I‘ve been checking in on the new chicks every day. Almost overnight they’ve gone from being tiny red worms, indistinguishable from each other, to gray, fluffy birds. They were still dark red when I took the photo above and if I made a clicking sound, they’d open their beaks wide for food. They don’t do that anymore; they’ve learned that that sound does not come from a parent delivering luscious, juicy worms. They’ve figured out that this Uber, at least, isn’t bringing anything of much value to their survival.
On Friday morning the decision overturning Roe vs. Wade came down, taking away American women’s federal right to choose whether to carry a baby to term or whether to abort the pregnancy. I’ve been sitting with that decision all through the weekend.
I first saw the news through emails that started coming in, and even before I opened up the online edition of The New York Times I got into a defensive posture. Not defensive from the decision—this had been anticipated for a while—but from the frenzy I was sure would follow.
I was not disappointed. The media competed with headlines about how this was the end of all women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, all civil rights, in fact this was the end of the world as we knew it: THE FINAL DAYS OF ABORTION CLINICS; THE END OF LEGITIMACY FOR THE SUPREME COURT (as if the Dred Scott case in 1858, which said that Congress didn’t have the right to outlaw slavery, hadn’t done that already), SEEKING AN ABORTION? AVOID LEAVING A DIGITAL TRAIL, CONSERVATIVES ON THE MARCH, WHO GETS RIGHTS IN AMERICA, SUPREME COURT ROLLS BACK A RIGHT AND INFLAMES DIVIDED COUNTRY, WHAT RIGHTS ARE ENDANGERED NEXT?, GASOLINE ON OUR CULTURE WAR FIRES, A DANGEROUS NEW ERA, etc.
They did such a good job that my own blood pressure shot up. After all, I was glad of the decision on Roe vs. Wade. Why? Because I’m a liberal or a woman? Heck no. Because it gave us a choice. Regardless of what decision I might make, I had a choice.
I tried to stay serene (I’m a Zen practitioner, after all), but then heard the the phone bing: Text message from Nancy Pelosi! Eagerly I scrolled through it, wanting to hear what the venerable Speaker of the House had to say. She wrote that she was launching an emergency petition to protect reproductive rights. “Will you sign your name next to mine?”
“You betcha, Nancy,” I muttered, “just show me where.” I hit the link, only to find the following questions:
“Are you disgusted with Republicans [like Mitch McConnell] who packed the Court with three of Trump’s radical justices in order to make this happen?” I was supposed to check “Yes, I’m absolutely furious.” Trouble was, I wasn’t absolutely furious.
“Do you agree the only—ONLY—ways to get justice is to OUST every last anti-choice Republican who made this happen?” Not really, I thought. Not at all sure that’s the only way to get justice done, aside from the fact that there are Democrats who are also anti-choice.
By the time I finished reading the whole thing I thought of the chicks up the hill opening their mouths wide open at the slightest sound. They reminded me of a rage machine. Click at it, knock on the mailbox, make the slightest noise, and it opens its maw wide, wide: More! More! More! More anger! More rage! More contempt! More humiliation! More!
Roe v. Wade came down almost half a century ago. I cheered it. As for those who didn’t, as for those who felt that aborting a fetus was killing life, I did what many like me did: I ignored them. Too bad on you. If you’re lucky, then one day you ignorant, uneducated—and now fill in the blanks—men, Republicans, unliberated women, Southern Baptists, etc.—will get with the program and see how wrong you were.
Religious exemptions? No way, Jose.
Not wishing to pay taxes that support Medicaid financing of abortions? Don’t you know, poor women deserve equal access to abortions, and if that’s on your dollar, too damn bad.
A few years after Roe v. Wade I started feeling more ambivalence, which made me support Roe v. Wade even more because I understood it stood for choice, not necessarily for abortions per se. That’s when I started paying attention to the surrounding vitriol and rage, the insensitivity to people who felt differently, the grabby banners and headlines that made out of a deeply personal question a venue for deafness and even contempt.
How many of us tried to talk about this with others who didn’t see eye-to-eye? How many of us stretched out our arms and said: “Yes, we hear that this hurts you, that this goes against some very basic values you have about how life begins. Let’s talk. Not because we’ll convince you or you’ll convince us, but because one heart beats in all of us.”
We didn’t do that then, and I don’t get from Nancy and others that we’re invited to do that now. Only now the picture is reversed. The other side is reveling in its rightness and righteousness, the other side assumes that history ends with this decision, now. And what do we do? We react, vowing vengeance, and the hate machine opens wide, showing teeth: More! More! More!
A blog reader, responding to my previous post about the new birds, sent me this poem by Mary Oliver:
This morning the redbird’s eggs
have hatched and already the chicks
are chirping for food. They don’t
know where it’s coming from, they
just keep shouting, “More! More!”
As to anything else, they haven’t
had a single thought. Their eyes
haven’t yet opened, they know nothing
about the sky that’s waiting. Or
the thousands, the millions of trees.
They don’t even know they have wings.
Oliver called this a miracle, but ironically enough, I felt she was describing our hate machine. When the machine gets going, it doesn’t pay attention to who or what gets destroyed, to who is labeled how. It just shouts “More! More!” And if we think that by ousting evil Republicans or creating havoc on the front yards of homes of monstrous Supreme Court justices we’ll have an effect, we’re probably right, only what effect that is I fear to ask.
The people so many of us looked down on did the almost-impossible. They managed to overturn a decision that’s almost 50 years old. A lot is attributed to Trump, but they organized well before Trump. They started winning local offices, they kept the question alive year after year. Again and again the Court rejected their petitions, and they didn’t give up.
Now imagine that we do the same thing, we also don’t give up. Only we don’t just put Roe vs. Wade at stake (now Dobbs v. Jackson), we put the entire country at stake. We put the world at stake. And the first thing we do is shut down those indiscriminatory beaks, the cavernous mouth that yells for rage and sacrifice, both human and nonhuman. That tells us to loathe and despise, that tells us to punch each other in the face and even hang or shoot each other. That machine isn’t just out there, it’s in here, I was ready to sign anything Nancy Pelosi sent me. But I didn’t.
Is this elite up to doing what those ignorant religious fanatics managed to do across generations? Is it ready to take on the long run?
Is it ready to say: We have to take care of ourselves, we have to take care of each other, and this will take a long time but it’s a struggle worth meeting? When I feel myself giving in to hate I’ll stop what I’m doing, sit and breathe, go for a walk. When I see elected leaders and media turning on the heat, outdoing each other with more lurid accusations and talking points, I will take a step back and reflect, discern who and what this serves over time. And finally, if this is a time to take a stand, maybe the stand I take is on behalf of all of us, not just some?
In last week’s talk on the Zen Peacemakers platform by Fr. Greg Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries, he defined oneness very simply: “Being One means we belong to each other.” He also said: “Live the truth as if it’s true.” If you agree that you and I are everything and everyone, then live it as if it’s true. Don’t condition that on what the other side says or does, simply live as though it’s true.
The young birds no longer open the beaks wide indiscriminately, they’ve learned what the truth is. I’m with them, not opening up my beak for hate, either. Been there, done that, enough already—and what’s more, it didn’t help. Roe v. Wade was overturned, so much for what we once did. We want the return of personal choice? Let’s act on behalf of all life. All.
You can also send a check to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line whether this is in support or immigrant families or of my blog. Thank you.