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Party pooper


There's a party going on across the street from the Crazy Stable. A democratic party, lower and upper case versions.

This is the line to vote. We've lived opposite this public school for 22 years, and there's never been a line to vote inside the polling place; this is the tail end of the line outside, wrapped around the corner from Caton Avenue at 8 a.m. Every year, big election or small, the ritual is the same: We sign in along with a few cranky old white people and some bored-looking middle-aged black folks, shuffle in and out of the booth, and go home depressed by the lackluster options. (Well, I do.)

But this year is different. The atmosphere out on the street was...ebullient. Soft, happy conversational chatter wafted over the crowd, as some read papers, while others texted or passed the time on their cell phone. No one betrayed a hint of impatience, and the folks emerging and dispersing were smiling broadly, borne along on a gust of good feeling. An older black lady, leaning heavily on a cane, exclaimed for anyone to hear, "We've come a long way, baby!"

And the line seemed to represent a bigger swath of our ridiculously diverse census tract: blacks across a broad spectrum of age and "type," from poor-looking to affluent-looking--and for once I heard American, not just Caribbean accents; young hipsterish-looking whites (where'd they come from?); the usual boho/yuppie white couples, toddlers on shoulders or in strollers; a guy with dreadlocks and a grizzled beard; a young woman in a wheelchair; everybody but Asians and Mexicans, many of whom may not qualify to vote yet anyway (around here, they are often the most raw recruits to the republic).

As if it weren't bad enough to be me today! If this were a movie, there would be a glorious multiracial montage, or maybe a steady and inspirational long, long tracking shot down the line, with surging and uplifting music--and then the camera would wheel to my front porch, scream in for a close-up of me, and the music would scramble into a harsh minor-chord dissonance.

There she is. The only college-educated girl in Brooklyn who hasn't spent the past week working a phone bank for Obama, sitting with her chin in her hands, facing an appalling choice: her conscience, or Everything Else.

Everything else: Black, yet smasher of stereotypes (especially the one where it's "real" to be ignorant). Stratospherically smart. Real writer. Sexy and articulate. Able to hold two opposing thoughts in the same brain at the same time. Opposed the Lie-Based War. Would make France like us again, which would make all my liberal friends mysteriously happy. Would leave a competent vice-president and not a telegenic nut job, were the Lord to call him home. Most important, well, look at those people across the street. It's a safe bet more than half of them have never set foot in a voting booth in their lives. It's almost too good to be true.

Oh, wait! It is too good to be true! On the one human rights issue that defines my core as a voter and a person, this nuanced, dazzling knight in shining armor falls off his horse. There's one group of Americans that Mr. Obama doesn't give a rat's ass about: the ones who aren't born yet. Even the ones who are weeks or hours from birth: protecting them from surgical homicide is an ethical commitment "above his pay grade." Not just pro-"choice," the man, to my utter bafflement, is inarguably pro-abortion. Not just "don't overturn Roe v. Wade." This guy has never met a limit on abortion he could live with (unlike the majority of Americans, who favor some limits. Like on killing kids who could survive outside the womb.)

Laws to protect babies born alive after botched abortions? Nope, not Obama. No, also, to parental notification and, most disturbing, to "conscience clauses" allowing doctors, nurses, and other health care personnel to opt out of performing these procedures if they can't delude themselves about what's really getting chopped up and suctioned out. (Hint: genetically 100% human and distinct from its host organism.)

I've got a long history as a single-issue voter, because this single issue is responsible for my very life. (Remind me to tell you sometime of how my mother's obstetrician suggested she abort me. Thanks, Doc-- but thanks to you, Mom, for not being selfish or ignorant enough to fancy that I wasn't alive yet.) Protecting the smallest and most vulnerable among us: How can this not be the foundational human rights issue of our time? Yet here is a guy who has shown less wiggle room on life issues, even for reasons of raw centrist pragmatism, than Hillary!

I have long said that abortion (and particularly, the partial-birth abortion ban) is to the Left what an assault-rifle ban is to the Right: the defense of the indefensible in the name of avoiding the "slippery slope." Wouldn't Obama, the man who made me cry as I watched all 40 minutes of his "conversation on race" speech on YouTube at midnight, be the guy to open this conversation, too? Wouldn't a biracial guy, more perhaps than others, feel the tentativeness of his own existence in a nation where surviving to your due date depends on nothing but one individual's "choice"?

Over the past few weeks, all my smart white-girl friends, just as smitten as I am with the Charismatic One (and just as put off by the scary old white guy and his wacky female sidekick) have bombarded me with reasons it's Okay to Vote Against My Conscience. Here are the top 10. (The unspoken 11th is, of course, that Obama is our fantasy college boyfriend--the one even your Irish/Jewish/Italian mother couldn't object to--but I'm wandering into the subconscious.)

10. Nobody in the White House ever does anything about abortion anyway. (Well, except for those Supreme Court nominations, but the current guys could all live to be 100, and then you'd have wasted your vote for Everything Else.)

9. It's about the war, not just abortion. Isn't peace pro-life?

8. It's about the economy, not just abortion.

7. It's about a historic turning point bringing hope to black America.

6. It's about a post-racial America where, finally, race doesn't matter--unless one cranky white bitch like you votes for McCain and makes Obama lose.

5. The abortion war is lost anyway; time to just hand out more contraception, do more sex ed, and get on with life.

4. Both liberals and conservatives tend to digress to the center once in office, so it won't be that bad, no matter what he's promised NARAL.

3. McCain doesn't really care about abortion anyway, it's just lip service to his right-wing base.

2. Oh, get over it.

1. And finally, the top reason that a rock-ribbed pro-lifer should vote for Obama:

Under Obama, life will be so good (vast and equitable social problems, thriving economy, healthy environment, equal opportunity) that no one will ever need or want to abort their child again. (I am not making this up; some version of this argument seems to have turned my entire liberal Roman Catholic parish into button-wearing zealots.)

So--the worst Election Day of my life. Of course, here in New York, it's all pretty much an exercise in abstract "conscience" anyway; no "Bradley Effect" is going to turn around the numbers I see across the street, especially since we still haven't gotten around to abolishing the Electoral College. I could skip it, have another cup of coffee, and spare myself this agonizing over whether Obama is the new John F. Kennedy or the Picture of Dorian Grey. Wow, that would suck, too. That's why I'm posting one of those Annoying Fetus Pictures. (You pro-choicers hate it when we do that; it's so...tasteless.) Because amid all the celebrating and history-making, something is slipping away, perhaps forever. Even with the best high-tech imaging tools ever, the smallest among us are vanishing. If being the Party Pooper is the price of bearing witness, then I will be the stubborn, exasperating bitch who bears witness.

BestFriend has no such torments. She just says, point-blank, "He's evil. That's why he's so attractive. Anyone who could give their unqualified support to partial-birth abortion, who is as smart as he is, is simply evil, and once he's in office, you'll see. It's going to be scary." I think that's extreme; Obama's history as a family man bespeaks a better character than McCain's, frankly.

So we made a bet. In 2012, if it turns out that Obama is actually Satan, I owe her dinner at the restaurant of her choice, a la carte. If he turns out merely to be a supremely gifted politician with a barn-door-sized ethical blind spot, dinner's on her. And who knows? Maybe once his pay grade improves, Barack and I can start that conversation.


Posted on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at 08:32AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments11 Comments

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Reader Comments (11)

Hey Brenda - take heart! Remember faith is a matter of trust in things that remain unseen. (One of which could be a McCain/Palin victory, another - Christ returning...)

Thanks for a helpful post!
November 4, 2008 at 06:54PM | Unregistered CommenterChris Arsenault

I can't say I am facing your dilemma, because I am with McCain on a few more issues than abortion. However, I long for the day when my conscience is free to choose between two pro-life candidates. I firmly believe that if more Catholics faced up to the horror of abortion and held their politicians accountable, then we could return to the days before 1972 when most Catholic politicians (including Ted Kennedy) were pro-life.

Your vote may mean little in New York, but your witness to your friends and to your fellow parishioners will mean much.

I admire your courage. God Bless.

- Tom
November 4, 2008 at 07:24PM | Unregistered CommenterTom
Other than the diabolic nature of the abortion issue affecting blacks more than any other group, the disservice done to them by addicting them to hope in government in place of an intact family with Christian values is a slavery of the soul, which is far more deadly than mere slavery of the body.
The idea of victimhood and envy of the rich man's wealth allow their black leaders to contaminate their HOPE by seeking scapegoats and freedom through Marxist liberation theology and hatred of the white man (many who died to free them) and their country, which has long had an open path they refuse to travel. Sad that the first black president believes in exacerbating that harm with more of the same.
November 5, 2008 at 09:12AM | Unregistered CommenterDon L
I dont really know if its productive to comment on this. You are certainly entitled to view the world however you like, but some of the things you said here really demonstrate a lack of understanding and misrepresentation of what it means to be pro choice. I really dont want to get in an argument, but its really been bothering me since you posted this and i feel I need to say something.

I am 100% personally against abortion. I am having a baby in a few months and I cant wait and am so excited to meet the little baby that is already a little person inside the womb. Your picture of a fetus doesnt bother me at all, I think it is amazing. But still I am 100% pro choice. It is my opinion about when a baby is a baby, and I believe that is an opinion that each person has to make by themselves and with their God. When Obama said "its above my payscale" What he meant was "only God knows for sure". This quote has been taken literally and twisted by so many people, but it is a basic foundation of what it means to believe in the right of a person to make up their own mind for themselves in this intensely personal issue.
So please, you can believe in whatever you want, but if you are going to make commentary about pro choice people and call us "evil" ( your neighbors), at least make an effort to understand it and not make gross generalizations and misrepresentations about it.

-thank you.
November 5, 2008 at 01:26PM | Unregistered Commenterfrancine
Wow. Terrific post. Pentimento sent me here.
November 6, 2008 at 07:24AM | Unregistered CommenterDave
Francine, some of my best friends are pro-choice. They are good people, not evil, and allow themselves to be deluded on life issues out of compassion for the very real hardships associated with unwanted pregnancies. However, the ultimate delusion is that our humanity is a matter of "individual opinion." We could argue philosophy, semantics, or theology endlessly over whether and when your unborn offspring is a "baby," or even a "person." Medical science, however, gives us clearer cutpoints, and it is my medical journalism background that makes me a pro-lifer: To wit, unless your pregnancy has been misdiagnosed and is actually a tumor, you are carrying a separate individual, and unless some mad scientist has implanted you with a cross-species embryo, that individual is human. And to deliberately take the life of another human individual is homicide. Some forms of abortion--for example, to spare the life of the mother--may be seen as justifiable homicide, but we extend the "right to kill" at our peril. (History is full of divergent opinions on the humanity of various classes of folks, including blacks, Jews, the severely handicapped, and the terminally ill.) Good health and good luck to you and your new son or daughter, and thank you for your civility and good will.
November 6, 2008 at 11:08AM | Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn
Thank you for your honest witness, Brenda. Been there. My heart is heavy, but I am longing to share in the joy of my friends and family. Many prayers going up for the president-elect's change of heart on this issue.
November 6, 2008 at 11:37AM | Unregistered CommenterPentimento
The notion that the determination of the humanity of an unborn person simply turns on the "choice" of another person works as well for abortion as it does for slavery.

Hang fast to your willingness to be a single issue voter. I am comfortably in McCain's camp on most all issues, and disagree with Obama on pretty much everything. But if Obama were pro-life and McCain pro-choice I'd have voted for Obama in a heartbeat. While all issues must be weighed, it is perfectly possible for one issue to weigh more than the aggregate of the others...
November 6, 2008 at 05:37PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Petrik
Wow, Brenda. I could not take my eyes off your blog until I had read every delicious word. Even the comments section attracted such intelligent dialog. I stand right with you in this issue so critical to our nation. Choice is a euphemism for murder...I am surprised to read that Francine recognizes her unborn child's humanity and does not deny the fact that all fetus' are in fact little unique people. This type of pro-"choice" position frightens me all the more because it is no longer a problem of ignorance of the unborn child's person hood, but rather an issue of location of the person that makes abortion acceptable...
November 7, 2008 at 01:32AM | Unregistered Commenterjesse
Lovely post, Brenda. Keep the faith.

My husband became pro-life when he realized that most of the pro-choice side spent their time directing attention away from the baby, like a magician's misdirection. The scary part now is that anti-life forces are starting to *admit* that abortion kills a human being, but that it's "justifiable homicide."

Some people who were participating in a thread on Mark Shea's site have started a "Rosaries for Life" blog. The goal is to pray 68,000,000 rosaries prior to the inauguration. The link is http://rosariesforlife.wordpress.com/

Hope you and your family are well!

Cathy (Beiter) Koenig
November 7, 2008 at 03:19PM | Unregistered CommenterCathy Koenig
Hope you don't mind a comment months after the fact. I stumbled on this several weeks after the election, and can't get over how beautifully written it is.
I'm a proud Obama voter, despite my pro-life views. If I had chosen otherwise, I wish could have summed it up so eloquently. (I've never believed in single-issue voting, but I can fully understand it in your situation.)
Again, my compliments on a superb essay that deserves the biggest possible audience.
February 25, 2009 at 10:58AM | Unregistered CommenterBill Kurtz

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