Thoughts on a Polarized America

I’m beginning to think all of President Trump’s broken campaign promises, “alternative facts,” misogyny, racism, etc., are tactics meant to polarize Americans. Populists gain their power through polarization. Divide and conquer.

2016_presidential_election_by_county_red-blue-purple_view-svg

On Saturday, I went to the Womxn’s March, here in Seattle, with somewhere between 130,000 and 175,000 other people, mostly white women—not surprising given my city’s demographics. When I said “people,” it was because I wasn’t sure what to call us—marchers, protesters? I was unsure about attending, right up to the last minute, because I didn’t get a good sense 0f what it was really trying to accomplish. Attending didn’t help, and I still am not sure how I feel about it.

womxnsmarch

I have been bothered by things being said, and done, inside “the (very blue) bubble” I live in, and the things I read online about other places, both red and blue.

This morning, I read an article by Andrés Miguel Rondón, who grew up during Chavez’s rise to power in Venezuela. It helped me pull together my thoughts about the election and the state of my own country.

Rondón nailed it when he said, “Show no contempt. Your organizing principle is simple: don’t feed polarization, disarm it. This means leaving the theater of injured decency behind. The Venezuelan Opposition struggled for years to get this. It wouldn’t stop pontificating about how stupid it all is. Not only to their international friends, but also to the Chavista electoral base itself. ‘Really, this guy? Are you nuts? You must be nuts.’ We’d say.”

That’s how I felt, when Trump was nominated, and then again, when he was elected. No matter how I tried to reconcile it, that was my feeling.“Are you serious? We are out of our collective mind.” I was angry at the Republicans for nominating him. Long before the primaries, I was fairly certain there would be a Republican president in 2017.

I’m a pretty rational person—probably, to a fault, at times. I’m trying to pay more attention to people’s feelings, because emotions are what drive people. That’s why the news media is so sensationalized—they play off people’s emotions, especially their fears. They’re like children on a playground. “I’m right.” “No! I’m right.” Or like teenagers. “Did you hear what he did this time?”

So, I asked myself, what are the most significant polarizing issues? I believe the biggest one is abortion. If a politician says he’s for or against it, this will be a prime deciding factor for a majority of people when they go to vote.

sfantiabortionmarch

The major argument against abortion is based around the belief—most often, religious belief—that terminating a pregnancy is murder. I understand that. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. The problem is, that unless we do something about unwanted pregnancies, the need for abortions will exist, regardless of whether or not they are legal, or, for that matter, moral.

According to a CNN article from 3/2/16, the rate of unwanted pregnancies is dropping, if very slowly. The Johnston Archive has a nicely graphed diagram of rates of terminated pregnancies from 1960 to 2013. It peaked in 1980 and dropped by the 2000s, but then leveled a bit.

johnstonearchive-graphusabrate

The CNN article attributes a drop, in the last couple of years, to better access to more effective, modern methods (levonorgestrel and copper IUD and birth control implants—all of which have side effects), which have a 1% failure rate compared with 9% for the pill and 18% for condoms. But, it suggests, lack of access to and education about these methods keeps the rate much higher for women of lowest socioeconomic status and education level—five times as high.

So, what can we do about this one?

My rational brain tells me the best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. One way to start the conversation with someone on “the other side” could be by asking how the other person feels about the number of unwanted pregnancies. I’ll wager both of you agree it’s too high.

In the next part of the discussion, solicit suggestions on what to do to lower the rate of unwanted pregnancies.

One way I would suggest would be to provide services that educate teens and young women and men—and children, for that matter—about how their bodies function, and that provide free birth control—people have sex, it’s in our genes.

Planned Parenthood—who provide education, reproductive health services, and birth control (only 3% of their health services are abortion services)—does this. Support them. If you can’t stomach supporting Planned Parenthood, I suggest rallying your local and state and federal representatives to build reproductive health clinics—most importantly in poor neighborhoods—that provide these services.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act included a provision to require insurers to cover contraception as part of preventive health care. Whatever change happens under the new administration, we should all encourage our representatives to ensure this gets included in the replacement.

The most obvious benefit for reducing unwanted pregnancies is, of course, that it would lower the number of terminated pregnancies. There are other, more subtle benefits. The later a woman has her first child, the better off she is, financially, and the healthier both she and her children are. There would be less homeless families, less children growing up in abject poverty, and higher educational levels attained by mothers and their children. It would allow the women more of a chance to become contributing members of our community.

Let’s reduce unwanted pregnancies. Attack the root of the problem, not the symptom.

Over the next few days, I’ll be thinking about what other issues polarize us. Let me know your thoughts about what I suggested here, or about the issues you think divide us the most.

Photo Credits:

Purple America Map By Ali Zifan – This file was derived from:  USA Counties.svg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48100979

San Francisco Anti-abortion March – http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Anti-abortion-crowd-takes-to-S-F-streets-for-10874422.php

Abortion Rate Graph – The Johnstone Archive http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/graphusabrate.html

Seattle Womxn’s March – Ramona Ridgewell

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.

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This entry was posted in Abortion, AmWriting, Common Ground, family, Life, Polarized America, Women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Thoughts on a Polarized America

  1. Pingback: Three Years on WordPress | RamonaRidgewell

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