Reproductive health care is not “just one issue”

I love Bernie Sanders. I voted for him in the primary. But Bernie is wrong to refer to reproductive rights as “just one issue,” as he did yesterday in his defense of campaigning for an anti-choice mayoral candidate in Nebraska: “I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.”

For context, Bernie recently declined to endorse Jon Ossoff, Democratic candidate for the Georgia congressional seat Tom Perez left open when he became Trump’s Health & Human Services Secretary, stating that Ossoff was “not progressive” on economic issues.

I want candidates who are progressive on economic issues, too. It is inconsistent, however, to hold such a hard line with Ossoff yet be willing to overlook the harmful anti-choice stance of another Democratic candidate.

Here’s the bottom line, and listen up, because this is important:

Abortion is not just one issue. It’s health and economics and education and stability of families.

Most of all abortion is VIEWING WOMEN AS AUTONOMOUS BEINGS.

And that is everything.

The day I found out Christians could be Democrats

One of the most important reasons I started this blog: to fill the void of too-few liberal voices talking about how our faith inspires our politics.

When I was about ten years old, growing up in a conservative Christian home, I asked my grandmother if she was a Republican or a Democrat. Obviously, I knew she was going to say Republican, because all Christians were Republicans. (My grandparents, who were given awards for their perfect Sunday School attendance – as adults! – and watched Bill Gaither Homecoming videos, were most definitely Christians, in the cultural sense and in the most personal.)

Except she said she was a Democrat, and it poked a hole in my worldview.

It was the first hint I had that politics might be more complicated than I had previously realized. (To be fair, I was ten. The entire world was more complicated than I had previously realized.) What I didn’t know then was that Democrats, with their New Deal and Social Security and fairer labor laws, had made the American Dream possible for people like my grandparents, who never graduated high school; who drove a garbage truck; who worked at a factory. Democrats made it possible for them, and so many others, to create a good life out of hard work and to raise children who had more than they did. One of their sons went on to own his own business. Another, my dad, got a doctoral degree. My grandparents were so proud.

Back to faith.

My grandfather who was a garbage truck driver was also a farmer. At his funeral, people our family didn’t even know packed into the church and later told us how he would bring them food from the farm when they were down on their luck. That was part of my inheritance from my family: I learned that you’re supposed to help other people because that’s what Jesus would do. That’s what love would do.

Republicans argue that government shouldn’t be in the business of helping people, because people should be helping people. I can understand that to some degree. Certainly, the onus is on us as individuals to love our neighbors as our selves.

Unfortunately, no matter how I and my local faith community may help people, I have to recognize that not all people have access to a community that gives generously. I have to recognize that too often churches place restrictions on their helping, that exclude the very people who may need it the most. Additionally, I recognize that not all congregations have equal resources to help their communities. Some areas of the country need more help than others. I appreciate that there is a federal government that can provide help and is accountable to us, its people, for doing so in fair ways.

One may deride that as socialism, but when all is said and done, it is, for me, more personal than any political label. It’s about my faith. It’s about what I learned, deep in my bones, from the words of Jesus and the life of my grandma and grandpa.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

Last night on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell inadvertently told the story of women throughout history: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Ironically, he meant his statement as a pejorative comment on Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was attempting to read Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter to the Senate regarding then-US Attorney Jeff Session’s nomination to a federal judgeships. In her testimony, King urged the Senate not to confirm Sessions, based on his poor record on civil rights.

McConnell and his Republican colleagues voted to refuse Warren permission to continue speaking. McConnell stated: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

A black woman who led the civil rights movement and a senator reading her words, silenced.

All of our lives, we have been warned. We have been explained to. We have persisted anyway.

Because we have children to feed and jobs to do and stories to tell. The strength that grows babies within our wombs sustains our persistence. We will never stop birthing a better future.

I am reminded of the words of another powerful woman of color, Maya Angelou:

“Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.”

When my first baby girl was born, I wrote her a blessing: May you roar like a lion.

We will not be silenced. We will roar. We will persist.

emma-roar

Aleppo

I don’t know why we haven’t been able to stop the slaughter in Syria.

I have a master’s in international relations from a Department of War Studies. There are many, many people who are far smarter and more learned than I am, but I have spent a significant amount of time poring over texts and historical accounts and theories of how diplomacy and war works. When faced with the question of why we can’t prevent and stop Aleppos, I still can’t come up with any better answer than the human capacity, even tendency, to see some people as “others”. Different from us. Dangerous. Less ethical. Less feeling of pain.

In all the major international relations texts I was assigned, the ones you’d find in any graduate IR program, I don’t remember coming across a chapter about what songs the Aleppo children or the Darfur children or the Chibok schoolgirls sang during their winter concert, like my eight year old sang tonight. They didn’t say anything about the children hoping to be selected to play the xylophone, like my Emma wished for and gave me daily updates about. They didn’t mention the way the children’s mothers greeted them after the concert, brushed their hair from their face and kissed the tops of their heads and paused to cup their hand around their babies’ cheeks, remembering those same cheeks at their breasts, flooded with a feeling of love so deep it would cause them to do anything to protect that child that was both part of them and so much more than them.

Maybe if the texts included these stories, we’d be able to figure out the rest, figure out diplomacy and no fly zones and freezing bank assets and not selling weapons for Christ’s sake.

Maybe if we read these stories that are so similar to our stories, their babies would become our babies, so we’d figure it out, because we’d figure anything out for our babies.

Fatima asks from Aleppo why we are not saving her baby girl. I am so sorry, Fatima. I am so sorry that too many of us cannot see that Bana is our Bana. But know that you are not alone in spirit, if it brings any small strength. As I watched my daughter perform tonight, I thought of Bana and wondered what songs she likes to sing and if she likes to play the xylophone.

We have failed you. May God have mercy on us. May God have mercy on Aleppo.