Monday, May 27, 2013

Beyond the Brutal One-Child Policy

On Tuesday, May 21, the New York Times, which has clearly shown itself to be supportive of the practice of abortion, in the United States as well as around the world, published an op-ed piece by Ma Jian, a novelist who lives in London, in exile from his native country, China. Ma Jian’s forthcoming novel, The Dark Road (due in June), illustrates the effect of China’s one-child policy on an ordinary Chinese woman and her husband. Ma Jian’s piece in the Times (which, like the novel, is translated by Flora Drew, his “life partner”) addresses the one-child policy. Beyond the obvious, several portions are disturbing to me:
  • According to Ma Jian, in China, each province has a "family planning bureau" with “family planning officers” who are charged with enforcing the Chinese government’s one-child policy. In the United States, our president (as well as many other members of our government) is an unabashed supporter and promoter of a very wealthy and influential organization called Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest provider of abortions. If I wasn't uncomfortable with this before (and I was), I am now. We all should be.
  • Reminiscent of the horrors we heard about in the recent trial of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, Ma Jian describes what happened to one woman who "was eight months pregnant with an illegal second child and was unable to pay the 20,000 yuan fine (about $3,200)." She was "dragged" by "family planning officers ... to the local clinic, bound ... to a surgical table and injected [with] a lethal drug into her abdomen. For two days she writhed on the table, her hands and feet still bound with rope, waiting for her body to eject the murdered baby. In the final stage of labor, a male doctor yanked the dead fetus out by the foot, then dropped it into a garbage can."
  • According to Ma Jian, "China has the highest rate of female suicide in the world," yet the pro-abortion party line in the United States, despite evidence to the contrary, is that "post-abortion syndrome," which can include attempted or successful suicide, is a myth invented by ideologically motivated anti-abortionists.
  • The wording that follows the comment about suicide sounds disturbingly like pro-abortion (aka "pro-choice") rhetoric: "The one-child policy has reduced women to numbers, objects, a means of production; it has denied them control of their bodies and the basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children." Is Ma Jian only against forced abortion? Is the issue here not the killing of unborn children but rather who chooses? This sentence feels out of sync with the rest of the article, especially when, in the next paragraph, Ma Jian calls the unborn what (or who) they are: "Baby girls are also victims of the policy. Under family pressure to ensure that their only child is a son, women often choose to abort baby girls or discard them at birth." Babies. Girls.
  • "Under family pressure"many abortions "chosen" in the United States are due to "family pressure.
Ma Jian closes his piece forcefully: “Ending this scourge is a moral imperative. The atrocities committed in the name of the one-child policy over the last three decades rank among the worst crimes against humanity of the last century. The stains it has left on China may never be erased.” It still isn’t clear to me whether the author’s outrage is directed only at the one-child policy and the brutality used to enforce it, or at the killing of all unborn babies--the girls and boys--who are all “victims of the policy,” whether in China or the United Kingdom or the United States. I hope it is the latter.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

In Memory of Her

"I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." (Luke 7:28)
It was 1990, give or take a year. I'd been living in San Francisco since late May 1988, and working for a publisher in the city's Financial District since September 1988. I spent a lot of time at the office, so it was bound to show up in my dreams now and then.

One night, I dreamed that I stood at the end (or was it the beginning?) of one of the long fifth-floor hallways. A woman was walking toward me from the other end. As she got closer, the moment came when I realized, this is my mother! Yet, she looked different than I had ever seen her before. Slender, dressed in a simple but elegant businesswoman's suit, she radiated health, and peace.

How could this be? My mother had died of cancer in 1974, when I was sixteen. I hadn't seen her in more than fifteen years.

"But, but," I stammered. "I thought you died."

"Can we talk someplace private?" she asked.

I led her to an empty cubicle. I don't remember if we stood or sat down.

"I didn't die," she assured me. "I just had to go away and get myself together. I'm fine now."

I awoke wet with sweat and tears.

I couldn't think of anything from the day or week before that may have triggered such a dream. And I was the last person I would ever have expected my mother to visit from "the other side." Her death had only seemed to confirm and intensify my already-existing feelings of emotional disconnection and abandonment. I had long felt that she didn't like me, and that I was a great disappointment to her. Yet here she was, acknowledging that she had not been "together," and offering me reassurance that she was now "fine." She didn't say "I'm sorry," yet it felt like an apology, and a promise, that if she could be "fine," then one day so could I.

I went to early Mass at the Monastery this morning. After the homily, which addressed the Gospel reading, the priest said, "Don't worry, I haven't forgotten what today is." He asked everyone to be seated for a moment—everyone except the mothers. I hesitated. In recent years I have become brave enough to acknowledge, when asked if I have children, that, yes, I am mother to one child, who didn't live long enough to be born, but he is waiting for me in heaven. This answer is meant not to honor me—because I don't deserve it—but to honor my child, whom I have promised never to allow to be forgotten.

So I hesitated, and then I sat down—feeling neither brave nor worthy enough today. Yet, as I sat with my eyes closed and my hands open, listening to the blessing offered to the standing mothers by the priest, I could hear in my heart, as though someone were whispering without words, "Receive the blessing." And my heart whispered back, "Thank you!"

Later in the morning I joined my stepmom for the worship service at the Mennonite-run retirement community where she lives. The woman who began the service mentioned Mother's Day in her first sentence. But then she said something that surprised me: she asked everyone in the congregation to remember especially those for whom Mother's Day is difficult, either because they are children whose mothers are gone, or because they are mothers whose children are gone, or because their thoughts of their mothers are filled with pain and even anger. She prayed that God would help us "to remember those things without the hurt." She didn't ask God to take away the memories, and she didn't admonish us to forget; rather, she prayed that, through Christ, God would give us the grace to remember but with freedom from the pain.

Then she said that God had a gift for every person participating in the service today. And I knew I had already received mine.

Throughout the day my mind has returned again and again to the story told in Luke 7 about the "sinful woman" who bathed Jesus' feet in expensive ointment, then wiped them with her hair. When Simon, Jesus' host, chastised him for allowing this "sort of woman" to  touch him, Jesus replied that this repentant woman had shown him far more love than Simon, who had failed to perform even the customary courtesies owed to guests in those days. "Her many sins have been forgiven," Jesus pronounced, and that is why "she has shown great love." A briefer version of the same story is also told in Matthew 26, where Jesus adds, "Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done"—she who certainly is considered by many to be one of "the least in the kingdom of God"—will be spoken of, in memory of her."

Who was this woman? Was she someone who would have sat down when a blessing was offered for mothers only? Was she someone whose memories of her own mother were fraught with pain and anger—until Jesus allowed her to touch him?