Sunday, May 17, 2009

Poll Smokers

Let's consider yet another instance of heat without light, a perennial political football being tossed in the middle yet again, for no particular reason.

A Gallup Poll released Friday found that 51 percent of Americans now call themselves pro-life rather than pro-choice on the issue of abortion, the first time a majority gave that answer in the 15 years that Gallup has asked the question.

Yes, and? Who gives a shit, really? Is there some urgency behind the timing of this poll that Gallup graciously "released" from its confinement? It might make more sense to do the poll during the final week of January, that magical time when vanloads of true believers convene in Warshinton to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and waste everyone's time once again.

I could deconstruct that introductory sentence all day, from the lack of compelling importance this issue should have, considering all the more serious challenges the country and the world face right now, to the notion that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" should be mutually exclusive, to the fact that in the context of this stupid-ass poll, neither position is terribly well-defined.

I assume most sensible, reasonable people abhor abortion, yet realize that forcing women to have children they do not want is not the solution to the issue. Finding ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies in the first place, starting with economic empowerment of women, might be a better tack to take. Starting with the premise that it is possible to create conditions where the number of abortions can be substantially reduced is far more constructive, but also more difficult than standing around with signs and slogans.

The "pro-life" side are very proud of themselves for their virtue, yet seem unable to answer the simplest questions when it comes to the nuts and bolts of criminalizing abortion. Whom do they want to throw in jail for this -- the doctor or the woman? Perhaps both? And for how long -- after all, if abortion is tantamount to murder, are we then going to prosecute these doctors and/or women for murder, manslaughter, child abuse, what? Shit or git, folks, because once we get past questions of morality, this is what they're insisting on. And if their idea of justice is throwing an abused wife in prison for a few years or a few decades because she didn't want to bring another victim into the world, then they're as insane as the apocryphal women whom they seem to think just run out and get abortions for the fun of it.

But these ridiculous periodic polls enable and perpetuate the meaningless of the conversation. An actual conversation on the issue would be welcome; instead you have one side screaming at the other, almost ritualistically, as if the mere act of hollering were meant to replace answering any of the more difficult questions surrounding the very real changes in public policy they wish to effect. They don't seem to get that part of the debate; they apparently think that just showing up to this or that rally and venting their disapproval is sufficient.

The interesting trap in the abortion debate is that the pro-life stance is commonly perceived among the "pro-choice" side as the systematic oppression of womyn by the patriarchy. Certainly the pro-life/pro-choice spread is higher among men, but the fact is that it's just about an even split among women (actually 49-44 pro-life), which means that we couldn't do it without you ladies.

There is a clear analog to this syndrome in economic debates; frequently the most strident, vocal free-market/anti-tax/anti-government protesters are the people who benefit the most from gov't intervention. This is true even at the operational state level, as we saw with La Palin last campaign season, a person who presides over the biggest welfare state in the country, a state whose inhabitants have so thoroughly deluded themselves with visions of rugged individualism and self-sufficiency there's just no talking them out of their tree.

In the political world, victims and beneficiaries can make for the most surprising converts, vigorously lobbying and voting against themselves, with the helpful folks at Gallup stoking their irrational passions.

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