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Me and mine

I stand at the centre of a vast expanse of sand, as far as the eye can see. I hold a stick.

The landscape is immense. Beyond my comprehension. I’m a speck in danger of being overwhelmed. Of losing all significance. Of ceasing to exist.

I wield my stick. I draw a line.

Everything on this side is mine. It is part of me. I am no longer a speck. I too have become vast. I matter.

There’s still an awful lot on the other side though. Maybe more than on mine. As I watch some sand is blown from my side to that of The Other. It’s absorbing me! I’m draining away! Some sand blows from the Other side to mine. I’m being invaded! Overrun! Defiled! The terror of extinction comes flooding back.

I peer around furtively. No-one is watching. I erase the line and draw a new one a few paces forward. I have grown. I have pushed back the void. My path becomes clear.

By progressively moving the line I become greater. More powerful. More real. Eventually all will be mine. I will have defeated oblivion. Complete appropriation. Unity via annexation.

But I live on a globe.

Karma

I have no bad karma. I have no good karma. I define myself by how I push against the universe. And how the universe pushes back.

My notion of good and bad is part of that self-definition. Part of my separation. Part of my fall.

Chaos theory

Chaotic lifestyle? Of course. It’s a chaotic universe. I should spend my existence trying to make a minuscule patch comply with my idea of order?

Celebrity

“Did you see yourself on television last night?”

“No. I don’t watch TV.”

“What? Not even when you’re on it?”

“Why should I? If I was into that sort of thing I could attach knobs and dials to the bathroom mirror.”

“But what about all the people watching you?”

“If I wanted that I’d just run off a thousand pictures of my face and stick them to power poles. If I wanted people to pay close attention I’d write ‘SEEN LURKING AROUND SCHOOLYARDS’ underneath.”

The betrayal

With heroin we soared together on clouds of bliss. Without it we clung together in abject despair. Even when we couldn’t bear to touch we were there for each other. In puke and diarrhea. In cold sweat and cramps. In sobbing and thrashing. In anguish and agony. For ever and ever. Until we scored again.

We both knew where it was heading. Our love had only one consummation. Always circling back to the same foregone conclusion. Ever tighter, ever faster as we closed in on the drain.

She begged me to help often enough. I never asked her. I’m a DIY kinda guy. I knew it was insane. But that’s OK. So am I. So was she. Our manacles forged in love and madness. Heaven and hell.

With the darkness at the end of the tunnel upon us I found an unexpected burst of resolve. I broke away. To die. Alone. I failed.

Three grams of pink rocks and a pack of nembudeine. Enough to kill a horse. But not a filthy junkie like me. Death spat me out. Disgusted.

When I returned from hospital she was gone. A thick envelope on the pillow with my name scrawled in red. I binned it unopened. I walked out with no forwarding address.

She’s dead. I’m not. For now.

Unfit for purpose

There were days I wanted to kill myself. Lots of them. Days I couldn’t get out of bed. Days I did and wished I hadn’t.

There are things I’m ashamed of. Things that hurt to remember. Some things I’ll never talk about.

There was greed. There was failure. There was foolishness. There was cruelty. There was cowardice. There was dishonesty. There was arrogance. And there will be again.

It was always me. Not the devil. Not my disease. Not my upbringing. Not my brain. Not my genes. Not my race or class or gender. Not society. Except inasmuch as those things are also me.

But I’m not flawed. Not imperfect. Not defective. Not despicable. I’m human.

A human isn’t a means to an end. Not part of a plan. Not a step on a path. Not a cog or component. Not a term in an equation. Not something to be looked down on and judged – which is a ridiculous concept when you think about it.

A human just is. That’s sufficient.

Artifacts, institutions, organisations, ideologies, corporations, belief systems, designs … on the other hand are tools. They are meant to serve a purpose. They are meant to have a function. They are supposed to work. If they don’t I show them no mercy.

Aborting compassion

It’s sad that I even feel I’ve gotta say this, but I do. I support abortion on demand. Unconditionally. Even more unconditionally than most ‘model’ progressive abortion legislation does. My family carries intergenerational trauma from a fatal illegal abortion. I have no desire to see a return to the bad old days of backyard butchery.

That doesn’t mean I consider abortion a good thing. I think it’s a tragedy. For several reasons. Not least that a woman has lost control over her fertility to the point where abortion is even a consideration. There are worse tragedies though. Such as a woman losing control over her body to the point where she must endure an unwanted pregnancy and birth.

But sometimes pro-choicers make me wanna scream.

A case in point is a recent Guardian article in which a couple of US activists – both of whom make a living directly or indirectly from abortion – open their argument by claiming it’s a myth that patients regret abortions or feel coerced into having them. They call it a ‘falsehood’ that has led to increasingly restrictive abortion legislation in several US states.

Funny thing is that I’ve had three women tell me they regretted their abortions, with one saying she felt coerced into having it by her (soon to be ex-)fiancee’s family.

Now I’m not suggesting all or even most abortion patients regret their decision. Nor that coercive abortions are common. But I don’t consider myself a natural-born confidante for anguished women either. The fact that three have spoken to me about it suggests there must be quite a few in similar situations. If no-one with such misgivings has ever spoken to the authors about them you’ve really gotta wonder why not. And if they have, why the hell are they disregarding them?

The article holds up a named Florida woman as an exemplar. I sure hope they had explicit permission to name her in the media but I’m not certain enough to identify her here. She got pregnant in 2010 and immediately knew she wanted an abortion, but thanks to the pathetic US health system and her lousy health insurance she was unable to afford one. So she resorted to a mixture of orange juice and dong quai root, which just made her feel ill. Finally her relatives came through with the $500(!) for mifepristone and misoprostol. Problem solved. For a while.

Six years later she needed another abortion. This time things went more smoothly. Good for her. She now does voluntary work at an abortion clinic. She sounds like a happy customer. But I hope she got some information about effective contraception options along the way. Any contraceptive method can fail. Maybe she was unlucky. Or maybe she could do with more complex support on how to negotiate its use.

An anecdote with a happy ending is not evidence that no patients ever regret abortions. Abortion medication is not a panacea for all the problems that can lead to and flow from an unwanted pregnancy. Denying such problems exist is hardly likely to help those who suffer from them.

I know the abortion debate in the US is vicious and toxic – sometimes to the point of murder. I know partisans on both sides occupy entrenched positions that can be impervious to evidence, reason or compassion. But I’d have hoped pro-choicers might have made patients’ voices central to their activism, regardless of whether they fit a marketing stereotype of a completely satisfied abortion consumer.

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