Monday, November 07, 2016

Why I'm Against Trump's Social Policies

I believe government should follow the same principle as doctors do: "Do No Harm." Law is a blunt instrument: while a certain bill may be proposed with the good of the people in mind or passed into law with the best intentions, often there are unforeseen or ignored consequences that do more harm than good.

As such, I believe the government should be very careful to not pass laws that disproportionately affect small slivers of the American populace or violate the standard that "all men are created equal." I believe it is the government's job to protect the vulnerable from the will of the strong, to protect the minority from the ignorance of the majority. To make sure that freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and basic human rights are always respected, for all.

Protect the vulnerable? At first blush, anti-abortion, pro-life laws may appear to do that. If I were a woman and found myself pregnant, I would not get an abortion. I think this has to do largely with my view that life is a miracle, and my experience growing up with my sister, Shari, who has severe autism. When I think about how genetic testing could mean that parents would choose to prevent people like my sister from ever being born, it causes me deep distress. I know the sacrifices my parents made and the incredible strength it took to raise my sister, and I know not every parent has those same resources or abilities. I'm not sure even I would be able to meet that challenge. But it troubles me how close some abortion decisions can come to sounding like arguments for eugenics.

However, I am not willing to cut off my thinking there. First, I am a man, not a woman. I will never be in that position to make such a decision about my body. So I need to consider what it means to force someone to carry a child for nine months, at risk to their own health and welfare. If abortion was as simple and clear cut as murder, you certainly wouldn't see such a split in public opinion (the devil isn't fooling 50% of Americans). You wouldn't have concessions from Republicans allowing for exemptions in case of rape and incest-- after all, if the baby is innocent, then why should the crime be a reason for the baby's termination? If abortion is murder, would every miscarriage become a murder investigation? If late-stage health problems were to put a pregnant woman at risk, would doctors hesitate to save the mother's life over that of her child's? I can't pretend this isn't a thorny issue. Expecting a law to address it adequately and humanely is hopelessly naive.

Trump's VP Mike Pence agrees that abortions based on genetic tests smacks of eugenics, which is why he passed a law banning such a practice. But he will never have to live with the consequences of that law-- and he's done exactly nothing in his state to address what happens when that down syndrome baby is born. Will he force the parents to care for the child? With what money and what resources? What has he put in place to make sure that child won't suffer? Isn't it an incredible cruelty to inflict on expecting parents--to make a mother carry to term a child who she may not want, who may not even survive? Pence even banned the one good that could come from an abortion-- requiring fetal tissue to be buried or cremated, rather than using those cells to help save the lives of others.

Trump portrayed women getting an abortion at a late stage in her pregnancy as monsters, "ripping the baby from the womb." But the facts show that uniformly, women getting late term abortions wanted to have their baby-- the baby, sadly, wasn't viable. Having those "abortions" was literally the worst and most painful moment of their lives. Why is Trump bringing additional hardship to grieving mothers? Is it really to save vulnerable lives? Or score political points?

Abortion is a tragedy no matter what choice gets made. What makes Donald Trump and Mike Pence more qualified to answer such a personal crisis than women, their doctors and their families?

Creating new life is the greatest miracle-- perhaps the only miracle-- mankind is capable of. If you have to force people to perform that miracle, you've got bigger problems that no single law can solve. Instead of punishing women and their doctors, our efforts should focus on creating a more supportive environment for women, children, and families. Trump's businesses don't even offer paid maternity leave. Pence voted against paid maternity and paternity leave time and time again. I believe that if you want to protect life, you can't just force birth--you've got to actually support policies that give young families and single mothers the time, money and resources necessary to raise a healthy child.

I also believe people should be able to live, love and worship without government interfering with their lifestyle. The party of Trump believes one of the nation’s biggest problems is transgender people using the bathroom, and that the Supreme Court needs more people like Scalia, who wrote a scathing dissent against the court’s approval of gay marriage. Mike Pence's idea of "religious freedom" is the freedom for businesses to discriminate against a group of people for having different beliefs.

Hey, I believe in free speech. If you want to spout bigoted views, have fun. But a line is crossed when you allow those people to cause real harm to others. If you don't believe in gay marriage--don't marry someone of the same sex. Hand out religious tracts. Blog about it. But don't ban gay volunteers from serving this country in the military. Don't vote against a law that expands existing hate-crime protections to outlaw attacks based on sexual orientation or gender. Speech is one thing, stopping someone from a career, exposing someone to physical abuse... those are something else.

I believe that separation of church and state is something our forefathers baked into the constitution, having fled from religious persecution themselves. We know the dangers of theocracy-- we can see it in other countries around the globe. The Johnson Amendment doesn't prevent a preacher or a rabbi from supporting Trump or even advocating for a candidate from the pulpit--it prevents them from using their subsidies and tax breaks from Uncle Sam for political purposes. If tax-exempt churches and synagogues were allowed to collect and use money to fund political ads and campaign events, they could potentially become nothing more than giant Super-Super-PACs, washing campaign donations in holy water to skirt campaign finance laws. Trump wants to allow this. Probably because his idea of a non-profit charity, the Trump Foundation, only exists to support Trump campaigns.

Trump has gained a lot of followers from the "anti-PC" crowd, upset that they catch heat for saying inappropriate and derogatory things that they used to be able to get away with. They use the phrases "social justice warriors" and “feminist” as slurs. I don’t think that’s right. Just because someone advocates for equalizing a system they view as unequal doesn’t mean they're inventing any narrative that “white people are evil.” There are otherwise reasonable people who claim there’s no racism in America, that women are already being treated like men, or that the impoverished are poor because they’re lazy. All PC-culture aims to do is get us to question those assertions and examine why it is that we discount the feelings of others.

If someone tells me I've done something or said something racist/sexist, my first instinct is to apologize and figure out how I can avoid causing such offense in the future. How does a racist/sexist person respond? By insisting that it's the other person's problem, not theirs. I don't think our government should act like a racist/sexist person. If a minority group expresses concern about their treatment at the hands of the majority, it is our government's job to examine that and protect those people from further harm. Not blame that minority for causing its own problems.

We live in a more open, accepting, and free society than human beings have ever lived in. When Trump says "Let's Make America Great Again," he references a past that was not so open, not so accepting, and not so free. As someone who believes in social justice, in equality, in acceptance, I look at Trump's partnership with Pence and the statements both candidates have made and I can't envision them doing anything but sticking with the Republican party line-- one that approves conversion therapy for homosexual youths, believes creationism belongs in the classroom, and that thinks women's rights extend only so far.

I can't support going backwards. To do so would be to cause harm to those who are finally getting a fair shot in a country that long denied it.

If we can't protect those citizens, then what kind of government do we have?

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