It doesn’t take much to spark up the pro-life/choice debate, and this election whipped it up into a veritable maelstrom. For a lot of people, that was the issue that tipped them Republican. Volumes have been written recently (and in times past) on the nuances of the topic, and I think everyone would benefit by seeking out some common ground. So what I want to do here is take a subversive approach, as sometimes getting knocked off center is the best way to get us out of our talking points and see things from a different perspective.
By “pro-death,” I mean I believe in the sanctity of death.
Think about it, what is life without death? Hell, actually. All our attempts at comprehending a heavenly eternity, putting language to the best existence imaginable, carried on to infinity ultimately end up describing eternal despair. But this takes us into the territory of supposition, so let’s set the boundaries for our discussion within the realm of what we can currently observe.
Your life, and mine, is sustained through death. We must consume life to sustain our own. Trees are cut down for building materials and heat sources. Electricity and locomotion are provided in large part through the burning of life that encountered death millions of years ago. Let’s take it even further, life is only possible on this planet through the slow death of the nearest star. Photons are captured by plants and then eaten by animals and then eaten by humans and then eaten by bacteria (in case you didn’t know, bacteria are the real rulers of earth). Anybody else channeling Mufasa and the Circle of Life right now? Though it should be called the Circle of Death, because that’s where it starts and ends.
OK, that’s cute and all, but the point I’m trying to make is that death is precisely what makes life so precious. In the west, we try to avoid it and pretend it doesn’t exist and delay it at all costs, which I think robs it it’s sacramental nature. We talk of somebody dying a “meaningless” death, but we’ve done all we can in America to rob death of it’s meaning. I mean the thing that makes an action movie an action movie is a muscled dude mowing down scores of bad guys. Or it gets treated as a tragedy, or a crisis, or some kind of messianic act to save humanity. Hardly ever is it treated as a normal, sacred time to remember the gift that is our life.
I could go on, but you get the idea. So how does that influence the way I think about policy and practice? Glad you asked.
When the government says “You can’t die that way,” in anti “right to die” policy, it violates the sanctity of death.
When the government says “You have to die this way,” in either the death penalty or war, it violates the sanctity of death.
When refugees are kept from escaping a violent end, it violates the sanctity of death.
When black lives are taken by police brutality, it violates the sanctity of death.
When the life we eat to sustain our own is consigned to a miserable existence and a thoughtless consumption, it violates the sanctity of death.
“Wait, didn’t this start with the pro-life/choice debate? What about that?” Well, as I’ve already opined, the worst place for decisions about death and life to reside is the government. For that reason I usually support pro-choice policy, solely on the grounds of the government should not be given a voice in the room where those decisions are made. It’s also why I support no federal funding of abortion, greater access to contraception, wage equity, expanded maternity/paternity leave, etc. On the other side of the argument, I don’t agree with this cavalier approach that glazes over the fact that a life is being taken. But when you start listening to first person experiences, you realize pretty quickly that these decisions are extremely hard and never made in a vacuum. Basically I support everything I can to get the government and everyone else’s opinions (including mine) out of that room, and make sure everyone in that room has the support they need, regardless.
Life is an incredible, precious thing. What makes it so except death? I’ve found that, in embracing my own mortality, life takes on a new vibrancy. Knowing things are temporal actually enriches life, not the opposite, and it helps keep things in proper priority. So that’s why I’m Pro-Death.
Apologies if I just sparked your next existential crisis.
Peace and tenacity,