Making Peace not War

Bodies Matter 2

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

Earlier this year, a 33 year-old Indiana resident named Purvi Patel was sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment. She had sought medical attention in a Mishawaka, Indiana emergency room for excessive vaginal bleeding and eventually revealed to the medical team that she had miscarried, and disposed of the fetus in a dumpster, which was later discovered there by authorities. At the crux of the legal case was the issue of whether Patel had miscarried or self-aborted, whether she had delivered a live baby or a nonliving fetus, and whether her pregnancy was even far enough along to deliver a viable live child.

Yet, Patel is not the first woman to be convicted of feticide here in Indiana as she follows Bei Bei Shuai, who in March 2011 was charged with the murder and attempted feticide of her child and jailed for 435 days.

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

About a month ago Bloomingdale’s ran a shiny Christmas holiday ad: A woman is dressed in a black skirt and white cardigan clutching a white purse looking to her right laughing at a conversation or joke. To her left is a man in a tuxedo looking at her with a secret in his eyes. In the space between the two people is the following copy: “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” Bloomingdale’s later apologized for it.

Earlier this year Budweiser had a similar ad with the tagline: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever.”

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

There was a massacre in my hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado. A white American terrorist armed with an assault-style rifle opened fire went on a rampage at the Planned Parenthood. According to the New York Times he “began shooting at officers as they rushed to the scene. The authorities reported that three people were killed, a police officer and two civilians, and nine were wounded before the suspect finally surrendered more than five hours after the first shots were fired.” He spouted sentiments like “no more baby parts,” and was described by later as a “recluse who longed for women and mixed religion with rage.”

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

In October, an Indiana University student was arrested over the weekend after police say he attacked a Muslim woman, yelling racially charged comments at her and trying to remove her headscarf. Police on Monday did not identify the woman, but said that she had been dining in a Bloomington, Indiana, restaurant’s outdoor seating area Saturday night with her 9-year-old daughter when she was approached by the 19 year old male who was yelling things like “white power,” “kill the police” and derogatory statements about black people.

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

In July five women died in police custody: Sandra Bland, Kindra Chapman, Joyce Curnell, Ralkina Jones and Raynette Turner were all found dead in their cells after being arrested by local authorities.

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

Here’s the thing about the Planned Parenthood tragedy. “The shooting last Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was horrifying, but according to a former Planned Parenthood worker, it wasn’t shocking,” (emphasis mine). The former employee goes on to note, “the attack that left three people dead was a continuation of decades of extremist tactics directed at the health care organization’s facilities, staff, volunteers and patients,” as found in this recent Mic article. This former employee went on to explain in detail the various tactics people would employ to harass and terrorize the clinic, and make it a place that employees feared going to for work.

There’s a war on women’s bodies.

In a day and age where what matters is fiercely contested on every turf and street what does it mean to say that our bodies matter?

That what is fundamental to our humanity is anchored in our flesh, our faces, our skin, our cells, our blood in every possible way? Click To Tweet

There are so many ways we can expand the reality that bodies matter, and yes, all bodies matter. As Advent allows us space to consider the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, what would it mean to enter into the story of God? To enter into the Son of God coming into the world through the body of a woman, theotokos? How can we let that shape our language, our policies, our systems around the undeniable reality that bodies must matter after all?

To label the realities of violence upon the bodies of those marginalized, often women, often women, women of color, transgender women, and transgender women of color is a way of agency and enacting of power. Though employing a rhetoric of war and violence is often viewed as problematic it is actually one way towards peace – speaking truth, telling the real stories, and naming clearly the realities that are there. It is preparing a way, it is making smooth the rough and leveling the ground.

For those of us who have experienced that violence and long for and hunger after that peace in our flesh and blood we feel those powers against us, and to name it is a way to hold onto and embody that sliver of peace.Click To Tweet

As we journey towards the second Sunday of Advent having feasted on hope, may we name, make, embody peace.

#bodiesmatter

Deeper Story: Texas (Or Why I’m Thinking about Abortion these Days)

Deeper Story: Texas (Or Why I’m Thinking about Abortion these Days)

This is an old post from Deeper Story, and felt pertinent again as we face state-mandated legislation that continues to impose on the rights of women like Purvi Patel who was recently convicted of feticide because of a miscarriage while killers like George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson, and the police offers who shot Tamir Rice, John Crawford, and strangled Eric Gurley walk free. We’ve seen much miscarriages of justice this last year. #repealrfra #fixfeticidelaw 

Wendy Davis.

Abortion.

Human rights.

The drama in Texas as of late has been time-consuming. During the summer when all my shows are absent and I’m tired of reruns on Netflix or Hulu it is easy to get swept up in it. Late at night I squint at my Iphone following various conversations on Twitter and then catch up on summaries and opinions about it the next morning. I find myself reacting to photographs…cringing and angry at people posting pictures of aborted fetuses in the palm of someone’s hand. Angry at the loss of life. Angry at feeling manipulated by these pictures. But, also heartened, and bolstered by images of Wendy Davis standing, but also sitting in a gallery, a sea of men, and the women sitting in the gallery in solidarity, resisting, and speaking, embodying the voiceless.

Something huge is stirring there. And, it feels like a microcosm of the general unrest all across the country. Trayvon Martin. Death Row. The Asiana debacle. Gay marriage. It’s all a bit staggering trying to keep up with voices clamoring for attention. Is there a majority voice? A minority voice? Does that even matter?

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I’m taking Monday mornings “off” now (quotes because are we really ever off, especially with a cute almost-5 month old sleeping near me that will awake at any moment) and trying to get out somewhere – anywhere – to feel normal. I’m sitting in the Bakehouse, which is the local version of Panera-Cosi surrounded by students and retirees with big screen TVs showing some road race. The town is big into cycling with the Little Indy and well, just watch the movie, Breakaway.

I’m drinking a leisurely cup of coffee. This is an insanely huge treat to not have to toss into the back of my throat so I don’t lose my chance at caffeine. And baby#3 has fallen into what looks possible like a deep sleep. And…there’s a family behind me with a screaming toddler. I think it’s a toddler. I don’t turn around because I know how it feels to be looked at when in public with a very unhappy and vocal child. My shoulders are tightening up. It’s not so relaxing anymore. I’m starting to gulp the coffee as if it will disappear like a use-it-or-lose-it arrangement. The little voice sounds so similar to the twins it feels like I’m at home with them trying to ignore the latest scream-debate over the broom or my flip-flops.

How can something so small be so loud?

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When I was lying on the table as they reached in and plucked the twins out of the place that was their home for almost 9 months – my impossibly huge belly – I tried to imagine the sound they would make with their first breath. D had a low, wide cry that would remain the same even until this day, and Angelpie screeched as they lifted her up. I laughed. My first words – I was drugged up, mind you – was, “She sounds like a cat!” If I could go back I maybe would have tried to muster up something more meaningful.

But I cried, too. Their cries were God. Something divine and eternal happened in that moment, a thin place, a place where heaven and earth touched briefly. Likewise, when Oz was born and we had no idea whether boy or girl when I heard his wail, it immediately brought tears to my eyes. Hearing his voice meant he was real. Because even up to that point – what with infertility issues and a surprise pregnancy – I still didn’t believe he was real. His voice cut through all those doubts, and I was thinking, rather cheerily, the words to that Beatles song, I’m a believer…

I get it now.

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The sight of the two embryos getting sucked up by a microscopic needle in preparation for the embryo transfer – on a huge flat screen TV – while I lay on the table is forever burned in my mind. There goes Anna. (Swoooooop)There goes Desmond. (Swooooooooop) They were little dots in a petri dish. Now they are flailing limbs, teeth, wrinkled noses, and sweet hands. I can’t help but think what would we have done if later in the pregnancy something happened where it wouldn’t be a viable option to continue to sustain them? Some kind of genetic disability? Or what if one was somehow viable, and the other not, and one needed to come out early, otherwise we would lose both? These are horrible scenarios, I know, but I have heard they are real. I don’t know what I would have chosen to do if that happened to us. There’s far worse that could have happened to me, too, and that happen to women on a daily basis, their bodies.

All that drama. To try to decide who has rights, who has nerve endings and feels pain, who has a soul. To try to decide who gets to choose what happens to the little blip on the screen until the first breath, the first cry.

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There’s no answer. No one answer. But what this has to do with me right now is the conviction that the struggle for life – whether at the embryonic or community levels – is one that must be engaged by all. It might have to do with race, or with gender, or with economics, but it impacts all. I’m sounding preachy. I’m not meaning to lecture because this is pretty obvious. I think I’m writing it out to remind myself that like a friend posted on Facebook this morning I can’t just post a couple of links or say a few words here and there because a revolution needs to happen that is real and changes people and institutions. For now, that resistance happens at home and in coffee shops…I pray God to give me courage to carry that resistance into other places, too, at the courthouse, at church, and the streets.

“A social movement that moves only people is a revolt. A movement that changes people and institutions is a revolution.” – MLK Jr.