thefourthvine: Art from Forsaken, with the text "I know politics bore you." (Politicis)
Keep Hoping Machine Running ([personal profile] thefourthvine) wrote2012-11-15 10:06 am

[Rant] Politics Without Should

(TW: abortion and the politics thereof.)

(Additional warning: serious business.)

Recently, I tweeted this:

"If you’re pro-life, you’d better also be pro-welfare. If you vote pro-life but against welfare, you’re actually pro-child-misery."

I assume this requires no explanation, but here's a brief one. Women know when they shouldn't have a baby. Many of them, when that is true, seek abortion. If your vote prevents them from getting it, you've forced a child to be born in a bad situation - just to name two examples, that child is at much higher risk of poverty and at much greater risk of living in a household affected by domestic violence. (Yes, you've also inflicted a great deal of harm on the woman herself, but if you're pro-life, you're okay with that. So we're focusing on the child, here. The person you claim you want to protect.) Welfare is one of the means we use to protect children in bad situations. If you simultaneously vote to stop abortion and to cut welfare (and, I might add, other government services), then what you're really saying is, "I'm absolutely in favor of children suffering. I'm entirely willing to increase the number of children in harm's way in this country, and I'm also entirely willing to make sure there's no help for them. Because that's easier and better for me."

In short: congratulations, you're a fucking asshole.

So tweeting this was interesting. I got a lot of FUCK YEAH type replies. I also got some replies from righties. And my discussions with them all fell apart at the same place.

"But the woman should take responsibility!"

"The woman should work to support her kid!"

"The man should stay and help raise his child!"

Yup. Every conversation fell apart as soon as the righty used the word "should."

Here is a true fact: fuck should. Should has no place in policy. We make laws about what is actually happening, not what would happen in an ideal universe, because, newsflash: we don't live in an ideal universe.

So I would point out that hey, this isn't how the world actually works. In reality, men leave. In reality, women can't simultaneously support their kids and pay for childcare on a minimum-wage income. In reality, a woman forced to have a child is in a bad situation, and it is likely to get worse, and if we have a law that put her in that place, that's on all of us. (And in case you think I'm just talking about abortion, and if we just allow abortion we can cut the safety net no problem: until we fix education, racism, abuse, addiction, and poverty, among other major issues, we've still got to step in. Because we owe it to our fellow humans not to let them suffer needlessly when we can help. The end.)

And the social conservative would either step out of the conversation entirely, or go into a sort of a critical error of the brain, except the blue screen of death in this case was just the repetition of the words "personal responsibility" and "should."

Social conservatives appear to think that if they just make laws that perfectly reflect their ideal universe, that universe will somehow be willed into being.

This hasn't worked yet. It's never going to work. It's fucking stupid. And these conservatives actually already know that. (Proof: most of these people are Christians, and Christians are supposed to be into peace and against killing, and yet I never once heard any of them argue that we should abolish the military.) They're just using their talisman words, "should" and "responsibility," to avoid confronting the fact that they, themselves, are personally responsible for the suffering of children.

So this has resulted in the formation of my new rule of political discourse: If you can't phrase your political argument without the word "should," you can't participate in the discussion at all. Seriously. Go away. You're done with politics; you need to take up model airplane building or knitting or something. (Tell the plane that the parts SHOULD be easy to put together! Tell the wool that it SHOULD NOT tangle!)

It's time for people who make some attempt to see reality to design policy.
dine: (awesome - odditycollector)


[personal profile] dine 2012-11-15 06:20 pm (UTC)(link)
beautifully and eloquently said. you win ALL the kudos today
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[personal profile] libitina 2012-11-15 06:25 pm (UTC)(link)
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[personal profile] weaverbird 2012-11-15 06:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you!
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[personal profile] kitewithfish 2012-11-15 09:01 pm (UTC)(link)
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[personal profile] sinensis 2012-11-15 06:49 pm (UTC)(link)

My corollary to this, in respect to the pro-choice debate, is that I never want to hear another man's opinion on this subject again as long as I live. If you're a guy, you DON'T GET A SAY. I know that statement is not completely fair or rational, but for me it is the inevitable result of years of women being way under-represented in a media-driven debate on an issue that could not be more about them and their lives and health.
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[personal profile] aris_tgd 2012-11-15 06:54 pm (UTC)(link)
I'd only qualify this to "If you've never had a uterus, you don't get a say," but yes, I'm sick of old white (cis)men telling me what's moral to do with my body.

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[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2012-11-15 07:05 pm (UTC)(link)
There's a very common-- I don't know what to call it. Logical fallacy? A common tendency, anyway, to mistake a problem's remedy for its cause. And conservatives do this all the time.

Divorce? Not actually terrible and tragic! Bad marriages are terrible and tragic, and it would be great to have fewer of them, but in the meantime it is wonderful that people have a way out.

Welfare? Not terrible! Chronic, systemic unemployment is terrible. Et bloody cetera, as though taking away an imperfect solution will magically make the problem disappear.

I don't understand it. If you believe people ought to behave in a certain way, shouldn't you support measures that help them do that?
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[personal profile] etben 2012-11-15 09:55 pm (UTC)(link)
THIS THIS THIS. This whole argument was responsible for a good 40%* of my rage during the most recent US election cycle. Yes, there are a fuckload of people on welfare, on food stamps, on various other forms of government assistance—and that's a good thing, because if we booted those people off of those programs, they would not be able to afford to live. If you want fewer people on government assistance, try dealing with the problems that put them there (a shitty job market, horrific unemployment, irresponsible lending practices, institutional discrimination against women and people of color)!

(The other 60% came from everything Mitt Romney had to say about women, people of color, and LGBTQ rights, because OH MY GOD STOP TALKING.)

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[personal profile] klia 2012-11-15 07:18 pm (UTC)(link)
Proof: most of these people are Christians, and Christians are supposed to be into peace and against killing, and yet I never once heard any of them argue that we should abolish the military.

Yeah, they oh-so-conveniently ignore all of those pesky things they don't agree with. Like, you know, the crux of Jesus' teachings -- showing others love and compassion, treating them the way you'd want to be treated, not judging them, and helping the poor, the despised, and the outcasts.

Have you read this?

The paragraph that really stuck with me:

The reality is that so-called pro-life movement is not about saving babies. It’s about regulating sex. That’s why they oppose birth control. That’s why they want to ban abortion even though doing so will simply drive women to have dangerous back alley abortions. That’s why they want to penalize women who take public assistance and then dare to have sex, leaving an exemption for those who become pregnant from rape. It’s not about babies. If it were about babies, they would be making access to birth control widespread and free and creating a comprehensive social safety net so that no woman finds herself with a pregnancy she can’t afford. They would be raising money for research on why half of all zygotes fail to implant and working to prevent miscarriages. It’s not about babies. It’s about controlling women. It’s about making sure they have consequences for having unapproved sex.
kitewithfish: Evil smile (Default)

[personal profile] kitewithfish 2012-11-15 09:01 pm (UTC)(link)
seconding that article- awesome writing and an important POV

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[personal profile] cleo 2012-11-15 07:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Just chiming in with the "fuck yeah!" crowd here. Seriously, FUCK YEAH!

If you can't phrase your political argument without the word "should," you can't participate in the discussion at all. Seriously. Go away.

I support this rule.
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[personal profile] azurelunatic 2012-11-15 07:38 pm (UTC)(link)
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[personal profile] norah 2012-11-15 08:51 pm (UTC)(link)
LOL, that's why the left has started to refer to itself as "the reality-based community." Because you hit the nail on the head, there. I support your new rule!
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[personal profile] vass 2012-11-16 02:33 am (UTC)(link)
Didn't that actually start with someone on the right? Who said that the left are in the reality-based community, and the right 'creates its own reality', which he took to be a GOOD thing?
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[personal profile] gumbie_cat 2012-11-15 09:18 pm (UTC)(link)
This is why as soon as I came across the phrase I started referring to these people exclusively as "pro-birth" rather than "pro-life", 'cos let's face it: that's all they care about. They don't give a damn about women, and the second they're born they stop pretending to give a damn about the kids either.
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[personal profile] zana16 2012-11-15 09:35 pm (UTC)(link)
Completely in agreement. Minor quibble: Quakers are Christians who regularly argue that we should abolish the military. No one listens, but we keep saying it. Granted, there aren't very many of us, and not all of us believe in abolishing the military.

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[personal profile] laurashapiro 2012-11-15 09:52 pm (UTC)(link)
You, as ever, are awesome.

[personal profile] annaalamode 2012-11-15 10:02 pm (UTC)(link)
See, I have this thought about how just because you believe your religion leads you to a conclusion doesn't mean that conclusion should be public policy in a secular society. Without getting too personal, I believe that God creates life and ends life and it is not something people should meddle in (I'm also vegetarian and anti-death penalty, so yeah) but I also believe that my Christianity is not a justification for legislation in a secular society.
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[personal profile] amberfox 2012-11-16 10:44 am (UTC)(link)
It is my position that pretty much all of medicine, and most of civilization in general, exists solely as an attempt to meddle with the way God has made the world, but I see what you're saying. =)

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[personal profile] missmollyetc 2012-11-15 10:07 pm (UTC)(link)
This rule makes sense to me. ::grins::

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[personal profile] qian 2012-11-15 10:20 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm definitely in the FUCK YEAH! camp here. Thanks for putting this so clearly.

And the social conservative would either step out of the conversation entirely, or go into a sort of a critical error of the brain, except the blue screen of death in this case was just the repetition of the words "personal responsibility" and "should."

:/ In my experience the social conservatives I know go to a much more unpleasant place, which is: if people don't behave as I think they should and take "responsibility" and do or not do all the things I think they should do or not do -- then they deserve to suffer. It serves them right.

(Oddly enough this doesn't apply to them or their loved ones. When they fuck up, an exception should be made! But you can't bring in laws that would help everyone who fucked up. Mercy or kindness can't be given to just anyone -- that would be a terrible breach of their principles!)
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[personal profile] majoline 2012-11-18 02:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Oddly enough this doesn't apply to them or their loved ones. When they fuck up, an exception should be made! But you can't bring in laws that would help everyone who fucked up. Mercy or kindness can't be given to just anyone -- that would be a terrible breach of their principles!

I keep noticing this and trying to point it out to them - I swear I will wear them down with the shame of it all and if nothing else, the big name social conservatives that I know might just stop doing it because they'll get tired of me nagging. *crosses fingers* It's not much but, by the gods, it's something I can do.
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[personal profile] kouredios 2012-11-15 11:52 pm (UTC)(link)

My own theory about this might have more to do with my observation of my own mother, but I see it pretty consistently across the "should" set: They don't ACTUALLY care about results. It's not about making sure there are fewer abortions, or fewer children in misery, etc. It's that they believe the government basically shouldn't be giving people permission to have abortions. It's more important, in this view, to be seen as not condoning something than it is to actually reduce it in the real world. They know that banning abortions won't actually stop them from happening, but at least now they won't be legal, and so people will know they're not allowed by some official authority. Authority is key in this worldview.

It's the same argument both my mom and the conservative groups on campus made to me when I was heading up our Peer Health group in college. Giving out free condoms = permission for college kids to have sex. As if they need it. *snort*
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[personal profile] schemingreader 2012-11-16 12:10 am (UTC)(link)
It seems that no one in the country is aware that we had welfare reform in 1996 that requires single moms on welfare to work. Or that welfare is already time-limited. Or that the states begged the federal government to relax the work requirements because even with the bribes they pay employers, it's hard to find jobs for mothers of young children without much education in a recession.

We really hate children a lot in this country. Fetuses, we like, but children, not so much.

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[personal profile] torachan 2012-11-16 04:21 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, people who are against welfare generally have NO idea what it involves, and they are basing their arguments on a totally imaginary situation. (And are also generally not interested in hearing any facts that contradict what they have imagined.)
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[personal profile] giddygeek 2012-11-16 02:15 am (UTC)(link)
Massachusetts had a death with dignity question on the ballot (which ultimately didn't pass, I blame a ridiculous, hyperbolic ad campaign). My conservative coworker said to me, "Now, I'm not talking about this to upset you," which is always a hint that he's going to upset me. He's a guy who listens when I talk and seeks out my opinions on political issues even though he knows I am basically a big gay socialist, so I truly think he doesn't mean to upset me, he just wants to talk about stuff, but. The end result: I am debating about my civil rights with a guy whose rights have never been at risk.

So anyway, he said, "I wonder how many of the people who oppose this right to die amendment are also pro-choice," like he had just uncovered an absolute ocean of hypocrisy.

I said, "I wonder how many people who say they're pro-life are also pro-death penalty?"

He got this look on his face, like he has somehow lived in the conservative-bizarro world long enough that he had never been asked or considered the hypocrisy of that. And then he slowwwwwwly sat down and didn't say another word.

What gets me about this story is the idea that it was genuinely a surprise to him. Like, he doesn't think about the life part of being pro-life. A lot of these people, I think, never consider what happens after you're born. Like life stops at birth, somehow!

They're not thinking about what life means if you're born to a mom who can't or doesn't want to take care of you--"you should give that child up for adoption!" Uh okay, except that adoption isn't foolproof and easy. They're not thinking about what life means to the other children in the household, when the resources and attention of the mother/parents are even further divided. They're not thinking about how having a child with an abusive partner ties a woman even more firmly to that partner. They're not thinking about women who die from back alley abortions, or unsafe pregnancies, or accidents during pregnancy. They're not thinking of babies who live incredibly short and agonizing lives due to birth defects. They're not thinking about anything except that should--the "You should do what I tell you!" should.

SORRY FOR THE LONG COMMENT, TFV. I JUST HAVE SO MUCH AGREEMENT. So much agreement! If you can't think past 'should' and you can't think past 'some guy stood up in church and told me this was bad' then get out of the conversation. Go knit a blanket for someone whose LIFE is in disarray because she had to take her kids and leave her partner before she got killed, or for a kid with cancer, or for a soldier returning from war with PTSD. You should go do something useful for the people who are living here today.

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[personal profile] clavicular 2012-11-16 04:06 am (UTC)(link)
Dude, what's hypocritical about supporting both euthanasia and abortion? Both involve people being allowed to have control over their own bodies and receive medical information and assistance in their choices.

And man, I kind of love that story because I do often wonder if people who hold beliefs like that really have thought through the consequences of such beliefs and what they would do when faced with someone pointing it out (someone they know IRL, it's too easy to dismiss faceless people on the internet).

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[personal profile] monanotlisa 2012-11-16 02:44 am (UTC)(link)
I am so with you. A lot of my discussions begin and end with, Wouldn't it be nice if these people lived, oh, wait, IN THE REAL WORLD?!

Any proper discussion is ultimately moot from the get-go otherwise.
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[personal profile] meigui 2012-11-16 03:13 am (UTC)(link)

A lot of the bigger social issues right now, including abortion, are deeply tied into the problem of the circulation of capital in a globalized, post-industrial society, especially as the economy and the job market is currently undergoing yet another fundamental paradigm shift. Government is, at its soul, an edifice of social engineering: its primary and arguably only practical value is to maintain a framework that can hold its society together at the seams where basic human psychology, which is only really prepared to handle operating in an anarchic state on the level of groups that are at the largest a couple hundred individuals, fails to act as a sufficient social adhesive. These days, even the very smallest subdivisions of society are very rarely smaller than a few hundred or even a few thousand individuals, so it's even more imperative for government to be there to pick up where biology leaves off.

The most effective laws reflect this reality. Ideally, laws are designed to make it both practical and intuitive for the average citizen to function in accordance with society rather than against it. People, with their individual lives and individual concerns, must be able to flow naturally through the spaces carved out by the law like water through a canal. Some of these conservatives, though--they try to write laws like they can use them to make water flow uphill. That's not just backwards, that's unsound engineering. When the thing being engineered is the lives of people, a lot of hurt can be caused that kind of carelessness.

(In fact, prior even to the discovery of the science behind all this, it was one of the guiding principles in the drafting of the US Constitution: "If men were angels, no Government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on Government would be necessary."--James Madison, The Federalist #51. The specific quote is more about the fallibility of the government itself than that of those governed, but the idea is there: people are not designed to be model citizens, and we need to make this shit as end-user-friendly as possible because otherwise any and every conceivable problem is going to happen eventually. The founders knew that because they were just recently themselves the perpetrators of a fubar of governance when they drafted the Articles of Confederation, which failed to sufficiently account for the consequences of having a society that is so large that the mind of the individual is unable to comprehend the scale of it, even back then. American conservatives love that "founding principles" shit, don't they? Yet they seem to like to forget all of the things learned from that first fiasco. So frustrating.)
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[personal profile] seperis 2012-11-16 03:43 am (UTC)(link)
Social conservatives appear to think that if they just make laws that perfectly reflect their ideal universe, that universe will somehow be willed into being.

I'm not sure if you were being facetious, but that's actually literally true in my experience with conservatives (my family, in college, at work, not a true objective sampling, but a good start). There's also this, which I'm extrapolating very loosely--personal responsibility is a buzzword, but the root is that social conservatism is the fear of being tempted. If you believe in the entire nuclear/Christian heterosexual male-dominated model of family and it's canonized in law, then there is no possibility your wife/children/yourself will be tempted to do otherwise. Your wife will not leave you for another woman, your daughters will not have sex (with boys or girls) and you will not feel tempted to nail the hot guy you're interested in, because the power of your faith is one thing, but now you have the law working with you to protect you from yourself.

It's not only that your neighbors are doing it wrong and you're in charge of saving their souls--they're a threat to your soul by existing.

This isn't a defense of pro-life, but while reading pre-Election after the Atkins thing, a point was raised that the reason that conception was chosen for life beginning is less doctrine than playing it super safe with the advent of science and became doctrine after the fact. It's literally in pregnancy the most easily available checkpoint for life, since we don't have a ambiosoulchecker available to nail it down and fetal viability is happening earlier and earlier I don't defend it at all, but it did clarify for me where that was coming from, which is the root of social conservatism--everything is an absolute true/false without shading and the path of least resistance. A lot of social conservatism is based on stripping down any choice to wrong or right.
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[personal profile] jainas 2012-11-16 10:40 am (UTC)(link)
Really interesting point. The bit with "the law working with you to protect you from yourself" is something I have been thinking about for a while without being able to formulate it...
The treat of "alternative lifestyles" (sic) is that they exist, they are an alternative to this "ideal" model conservative people have in their mind, "the way people should live"... and it means they could choose to live differently. And it's very simplistic, but if you take away the alternative, you take away the fact that you have to choose between what you believe should be your live and whatever else you sometimes want... It's probably not a concious process, but I'm pretty sure it's a backseat motive for many conservatives.

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[personal profile] wordweaverlynn 2012-11-16 04:32 am (UTC)(link)
(standing ovation)

[personal profile] malka 2012-11-16 04:51 am (UTC)(link)
Hell, yes. The distinction between "should" and "is" is important. If it's raining and I don't open my umbrella because it shouldn't be raining today, I will get wet. If I turn on the hot water for my shower and no hot water comes out, that difference between the "should" and the "is" tells me that my hot water heater's gone weird again and that I should go out in the garage and fuss with the controls. If I'm only thinking of "should", I'm going to have a freezing shower.

Also, "You should have personal responsibility, so I will stop anyone from ever helping you" is one of my least favorite political arguments ever. It's incredibly mean, purposefully ignorant of the vast amount of help the speaker has received, and it provides negative value to the society of the speaker.

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