been William, age 11, learning about these things. “But that’s ridiculous,” he said of the death penalty. “That’s horrible.  That doesn’t make any sense.  You can’t DO that.”  Even when I agree with his reaction, I offer him some of the reasons that other people disagree.  I don’t want parrots.  I want thoughtful critical thinkers.
My kids are–at least I think they are–extraordinarily lucky to have been raised in a home where 1) the adults don’t always agree about politics, and 2) the adults love to discuss politics.  John majored in International Politics at Georgetown and is passionately interested and well-informed.  I love nothing more than analytical conversations and arguments.  But there has never been any danger that my kids are going to go off to school and parrot their parents’ opinions, because we don’t walk in lockstep here.  We encourage them to come up with and defend their own opinions.  And now that three of the kids are more or less grown up, they don’t always agree with either of us.  We’ve got one kid identifying as Republican (not a Romney fan, though) and two who lean Democrat (of the pro-life type) but refuse to identify with any party.
Then there are the little ones.  Several weeks ago William announced that he did not like Mitt Romney because “he doesn’t care about poor people.”  I assure you, he did not hear that around here.  We just don’t make over the top statements like that and we call our kids on them when they do make them, so that I told him I was sure Mr. Romney cared about poor people but that different candidates have different ideas about how to help them.  I felt it was only right for balance to tell him some of President Obama’s drawbacks as well.  William learned about abortion only a few months ago, even though he has been participating in Marches for Life since he sat in a stroller.  He’s an oblivious sort and I was happy not to have to explain it to him.  So when I told him that President Obama was pro-choice, he decided he could not support either candidate.

Out of uniform patriotic attire for voting day at school

Lorelei does not know what abortion is and I have no intention of telling her any time soon.  Seven is too young–too young, really, to understand most political issues.  But she did sit and watch part of the debates with us until she fell asleep, and she was excited to cast a vote today in the mock election at school–for President Obama.  “Why?” I asked her.  “I just like him,” she said.  “Well, that’s fine.  It’s your choice,” I told her.  She looked so dejected coming out of school today, where predictably Mr. Romney carried the day with over 80% of the vote.  She perked up, though, when she got to come help me vote after school.

I read an article earlier today suggesting that we shouldn’t share our political views with our children at all until they are old enough to understand them. I don’t agree.  I believe we can share in an age-appropriate way.  When Lorelei asked me how I decided on my vote, I was vague:  “There are things I don’t like about either candidate, that make me feel I cannot support either one.”  I remember many years ago a friend of mine commented that she was surprised that we talked about politics with our kids.  Politics are important.  If we don’t talk to our kids about them, if all we do is say things like: “We are Democrats in this house,” or “Obama kills babies,” we are raising people who do not know how to think for themselves.
Remember, the kids who parrot you now will grow up to parrot some idiot, if you haven’t taught them to think critically.  If it’s important for you for your kids to think like you do, then educate them.  Tell them WHY (if you know) you think the way you do.  For us, having kids who think like us isn’t the goal.  The goal is having kids who THINK.