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Saving Invisible People
November 20, 2002
By The Plaid Adder

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A very weird thing is happening to me. I'm starting to understand something about the anti-abortion crowd.

Before you navigate away in disgust, let me reiterate: I am not and will never be anti-choice. My feelings about abortion remain complicated and ambivalent; but my opinion of the "pro-life" crusade as a cynical attempt to prevent women from taking control over their own bodies, sexuality, and lives which is organized from the top down by patriarchal bastards who really could not give a damn about anyone's right to life is immutable. Someday, maybe, women will run this country, and when that day comes we can have an honest debate about reproductive freedom. Till then, I'm pro-choice.

I have always watched things like Operation Rescue in wonder and just marveled at how the people who do this have managed to lather themselves up into such a state over something that may or may not really exist. As the drums of war beat ever louder, though, I'm starting to think that maybe I know how they feel.

To most people, "the unborn" are invisible. Till women start showing, which is at the point in the pregnancy when most states stop allowing abortion anyway, the fetus's existence is pretty much hypothetical to anyone other than the mother. This is one of the reasons that those anti-abortion groups rely so much on those pictures of the fetus; they're trying to prove to everyone that this thing is a real person who has been brutally murdered, and what better way to do that than to show us the body. But they know that despite the photos, most people don't see it that way, and therefore really don't care; and that just drives them nuts.

Again, as I said, I do not for one minute believe that the average Republican politician who runs on a pro-life platform feels this way about it; for him, this is just a position he has to take in order to consolidate his own power. But to think about it from the rank and file point of view, for someone who actually believes in the personhood of the fetus, it's like this. You can see thousands of innocent people being murdered every day. You try to tell your fellow Americans that thousands of people are getting murdered in their country, and they just look at you like you're insane and say, "What people? Where? I don't see any people." And so of course that has to drive them absolutely nuts.

I know this because now, I too am seeing invisible people. First it was Afghan civilians, now it's Iraqi civilians. These are actual, born, living, walking-around people with hearts and souls and everything whose existence is not at all hypothetical, and they are invisible to most Americans as a two-week-old pregnancy would be. I can't 'see' them, of course, any more than the anti-abortion folks can really see "the unborn," but I know they're there, and I know that if we go to war, thousands of them are going to die. And since I don't believe we have a good reason for going to war, apart from gratifying whatever political needs the Republicans may be feeling at the moment or whatever strange bloodlusts the Bush/Cheney axis might have (maybe Dubya misses all those executions he used to oversee as governor of Texas?), then what I see coming around the bend every time I read one of those "War With Iraq Inevitable Despite Hussein's Compliance, Bush Says" articles is the cold-blooded murder of thousands of innocent people, using our tax money. So I try to explain to people that this is why war with Iraq is not a good thing; and they just say, "What people? Where? I don't see any people."

And it drives me nuts.

I mean, I've always known this: for most people, most of the rest of the world is not real. Most people only really believe in the people who are defined as "us" (as opposed to "them"), a group that, in our current public discourse, is getting defined more and more narrowly with every passing day. But it just is maddening to see it in action. At no point, during any of the conversations about Iraq on the radio, TV, papers, whatever, have I ever heard anyone expressing the slightest interest in or concern for the civilians who will surely die in this war. The only time the "Iraqi people" come up is when we're trying to prove what a bastard Saddam Hussein has been to them. Suddenly, when we are talking about making war on them, they disappear.

People really seem to believe that we can go in there and take out Saddam Hussein without killing anyone except maybe the soldiers in his army who deserve it anyway. For Christ's sake, people, this is not the way war works now; since World War II the number of civilians killed in the average conflict has always been much higher than the number of combatants. So if we want to go into a country that is not attacking us and kill many more civilians than we're going to kill soldiers, I would think we would need to have a really, really, good @#$! reason for it, a reason better than, "Well, we kind of think that he might be about to become able to construct a nuclear weapon, although we don't seem to have any convincing evidence of this."

And then I try to explain this to my own family and they're like, "What people? Where?"

At the DC protest I saw a lot of signs with the slogan "Start Seeing Iraqi Children." It's a good idea; but good luck. All our leaders can see is their own profit, and all our fellow-Americans can see is their own fear. Meanwhile the rest of us will just go quietly insane trying to convince everyone that invisible people exist.

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