Tuesday, February 3, 2009

There and Back, Part 2: Culture Wars

When Barack Obama made his infamous gaffe on the campaign trail about people in depressed small towns clinging to religion out of "bitterness," I'm sure many in my old circle nodded their heads emphatically. I have neither the means nor the desire to judge Obama's own religious commitment, but his clear subtext was that these bitter folk cling not to religion generically, but to Christianity specifically (we may as well admit that the notion of the small-town Buddhist or Jew clinging to his faith out of bitterness just doesn't make sense to us culturally). In his comment, Obama further conflated this clinging to religion with an apparently similar clinging to guns, as well as to "antipathy to people who aren’t like [the ones who cling] or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

I was raised in an ultra-progressive Catholic home, if that's not an oxymoron, and in my life I have known many who grew up in similar circumstances. In our minds, there were species and degrees of religious belief, and our Christianity and that of the bitter, clinging small-towners couldn't have been more un-alike.

In another statement that caused a great deal of consternation on the right, Barack Obama declared that, if one of his daughters became pregnant outside of marriage, he wouldn't want to see her "punished with a baby." That sentiment was nothing new to me, having grown up hearing that the ultimate goal of the Christian right was to punish women for their sexuality by forcing them to face up to its consequences by bearing unwanted children, clearly an outrageous injustice. When I was married the first time, my father disapproved. As he told me, he was afraid I was going to have children and ruin my life. Little did he know that my first husband and I had aborted our only child a year earlier, an event upon which our entire relationship was essentially predicated.

This really is how liberal intellectuals tend to construe it: the right to free sexuality should be an unbridled one. As for the consequences, they can be taken care of, and any threat to the taking care of them is something to be fought against. For all the lip service paid to the interest of the community, liberal ideology, on this point at least, is anticommunitarianism in its essence. It is individualism taken to its most extreme expression, to the point that it makes enemies of a mother and her child.

And yes, liberal believers do look down on conservative believers as anti-intellectuals who parse everything in black and white for fear of the wonderful shades of gray that they, the liberal believers, are brave enough to discern and embrace.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the reason I agreed to that abortion is that I wanted him to love me. Where, I wonder, is the freedom in that?


Mrs. T said...

Yes, yes, yes. And yes.

Janet said...

That really was wonderful. That last part reminds me of Dorothy Day.

AMDG, Janet

Janet said...

So paradoxical that this is touted as the woman's freedom.


Pentimento said...

Thanks, Janet. Though I don't deserve the comparison, I love Dorothy Day and pray for her beatification.

It is paradoxical, when in fact usually the woman is left with nothing in the end, including assurances of love. I know that Lionel Moisé, the father of the child that Doroth Day aborted, promised to stick around but didn't.

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

It is almost unheard of, that a romantic relationship survives long after an abortion. In such cases, one is prudent to keep an eye out for the descent into violence.

Pentimento said...

I've heard this statistic, Arkanabar, but in my former circle there were several couples who had married after abortion and seemed to be having a go at it. It's likely, however, that the success of these marriages was contingent upon burying the past, which is not usually a good plan.