Friday, April 30, 2010

A Civilized Discussion

I've been thinking lately about how a lot of liberal people accuse religious people of being narrow minded and just following along with what they're told.  Although this can sometimes be the case, I think it's important for everyone, regardless of our political or religious leanings, to check ourselves and make sure we aren't just following along.

Liberal ideas about gay marriage and abortion are popular right now, especially with young people.  And I really believe that's great - people should always be fighting for human rights and social equality.  The problem is, that sometimes we can get caught up in popular opinion without thinking through our positions carefully first.

My example here is my position on abortion.  I guess I got the impression that most liberal people thought all abortion was okay.  Now, I don't know if that's really the case, but I kind of just went along with it for a while.  But when I stopped and thought about it really deeply, I realized it wasn't quite as cut and dry as I had been thinking.

I am a strong believer in women's rights.  It is a passion of mine.  I think women should have the right to decide when and if they get pregnant and have a child.  I also believe in more comprehensive sex education, advances in birth control, adoption, and just not being a promiscuous person.  But what if a woman is raped?  What if her life is threatened by the baby?  What if another problem like these arises and she just needs other options?  She should have the right to decide when or if she will have a child and the right not to be forced into the role of mother by society.

On the other hand, we are responsible for protecting the lives of all human beings.  Where is the line here?  No one knows, and we should all keep that in mind.  There really isn't an answer.  I'm tired of people saying they have all the answers because it shuts down communication, healthy debate, and the quest for real answers to this problem.

The current cut off for abortions at 22 weeks - which is the age at which a fetus could survive outside of the womb on its own - seems like a reasonable solution.  But lets not let party lines or pre-set moral guidelines determine the answers to these questions.  Let's think for ourselves and not be afraid to think outside of the boxes we put ourselves in.  Christians, dare to consider abortion as a valid solution.  Liberals, dare to mull over the implications of abortion on the human right to life.

If I could say one thing tonight, it would be to think for yourself.  Let go of all the things that tie you to a certain way of thinking or a certain belief system.  And just listen to your own voice.  Listen to what it's saying.  Not a god or a politician, an old book or a liberal talk show host (or for that matter, a conservative one).  Just think for yourself.  Consider all sides of the issue.  Consider our right to life, our right to choose, our right to love freely, our responsibility for those who cannot care for themselves.  And lets start a real dialogue.  Not one marred by dogma or prejudice or hatred or close-mindedness.  But an honest discussion of what we can do as humans together to solve this common problem.  Because it is a common problem.  And we all need to be present in this discussion in order to come to a real solution that works for everyone.  Let the discussion begin!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pick a Job, any Job

Today I feel like I hit a wall.  I feel like I've known for a while now what I want to do with my life.  At least, I knew I wanted to do something in psychology.  Before it was counseling, then it was clinical, and now what?  Well, I've become so passionate about women's issues that I realized I need to incorporate this and other social issues into my career.  But psychology is focused mostly on the individual and I'm talking massive social change here.  Is there a way to incorporate the two?

I'm going to come back to my personal career struggle later.  I think this is a problem for a lot of young people in college.  We go through high school, putzing around, maybe trying to get good grades, but with little direction.  Suddenly, in college, we have to pick a major - out of thin air sometimes.  Then, if we want a higher degree, we have to specialize even more, which can be a nightmare if you have ill-defined interests or very general ones.  So if you have broad interests, how do you pick a specialty?  The career world, at least from my perspective, seems a lot more specialized and specific than I ever imagined before college.  

Really, I think most kids are ill-prepared for making these decisions.  It's like going from a kid with no cares, to suddenly being a full-fledged adult who has to make life-altering decisions with little help (like career decisions!) and who is responsible for those decisions and all of their actions (many of which had few consequences for them as a kid).

College is a beautiful thing.  We grow and change, open our minds up to new ideas and ways of thinking about the world.  But in the midst of the bombardment of new ideas and developing interests, we have to figure out a very narrow set of interests which we will pursue for the rest of our lives!  No pressure, though.  It drives me a bit crazy some times, honestly.

So what do I want to do?  I want to be a part of social change for the poor, for women, and for minorities.  I want to work with people in therapy.  I want to give tests, do interviews, get creative in therapy with writing, art, and a bajillion other things.  Is there any way I can put all these things together?  

Earlier I was thinking of other jobs I could do regarding my social interests - politician, sociologist, social worker, experimental psychologist, journalist, professional writer.  But I have this hesitancy to leave the field that I've come to know and have fallen in love with.  Do I really want to start over in a completely new field?  I don't think I do.  Because I really do love psychology.  And a search earlier today has given me some hope.  There's a program at BGSU for clinical-community psychology, the description of which perfectly describes me.  

I feel excited about the thought of this program, but these Ph.D. programs are ridiculously hard to get into.  What if I don't make the cut?  I'll have to keep searching for other programs that fit.  And trust my decision, and my abilities, in the end.

Songs/ albums I listened to while writing this:  Haunted by Holly Brook, Death Cab for Cutie (Plans)

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Social Struggle

Today I was finishing up The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, which is an absolutely amazing book that everyone should take the time to read.  It was life-changing - and I'm not just saying that.  I finished up the book by reading the "Twenty Years After" essay at the beginning, which talked about her amazing journey after the book, and the revolution (or evolution as she puts it) in women's rights it rekindled.

Women's issues are really becoming a passion of mine.  I made a small list today of issues facing modern women today, such as rape, cervical and breast cancer, unequal pay, the subtle discrimination still present in the workplace, lack of child care services for working women, maternity leave, and decreasing abortion rights.  I think this is something I really want to pursue as part of my career.  I hope I can find a grad school with faculty members who have done research in this area because I think I'm passionate enough about it to want to pursue it for the rest of my life.

Anyway, today I'm going to talk about the issue of abortion.  This is a hot issue today that often  finds its way onto the political platforms of major candidates.  It was hotly debated in the 2008 election and it is a topic some feel so strongly about that they will vote based on this issue alone.

But the point I really want to make today is that this is one of the major dilemmas that face our society today.  As humans, we are faced with the responsibility to protect all life, as well as the responsibility to ensure equal rights for all people, and this is an issue especially for women.

The basis behind the pro-choice position, as I see it, is that women have fought long and hard for rights in a lot of arenas.  One of these is reproduction rights.  We won a great victory with advances in birth control that let us decide when and if we as women wanted to have a child.  Abortion goes along with this because it ensures that women still have that right, even if birth control fails.  Another facet of the pro-choice position is that some women are raped and become pregnant and shouldn't be forced to have the child of their rapist.  Also, when problems arise with the pregnancy that threaten the life of the mother, even abortions in the later months should be allowed to save the mother's life.  Basically, it comes down to whether or not you will force a woman to have a child she doesn't want.

The way pro-life proponents paint the picture of abortion seems a little unfair.  First, though, I do agree that it's not okay to take the life of a fetus for no reason - i.e. that if you are just irresponsible or don't like wearing condoms, that isn't a reason to get an abortion.  Now we have Plan B, so abortions for failed birth control should be less of a problem.  I feel uncomfortable with some arguments about when a fetus is considered human.  I am really not sure what I think about that.  But the current cut-off for abortions at 22 weeks, when a fetus could survive outside of the mother's womb, is being challenged in some states (I read this in USA Today this morning) which want to replace it with 20 weeks, making the argument that the fetuses feel pain.  But a lot of pro-life supporters make it seem like those who consider abortions are murderers who have indiscriminate sex and don't care if they get pregnant because they'll just use abortion as an easy solution.  That is certainly not the case.  It seems that a lot of women who get them feel a certain amount of guilt afterwards - marking a decision they didn't take lightly.  And most abortions are probably used for teenagers, life-threatening complications, rapes, or birth control failure in couples who are not ready to have a baby but are otherwise perfectly able to support one.

I'm sure there's more to both sides, but I think the basic dilemma here is between a woman's choice of when to have a child (as opposed to her complete absence of choice in the past when she just had to deal with being pregnant if her husband wanted to get her pregnant or if she were raped) and a human's right to life.  The decision seems impossible, and I think that it most likely is.  People still get fired up about it, though.  We waste a lot more energy on arguing about it than trying to find solutions to the problem.

I'm sure women who are for abortion or who have gotten one struggle with the implications - are they taking a human life?  And pro-life supporters should struggle with taking away a woman's choice to be pregnant when she wants to be pregnant, and not against her will.  What we need to do as adults is consider each side carefully and thoroughly, putting any opinion-tainting factors on the back-burner in the process.  This is society's problem; something we all deal with as human beings.  So let us consider it peacefully and with the mind to solve it, without all the bickering and divisiveness!  Because it is everyone's problem and everyone's job to try to fix it, without pointing the finger of accusation in the process.