Thursday, October 25, 2012

Letting my pro-life freak flag fly

Noah in utero
I wrote something yesterday, and before I hit "publish," I questioned whether I wanted to do it at all because I knew the potential fall out from friends who don't see my point of view. And then I said to myself (out loud, because I hate to have to strain to hear what I'm saying), "If you're gonna stand for something, then stand for something." But I knew even as I was hitting the button that it would likely cause me trouble, and then I thought (this time silently), "Who cares?" Because, quite frankly, life is too short to pretend -- whether through outright lies or quiet omission -- that I'm something I'm not.

And so last night I updated my Facebook "political views" from "Don't ask, don't tell" (a nice, safe view if ever there was one) to "Independent, pro-life, vegetarian, traditional Roman Catholic, yogi. You try to figure it out." Why hide who I am, what I am when no one else seems to worry about who their opinions and positions offend or unsettle?

There was a time when I took every opportunity I could to stand up and proclaim my views. College was an endless string of pro-life speeches, essays, philosophy presentations, and debates. And not once did I cower or waver or doubt. But times have changed, and free speech is no longer as free as it once was, but that's a whole other, frightening story that many people aren't willing to admit or, even more shockingly, are willing to accept. And all of that scares me and at the same time emboldens me because in some places young women are being shot for the right just to be educated, no less speak their minds. So how weak would I be if I didn't even have the courage to stand up to the mainstream bullies who hope to silence the rest of us by making us doubt -- or feel embarrassed by -- the truths we know deep in our hearts?

So here I am, making -- in the word's of Mama Cass -- my own kind of music, singing my own special song, even if nobody else sings along. Does that make it any less true for me, any less true in general? No. But in recent years I have let my opinions take a back seat because in the circles I move -- writers, vegetarians, yoga practitioners -- being pro-life isn't the norm and isn't really tolerated. Go figure. Talk about irony. And yet I feel it in a very real way. I go to yoga centers and read conservation magazines always with a sense that I'm an imposter or intruder because my views about life are outside what the so-called naturalists are willing to love or defend.

I am a writer. I am a vegetarian. I am a Roman Catholic. I am a yogi. I am a seeker. I am an open-minded, open-hearted pilgrim on a journey to the transcendent. I believe that life, even at its most vulnerable -- or especially at its most vulnerable -- deserves protection because to do otherwise would be unthinkable. And if even one person stops to think about what I've said and makes a choice on behalf of life, then this post is worth the paper it's not printed on.

I have felt a baby move in my belly. I have stared at an ultrasound and seen nose and toes and thumb shoved in mouth, no different than a newborn. To deny it would be to deny the truth. To acknowledge it and still look the other way is beyond what I can comprehend. There was a time when my pro-choice friends tried to convince me I was wrong, and for the briefest moment, I thought I could do it -- say I was "personally opposed but..." And then I looked in the mirror and knew I would only be lying to myself.

So it's time to let my pro-life freak flag fly once again. What's your truth? Speak it for all to hear, follow your heart, stand for something, even if no one else sings along. Here's Mama Cass to give you a little encouragement along the way:


16 comments:

Scott B said...

Great column Mary. Coincidentally I've been speaking with my kids a lot about how much herd-mentality we face in so many areas of our life. Group think is self-validating; conversely if one opposes the thoughts of the herd it quickly rids itself of the foreign body. So I think there's an innate pressure to fall in line, as who doesn't want to feel accepted.

Mary DeTurris Poust said...

Thanks, Scott.
It's true -- the herd mentality thing. And it's hard to be willing to stand out. After I posted this column, I felt sick to my stomach, and I realized it was because I was afraid of being thrown out of the group (friends, colleagues, neighbors, whatever).
And I agree, this is something we have to discuss with our kids. Just this morning, Noah was talking about the election and he referred to those on the other side (of his view) as "ignorant," and I explained that he shouldn't say that. He wouldn't want someone to say it of him just because he holds a certain opinion. Everyone goes into this with the best intentions and truly believes they are making the choice or decision that is most beneficial. Once we start seeing the opposition as ignorant or stupid or on the side of something evil we cut off possibilities for cooperation and real progress.

writergirlmel said...

This is definitely something to think about. I've often felt like an outsider no matter which group of friends & family I identify with. Among other writers, I'm too conservative. Among other Catholics, I'm too socially liberal. Among my family, I'm too Catholic (I was raised Protestant Pentecost). Among my husband's family, I'm too Protestant. And don't get me started on what I am among the goths, the health nuts, the super moms, or the politicos. But perhaps the real answer is simply that I am what I am and believe what I believe, and people can either take it or leave it because the only way for me to be happy is to be me, and the only one who can judge me is my Creator.

Mary DeTurris Poust said...

Writergirlmel,

Thank you so much for commenting -- and for being you. I think that's what at the heart of this and my desire to put all this out there right now. I just want to be me, to be able to speak about what I believe in, and not to worry so much about fitting in or pleasing others because I'm never going to please everyone.

It's funny, but I think I was much more willing to put myself out there when I was young, and then I backed away, probably as I came to understand just how "outside" I really am. Now, having just hit 50, I'm reversing and wanting to be my true self, warts and all, controversial beliefs and all.

The next step, then, is being able to accept being unacceptable in some eyes. I can already feel it since my recent posts. I'm reading the silence, very much aware of what it means on certain fronts. But I have to be true to myself and my God because, as you pointed out, it's the only way for me to be happy.

Thanks again for posting. I really appreciate the support.

Peace,
Mary

Scott B said...

Try mentioning that you don't have any supernatural beliefs, and see how that goes over...lol
I think I mentioned this at other times, but in a survey people considered athiests to be less trustworthy than thieves, and more reviled than every religious group except Scientologists. :-)

Mary DeTurris Poust said...

Scott,

You win! And not in a good way. :-)

It's crazy what we do to each other, isn't it? I actually have a couple of good friends (in addition to you) who are atheists, and I consider them some of the kindest, gentlest, best people I know.

Peace,
Mary

Fran said...

Excellent post Mary. I typically don't say too much, because my own pro-life (a term that I find sadly inadequate) views are in a place that ticks off many pro-lifers, and ticks off an equal amount of (another bad term) pro-choice people.

But that said - I think you have to be for something, and indeed you are!

Mary DeTurris Poust said...

Fran,
Thanks for your comment. It means a lot to me.
I understand what you're saying. I feel the same way. I am often on the outs with both sides. It just felt like it was time to say this today. But, as I said in an earlier comment here, I've been physically sick over it because I know it may cost me friends who will no longer accept me because of this view. :-(
Peace, love, and blessings,
Mary

Fran said...

Mary, that people walk away from friends with different points of view just kills me. I do not understand. Anyway, I don't think (not that we disagree about this!) that you could get rid of me easily! But in all seriousness, I know what you mean.

Do you remember that day, a couple of years ago, when I drove to Delmar to meet you? I had something like 128 Facebook comments because I posted something about abortion? It is insane. And it turns people off from changing their hearts.

FrMike said...

Brava, Mary! Or, in the vernacular, you go, girl!

The Ironic Catholic said...

Mary, when I got used to the idea that I please absolutely no one politically (yeah, my fb status should be "pacifist social conservative Catholic Worker too poor to eat local"), my life got a bit easier. A bit. :) Good piece here!

The Ironic Catholic said...

And just to contradict myself here, there are many more of us "misfits" than people think. Speaking out encourages all of us.

Jackie said...

Mary, sometimes people running from things has everything to do with their own fear of offending people and nothing to do with running because someone has a "different view." I don't know what people are saying on Facebook yet I know for me if I say something I believe in it has everything to do with my beliefs and it isn't targeted at any individual. Speaking out is empowering, yet I can't imagine not accepting someone because we have different views. I have a different view but I respect yours. Just because not everyone respects or agrees with the candidates doesn't make them anything but who they are. People don't always know how to act in these situations, especially with neighbors, but as someone with a "different view" I don't see you any different and I think it's great to speak your truth. The world doesn't change by people staying silent so as not to offend.

Mary DeTurris Poust said...

Jackie,

Thanks for your comment. While what you say is true -- and I love a good but fair fight :-) -- what's happened on FB and the blogosphere of late has not been good or fair in many instances. I have total respect for people who disagree and I believe both candidates have the best intentions for our country, but others out there resort to calling the candidates names, posting unfounded and outrageous stories, or calling the people who are going to vote for a particular candidates names. Stuff I really don't need running through my news feed or my life. Too energy depleting!
And as someone with the view I have on pro-life issues while also being a vegetarian and a yoga enthusiast and an environmentalist, I have seen first-hand the intolerance of the side that claims to know what tolerance is all about. It's not pretty, and it strips away the pretty facade and lets me see what's underneath the so-called tolerance sometimes. Tolerance only for their point of view. That's what I'm opposed to -- the notion that only one point of view should be tolerated. If you read my post on being independent, I talk more about that there.

This (being pro-life) has always been who I am, but I have learned to hide it in recent years because too many friends can't tolerate even knowing I feel that way. Which is totally unacceptable and probably says more about them than me. :-) But, at 50 years old, the days of hiding who I am are gone. One benefit of getting old!!!!
Peace,
Mary

Jackie said...

Well, the positive side is I haven't seen one negative response above to your post so apparently these intolerant people are confined to your Facebook friend list or newsfeed. I am thankful, I have a small # of friends and while I have defriended people because they are "extreme" it was for them making racial comments (long before election or any of that) or people I don't know well at all . With the exception of people I've met since moving to Delmsr, ll of the people I have are people I know in real life. Sure I keep work separate from this all but that is just my preference. Either way, wishing you a peaceful newsfeed the rest of the day.

Mary DeTurris Poust said...

As a sort of public figure (because of my books and blog), I have hundreds of "friends" I've never met and have never spoken to. So it can leave me a bit exposed. It's just part of the business. I don't even read comments when I write for Huffington Post because they are THAT bad and that nasty and that personal. Even my editor there told me not to read them, as have other Catholic writers from both ends of the spectrum. So my job makes me a bit of a target, more so than a "regular" person and that comes with the territory, but sometimes it's not fun.
Happily most people have been either kind or silent, probably because nothing I said was angry or vindictive or anything like that. How you gonna argue with someone who just wants to say what she believes, right?
I'm totally peaceful right now, happily blocking any FB friend who posts things that sap my positive energy. :-)