I came across an article today at guardian.co.uk by Lynn Beisner entitled “I wish my mother had aborted me.”
[ http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/15/i-wish-my-mother-aborted-me ]
I decided to read it because it described how this woman would have gladly sacrificed her own existence so that her mother would have had a better life. It’a a unique argument in favor of abortion (I should have been the victim, not Mom) so I thought it was worth the time.
Beisner starts by admitting that the stories of people who should have been aborted but weren’t “makes me see red.” She finds these stories “offensive” and “infuriating” and derides them as a kind of “emotional blackmail.” Bing Dictionary describes emotional blackmail as
“persuasion using sympathy or guilt: the stirring up of uncomfortable feelings in somebody, especially sympathy or guilt, in order to persuade that person to do something”
My question to Beisner is this: if you believe so strongly in abortion, why do you have any feelings of discomfort? Why does this “emotional blackmail” wound you so deeply?
Beisner then goes on to draw a rational line between her argument “I should have been aborted” and the angst-driven argument “I wish I had never been born.” She wants to end a myth that women who choose to save the life of their child are heroes; wanting to fight the fairytales not with statistics but with the argument “I love my life, but I wish my mother had aborted me.” But by ignoring the arguments of emotion and the statistics of reality, Beisner has chosen to support the view she avows to see as most logical.
Beisner’s “rational” claim in favor of her own abortion is that her mother would have been better off in a world of possibilities. You see, her mom might have finished high school and gone to college. Her mom would likely have studied psychology or feminism, two subjects that obviously would not only have enlightened her but made her into a more competent parent. Rather than being the victim of a poverty-inducing child, her mother might have experienced the same socioeconomic status of her professor parents and grand parents. Oh, the rapture! Oh, the baloney!
The problem with possiblility-driven futures is that they lie nearly entirely in the realm of fantasy. That makes for wonderful literature, not history; it is a total fiction, not biography. We can engage in just the same sort of imagining – maybe Beisner’s mom got out of bed every day because she had a daughter to worry about; maybe Beisner’s mom thought raising a child was more important than a formal education; maybe Beisner’s mom knew that the salary and prestige that come with professorships do not guarantee a happy life. Maybe’s or might’s – both as likely or possible – both as tenuous in truth.
When you do look at the biographical information that Beisner provides, it does seem that her mother has had a great deal of trauma and pain in her life. That is painful for her and those that know her. However, what starts with the retelling of pieces of injury and violence in her mother’s life, ends with Beisner’s list of deficits in her own childhood: no sleep-overs, no cell phone, no dinners at restaurants, no radio or television, no jeans. Poor thing, how did she ever survive?
By her own admission, even despite the horrors that she faced in her own childhood, she survived just fine. She’s got a life and family she loves (or so she says), but nobody should have to put forth such “Herculean struggle for simple normalcy.” Newsflash! Normal is not simple. Normal takes work, planning, strategy and even some luck. Normal doesn’t just happen. Normal gets up early in the morning and burns the midnight oil. Normal puts aside wants that demand quick satisfaction for needs that require long-term attention. Normal asks for nothing more than to deal with the troubles and trevails of life with dignity and hope and faith.
If anything, Beisen’s “Herculean struggle” should give her a greater appreciation for a happy and successful life. She is a wife, parent, teacher and researcher, but thinks that her life has been a “net loss” when compared to the inputs she has received from the world. She states “…Any positive contributions that I have made are completely offset by what it has cost society to help me overcome the disadvantages and injuries of my childhood to become a functional and contributing member of society.” How does she measure her worth to her children, her family, her students, her coworkers? How does she meausure the cost to society?
We’re not all given the abilities or means to be DaVinci’s or Einstein’s, Kolpe’s or Mother Teresa’s. We may not command armies or governments; we may not even command esteem from our fellow humans. But our worth is not measured in great accomplishments or good deeds, rather by appreciating the small accomplishments and simple deeds. That is normal. That is what gives life meaning and gives joy where there might be drudgery.
Beisen laments that her mother could not find the courage and selflessness to have an abortion. This is where her argument really falls apart, because Beisen’s mother did put her own interests aside to raise her daughter (the very definition of selflessness). Was the mother a perfect parent? No. (But who is?) Was she a good parent? I can’t say even that. However, Beisen did grow up to love others, to teach others and to work for the good of society. Something must have been right.
I can’t tell from the article if Beisen is full of herself, or just full of it. On the one hand, her rational arguments are illogical and she twists meanings of words to support her claims. On the emotional side, she sets herself up to be some sort of anti-hero/martyr who would gladly have saved her mother a lifetime of motherhood for a few moments of pain when she was nothing more than a “conglomeration of cells.” In one of the comments of the article, Beisen declares her mother to be one of the “saddest human beings” that she knows, and “so toxic” that she cannot support her mother emotionally. How sad for both of them, considering what they’ve been through together.
Most tellingly, in the same comment Beisen also informs readers that her husband, although very pro-choice, believes that he would be a miserable, lonely man without her. So she either put forth this argument knowing she was valued and loved, or takes some perverse enjoyment in punishing her mother for a less-than-ideal childhood. Either way the article was written surrepticiously to gather tributes of love and worthiness or accolades for her bravery and selflessness. This is the answer to her offense and infuriation – the guilt she feels for putting forth rhetoric that is dishonest.
(I’m going to address the whole poverty angle in another post. Stay tuned.)
The true answer to Beisner’s situation is not searching for fairness or even justice. Beisner needs to look at her life and recognize Evil for what it is and what it has done. She needs to look at her life and recognize how greatly the Lord has blessed her. Those two things would grant her some peace regarding the past she has survived and the present she is enjoying. And both Beisner and her mother would benefit from finding some forgiveness and understanding for past wrongs coupled with prayers for healing and peace. That is my prayer for their entire family.