Archive | August, 2008

Anti-Abortion? Support The Family.

27 Aug

In light of the comments I’ve had on yesterday’s post about John Edwards, I spent a few minutes reading up on what the Bible, and especially Jesus, had to say about forgiveness. 

As I mulled over the contradiction between Jesus’ emphatic assertion that we must indeed forgive each other if we are to be forgiven, and the reluctance of at least one of his contemporary followers to do so, I went on to read an article about evangelicals at the Democratic convention and their continued  attempts to outlaw abortion in America.  Somewhere in the midst of these thoughts I had an epiphany. 

If the goal is truly to reduce the number of abortions in this country, then you need to support the family.  As simple and as bipartisan as that.

The catch, though, is that you have to be willing to continue down a similarly pragmatic road.  Prohibition does not stop abortion.  It doesn’t stop anything.  It simply makes it more dangerous for the mother.  “Abstinence Only” programs work about as well.  The allure of such options is that they are both simple and relatively cheap and lend one the warm glow of righteousness.  It is very easy to just say no.  But it doesn’t work.

If you want to reduce the number of abortions in this country, and not just legislate your morality onto others, it’s going to cost you.  You need put your money where your mouth is and begin to create a society in which families can thrive, a society in which universal health care, affordable housing, childcare, parental leave, education, and a liveable wage are all givens, and where hunger, poverty and the draconian drug laws which continue to needlessly tear families apart are all remnants of an earlier, more primitive time.  And if that means reducing both our military presence around the world and our military budget to a reasonable level, so be it.

I know these aren’t new ideas, but they bear repeating. 

Abortion is a tough, and, I believe, absolutely personal issue.  It’s not something I could do, but I have neither the desire, nor the right, to make that decision for others.  I think we can all agree, however, that the sanctity of life does not vanish at birth.  If you value life in the womb, you need to nurture it in the world. 

Anything else is hypocrisy.


A Good Man Fallen

26 Aug

According to Newsday, John Edwards is calling his supporters, begging their forgiveness, and is, almost universally, being shunned. 

These are people who claimed to love him.  People, certainly, who trusted him enough to invest their hopes and dreams for themselves, their families, and the future of our country in his presidential run.  And they did this because in a society where our leaders revel in their privilege and smugly talk for only the wealthiest and most powerful, he spoke for the vast majority who struggle every day for life’s necessities:  food, water, housing, health care and education.  While the media all but ignored him, he told us these things were our rights, not merely a privilege for the few.  And he was right.  But now, as his life implodes around what is, admittedly, a massive and grievous personal failure, these same people refuse to return his calls.  Where’s the forgiveness?  And who are we to judge?

 I think we’re fighting three different battles here.

First of all, everyone wants to be superior.  Hell, from as early as I can remember I wanted to be a prodigy, a childhood genius whose superiority would be acknowledged and applauded the world over.  I’m forty five years old and still waiting.  But at some point along the way, thank God, I figured out that pulling myself up by dragging others down is the cheapest, most soul destroying way to go.  However, the impulse is always there, and it’s very easy to give in to.

Second, It appears that in politics, as in any other highly competitive arena, friendships are transient and sincerity is thin on the ground.  Friendships exist as long as they are profitable.  When this ceases to be the case the friendship ends and one is completely free to trash the former friend to the media.  This behavior is known as “covering one’s ass” and it reveals a complete lack of integrity.  If hell is other people, this is a big reason.

Finally, and this is a tough one, to forgive is not to condone.  I don’t condone what John Edwards has done to his wife and family.  How could I.  I am sure the pain he has caused is enormous.  I doubt he can ever make it right.  But he didn’t do it to me, and I am in no position to judge.  None of us are.  I am, however, in a position to forgive, for whatever that’s worth. 

I don’t know John Edwards, but unlike Elliot Spitzer, who was always kind of repugnant, or any other adulterous politician you’d care to name (up to and including John McCain), I liked this guy.  I didn’t think he was the second coming, nobody is.  But I liked him and his family and what they tried to do and I grieve for the pain they will all live with for the rest of their lives.  And because I’m human, because I make mistakes, and because every day is a moral tightrope I attempt to cross with as much grace as possible,  I grieve for a good man fallen.  Judgement has no value here.  Forgiveness does.  For those of you who are Christians, it’s Jesus 101.  For those of you who aren’t, it’s common sense.

Mercy.  It’s about swallowing your pride and putting others first, as is almost everything of any importance in this world.


Let’s Get Lost

25 Aug

I’m a city dweller, and a walker, and I love to be lost.  The best place to do this is of course London, where the street system is in fact the paved record of footpath upon footpath worn across an ancient settlement over more than a thousand years of human habitation, and as a result is now almost impossible to navigate for more than a few feet without losing all sense of direction.  Also there are pubs.

In New York, by contrast, it is a hard get lost.  Stranded maybe.  A little turned around.  But rarely lost.  Oh sure, it can be done, especially in the vast outer boroughs.  But I’m talking about Manhattan.  There’s a grid system.  Numbered streets and avenues.  Rivers on two sides.  Anyone who’s mastered simple addition and subtraction can figure this town out in seconds.  It ceases to be a navigational challenge at about the age of six. 

Which leaves one, in the biggest city in the world, almost always knowing where you are.  The delicious joy of locating yourself in the world becomes a rare treat, because you are always deeply, mathematically, found.  And on top that you can always see where you’re going.  Instead of streets looping around in the whimsical manner of a drunken 13th century shepherd, they fly straight to the horizon as if created by a machine, which for all practical purposes they were.  Surprises are few, and boredom sets in. 

Which leads to my favorite coping mechanism, the ever changing route.  Go a different way, see things from a different angle and gain a new perspective on the  world.   This is good in theory and works for a while, especially in New York where blocks tend to be so densely packed that they become their own micro-neighborhoods and straying a very small distance from a habitual route can open up an entirely new world. But it can also lead to an insanity all it’s own.  

For ten years I lived in Chicago and rode my bike everywhere.   Covering far greater distances on bike than I ever could on foot, by the seventh year alternate routes had become exhausted and boredom began to seep in.  Struggling to maintain the adrenaline rush of urban discovery I traveled further and further from what is traditionally known as a direct route. By the ninth and tenth year the problem had become extreme. My 20 minute rides to the loop were now taking upwards of four hours and encompassing many of the surrounding suburbs as well as sections of northwestern Indiana.  In an attempt to deal with the problem I moved from macro to micro-exploration, traveling in a manner so direct that I frequently rode my bike through alleys, yards and in one embarassing incident, a stranger’s living room.  Finally, on an icy  winter day in Uptown I actually slid beneath a bus, where I made the very urban discovery of darkness, motor oil and extreme fear.  As a result I gave up the bike and moved to New York City in an attempt to start again.  And yet the desire remains.  I want to be lost.

So here’s the plan.  This weekend I will go somewhere I’ve never been, close my eyes, spin around three times and begin walking.  If I’m lucky I’ll find a pub.  And if I’m very lucky I’ll find myself.


‘Next Round’s On Me

20 Aug

I love English pubs.  There are few places I’d rather be.  In a really good pub, where television, video games and loud music have been banned, you will find that rare and wonderful combination of solitude and companionship; a place where people can talk.  Such a simple thing, I know, but quietly joyous when found.  On those rare occasions when I find myself in such a pub, I tend to order a pint or two of extra special bitter, a strong English ale whose gentle carbonation and fine hoppy flavor seems to lift me out of time only to gently drop me smack in the middle of the moment.

I am almost always in need of such a drink.

Having started Playing In The City With Trains a little over a month ago, I’m surprised to find that I need another blog. 

Growing out of the birth of my daughter Hallie and the discovery of her Down’s Syndrome, Playing In The City With Trains has quickly become a wonderfully cathartic meditation on family, friends and life in New York City.  But having taken on a personality of it’s own, I feel a little constrained about using the space to write about anything contentious, cranky or the least bit rude… anything, in short, that might offend someone.  Such topics are, however, the bread and butter of a good pub conversation.  So, on this page I thought I might create my own little pub where things are a little looser and the talk a little more free.

Come on in.  It’s early afternoon and the sun is slanting through the window.  Things are quiet, the barman (a big blustery man of a certain age) is both funny and attentive and the company is very good.  Pull up a chair, the next rounds on me.  If you haven’t tried it, may I suggest a pint of extra special bitter?  It’s delicious.