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Imagination

by on July 1, 2022

Imagination

by Marco M. Pardi

God made me an alcoholic to serve as an example to my children of what not to do.” Anon. (Spoken at a closed A.A. meeting in the presence of this author who was doing Death & Dying research among substance abusers.)

One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.” Erich Fromm, world renowned Psychoanalyst.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment. Readers are encouraged to forward this site as they wish.

Though it may not seem so at times, I listen to people. Always have. Thus, as a young man working in a funeral home I heard many things expressed among family and friends of the deceased, especially during pre-burial viewings. In the case of infants and children, “Taken before his time”, “There were so many plans”. For adults, “She lived a full life”, “It was his time.” For accident victims, “So that’s how God decided to bring him home.”

The author Crane Brinton said, “Man is unique in nature and among animals in being able to conceive a future.” My experience with non-human animals casts great doubt upon that. But then, I have no concrete way to prove that. And it is proof I will try to address here.

Spending my careers in fields concerned with life or death situations I “naturally” gravitated into a reliance on logic, a fundamental character trait I cannot remember ever not having. In an earlier post I outlined my reason for dismissing the term irrational as it is commonly used. To me, irrational is unintelligible; glossolalia, “speaking in tongues”, is an example. Though those engaged in debate may hurl the accusation “irrational” at an opponent it has no place in a discussion of views. Instead, I contrast non-rational and rational, without judging the inherent value of either. Rational speech is objectively evidence based. An outside examiner, much removed, is able to assess the factual truth of the statement. Non-rational speech is belief based. The objective truth of the statement is neither provable nor disprovable even by the speaker.

We can say that the discovery of pregnancy very often sparks imagined visualizations of the future, a state which, by definition, does not exist. We can agree that the “reveal” of the sex status of the fetus often channels the visualizations into expectations based upon presumed gender roles. And, we can understand that later rejection of the roles by the born and developing child often brings unpleasant, sometimes severe, consequences upon the child. We would be fair in concluding those consequences emanate from a non-rational view of who the child really is; they emanate from belief, not from demonstrable fact, a point which would be argued by the child as it develops.

Apparently the once United States are currently expressing a kaleidoscopic variety of non-rational conclusions regarding when life begins. Some States are proclaiming that human life is established at conception – the joining of a male’s sperm cell and a female’s egg cell, a position held by some denominations of Christianity. I’m waiting to see the first test case, a newly pregnant woman stopped for driving in the car pool lane. But Your Honor, there were two persons in the car. Since human cloning is a possibility, will we be prosecuting cancer surgeons for mass murder when they take healthy cells in order to obtain clean margins around a tumor? In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a common procedure by which couples unable to conceive are able to do so with the assistance of technology. But the process almost always results in multiple fertilizations, from which the couple selects one or two embryos for implantation. The rest of the fertilized eggs are discarded. Will that now be prosecuted as multiple murder?

Other States are side-stepping the issue, permitting termination of the pregnancy up to the threshold of viability outside the womb, medically considered 23 – 24 weeks. And, some States are struggling to set some point in between conception and twenty two weeks. Notably, there is sparse discussion of what constitutes Fully Human. Are people visualizing a future development, an as yet non-existent state and retro-projecting it to the present? Are they seeing an as yet non-existent Little Leager in a zygote? Are they looking at electrical impulses in a small tissue mass and seeing rational thought?

If a Spontaneous Abortion, the medical term for “miscarriage” occurs it can certainly be occasion for sadness. But is it deserving of “taken before its time” being intoned? Some States have expressed determination to investigate spontaneous abortions to determine whether the woman induced the event in some way. Since many of these occur while the woman is using the toilet, will she be prosecuted for destroying evidence if she flushes? Spontaneous abortion is often not as simple as many people imagine. It is often incomplete, requiring immediate medical care to prevent the woman from going into septic shock and dying. Yet, if a physician is facing loss of license, a large fine, and ten years in prison, will he or she step forward to provide it?

Several States are following Texas’ lead in criminalizing even the attempt to seek an abortion, developing surveillance of internet searches, out of State travel arrangements, intrusion into medical records, and empowering vigilantes to spy on and report neighbors, friends, and family members who may try for such medical care and doctors who provide it. A “bounty” is promised in the amount of $10,000 minimum available through lawsuits the vigilantes are encouraged to file. Apple and Google are currently under scrutiny for facilitating the identification and tracking of anyone seeking information and/or services connected with abortion. This is quite familiar to me. The excerpt below is from a research site covering the rise of Fascism in Italy:

The Organizzazione per la Vigilanza e la Repressione dell’Antifascismo (OVRA; Italian for “Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti-Fascism”) was the secret police of the Kingdom of Italy, founded in 1927 under the regime of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The OVRA was the Italian precursor of the German Gestapo. Mussolini’s secret police were assigned to stop any anti-Fascist activity or sentiment. Approximately 5,000 OVRA agents infiltrated most aspects of domestic life in Italy. The OVRA was headed by Arturo Bocchini.”

While my father, an Italian military Colonel and a clandestine paymaster of the Resistance, was in Prague under temporary arrest by the Gestapo my English grandmother, American-Italian mother, my older brother, and I were spirited away in the pre-dawn hours to a safe house provided by the Vatican. My grandmother, who spoke only English, had been visiting her daughter, raised and educated in Italy, Switzerland and France, and my grandmother was trapped with us in Italy when war was declared against the Allies. Fearful that some neighbor would succumb to the OVRA offers of money and extra ration cards, or to threats of imprisonment for not turning in foreigners, we moved into small rooms where we hid for ten months. During those months we nearly starved and I entered Death’s anteroom twice through inadequate treatment for pertussis and then an unknown virus. Unable to seek medical help, we could only rely on the questionable medicine smuggled to us by two Catholic priests. The OVRA did raid and search our home. Had we been discovered my family would have been imprisoned. I, with a Fascist birth certificate and Fascist passport – which I still have, would probably have been placed somewhere. Or, we would just be more bones in a field. Yes, tell me again how Fascism is no big deal, how it could even be good for the United States.

But let’s return to the quote beneath the title about being made an alcoholic as an example of what not to do. Clearly non-rational; we cannot say it is true nor can we say it is false. This is typical too of statements such as A fertilized egg has a soul and is therefore entitled to the same personhood as the woman carrying it. Non-rational. Can’t say it’s right, can’t say it’s wrong. But let’s play along. An entire industry sprang up on the claims of discovering your purpose in life. All of the reams of that literature are non-rational. What’s to stop me from saying A spontaneous abortion occurs because a soul: 1. Is providing a lesson from which the parents should discover sorrow and their ability to work through it; 2. The soul realized it had picked the wrong host and bailed out; or, 3. The soul was meant to teach the woman to not use drugs, including alcohol.

And what’s to stop me from saying an unwanted pregnancy, requiring an induced abortion, Is a message from God to be more careful, get yourself on contraception, to not take candy from strangers, etc. Did that make you mad? It would make me mad.

And what about rape and/or incest? Some States do not allow abortion in either case. Adding insult to injury, some of these same States require the mother to allow child visitation with her rapist, incestuous or otherwise.

But there is a new remedy devised by this same “supreme court”. They have just now decided that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot continue overseeing and regulating toxic emissions from coal and other fossil fueled power plants. Many of these plants are situated precisely in air current corridors which most seriously impact low income minority communities – the same communities which dominate abortion demand. For decades the infant and childhood morbidity and mortality from asthma and other respiratory conditions in these communities has been disproportionately high, indeed stunning. Yet, the “court” decided against the EPA, long a target of the “Republican” party, and is allowing toxic emissions to solve the unwanted pregnancy problems. The GOP mantra for hazardous industries is “self regulation”. After all, unregulated capitalism is the economic bedrock of Fascism. Is it rational, non-rational, or irrational that the Republican (read: Fascist) Party wants to outlaw abortion and even contraception yet is fine with poisoning every living being on the planet? Over 75 years ago Fascists attempted to harm my family. Now they are attempting again. And that’s not a stretch of the imagination.

But I think you get the point. Are we, as a modern, civilized society, to allow ourselves to be governed by laws formed in the non-rational fantasies of someone’s imagination? Are we to be governed by those who look at us and see only dollar signs, or cannon fodder?

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10 Comments
  1. Ray Rivers permalink

    Why do Americans feel there even needs to be a law about this highly personal issue anyway. We’ve managed in Canada without one for over 30 years – the decisions around pregnancy belong to a woman and her doctor – the only guidance in the case of an unwanted pregnancy is the mental and physical health of the woman.

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  2. I think your society is more generally populated with rational thinkers, as has been demonstrated in other areas. We, on the other hand, have a much higher percentage of non-rational thinkers. We also have a much greater and more deeply entrenched neo-Fascist core that benefits from the dissension and from the social costs of beliefs underlying the “pro-life” crowd. Hence they use these non-rational thinkers to further their own agenda, playing on their ignorance.

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  3. Julie permalink

    I’m so sorry Marco that you and your family had to go through such a horrific experience. I cannot imagine the stress that you would have had to endure. Human rights is what stands out for me here and the “powers to be” making decisions that take away human rights. I don’t feel the world has ever been ‘fair’ however these laws you are discussing about abortion are very disturbing to me. You have raised some really good points in clarifying embryo status etc and your thoughts should be passed onto these “decision makers”. From my experience I have observed these “decision makers” are usually out of touch with the deeper picture to the decisions they make and take a black or white approach, which life isn’t.

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    • Thank you so much, Julie. Although my mother became an OSS officer, she never really recovered from the experience.

      It seems pretty clear these “laws” and interpretations of laws were made without much reliance on logic. But non-rational thinkers are often unable or unwilling to think deeply and to accept the conclusions which emanate from logical thinking. Unfortunately, our descent into imminently violent tribalism will accelerate as the now empowered courts attack other hard won rights and logical laws. The deeply regrettable results, especially environmentally, will be felt and suffered throughout the world.

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  4. From Dana: Marco, another excellent blog entry. I’m so relieved to have our small community of friends to work through the thoughts, concerns, and anxiety.

    Since it seems the majority of “anti-choicers” seem to be religious zealots, I would have a number of question for them. I’ve long thought, “So it was ‘okay’ for your ‘god’ to terminate one of my pregnancies, but women should be imprisoned for attempting to do the same?”

    It sounds like something out of a horrific, dystopian story.

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    • Thank you, Dana. Many people either don’t know or they conveniently forget the history of what has come to be called “The Church”. It was a struggle to become a political force, eventually to be known as The Holy Roman Empire. Almost from the start various sects and factions slaughtered each other by the hundreds of thousands, two examples of which are the Arian Heresy and the Albigensian Crusade. Women had a duty to produce as many children as possible, to serve as warriors or as factories for more warriors. A woman with few or no children was a shameful failure, considered unworthy in the eyes of God. This prefigured the NAZI era in which “racially ideal” young men and women were encouraged to dutifully have sex and reproduce as many children as possible, many simply handed over to childless couples so the burden was shared around. In short, the theological admonition to bear children in the church was merely a ploy to enforce a demonstrably secular purpose. To this end a complex fantasy regarding conception and gestation was woven into the dogma.

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  5. Dana permalink

    My history of that is pretty rusty, Marco, but I can always count on you. This was enlightening. Thanks for the added lesson.

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    • You’re welcome, Dana. It’s not all Gregorian chants and heads bowed in prayer. The Albigensian Crusade derives its name from the people (Latin: gens) of the Albi region – southern France. They had developed the Cathar sect, essentially Gnosticism, which rejected the need for clergy and church hierarchy. They were strict pacifists and would not defend themselves. The Papacy joined with the King of France (who wanted that region) to wipe them out. Many were surrounded, herded into meeting houses, and men, women, and children were burned alive. When you go to Southern France today and gain the trust of the locals you will still hear threads of the old Cathar Gnosticism.

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  6. This feels like the end. I had written a rant expressing my anger and my fear, but it just feels like the same old words. I am angry at what the Supreme Court has done to us, angry because it makes me feel so helpless. The churches around here are sporting signs praising the end of Roe vs Wade, and it just makes me want to scream, or cry. I am not pro-abortion as a means of casual birth control, but I am pro-choice in all cases. In any and all cases, I do not believe the government should have any say in the matter.

    As your illustration depicts, this is how it starts. Which rights and choices will the government take away next?

    Do you remember the movie “Logan’s Run”? It was about a dystopian society in which, in order to preserve resources, everyone over the age of 30 was killed. Is this the direction in which we are headed, or perhaps something like it? Now that the Supreme Court has decided that all babies must be born, how long until they decide who gets to stay alive; how long, and under what conditions? I once again play devil’s advocate, but if they can write it into a book or movie, what’s to stop it from becoming real? All of those whose lives were ended in the name of race, religion, or political greed might argue that it has already happened.

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    • Thank you, Rose. I do understand the feeling of sinking into quicksand, becoming powerless while yet being able to see what could have been behind what undeniably is.

      Yes, Logan’s Run was a wonderful film, in the genre of Huxley’s Brave New World and other literature. We must never be fooled by the “Pro-Life” claims, These people are manifestly NOT Pro-Life; they are Pro-Birth, which for them is a form of control and a form of punishment for those who, in their eyes, engage in the salacious act of having sex. We do live in a very sick society. Whether it is terminal remains to be seen, but I agree with you when you say “This feels like the end”.

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