Response to "Meeting in the Middle"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hi, I'm the friend that Andrea mentions in her post "Meeting in the Middle." I wrote this response to her, and she has kindly let me guest post it, uncensored.

First, I applaud your decision to share this blog with me, even though it meant making an exception to your anonymity, and even though it was more the result of a slip of the lip than a conscientious decision. Allowing me to read and respond to this post is exactly the type of “meeting in the middle” that I advocate.

Secondly, I am well aware that some of what I say may reinforce some of your points, which is fine by me, because I mostly agree with you and therefore wouldn’t aspire to negate what I hold to be truths that you elucidate.

Thirdly, the point I was making had nothing to do with the men whose stories I told and everything to do with their stories. I was trying to illustrate the power of story-telling to overcome otherwise insurmountable barriers between two people, or at least elevate their fields of vision above the barrier that stands between them for the sake of realizing that there is indeed a person on the other side.

It reminds me of that TV commercial about driving safely, in which children are playing on a major highway, and families are barbecuing, and you keep thinking they’re going to be hit, and you’re cringing. The ad made the point that there are people inside those cars. They’re not just cars. Likewise, we have to remember that there are people behind their opinions. They’re not just opinions. And when we recognize the people and not just their opinions, we are more inclined to give each other the respect and compassion that a productive debate requires.

Had I known that your ears might close to my point once men and not women were revealed as its main characters, I could have changed the casting. But that wouldn’t have held the authenticity of the story intact, and I think that’s important.

The point wasn’t about voicelessness. It was about finding a voice that someone else will listen to, especially when that someone else vehemently disagrees with you.

The point was that we all have personal reasons for believing what we do. This is evident even in your own blog. Some of your best posts, in my opinion, begin with a personal story that illustrates why you hold the beliefs that you now do. I’m inclined to believe you tell these stories because you recognize the efficacy of sharing something personal to give validity and momentum to your political opinions.

The point was that two people, regardless of their genitalia, can arrive at completely opposite points of view from an identical catalyst. Yet we rarely talk about the reasons, the stories, the personal narratives that inform our points of view. If we more often encouraged, perhaps even demanded, personal narratives in policy-making or even simply public discourse about divisive topics, we might realize we have more in common than we thought. And even though you may continue to abhor the point of view of another person, you may begin to abhor the person less.

The point is that if we can find a common ground, we are exponentially more likely to strike upon a solution that transcends the divided battlefield upon which both sides are entrenched and unmoving.

Fourthly, perhaps I am being sensitive, but I cannot help but feel an undercurrent in this post of "how could my smart, articulate female friend argue such an implicitly patriarchal point?" I will admit that I may unknowingly use or accept patriarchal rhetoric from time to time, that I am susceptible to arguing within the constructs of the only society I have ever known, even as I aspire for it to be much more tolerant, inclusive, informed and dynamic, which I believe only happens when we abolish the systems that subjugate certain people as second-class citizens. However, the anonymity of your blog is just as indicative of how pervasive those constructs are – that you would voice your story, but not identify your voice.

Let me be clear that I am deeply troubled that women’s bodies are politicized. I agree with you; it’s totally fucked up. And you’re right to ask where were the women in these stories before, during, and after their abortions. You’re right to ask what are their stories, and what are their opinions of abortion. The truth is I don’t know their stories. But I know mine. And when I discuss the topic with someone who disagrees with me, I will let them know why the politics of it are personal to me.


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