Friday, May 09, 2008

Madness? n-no, this is Sparta. Madness is in Corinth...Over There

Although I may be a sucker for a gorgeous autumn, I'm not what you'd call a guy with a particularly strong seasonal preference. When it's too hot in summer I wish for winter, when it's too cold in winter, get the idea. Seasonal opportunist, perhaps? I think I may not be anywhere near smooth enough an operator to deserve such a title, regardless of whether or not it's a technically correct description. So, what I'm NOT going to tell you all now is why summer is my favourite, or the best season, 'cause I'd be lying to you if I said I thought so. Summer isn't really better or worse as a season than any other, it just so happens to be when tradition slapped down a really big fat gap in the school year. There's something comfortable about the summer stasis, when you can forget the upcoming changes and challenges, until at least the final month or so. Vacations happen, birthday parties, midnight snacks, more parties, bike rides, still more parties. The necessity of getting a job has put something of a kibosh on the anytime, anywhere parties, but I've been managing pretty well so far, if I do say so myself. In short, Summer is pretty much what I live for. This is problematic, but I'll discuss that later.

Case in point: after something of a slow start, I managed to get together with Daydream Believer, Gold, and Sphinx, and we spent a marvelous afternoon essentially walking back and forth around downtown with no real agenda other than “see stuff, and maybe buy it if it is cool enough”. I suppose Sphinx's customary pilgrimage to Venus Envy counts as an agenda of sorts, but then that's really just her doing what comes naturally (and all power to her!). Having been making altogether too much use of the car and my house lately, I relished the chance to put rubber to the road (see, I have these shoes, right? And because their soles are made of recycled tire, I put rubber to the road when walking AND driving!). To top it off, a former classmate of mine was singing at the Elephant and Castle's open mic, so after sending poor oppressed Sphinx home on a bus, those remaining dropped in to have a listen, and as a bonus also enjoyed a number of remarkably solid acts. The former classmate was every bit as good as I recall from her standout performances at a school coffee house years ago, being in the possession of a voice whose caliber can be crudely approximated by the word “enchanting”. Other notables of the night were local band Distant Society, and what must have been Amanda Rheaume, although I am not 100% certain. It's funny, but I really had no idea that the Ottawa music scene had any kind of vibrancy, but what I saw and heard really did restore some of my faith in this city that fun forgot. Definitely something to go see again.

Hey, Mister! Get Your Laws off my Sister!

I really do have a sister, for any hypothetical readers who don't know me. So, yeah: get your filthy bill C-484 the hell away from her!

Daydream Believer and I had a bit of a debate on the nature of said bill, after Sphinx and I signed a petition against it. Essentially, it was her opinion that since the bill specifically exempts abortion, it shouldn't be a problem. Fair enough, but there's more to be upset about than just that.

For one, if anyone physically abuses a woman, and the fetus is lost, the damage is done. If the woman wanted to have a child, in particular the one developing in her before said assault, is more jail time going to make things any easier for her? I for one agree with the voices calling for more preventative measures against abuse of women, a project which would keep wanted fetuses alive, and not pose a threat to a woman's right to choose. Let's have a look at what the bill is saying, shall we?

(5) It is not a defence to a charge under this section that the child is not a human being. “

This is an unnecessary clause. Something does not have to be declared a human in order to make harming it wrong under the law. For that matter, why not just make “fetus” its own entity under the law? Then you could make new rules for the fetus-entity, and avoid the whole issue of what a fetus being human implies

(6) An offence referred to in this section committed against a child is not included in any offence committed against the mother of the child. “

It's not a child, not until it's born, morons! Also, why separate these charges if the idea is to protect women? The crime is against the woman, the fetus is A PART OF THE WOMAN until it becomes autonomous. I suggest that were it not for the horrible ramifications to the field of assisted reproduction that we could instead consider the death of a fetus an act of theft against the woman, so instead I propose we treat it as if he, say, destroyed/stole one of her kidneys, or a lung. I mean, doesn't it make sense to just put the fetus somewhere on a scale of “things that a woman can be deprived of through assault” table, which stipulates that the loss TO THE WOMAN represents the need for greater punishment. The child is entirely dependent upon the mother, and in fact exists at her discretion, and so should be seen as a legal extension of HER PERSON, and no separate entity.

What I see here is a missed opportunity. Instead of trying to have mature deliberations about how to improve the reproductive and sexual health and well-being of the country, bill C-484 comes across as a little patronizing, and a lot scary to women who like things like, you know, rights. Also scary to men who like women who like their rights. What we should be doing is looking at ways to make contraception MORE affordable, MORE widely available, to make sure that groups like Insight Theatre continue to bring a pro-choice, non-judgmental education

about Pro(phylactic)s and Con(traceptive method)s, to eradicate gender discrimination and violence (I refrain from saying that we need only teach men not to be violent towards women, because women – however rarely – sometimes abuse men. I ain't saying the problems are in any way equal, but you've gotta deal with a problem in every form). We need to look at our glaring lack of regulation on abortion, and decide if maybe the right to choose should have some attached responsibilities. Before anyone jumps on me for embracing the same kind of ambiguous statement that could be used to justify an abrogation of that right, I will tell you straight away that I'm pro-choice. Now, as my paternal grandfather (Grootvader, as I call him – it's Dutch, you know*) likes to say, Western culture focuses too much on rights and too little on responsibilities. We have the right to free speech, but the responsibility to say things that enrich, that provoke thought, and to not propagate hate and irrationality. We have the right to a fair trial, and the responsibility to be fair when we judge others, and so on. To claim that any right should or can exist without any attached conditions on how it should be used is wishful thinking. Regulations on abortion in the past put too many limits on the practice, but I would like to see some healthy debate on what reasonable, formally-defined conditions of the right should be. And before you hit me with the “easy for you to say, you don't have a uterus!”, allow me to point out that men have to pay child support for children they father. Sure, it's not anywhere near the same burden, but our sexual freedom is NOT without consequences, should we fail to use adequate protection. Please note that I am open to the idea that no limits on abortion are justifiable, but you'll have to convince me.

To summarize: Bill C-484 addresses NONE of the actual concerns that we should have, and does NOTHING to help women. If the Conservative government were actually concerned about saving women or fetuses, it would be trying to break the cycle of abuse, and not playing a dangerous game with womens' rights!



*Technically we could also call him “Opa”, but the literal translation was used for a few reasons: a) it's not an incorrect or made-up term, b) it helped our generation learn the Dutch “G” sound, and c) because my great-Grandmother was still alive and “Oma” when my generation came around, and having Opa, Oma, and Oma would have been confusing for everyone.'

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