I’m not your average card-carrying Republican. Or so you think. As I was in Toul Sleng torture prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia this past weekend, the idea for this blog series struck me. I am often asked how I can be a conservative and a Republican. How can I be these things, and also be living and working at a school for underprivileged rural students in the middle of the Cambodian countryside? I’m accused of living a paradoxical life quite frequently; by friends, by family, by coworkers. As I roamed through the small cemetery that is on the grounds of this torture prison, however, I thought to myself, “How can I live in this country and be anything but a conservative?” This is the first part in the series.
The Nixon Doctrine and the Vietnam War are often cited as the primary precursors to the outbreak of a genocidal regime in Cambodia in the late 1970s, called the Khmer Rouge. While I am not defending the bombing of the countryside, I would like to at least explain the justification. This picture is taken from a summary of the history of the Khmer Rouge written by Helen Jarvis. As a background, Dr. Jarvis is the head of the Victims Unit of the war tribunal currently underway in Phnom Penh, trying a man called “Duch” who was the leader of the aforementioned torture prison. Dr. Jarvis is an avowed Leninist as well as accused of being far too close to the bordering on dictatorial Cambodian government. This summary of events leading to the Khmer Rouge is prominently displayed in Toul Sleng currently.
I was raised to abhor the Vietnam War and all its participants. My mother attended protests while she was still in her preteens. As I walk through Cambodia, and given that I have spent almost a year of my life in this country, I’m starting to question this presumption. The overhead bombings gave strength and power to the communist party in this country, that cannot be denied. While the tactics were misguided, the intentions were not. US Foreign policy was centred around fighting the communist threat, which should not to be minimized in the year 2010. The United States was fighting an ideology that has killed more than any other in human history. Marxist thought is responsible for millions of deaths not only in Cambodia, but also in China, Russia, and Cuba; to name just a few.
So how is it that I can live in Cambodia and support the Republican Party? The Republican Party was trying to protect this country, this region, and the world, from the most dangerous philosophy the human race has ever devised. The “progressive” wing of the country at that time, in comparison, were defending and at times even lauding this new “utopia”. How could I be anything but?
This is an older blog entry from when I was on Blogspot – I decided to transfer it to this new blog. It was written on April 20, 2009.
When I was in high school, I was a Leftist. So far Left, it makes me sick thinking about it now. I would attend protests calling for the destruction of the Jewish state, and for former President Bush to be tried and hanged for war crimes. I went to a high school that didn’t exactly discourage this sort of thing. I think of it as Indoctrination High (David Horowitz’s new book, Indoctrination U: http://www.amazon.com/Indoctrination-U-Against-Academic-Freedom/dp/1594032378/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240232313&sr=8-1 ).
I was a Leftist before I started there, however my level of political interest was limited until my senior year of high school. The only thing my mother voted on was the issue of abortion, even on the state and local level. If you didn’t support a woman’s right to choose, she didn’t support you. Slowly, starting in college, uncharacteristically, I moved to the right. It started with two books: A History of Israel by Howard Sachar, a dry historical accounting of Israeli history from WWI to the present. I saw the Middle East, for the first time, in an un-biased light, and it made me wonder why the Left was hellbent on defending a people that tried to commit genocide against another (“throw the Jews into the sea!” was exclaimed during the War of Independence in 1947). The Jews were always eager to give land and peace whenever possible, but were often thwarted by the Arabs who were insistent on the destruction of the Jewish State, and nothing less. A second book, Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand showed me the future of a socialist state, and made me totally reevaluate my economic leanings. Something that I’ve held onto, however, was my social Leftism. Until now.
Like many other bits of my Leftism, I never quite understood how people believed in G-d and religion. I thought it was a crock. There’s a famous quote by the wrestler-turned-Governor Jesse Ventura, “Religion is a crutch for the weak-minded.” That was my truth. I always self-identified as Jewish, and culturally and historically sided with the Jewish people. The G-d part of it, however, I didn’t quite buy. It wasn’t until a biology class my first year of college that something clicked. The perfect way that everything worked, how every cell and every system of the body perfectly complimented another, the thought struck me. “This is no accident.” Thus started my venture into the world of religion, only this time I wasn’t an outsider looking in.
So what does this have to do with abortion? During this same class, I started to see how much we are impacted by our DNA. How little nurture has so little to do with who we are, and how much it as to do with nature. Why did some siblings in the Holocaust survive when others did not? Why, in the face of adversity do some flourish and some fail? Partially it is to do with how we are raised, but mostly, it’s how the genome falls. There is much less personal choice than most people feel comfortable with admitting. To me the argument that “it’s just a bunch of cells” fell short of the reality. That bunch of cells was a potential person, with complexities and potential, just like a full-term fetus. It is no less a person at day 9 than it is at month 9. It astounds me to look at my baby cousin, to see how quickly her personality formed, long before she was aware of her own hands. Why are some babies “happy babies” and some miniature Scrooges? It’s in our DNA, it’s inherent.
In the summer of 2007, I spent three months in Cambodia. While I was there, teaching at an English school for adults, one of our students offered to let the female teachers come to her clinic, where she was performing abortions, to watch one. I was the only one to decline. The others I think saw it as a woman’s right to choose in action. Each came back pale, and couldn’t really speak about what they saw. It was, I think, much more violent and graphic than they expected. By the time the fetus was big enough to be vacuumed out, it already looked like a baby. Probably because it was.
After that point, I decided, personally, I would never do that to myself or my body, and more importantly, to my child. I decided, however, it was a personal choice that every woman had the right to make over her own body. Who are we to regulate that? But the thought occurred to me, once that embryo is formed, is that really her body anymore, or is it that it becomes outside of her control? Should it be one person’s choice to end another’s life? I don’t think so anymore.
And what of the argument: they’re going to do it anyway, let’s give women a safe alternative? Do we give guns to convicted murderers, because, hey, they’re going to do it anyway? No, we do not facilitate crimes just because of their likelihood of occurring. You can do it, in end we can’t stop you but we shouldn’t be offering a helping hand. Nor should we be providing tax-dollars to do it, Mr. Obama (read: Mexico City Policy).
We, as women, do have a choice. The choice is to not become pregnant in the first place. With the ready availability of birth control pills, condoms, IUDs, no woman in the United States of America has any business getting pregnant when we don’t want to. (And yes, I know that I am ignoring the issue of rape and incest, however that is quite honestly an entirely new ball of wax, and the amount of abortions those cases actually account for is really quite small.) The issue becomes what happens when we do get pregnant accidentally.
My biggest issue with the Left is a complete lack of accountability, a complete lack of personal responsibility. We expect other people (read: the government) to provide our health care, to help us on defaulted mortgages on homes we could never afford in the first place, to pay for the retirements we never prepared for. However, taking ownership of these mistakes is the first step in making them right. We should not run from them, or pretend as though others should solve them. This should not doom children to death before life, nor to homes that never wished for them in the first place (pull a Juno, open the PennySaver, there are plenty of couples that would do anything for a child to love).
So, to echo the title of this entry. I’m pretty sure I’m pro-Life. I’m getting there. It’s raining outside today, and I just hope that my mother doesn’t pull a Zeus and strike me with lightening. That’s probably the only thing stopping me from saying, yes, I am pro-Life. My first memory with my mother is driving down the highway on Long Island and giving protesters at an abortion clinic the finger. It’s a happy memory. I’m almost able to settle myself with who I am now, to what I was then.
To all the Leftists reading this (I doubt any have made it this far), watch this: