Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Man's inhumanity to man, and woman

Day after day we hear of suicide bombings and car bombings and mortar shellings, and after a while it is hard to remember that people--real people, with hopes and dreams and worries and families--are being hurt and killed. So maybe if we look at some lesser inhumanties we can regain our perspective.

Two examples:

The New York Times notes that the cost of the Iraq debacle includes, in addition to 34,000 Iraqis killed last year alone, 1.8 million who have been driven from their homes and 2 million who have left the country entirely. Many of these are people who committed themselves to the American cause: politicians, policemen, soldiers and ordinary people who bought into the idea that the United States would bring them and their nation a better life. So, are we welcoming them to our shores now that the scope of the Iraq disaster has become clear? No. At least not in any numbers. While we spend $8 billion a month on the war, the Bush administration proposes a paltry $20 million for Iraqi refugees in fiscal 2008. For our special friends, we have a special visa program--50 slots a year, for both Iraq and Afghanistan. There are thousands of desperate people out there, and most of them are desperate because of our blundering. The least we could do is to offer some of them refuge.

Now let's shift our attention to South Dakota. You may recall that a statewide referendum rejected the draconian anti-abortion law that the state legislature passed last year--and did so by a comfortable margin of about 10 points. Unfazed by this, anti-abortion legislators have introduced a new bill. This one would make the narrowest possible exception to protect the life and health of the mother. The true motives of the bill's sponsors may be deduced from this description: "In the case of incest, a doctor would have to get the woman's consent to report the crime along with the identity of the alleged perpetrator before an abortion could be performed." Think about that for a moment: a girl who has been raped, perhaps for years, by her father, brother or uncle has to decide whether to carry the pregnancy to term or to turn in the offender for prosecution. How many young women--often girls--who have not left the home already will be willing to do that? Even if she has left the home, the victim (and that's what she is) probably depends on the family for at least social and emotional support, which is likely to be cut off if she agrees to help prosecute the person who attacked her. People who want to impose that kind of condition on incest victims are not interested in them or the unborn fetus; they want to keep women in their place.

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