Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I often ask myself: What Would Dorothy Day Do?

By Patty Maher,

I have lived the Sex in the City lifestyle and it has left me empty. Today I am a liberal in every way -- except I have the sexual and moral values my Orthodox Catholic grandparents had. I am holding out for true love. I'm keepin' my pants on, baby. No kidding, it's been more than four years since I have been with a man. And I like sex; I seriously like it. This isn't easy -- but I believe it's going to be worth it one day.

The fact that I am now a sexually conservative and pro-life liberal is quite alarming to many modern liberals whom I meet. It is as though I am not allowed to feel this way, to think this way. If I am standing in front of another liberal and they find out that I am not super excited about participating in a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, they look at me with alarm. Then it starts to sink in that I am different. And they gaze on me with a sort of pity -- as if the deeper spirituality I have gained through my financial ruin has socially bankrupted me -- and like maybe they could help me just a little by wiping some of the sugar off my face.

It's times like these when I mutter under my breath, my little mantra What Would Dorothy Day Do? After reading her poignant autobiography The Long Loneliness, I believe she is praying for me -- along with my mother, my strong Catholic grandmothers, and the dead Kennedys (who, in the case of the more-recent Kennedys, now see the error of certain ways).

You may laugh, but I do feel I need those prayers from the Catholics in heaven. It gets pretty rough down here being a sexually conservative liberal. I am constantly accused of supporting the oppression of women and gays. I could just keep my mouth shut and never express any political views. But I studied political science and journalism in college and I have interviewed numerous presidential candidates, governors and high-profile statesmen -- Bill Clinton, Robert Kennedy, Jr. (although he is not exactly a statesman), Al Gore, Jennifer Granholm, John Edwards, John Engler, John McCain and Howard Dean, to name a few. I have met Gloria Stienem and, in fact, I have had one of her books autographed -- twice! My perspective is informed. It seems wrong to just shrink away. So again, I pray, What Would Dorothy Day Do?

She would say, I'm a devout Catholic and I fully embrace the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and if the Pope asked me to stop publishing my stories, out of reverence for the Holy Father, I would do so today because my faith means more to me than my stories. But no pope ever asked the American social-activist-hero and candidate for Roman Catholic sainthood to stop writing about the poor, the outcast and the abandoned.

The fact that I am pro-life and sexually conservative does not mean I am a gay-hater. My grandmother was one of the first straight persons who demonstrated to me abiding friendship, loyalty and love toward her gay friends and relatives. She exchanged Christmas cards every year with her childhood friend and his partner who lived in San Fransisco. When my cousin came out as the first lesbian in our family, my grandparents hired her and her partner to do yard work and invited them in for dinner.

Hopefully I pass my grandmother's model of genuine acceptance and love along to my gay friends and relatives. I try to be kind to everyone. But like most humans, sometimes, in all of my relationships, I fall down at love.

I do not think women should be jailed for having abortions. But I do not think any public money should go toward abortion and I do think laws for adoption and foster parenting must be drastically reformed to make it an attractive option. Furthermore there should be more funding for programs that allow for placement of children for a few months or a year -- so that a mother can get back on her feet, finish school, whatever she needs to do to prepare for motherhood. If she wants to keep her baby, every effort should be made to support her with that choice. These are not the olden days where unmarried girls and women were ostracised from society for having sex. We know all about the birds and the bees these days. Why can't we face the consequences with love instead of abortion. People will write to me about the one rare case in which a woman's life was at stake if she didn't have an abortion. Come on, that's not what I am talking about. Abortion is the norm in our Sex-in-t he-City Society and it's a heartbreaking paradigm that we should abandon.

I am alarmed at the rate women in the United States are being coerced and bullied into abortion -- by parents, boyfriends, sexual partners and -- most alarmingly -- by a political system that would rather pay to end a life than to support a life. If you don't believe me, look into the Silence No More campaign, Feminists for Life and the movie Maafa21 and consider the numerous stories of women who could not receive welfare help to raise a child but did receive public funding for abortion. Consider the women who received such public funding for two, three and four abortions and who are today living with the emotional consequences. Consider the historical development of Planned Parenthood. Consider the influence of the racist Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger and the dark history of the eugenics movement in the United States. What choices are we giving poor women in this country who find themselves pregnant and frightened, really? It seems to me we have become a society that pushes sexual promiscuity and abortion -- and the concept of true love, increasingly, is lost.

I would rather not write about my conservative views on sex and life. It really puts me in a no-win situation. I would rather paint sailboats and tell jokes. But I am constantly feeling the need to explain myself. Most of my friends and family members are liberally-liberally liberals and I love them and agree with them on just about everything but the issues of abortion and sexual license. And let's face it, sex and birth are no small subjects. If not for sex and life, none of us would be here today to argue about this.

Let me just say here that some of my gay friends and family members are among the most sexually responsible people I know. I am not a gay hater. What I do hate is turning on my car radio to listen to a pop station only to hear a disc jockey giving dating advice such as, "Well, I understand that you have been sleeping with her sister for a month; but you know, if you think you have something special with her, you've just got to break it off and test the waters with the younger one. You'll always wonder what you could have had if you don't do it." Seriously, I have heard this advice from a DJ -- and it's just the tip of the popular-radio-dating-advice-iceberg. Trust me, I listen to my car radio. I am from Michigan and I drive everywhere.

If you want to read the story about what led to my pro-life conversion and why I didn't vote for President Obama, read my story Evolution of a Single Issue Voter. I think the problem is that we have become so polarized as a nation. Neither side really represents the average people (whomever they are!) and everything is controlled by special interests and money. A third party isn't what we need to fix things politically in this country. We are in desperate need of serious Campaign Finance Reform. All presidential elections should be 100-percent publicly funded. We need more citizen involvement at the federal level to go along with bipartisan initiatives. How about town-hall meetings across the country on major issues such as health care reform? How about not creating a one-size-fits-all package but letting local governments have community block grants to work out health care, with some basic guidelines. The government started doing this pretty effectively with Department of Housing and Urban Development monies, I think, during the Clinton Administration -- and with community-based policing efforts, too.

We must remember that we are the government. Do we really have to hate our leaders so much just because we didn't vote for them? Just because we can't stand something about something doesn't mean we have to hate them. That's not the way my momma taught me. She always said, "You know dear, you can catch more flies with sugar, than you can with vinegar."

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