I recently had a reader approach me after reading Half Way Home. She was perplexed and wanted to know what my views on abortion were. Her confusion, I believe, stemmed from the overall progressive nature of Half Way Home (i.e. environmental issues, homosexuality, animal rights, mineral plunder). How, then, could I end the book with a seeming call for the celebration of life? How could I make, from first chapter to last, such a villain out of the A.I. that attempted to abort the colony, and seem to lambast the procedure itself?
The answer to that lies in the distinction between a philosophical love of freedom, and the blind acceptance for what one does with that freedom.
For instance: I am a huge fan of Democracy. Giving a people the power to vote for their representation, and thereby shape the framework of their own social contracts, is one of the great inventions in human history. There are few things I’m more in awe of than this recent social development. Now, does that mean I support the votes individuals cast with that freedom? Of course not. Hitler was voted into office (granted, he gradually usurped more power than the people vested in him). Closer to home: I disagree with the votes cast for most of our Senators each election cycle. And yet, I applaud the right to cast those votes.
This distinction is important. After the French Revolution of 1848, which resulted in universal suffrage (which, naturally, didn’t include women), there came a vote. The results were not what the revolutionaries wanted. The people voted for a conservative government, not vastly different from the one they had before. Rather than deal with the blow and prepare for future elections, there were more revolutions, which pushed the populace further and further to the right until one Napoleon Bonaparte emerged as a more tyrannical ruler than those usurped.
England went through a similar ordeal during their civil war and the nasty rule of Cromwell. In both cases, there was a philosophical love of human freedom, but a rejection of what they used that freedom for.
Another fun example is Capitalism. Capitalism is to property what Democracy is to politics. Despite the recent abuses heaped on Capitalism (largely coming from those too lazy to look up the definition of the word), all it stands for is human economic liberty. The freedom to own stuff. The freedom to trade stuff with other people. The freedom to enter into binding contracts. That’s it. Not to get too far off the point, but what Enron did was the opposite of Capitalism. Any violation of human economic liberty cannot be used to rail against Capitalism. That’s like using the crime of robbery to invalidate Democracy. It’s a bizarre of using the opposite of something to denigrate that something. Weird, eh?
Okay, back to the point: I support Capitalism. How can you not, once you know what the word means? However, just as with Democracy, I do not blindly support what one does with their economic freedoms. I shake my head at these nimrods who buy houses approximately ten times larger than they need. I feel outright pity for professional athletes who blow their millions and are destitute within seven years of retirement. I have a hard time sympathizing with anyone who can’t make the payments on their second home, or feel weighed down by their private yachts. I see waste all around me, and it all runs counter to my own tastes. And yet … I support the freedom those people exhibit to make these (subjectively speaking) bad decisions. I don’t have that weird self-esteem issue where I need everyone to conform to my standards (a fault of the Left and Right). I’m just happy we live in an era where more and more people enjoy these freedoms.
Now, let’s talk about abortion. If you follow the pattern above, you might guess that I’m pro choice. And you’d be correct. Oddly enough, it’s people on the Right that also applaud the two items above, but they loathe the idea of aborting a human fetus. An ideological inconsistency they could avoid if they learned to distinguish between a love of freedom, and the blind acceptance of what those freedoms are used for.
What strikes me as odd with most pro-choicers is that they verge on being pro-abortion. If there’s any doubt: abort. Perhaps this stems from the Left’s general intolerance of humanity; it’s hard to say. For me, the issue comes down to individual choices, just like votes and economic decisions. If a woman is having her eight abortion because she keeps having unprotected sex, and is the sort of person to just deal with problems later rather than employ a bit of foresight, I say that person is an idiot. I am still pro-choice, but I think her choice is bunk. Likewise, if a woman decides to have an abortion because she and her boyfriend are having a fight, and she thinks the best way to get back at him is to prevent their child from being born … again, I think that’s a pretty bad call. Same goes for a couple that has decided they want kids, and then a woman gets cold feet and aborts a planned child without first telling the husband she’s going to do so. Not as black-and-white for me, but also not a fan.
Those are hard to come up with, admittedly, because I can think of a legion more instances were abortion seems like the right call. Beyond the obvious cases of rape, incest, medical risk, fetal abnormality, genetic risk, imparted disease (AIDS, for instance), there are the millions of cases where having a child is going to do harm to both parent and offspring. It does no good for a woman to have a kid if she isn’t economically, emotionally, or socially prepared. It does a disservice to the potential, future kid she could have in better circumstances.
The issue, then, in Half Way Home, becomes this: is the abortion procedure of any Colony okay? Is it okay in the specific example detailed in the book? I would clearly vote “no” for the latter, and lean toward “no” for the former. Do I celebrate life? Absolutely. But I don’t see how having a child in a manner that ruins two (or more) lives is a celebration of it. That seems to be a blind acceptance of the same decision, no matter the circumstances or outcome. Nor do I see the rationale behind applauding the ending of every life, even where it has almost nothing but the potential to be something beautiful. That sounds like more blind fanaticism.
Here is the guiding principle that gives these disparate ideas their consistency: I celebrate choice. I celebrate freedom. And I compartmentalize that love so that I may loathe the stupid shit people do with them.