Millennials and abortion rights

If abortion rights disappear, it’s the millennials who will be most affected. Some of them are worried. Many of them are unaware and unconcerned — but more of them are beginning to take up the fight for reproductive justice. Or, at the least, beginning to pay attention.

I got my first anecdotal glimpse of how the issue is playing out when I spoke to a class at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA recently. It was, by and large, heartening. The students listened attentively to my own story of an illegal abortion that took place when their grandmothers were young. Most were somber or nodded in sympathy; one young woman put both hands to her cheeks, partially covering her eyes and shaking her head as if in disbelief. I read that with encouragement: maybe if more of the millennials realize how dangerous those pre-1973 days were for women they will help prevent a return.

The several young men in the class turned out to be the most vocal in support of abortion rights. I asked one of them why. “Because I don’t believe anyone should tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her own body,” he said. He knew several women of his generation who have had abortions, and he believed it was nobody’s business but their own.

Then I asked if anyone in the class — which did seem generally supportive of abortion rights — felt differently. “It’s okay,” I said. “I’m not being judgmental or argumentative; everyone’s got a right to his or her own opinion. I’d just like to hear from anyone who does not believe abortion should ever be permitted.” One courageous young woman raised her hand.

“I know three people who have had abortions,” she said in response to my request for explanation. “Two of them later had regrets, and it has ruined their lives.” And on that basis she feels no one should be allowed to have an abortion? “Yes.”

It would be ridiculous to draw any conclusions from one brief encounter with several dozen bright millennials, but I have some theories. One is that the anti-abortion spokeswoman, in addition to knowing several women “whose lives are ruined,” is rooted in a religious community that reinforces this view. It’s the stance of the religious and political right that abortion is murder — and if you’re in such a community and have an abortion you would undoubtedly feel ruined afterward. Forever? I hope not.

A second theory is that the articulate young man has been around a lot of people who encouraged him to ask questions and think things through. While the young woman was not anxious to elaborate on her views, he seemed perfectly ready to defend his.

My hopes are on the millennials who are thinking things through.

You CAN go home again…

… but it won’t be quite the same.

I’m just home from a trip to Washington, DC

commons.wikimedia.org

commons.wikimedia.org

for a nice event at The Corcoran Gallery that included a wide-ranging assortment of events — business, pleasure and in between. There were old faces, new faces and vastly altered landscapes, familiar turf and unfamiliar weather.

There were serendipitous treats like catching up with old friends I’ve not seen in a few years or a few decades… in the case of old friend  Roger Mudd, it was a matter of catching up on some 60 years.

Photo credit W&L.edu

Photo credit W&L.edu

And a side trip to my childhood hometown of Ashland, VA, where the characters of many of my short stories roam.

Thomas Wolfe, whose book title inspired this blog post, put it this way: “Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.” I wasn’t inspired to lean down my ear on the frosty February earth of Ashland (although the phrase brings fond memories of leaning our childhood ears upon the train tracks to figure out whether a locomotive was en route,) but it was fascinating to find things changed, and unchanged:

The dining room where I ate dinners for some 20+ years features a different wallpaper and is decorated with different art, but it’s still a warm and welcoming room and I was incredibly blessed to be invited to a “Homecoming Dinner” therein with family, old friends and the now residents of the home. 2014-01-31_18-53-31_136

Randolph-Macon College is unchanged in some of its gracious, over 100-year-old buildings and long familiar original campus on which I grew up, but surely changed in the rapidly expanding new campus… and the student body which was all male in my long ago childhood. It was a very special treat to meet with some of the current students and faculty, in class and at lunch. That story follows in a few days here; I hope you’ll stay tuned.

Thinking about the Bush think tank

Why am I not encouraged by reports of the official launch of the George W. Bush Institute on the campus of Southern Methodist University? According to Dallas Morning News reporter Lori Stahl,

Former President George W. Bush will make his first scheduled Dallas appearance at SMU today when he and wife Laura unveil plans for the Bush Institute before an audience of 1,500 people at McFarlin Auditorium.

The Institute has been described by foundation officials as a scholarly forum that will conduct research and promote dialogue on four core principles identified by the Bushes.

These core principles, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, include education, global health, human freedom and economic growth. Hmm.

My father Earl Moreland, who grew up to be, among other things, president of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA for 28 years, died in 1987 without voting for either of his fellow Texans. He was in the first class ever to enter what would become SMU, and one of my fond memories is of accompanying him to Dallas for his 60th reunion.  I believe it is safe to say he would not be proud to have a Bush think tank on the campus of his alma mater.

For my part, I am just stumbling over those “core principles,” and their connection to our former president. Education? Global health? Embodied by someone who condemned millions throughout Africa and beyond to sickness and death through his ill-advised policies? Economic growth? Hello? Times are surely tough today, ten months into Barack Obama’s presidency, but did he create this mess or inherit it?

Some of my favorite people voted for George W. Bush. All of them are, in my humble opinion, smarter than he is. One of them did graduate work at SMU years ago, but does not support placement of the Institute on campus.

During our trip to Dallas for his reunion (the school opened in 1915, you can do the math) my father remarked that he would come back for his 65th if there were anyone around to reune with. Turned out he never made that return visit. If he were here today I’m not sure he would be making plans for his 100th.

My father had a favorite response to all things he considered outrageous (often applied to his daughters) which sounded like “Poosharisha!” It was from his second language (which I sadly never learned), adopted during a 12-year period in Brazil at the Instituto Porto Alegre. Long after he died I learned it was a Portugese expression that  translates, roughly, “That is beyond anything within the natural order of the universe.”

Somewhere in the ethernet I hear my father contemplating the coming of the George W. Bush think tank, and clearly also hear his voice. Poosharisha.


George W. Bush to unveil Bush Institute programs today at SMU | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News.

Helping Mom die

Flight #12 had not even left the gate in San Francisco yesterday before the conversation was underway. The man in seat #16F was talking to his new friend in #16E about his trip: another of many undertaken by himself and his siblings to their mother’s home in the long process of packing up, sorting through, tossing out, agonizing over. The scene is a familiar one to millions of Americans: aging, often isolated mom; far-flung, often cash-strapped, over-stressed children; a bewildering assortment of issues to be dealt with, ranging from health to housing to family dynamics.

I, of course, am the mom. Well, not #16F’s mom, and currently in good health and of relatively sane mind. But 76, with children across the continent and a dizzying amount of Stuff to be dealt with if my husband should have the crass inconsideration to die first and leave me to deal with it. (Actually, he’s been very good about making arrangements for disposition of his Stuff, but still, there are those piles and boxes and shelves of miscellany and cupboards of chipped dishes. And closets full of clothes from the 1950s and still perfectly wearable… but I digress.)

My sisters and I were fortunate that our dad looked after our mom as she slowly died, swearing they had a fine conversation the night before although dementia had long stolen her ability to converse; my father created his own realities. Twenty years later, the town of Ashland, VA, with the assistance of Randolph-Macon College, looked after our dad, because indeed it takes a village. But fewer and fewer of us have the traditional village, and more and more of us have the complications: dementia, physical issues, personal problems, too little financial and emotional resources, too much Stuff.

There is help. There are community centers and assisted living arrangements, there is the new Villages concept (more about that one in the next week or so) and an array of other anti-isolationist possibilities; there are nonprofits of every sort, from the Family Caregiver Alliance to multiple physical/emotional-needs groups to my alltime favorite, in name at least, the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. God willing, we may even get health care, but thanks to those earlier, similar battles we at least now have Medicare and Medicaid.

But too many of us still put it all off, and it falls to the children. We cling to the past in the form of too many boxes of old photos and letters and opera programs; we drive too long and invite fender-benders or worse; we think that old chair is worth too much for a garage sale; we forget to take the pills.

The issue, of course, is not about dying; it’s about living. Living as well as possible for as long as possible, as closely as possible to what we would choose for ourselves. But here’s what happens eventually: mom dies. It’s tough, but it’s probably okay.

I gave my card with the True/Slant website on it to the nice people in #16E and #16F; maybe they’ll check in. When I get back home, though, I think I’ll clean out some files.