the view from up here
Some otolaryngologist in Seattle wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times about how abortion is a moral transgression because it robs society of women’s ultimate creative experience, which is birth and parenting, and oh dang, sorry, I should have told you to put down your smoothie before you started reading this post because I bet that shit just came out ya nose and damn, was that pineapple? I bet that stings. My bad. That’s on me.
I stayed up until midnight writing a response and then, because I’m a mature (ma-TOOR, not ma-CHUR) professional writer, I waited a full 4 minutes before whipping it off to the Seattle Times op-ed editor. They passed on it, which made sense when I read my piece in the cold light of day. The op-ed was coherent, of course, and noticeably free from profanity (although an early draft had me explaining why, in fact, “turd sack” was the perfect expression for the Doc’s finely-constructed “opinions” about my “life” and “personhood,” because it’s a steaming pile of foul, watery crap bundled up in a tidy package whose scent you quickly begin to get used to, until you unwrap it and the unholy abomination is laid bare before you, much like my son’s diapers 12 hours after chili night.)
But my piece was also reactive. It wasn’t my point of view; it was a full-blown assassination of Doc’s. I hit all the highlights of Doc’s turd bundle. I rebutted them with aplomb and pith, but I was playing on his turf and ultimately extending the shelf life of Doc’s aforementioned shit sack of “ideas.” It was like I read it and then stayed up until midnight whipping out 500 words that could have been summed up with this gif:
And hey, you know what? Writing that piece was good for me. I got to be mean, funny, and smart, or at least mean, funny, and quick, and I gotta keep my mean and funny in fighting shape as we head into 2020. It was good for me to write, but not important for other people to read, so I respect that pass, Seattle Times, even if I still need a minute to ask you what in the seventh steaming sauna of hell you were thinking when you invited Doc’s worthless, baseless, misogynistic puddle of diarrhea onto your platform. (I don’t really need to ask. I know exactly why you published it. It’s the same reason I’m not linking to it or using the author’s name. You get no more rage clicks from me, cap’n.)
It’s been a couple of days since Doc’s piece dropped, and only now do I realize which piece I should have written. So I’m writing that piece for you right now.
The View From Up Here
by Katie Anthony
Fun fact: people who oppose abortion have one thing in common with people who support abortion.
We both love abortion!
I love abortion because it’s an irreplaceable act of mercy for parents in grief. I love abortion because it’s one way I know my life cannot be taken from me. I love abortion because I had my sons when I was ready for them and I have the blessed freedom to love them without having to do the desperate math of comparing my love for them against my grief of what I was forced to give up to have them. Don’t get me wrong - I still feel that grief sometimes, but it’s the difference between running a marathon and surviving a death march: in one of those, you got to pick it.
I love abortion, no surprises there. But guess what? You know Martha, who spends her Sundays traumatizing patients at women’s health clinics with tinny hymns warbling out of a rented sound system, passing out graphic images of bloody tissue to people just tryna get their dang health care? You know Max, who follows patients back to their cars after their appointments and writes down their license plate numbers?
Martha and Max love abortion, too.
Martha adores abortion because opposing it lets her feel like she’s starring in her own version of the movie, A Mighty Heart. Max is head-over-heels-in-love with abortion because opposing abortion makes him feel like Gerard Butler, a gritty, haunted, swoll-ass soldier in the holy war for life itself.
See, it’s important to remember that nobody thinks of themselves as the bad guy here.
I don’t think of myself as the bad guy: I’m living inside a narrative of absolute right and wrong in which the issue at stake is simple: dead childbearing parents or free childbearing parents? You pick your side.
Martha and Max live inside a narrative of absolute right and absolute wrong, too, in which the issue at stake is simple: dead babies or living babies? You pick your side.
I don’t think most of the Marthas and Maxes out there have fully reckoned with the way that the battleground of abortion is designed to make them feel like they are standing on moral high ground, when the reality is that they’re actually standing on people: people with uteruses, women, girls, rape survivors, abuse survivors, grieving parents, people with rights, people with freedoms, people with dreams.
But of course, they don’t see it that way. They don’t look at us. They look at the story they want to tell: the epic tale of how a lone hero stood against a murderous, morally bankrupt society to save innocent babies from bloodthirsty butchers and soulless organ harvesters.
If they looked at us, the people upon whom they’re standing in order to claim high ground, they’d have to tell a very different story, one in which they are wearing a very different color hat: the tale of how an oblivious, myopic, socially conditioned oppressor stood on top of human beings to rob them of their rights and freedoms in order to enrich their fraudulent sense of moral superiority. When many of those oppressed people died as a result of the violence and disregard perpetrated by these narrow-minded, stubbornly ignorant, willfully obtuse “good people,” those “good people” who are “pro-life” didn’t give a single shit. In fact, they blamed the dead for dying. How irresponsible of them.
That’s what I mean when I say that Martha and Max love abortion. They love the narrative that gives them in white hats. They love the ethical purity of “saving babies,” never mind the fact that they’ll have to violently revoke the human rights of parents to save those babies, and never mind that they’ll never have to grow, birth, or raise those babies themselves.
It’s like Martha and Max get to write a huge check out of my account. They present the check to SOCIETY at a giant press conference. They hold it up over their heads while cameras flash, and then they scold me for being so selfish. Why can’t I be as generous as they are, these good people, Martha and Max? Then everyone looks at me like, wow, you are selfish and also your hair looks like shit. Why can’t you be as nice and good as Martha and Max?
Martha and Max are writing checks that my ass will have to cash! They get to telegraph morality and ethical purity without ever having to pay for those virtues with their actual time, energy, money, education, health, or even lives. Martha and Max are like, “Hey everyone come see how much I love babies! I love babies so much that I’m going to yell super loud about how important it is to force other people to grow, birth, and raise them!” and then everyone’s like “WOW Martha and Max! Such good! So virtues!”
Meanwhile, those of us with uteruses live with lowkey body terror at the idea of being convicted by the court of public health policy as accessory to first-degree sexual intercourse while fertile, and then sentenced to life, although they haven’t ruled out the death penalty: if maternal mortality statistics remain consistent, 1 in 3,500 birthing parents in the US will die of birth complications this year, and black childbearing parents are three times more likely to die in birth than white childbearing parents.
Martha and Max love any issue that gives them a chance to star in their very own morality-inspo action movie. It’s a fucking ugly impulse, to enrich your self-image by perpetuating the pain of others, but that impulse does not just affect those who find the foundation of their moral character in opposing reproductive freedom. That ugly impulse to write checks out of other people’s accounts, to pen your own legend at the expense of others’ lives, is not only true of people with whom I disagree politically or ideologically.
It’s true of men who oppose sexual violence, and who describe in vivid detail what they would do if they ever caught someone abusing a person they loved.
Dude, stop imagining my violation as a plot point on your journey to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnsonhood. Stop loving the way sexual violence makes you feel like you’re on moral high ground. Look down. You’re standing on survivors.
It’s true of straight/cis people who publicly/loudly ask NB/trans strangers what their pronouns are in order to demonstrate their wokeness, perform their progressiveness, and earn the admiration of everyone on the bus who WISHES they could ally that hard.
Dude, that person has to be super fucking careful because they are a visible target for hate crimes and sexual violence. Thanks for SHINING A LIGHT on a person who is - wait for it - just trying to get to work. Super fun times on the morning commute. I’m sure they were super psyched to be pointed at like a giraffe in the zoo, if there were no safety barricades protecting them from the gawkers, and if every few days there was an article in the paper about yet another giraffe that had been murdered. Stop loving your moral high ground. Look down. You’re standing on people’s safety. You’re standing on their lives.
It’s true of white people who abhor racism the most, the loudest, the balls-out-est, who tag black friends in posts rejecting this newest incident of sadistic, racist violence, without considering the fact that they just tagged a friend in a post that reminds their friend how dangerous it is for them to exist and how many people will have to try to insist that people care if that shit happened to them. Chad thought the tag was showing how much he “got it” when in fact the tag shows how much he doesn’t fucking get it yet.
You’re not standing on moral high ground. You’re standing on people. LOOK DOWN, CHAD. LOOK DOWN, KATIE.
Yes, it’s true of me, too. I’m guilty of enjoying the view from that high ground. I’m guilty of looking out instead of down, having good intentions and piss-poor execution, writing a big ass check that I never had to pay a dime for, that I showed to all my friends who also didn’t look down, who admired my generosity.
I’m guilty of narrowing the frame on complex issues until they become simple enough to put me on the right side of good versus bad, life versus death.
In that sense, I have loved racism, transphobia, and homophobia the way Martha and Max love abortion. I have loathed these systems of oppression almost as much as I have been proud of myself for loathing them. Martha, Max, and I have all loved violence. Acute instances of violence give us the chance to oppose oversimplified evil, to “other” violence that we could never imagine perpetrating, while call ourselves good, while we continue to willfully ignore that we are living our lives on top of others, while we perpetrate acts of smothering violence that live in our bones.
And Doc, the otolaryngologist who believes that abortion is a criminal devaluing of human life and a missed opportunity for childbearing parents to find full actualization? He loathes abortion almost as much as he loves himself for hating it. He loves to hate abortion because it gives him a chance to believe in his goodness instead of forcing him to reckon with the many ways that he’s hurt, neglected, dehumanized, terrified, terrorized, disenfranchised, ignored, and failed to save the lives of people. Doc would rather stand on high ground than look down at the bodies beneath him. He’ll sing from the rooftops about the innocent lives he’ll never touch but is somehow saving (?), yet his silence when it comes to the lives he’s actually hurt is what makes his op-ed so offensive.
My own silence, the ugly impulse I share with Doc, Martha, and Max, the way I have come to use other people’s pain to feel good about myself, is what I work daily to break.
Thank you for reading this post!
Seriously. You’re the shit.
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