Saturday, May 30, 2015

Down Memory Lane 4 - Respecting Differences

A few years ago, I was flying from Dallas Fort-Worth to Denver.  On many such flights, people sitting inches from each other remain silent and just endure the crowded discomfort.  But, sometimes, you strike up a conversation with the person next to you - and it makes a lasting impression.  This was one such case.

I am not sure how the conversation got started.  Perhaps I was reading a children's book - something I do quite often.  At any rate, the younger woman sitting next to me and I got to talking.  She was a teacher; I had been a teacher and was currently a substitute teacher.  So we were discussing teaching and schools and school systems.  She was a devout Christian and taught in a private religious school; I am non-religious and have taught in private, public, and charter schools.  She was conservative politically; I am liberal-progressive.  In such situations, many topics are usually taboo.  We are, after all, in a situation where we will be together only briefly; why risk anger and accusations.  But we did anyway.  She was curious as to how people like me could support things like abortion.  She was interested in my reasons and actually respectful of them, even while disagreeing.  It turns out that she had gotten pregnant before marriage and had kept the baby (who had significant handicaps).  She couldn't imagine her life without him and couldn't imagine why anyone would get an abortion.  She believed in personhood beginning at conception.

My take on it is somewhat different from many liberal-progressives.  Yes, I believe that a woman should have control over her own body and her own health, which can be significantly impaired by pregnancy and childbirth.  But I also come at my views from an ecological perspective.  I believe that the current human population of the earth is well past the carrying capacity of our ecosystems.  We have altered the sustainability of many of those systems drastically, some beyond their capacity to recover.  [See articles about the Sixth Extinction, which some scientists believe is imminent.]  I think it is vital to our survival on earth that we do anything and everything we can to limit the population of humans on earth.

In addition, I believe that everyone should have the chance to live a life free from the devastating effects of hunger, lack of housing, lack of education, and lack of safety.  To live a life in such a manner requires a significant use of natural resources.  In other words, I would like to see it possible for anyone who works at it to live a life that was at least comfortably lower middle class, according to an American-style perspective.  With the world's current population, that level of consumption would exacerbate the current ecological problems.

One thing that I thought of later, that I have now added to my reasoning is that yes, she can't imagine life without her son.  But what about life without all of the other babies that she and her husband didn't have?  Most likely, since she and her husband had two children after they got married, they could have had more.  Do they miss the ones that they didn't have, due to birth control?  Do they miss the ones that she might have miscarried without even knowing it?  These potential children might have changed her life.  Does she miss them?  The answer is probably no.  Most women don't regret each and every menstrual cycle as a missed baby.

At any rate, it was a very respectful and interesting conversation.  I doubt if either of us changed our views much.  But it was encouraging to me to be able to have such a conversation.  I sometimes fear I am too opinionated to hear others out, but I think, in this case, both of us felt that we had been heard. So, I say, thank you to that anonymous woman.  Thank you for embodying the ability to disagree respectfully.

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