Wednesday, January 26, 2011

March for Life

(Quick editorial note: This blog was started on the back of a train ticket holder envelope thingy... so if this blog post becomes really really famous (which is won't, don't worry) we'll have another one of those stories where something life-changing was written on a piece of seemingly inconsequential paper.  Yes, I believe I just compared my blog to the Gettysburg Address (and yes, I know that story is an urban legend... not the Gettysburg Address, just the thing where it was written on the back of an envelope... or a napkin... or something).

(Quick editorial note #2: Pay no attention to "Quick editorial note #1).

Right or not, I consider myself to be one of the most open-minded people I know.  Since I have such an opinion of myself, I suppose one could argue that I'm actually closed-minded, and to you, I say, "START YOUR OWN BLOG AND COMPLAIN ABOUT IT.  Pansy."  Let's say for the sake of argument that I'm pretty open minded.  I say that, not to mean that I'll agree with anything that someone would say, and I doubt I'll ever change my mind about my deep-seeded beliefs just become of an argument that someone brings up, but I'll always listen to someone's viewpoint, consider it, and usually be able to understand why someone would hold that particular point of view.  I can make a fantastic devil's advocate when I want to.

However, there is one group of people that I never really gave a fair shake.  It's a little surprising, especially considering the fact that I agree with their position, but my perception (largely fueled by the media and some unfortunate incidents at Penn State) was skewed.  I'm talking about the Pro-Life Political Rally crowd.

About 2 weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Grace Prep, a Christian High School in State College, and one of the places where I student taught.  Grace Prep is an amazing place filled with amazing people... it's long overdue to be mentioned in this blog, and I'll brag about them all sooner or later.  The e-mail contained information that my former mentor teacher (certainly not the least of those amazing people) would be heading up a trip to Washington D.C. for the March for Life and would be bringing students with her.  I got so excited to see the kids and my mentor teacher, that I immediately started looking into transportation to Washington to see them.

The only thing that didn't really excite me were the words "March for Life."  I'm pro-life; always have been, always will be.  I'm one of those pesky pro-lifers that also sees the necessity of war and the death penalty, so call me what you will, but when it comes to a fertilized egg and sperm, I consider that to be life, and I think it should be protected. But, as I told many of my friends who asked what I'd be doing in Washington, I said "Well the kids are going to the March for Life... Don't get me wrong, I'm pro-life, but I'm very anti-pro-life-rally."  In my mind, I saw Washington FILLED with GIANT posters with pictures of mutilated fetuses, people screaming and yelling, never listening to the opposing viewpoints, and loud raucous simpletons coming up with not-so-clever slogans.

Now, before we progress any further, I feel I should offer a warning: Those of you who know me well... who have talked at length about any Biblical, political, social, or sports issue with me... please take this opportunity to find a comfortable, safe, balanced spot, and sit down.)

I was wrong. (Is everyone ok?  Did we make it?  No one's concussed from hitting the floor because of that admission, right?)

I guess I was partially right (see? We all knew I wouldn’t admit to being TOTALLY wrong)... all of the stuff I mentioned was there, but it wasn't the focus, not by a long shot.  The entire day was educational, and peaceful, and really cool (and cold… brrr).

It started off by me waiting for about an hour to see my students from Grace Prep, but once they finally got there, you might have confused me for Barack Obama for a minute... I was in Washington and dozens of people were chanting my name and happy to see me.  It was a fantastic (delayed) reunion.  I cannot stress enough how much I love those kids.  But, oddly enough, it wouldn't even be the coolest moment of the day.

Our first stop was to see several of the Congressmen from the delegation of Pennsylvania who were to address their constituents (and in my case, former constituent) about the importance of the issue at hand.  We were to meet in the Cannon House Office Building promptly at 1 PM, and at about 12:50 we were all in line waiting to get through the metal detector.  However, when we arrived, we found out that we had the wrong time.  The Congressional reception wasn't slated to start until 2.

Rather than go outside, join the March, and then get all the way back and go through security again, Nancy (my mentor teacher) decided to have everyone sit down to learn about the issue that the students were there to support.  What looked, at first, to be a mistake ended up being an incredible blessing.  Jenny Summers from A Woman's Concern, a State College run pregnancy resource clinic, and Nancy shared stories about women that they knew who had wrestled with this issue of abortion.  Statistics, Bible verses, anecdotal evidence all came to the surface.  I had heard much of it before, agreed with it, but still didn’t feel entirely comfortable “rallying” about it.  After the Congressmen shared their piece about their various efforts to help in the pro-life cause, we all got up and headed out to the March.

It was unlike anything I’d ever seen… rather than stopping in the middle of roads, with a stage and lots of music and speakers shouting vitriolic statements, it was just a bunch of people (a conservative estimate is around 400,000) walking up a street.  Some people shouted, some people carried signs, and some people just walked and talked, unified under a cause that they passionately believed in.

I felt bad about my previous misconceptions of the people of this event, so I knew I had to blog about it.  Most people know where they stand on this issue, but even I, someone who will discuss and debate anything, didn’t give these people a fair chance.  The stories that I heard yesterday were stirring… women who had had abortions and regretted them, a story from a girl whose family took a fetus to term, who by scientific standards “should have been aborted,” and stories about women who had an abortion that didn’t kill the baby, decided to take that baby to term and raise it as a beautiful, perfectly healthy boy that is still alive today.  These are stories that never get play in the media, stories that I had never heard before, all because a few people who make stupid decisions get all the air time.

Now, more than 24 hours after the March, ABC, CBS, and NBC have yet to report on the March for Life.  It was only mentioned once on CNN.  It’s not even a part of the media discussion… but it certainly should be.  Four-Hundred THOUSAND people from all over the country descended on the nation’s capital to take a stand and it doesn’t even get a mention on, but the fact that Jersey Shore will be filmed next season in Italy is front page news.  How messed up is that?  Have you ever heard of the “Million Man March?”  Bet you have.  Was it important?  Certainly.  Guess how many people are estimated to have gone to that?  Four-hundred thousand.  Once.  The March for Life has been an annual event every year since 1974, an ongoing, peaceful demonstration asking politicians to pay attention, and asking the nation to get involved with the conversation.  So I’ll ask you to do the same.

Abortion is a hot issue in America, and not something that should be done frivolously or in ignorance.  Find someone from both sides who is knowledgeable and can make cogent arguments.  When you hear the phrase “There are always two victims in an abortion… the baby and the mother,” don’t just shrug it off… ask a mother who has had an abortion what that’s like.  This issue isn’t going away, not according to the 400,000+ people that I saw in DC on Monday, and not according to the Congressmen who I heard from.  Think about the implications, the consequences of such a weighty decision.  But in all things, act in love, discuss in love.  And please, be open, like I wasn’t.

Psalm 139: 13,14
For you created my inmost being; 
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well. 

(Special Thanks to those who I asked about using the word “pansy” in this blog post.  I hope it didn’t offend anyone.  I went so far as to ask someone I consider “more paranoid than God” and she didn’t have a problem with it.  It was for comedic effect... sorry if it offends.)