Sunday, January 27, 2013

Choosing Life

What matters?

It’s been a very cold week in our part of Pennsylvania.

And in many ways a sad week.

I started the week off in an encouraging meeting with people deeply interested in food and farming. I was planning to write this week’s post about “loving the real world”: real food, real places, the real beauty and goodness of the world we've been given.

Then came the celebration of President Obama's inauguration, the genuine joy of so many who had felt shut out of the mainstream of American life. I listened to the hopeful reflections of aging freedom riders, interviewed in front of  the King memorial, so happy to have an African American president return for a second term. For them, the inauguration underscored the hard work of Martin Luther King and so many who walked beside him, and marked how far we've come, how far we have to go.

I’m not much into style, but it was fun to hear the raves about Michelle Obama and her lovely daughters, to celebrate a smart, strong, beautiful first lady whose confident poise gives hope to women unsure about their own opportunity or value.

Then the week took a sadder turn.

Reminders of unwanted babies: more than 54 million in the last forty years.

A statement by Rush Limbaugh, circulated with glee on one side, outrage on another:  “You know how to stop abortion? Require that each one occur with a gun.”

Thirty-seven hostages killed in Algeria.

Another school shooting, sad reminder of the deaths in Newtown.

The senseless murder of a promising young doctor, strangled then burned in her own suburban home. 

Endless discussion about guns: why we need them, who should have them. As if guns will be the solution. As if guns will somehow keep us safe.

What does it mean to choose life?

Twenty years ago I marched in the pro-life marches in DC, sometimes with my own small kids in tow.

In the years since then, I've spent time with many women who've wrestled with poverty, abusive relationships, a powerlessness so deep any choice seems beyond them.

And I've spent time with many who claim to be pro-life, yet speak with contempt of  poor, unmarried mothers, of women who've given birth to children in hard circumstances and struggle to raise those children with little help from any direction.

What does it mean to choose life in a culture where guns are easier to get than safe, affordable contraceptives?

In a culture where violence seems a reasonable solution, where appeal to guns is part of political discussion?

What does it mean to choose life in a culture where children, teens, adult men and women, find fun in games where the point of the game is death? Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Medal of Honor, Mortal Kombat, the list goes on – a 17  billion dollar industry in 2011, with many millions of Americans spending vast amounts of time wiping out opponents, blowing up anything in the way, moving toward ever more violent objectives.

What does it mean to choose life, cherish life, nurture life, celebrate life?

On a cold January day, I sit watching the birds at my feeders. I’m cheered today by a hermit thrush, flicking its rusty tail, hunting seeds in the stubble of my garden.

Pine siskins press in close at my finch feeder. A nuthatch savors suet near my window. White-throated sparrows scratch for seed in the frozen ground.

We are smart people – with power scarcely imagined by men and women just a century ago.

We can talk to friends on the other side of the world, see their faces as we talk.

We can rearrange genes: we can make pigs so fat they can’t walk. Wheat that kills any insect that tries to eat it.

We can terminate life in more ways than we can count: pills, injections, electric chairs, unmanned air craft, heat seeking missiles, viruses, bombs, drones. any kind of gun.

We can make imaginary deaths look so real the audience turns away in horror.

We can make real deaths so casual no one even cares.

I believe life matters. And I grieve.

I grieve the 54 million babies - tiny lives unwanted. Inconvenient. Terminated.

I grieve the millions who die each year from dirty water and preventable disease.

The millions who die from lack of food.

The deaths from war, from illicit trade in drugs, weapons, humans. 

The lives spent in fear: women in their homes, families in their border towns. Lives spent watching for the raised hand, the reckless gun, the hidden bomb, the sudden flash of light.

And yes, I grieve the billions of hours wasted imagining death. Celebrating death. Practicing death.

The billions and billions spent supporting death in all its forms.

What would it mean to choose life?

What would it mean to insist that imagining death is not entertaining? Not acceptable? Not part of a culture of life?

What would it mean to support women in hard choices, to make children a joy instead of a burden, to value people more than profit, to rethink the bottom line?

What would it mean to imagine a world where every child has a safe home, clean water, healthy food, adequate schools, the hope of productive work somewhere out ahead?

Some days that seems almost possible.

Some days, the best I can do is feed the birds, hug those near me who need a hug, and pray.

Some days, even prayer seems out of reach.

This is the fourth of a series for the new year: "What Matters"
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