Chris Christie, Anais Nin and the Enforcement of Motherhood

What do New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and writer Anais Nin have in common? Not a whole lot, Christie would probably say. But a case can be made for their similar positions on one major issue: the importance of motherhood.

Christie has been everywhere in the news since his speech to the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition, in which he drew loud applause when explaining his anti-abortion stance. Christie, like Mitt Romney and assorted other deft politicians, was pro-choice for a while. But he reportedly changed his mind when his wife was pregnant and he heard a heartbeat.

The way this works, for Christie, Romney and the Faith and Freedom Coalition, is that life in utero becomes sanctified to the exclusion of its carrier. The woman becomes simply that, a fetus-carrier, until she delivers a baby. And there it is: Motherhood.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition, along with Christie, Romney and conservatives everywhere, promotes the notion that once conception occurs motherhood must be enforced, and the fetus protected. This creates the noble, if tragically erroneous, belief that if abortion is banned it will simply never happen. But forced motherhood is not always possible.

This writer claims no insight into Gov. Christie’s soul, or expertise on Anais Nin, but I do know a lot about illegal abortion. If you tell women with unintended pregnancies that they may not terminate those pregnancies, they won’t listen. They will simply do desperate things to end their pregnancies, and unfortunately a lot of them will die trying. This is already happening in the U.S., thanks to conservatives’ success in denying access to safe abortion: poor women desperate to terminate unwanted pregnancies are again facing suffering and possible death.

Knowing of my interest in preventing more unnecessary deaths, a friend recently forwarded this comment made by Anais Nin in a 1940 diary recounting her abortion experience:

“Motherhood is a vocation like any other.”

Gov. Christie would agree, or proclaim it more exalted than others – except, perhaps, politics. But he and the Faith & Freedom folks would doubtless take umbrage with Nin’s following line:

“It should be freely chosen, not imposed upon women.”


Churchill & the power of words

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the Unite...
Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955. Deutsch: Winston Churchill, 1940 bis 1945 sowie 1951 bis 1955 Premier des Vereinigten Königreichs und Literaturnobelpreisträger des Jahres 1953. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

President Obama reportedly has 15 million+ Twitter followers. Romney folks got a bunch of their own with the fake Bill Clinton tweets caper. But anything tweets and sound bites can do, oratory could do better. Oh, for a Winston Churchill today.

Winston Churchill would absolutely never have tweeted.

What he did do with the English language is illuminated in a fascinating exhibition that opened on my birthday – thanks, Churchill Centre – at the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan. Get there if you can.

Churchill: The Power of Words, includes some sixty-five documents, artifacts, and recordings, ranging from edited typescripts of his speeches to his Nobel Medal and Citation to endearingly personal notes exchanged with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Among the most moving features of the exhibition is a small room where broadcasts that   Churchill made between 1938 and 1941 are heard while a screen shows video clips and his own annotated notes.

It’s hard to pick a favorite from among the treasure trove of documents, but the collection detailing his unhappy days at St. George School, to which he was sent off when not quite 8 years old, is a start. Notes the hated headmaster: “Winston is troublesome, his conduct exceedingly bad; he cannot be trusted to behave himself anywhere.” But he got good grades in history.

The Roosevelt/Churchill friendship shines through in exchanged notes, such as when FDR delightedly heard Churchill had visited the U.S. as a baby. Churchill wrote back that no, he’d been here first when he was 28, “too big for my baby carriage.” To which FDR cabled back, “Some baby.”

Also included in the exhibition is the doctor’s prescription for “medicinal alcohol” when Churchill was hospitalized after being struck by a car in New York during Prohibition; FDR’s telegram to Churchill on D-Day; and the handwritten note from King George VI about FDR’s death: “My dear Winston; I cannot tell you how sad I am…”

In addition to the oratory that shaped history, the words in The Power of Words are mischievous, poignant, revealing and heart-wrenching.

They just wouldn’t be the same in a tweet.