Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Least of These, My Brethren"

I think there are times in each of our lives where we look at the world around us and wonder how in the world we got here. Lately, that feeling has been on the verge of overwhelming but I am taking each day as it comes.

My husband was gone for work for the better part of 6 months, with a few short weekends home here and there. During that time, I took a prep course for the Math Content PRAXIS exam, the final requirement I needed to complete my Virginia teaching license with the math endorsement.

The short version is that I passed, with a little room to spare! The long version involves the hours upon hours that I spent reviewing Calculus, taking practice exams, and commuting to and from the prep course.
My score showed up immediately when I hit the submit button.I started to shake, the kind of excited, emotion-filled tremors that only something you’ve worked so hard for, after putting off for over a decade, can cause.

Three days later, all the excitement was gone as I watched the election coverage. This particular election season was very hard on me. I didn’t have my husband to bounce issues off, to muddle through after the debates, or to distract me in the evenings from the other mundane aspects of life.

My husband’s absence magnified the inconceivable.

I am now fighting in ways I never thought I’d fight before. If you’re asking “why”, then please listen with an open mind because I know that many of my friends and family voted for Trump, as is your right. I am speaking to anyone who takes the time to read this, no matter when or how we may or may not know each other.

There are two truly core principles in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The first is that he is our Savior and Redeemer. He suffered in Gethsemane for all of our sins, no matter how big or small. The second is a principle that extends from before the earth was created and that “thing” is the reason Christ atoned for our sins in the first place: we each have been given our own agency. This means we get to choose how to think, how to act, how to react, in every aspect of our lives.

We fought a war in heaven so that we could all come here and choose for ourselves whether or not to live worthy of entering the Kingdom of Heaven. In Moses 4:1-4, we are taught that “Satan rebelled against me (God, the Father), and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down.”
Satan was cast out because he wanted to take that gift of agency away and have all the glory of God for himself.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” 12th Article of Faith

What does it mean to honor and sustain the law? In light of some of the immediate aftermath of the election, let me share with a few thoughts with you.

I don’t know when life truly begins—when the spirit of a Child of God enters the body and stays there. I can only share that I have felt that life before 10 weeks’ gestation and I have felt it leave, for good, as well. We have knowledge that the spirit can leave the body while the heart is still beating, based on the experiences of others both within the LDS community and those of many other faiths as well; a beating heart does not mean the spirit is in the body. Even within church policies (which are subject to change), a child is not given a name of record unless he or she is born and takes a breath. My experiences with Jackson aren't unique, as women though all of history have lost babies before birth or during childbirth.

The discussion from here in light of recent events naturally turns to abortion. Is it murder or something less grievous, such as simply not accepting the consequences of using your agency poorly? If it is murder, then does that make God the biggest murdered of all, given the sheer number of pregnancies that end each and every day since the dawn of time?

I don’t know and I’d prefer err on the side of life. In contrast to that, abortion is legal, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, so what does it mean to “err on the side of life?”

To me, this means changing how American men and women of every political ideology views life. The new administration may seek to outlaw abortion, but that doesn’t mean that abortions won’t happen. Women have attempted to abort their pregnancies throughout history and for a variety of reasons (if you aren’t familiar with this, please do a little research). Those same reasons exist today.

So how do we, as a society, prevent abortions from happening if we believe abortion is wrong?

I see two distinctly different areas to fight.  The first is free, reliable birth control for anyone who wants it and proper, detailed reproductive education for all genders at an early age. The latter was never an issue prior to the modernization of the world and single family homes that kept children apart from their parents at night. 

To those who are argue regarding the law of chastity, remember that your values are not those of others. We each have our own agency. The biggest key to preventing abortions is to prevent pregnancy in the first place! Reliable birth control is not the pill, by the way. I’m talking about options that are intended for longer term use and also for technologies that aren’t quite there yet, such as temporary male sterilization.  If a woman doesn’t get pregnant, then she’s not going to be seeking an abortion. 

The second line of defense against abortion is support for mom’s who choose to carry their babies to term. This support can come in many ways, but one very serious area is the cost of childcare. In the US, the average cost of childcare for a year is higher than college tuition. Families who plan ahead can save for almost 20 years for college for their children, but what about daycare? Should a 12 year old start saving her babysitting money so that she can afford daycare for the child she might have in 18 years? 

Absurd? YES!

I run an in-home daycare, so I am keenly aware of what it costs to put an infant or toddler in a small, safe, loving daycare. Daycare providers struggle to balance the cost of tuition with the number of children they can watch both physically and in terms of their mental health as well.

I don’t particularly like pointing out problems without also making a few suggestions that I’ve spent time mulling over, so bear with me for just a moment while I go completely radical on you: Grant new families paid time off.

*Gasp*

What are the drawbacks? Higher taxes, obviously. That money doesn’t come from nowhere. Those taxes can come from a variety of places, but how does using the interest on federally paid student loans sound for a start? 

Or taxing luxury items up the wazoo so that only the wealthiest spenders are hurt? 

For those crying out “It’s MY money” trust me, if you’re reading this, it is unlikely that I’m talking about raising your taxes. I don’t know anyone in the top 5%! Also, it’s not an income tax, but a tax on truly optional purchases, so if any single person doesn’t want to pay it, they don’t have to.

Providing for paid family leave for men and women allows those families to spend time with their new child, establishing breastfeeding, reducing exposure to illnesses that could be harmful, and provides a chance for moms who suffer from postpartum disorders a chance to get help, something a new working mom may not be able to do.

Years ago, politicians fought hard to provide funding to educate each child in America. The idea that an educated public was advantageous won and continues to be important today. That same "Greater Good" mentality is one I believe in as far as providing for new families.

The inability to afford a child is one solid reason for abortion, no matter the age or marital status of the mother. Providing help, in terms of daycare costs, day-to-day living expenses, a real living wage . . . these are all options that anti-abortion Americans need to look at because like it or not, abortions will happen.

These issues all revolve around our agency—our right to choose how we live our lives and just because someone sins differently than I do doesn’t mean that I don’t love them or want to do everything I can to support them.

With those thoughts in mind, I participated with my oldest daughter, my mother-in-law, and two of my sisters-in-law in the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday. It was truly a remarkable day and gave me the opportunity to show my growing daughter that we do not need to be silent. The issues that surround abortion can be fought so that abortion stays safe and the rates can continue to decline.

I also marched for religious freedom. That particular issue was a little further down on the list for the organizers, but it was there and it is very personal to me. My ancestors were kicked out of their homes, multiple times, because of their religion. They fled to Utah, which was a territory at the time. Where to religious refugees have to flee now? The opportunities here are still great and I want that religious freedom to remain . . . for all religions.
For the few of you who think, “Meh, I have what I want” I have one question: The things you have, how did you get them? Did someone march on your behalf in decades past?

Lastly, I marched for those who couldn't march for themselves. We took the Metro into the city and the workers there were hollering and cheering us on. It seemed like they all had a bounce in their step as they watched over a million riders walk on through, marching for equality, marching for women's rights, marching against a man who doesn't believe America is already great and the policy changes he had already implemented to remove the rights of others.
To conclude this not-so-short post about a lot of random related topics I say this: I marched for the future of the world and I did so because I can. . . and I can because others did so for me. 

I owe my present rights and responsibilities to those of the past and am paying it forward now. I marched for "the least of these, my brethren" and I'll do it again. And again. . . because I have been given the privilege to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.