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of Life top ten (for progressives)
In the wake of the Terri Schiavo case, we've been hearing
a lot about the so-called "culture of life." Christian conservatives
use the term to refer to God's wish that we preserve all human lives,
especially those more vulnerable than our own. In practice, however,
it applies to a surprisingly stingy range of concerns: abortion, euthanasia
and stem cell research.
Conservatives have been very effective in past years
in coming up with emotionally laden phrases that are at best disingenuous
and at worst outright lies. Witness "weapons of mass destruction,"
"partial birth abortion," "ownership society"
and "freedom on the march." But their newest buzz phrase
is perhaps the most galling.
Consider the opposite: Who in their right minds would
be on record supporting a "culture of death"? Well, the
Nazis, that's who, say culture-of-lifers, and if you disagree with
them on their key issues, you might as well sign up for the Hitler
Just as incredible is their invocation of the 14th Amendment.
Initially passed to support the rights of freed slaves after the Civil
War, culture-of-lifers have expanded its protection of "life,
liberty, (and) property" outwards to fetuses and women in persistent
vegetative states. Don't agree? Well, then perhaps you should start
shopping around for a plantation and some cotton fields as well.
The problem with the "culture of life" argument
is that, like any of these phrases, its vagueness allows you to define
it however you want. Is it any coincidence that its application happens
to gel with the core issues of those who created it? Rather than dismiss
the argument, however, progressives should hold culture-of-lifers
to their word.
At minimum, a true "culture of life" would
support the following ten positions:
1. Withdraw the Troops
More than 1,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq,
along with tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians (some estimates are
as high as 100,000.) Meanwhile, we're hunkering down building long-term
military bases and sending more troops. How many more soldiers have
to die before we set a timetable for bringing them home?
2. Stop the Death Penalty
Fifty-nine prisoners were executed last year, 23 of
them in Texas alone. Yet study after study has shown the death penalty
to be unequally applied by race, and hundreds of inmates have been
found innocent at the eleventh hour. If we are all created in God's
image, then it is up to God, not us, to deal the ultimate in punishment.
3. Pass Effective Gun Control Laws
More than 80 Americans are killed by firearms each day.
Yet Congress has made it easier for criminals to get their hands on
weapons most recently with the repeal of the assault weapons
ban instead of following the lead of states like Massachusetts
and New York, which have passed tougher laws and decreased handgun
4. Fund Social Services
Hundreds of homeless people, many of them war veterans,
die on the streets each year because they can't gain access to basic
services such as housing and health care. A truly compassionate person
would fight against Bush's mean-spirited budget that cuts Medicaid
benefits, veterans health care, community services block grants
and other life-saving programs in favor of tax cuts for the rich.
5. Create Universal Health Care for Children
The U.S. remains the only industrial nation not to provide
health care for all its citizens. At the very least, we could coverage
to the most vulnerable among us. Meanwhile, our infant mortality rate
recently rose for the first time in four decades, to 28,000 deaths
6. Research Alternative Energy
It's a fact that access to the world's oil has fueled
conflict in the Middle East for years. Developing wind and solar power
could be the best protection we have against more of our soldiers
dying overseas in the future. At the same time, reducing greenhouse
gases could slow global warming, held responsible for the increasing
severity of natural disasters like the Southeast Asian tsunami that
claimed the lives of 175,000 people (with another 100,000 missing).
7. Investigate Prisoner Abuses
While the face of abuse of foreign detainees are those
revolting pictures of torture from Abu Ghraib, even more disturbing
stories of prisoners dying while in custody have trickled out of Iraq
and Afghanistan. A true culture of life would conduct a full investigation
into the abuse, with those responsible being held to account.
8. Support AIDS Clinics Abroad
In Bush's 2003 State of the Union, he pledged $15 billion
to combat AIDS in Africa since then not only has the program
been under-funded, but the majority of it has gone into non-generic
drug treatment and abstinence-only prevention programs. With more
than 3 million HIV/AIDS deaths in Africa a year, a truly compassionate
AIDS policy would work immediately with the United Nations programs
that have proven the most effective against the disease.
9. Implement a Fair Guest Worker Program
Last year, more than 300 undocumented migrants died
crossing the border to work in the U.S. There is no getting around
the fact that these workers from Mexico and other countries are essential
to the functioning of our economy. A fair guest worker program would
not only recognize the contributions of these workers, but also prevent
10. Join the International Criminal Court
Ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and genocide are alive
and well in the world, in places like Kosovo, Rwanda and most recently
the Sudan. Yet the U.S. is one of only a handful of countries (including
China and Israel) that refuse to join the International Criminal Court.
Recently, over our country's objections, the United Nations finally
referred to the ICC the case of Darfur, where an estimated 300,000
Sudanese have been brutally killed.
Together, these issues account for the needless deaths
of tens of thousands of people a day. A culture that valued their
lives is one we could all celebrate.
Michael Blanding is a freelance writer living in Boston. Read more of his work at www.michaelblanding.com.
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