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  • Jan Flynn

What “Pro-Life” Means

Let’s redefine the term, shall we?

My heart has been so heavy this week

I’m not alone, I know. We’ve all been bludgeoned by the one-after-another mass shootings in America in the past few weeks, our hearts torn and wounded and finally shattered by the news from Uvalde, Texas.

But I shouldn’t use the term “finally,” because what compounds the horror of this most recent school shooting — I want to use words that convey that horror here, but whatever comes to mind: “ghastly;” “senseless;” or “heartbreaking,” is too feeble — is the sickening sense that it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

I will spare you the statistics on gun violence. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the number one cause of death among our children now is guns, just as I’m sure you already know that nearly 90% of Americans are in favor of regulating firearms, particularly assault-style weapons.

But none of that matters

Not to the legislators who continue to block any effort, no matter how moderate or sensible, to do anything about it. You already know this, too. With nauseating predictability, all we hear from the senators and representatives who are deep into the pockets of the NRA is an increasingly unhinged rationale for why nothing can be done to make it even a tiny bit more difficult for a mentally disturbed 18-year-old to walk into a store and walk out with all the AR-15 rifles — and the ammo — that he can pay for.

Because Second Amendment, you know. Somehow a 200-year-old provision that allows for “a well-regulated militia” — written in a time when military-grade firearms meant single-shot muskets — means that anybody, anywhere, should be able to walk around with an automatic weapon capable of firing explosive ammunition as fast as a shooter can pull the trigger.

Except at the leadership forum portion of the NRA convention held — with gleeful disrespect and cruelty — in Houston over the Memorial Day weekend. On May 27, when Trump and Ted Cruz and other luminaries were there with the NRA’s ILA (Institute for Legislative Action), no guns were allowed inside.

Nothing scary, including laser pointers and selfie sticks, disrupted what the speakers had to say about why there can be no legislative action to regulate guns. Because any mention of doing so is a bunch of woke, Marxist hogwash promulgated by enemies of the Second Amendment, as North Dakota Governer Kristi Noem helpfully pointed out.

It appears irony, like shame, is another casualty of gun violence.

Here’s their vision

The Ted Cruzes and the Greg Abbots have other suggestions to protect our kids in school: “harden” campuses; only one door per school (so, Ted, what about P.E., and what happens when the bad guy pulls the fire alarm?); more cops on campus; arm the teachers.

They seem to envision a mass refurbishing of public schools that would essentially turn them into armed fortresses surrounded by walls and razor wire, where kindergartners are wanded to get through security before they can settle down for circle time with Miss Jones, who will patrol their nap time with her weapon drawn, just in case.

Oh, and maybe some more mental health treatment.

I haven’t priced out what it would cost to transform even one typical elementary campus into a medium-security prison, as well as combat train all its school personnel. But I’m thinking it’s a lot.

And I’m thinking that Republicans will be no more willing to fund that than they will community mental health centers. In April, Greg Abbott slashed $211 million from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services — which oversees mental health programs.

Never mind that Robb Elementary’s campus in Uvalde had already been “hardened” or that armed campus patrol, city police, a S.W.A.T team, and the Border Patrol were all on hand during the 78 minutes the gunman holed up in the fourth-grade classroom littered with his victims.

But you no doubt already know all that too. Let’s get back to the Guns & Glory vision, wherein all right-thinking people over 18 are armed to the teeth, kids go to school with Kevlar backpacks, arms and ammo sales keep spiking upwards, and we simply accept that mass shootings are the price of our freedom. Yes, kids will die, but hopefully not ours.

In this version of America, the right to life is fiercely protected right up until the moment of birth. After that, all bets are off. Mom is underage, a victim of incest or rape? Or she’s already got all the kids she can handle, including one or more with special needs? Or she’s at such high risk that another pregnancy could kill her and leave those kids motherless?

Too bad. There’s no Second Amendment that says women have the right to say no.

Of course, it’s inevitable in this scenario that there will be more parents on public assistance and more kids in foster care — which as tax-averse Americans we will continue to underfund. But that’s what prisons are for. Prisons, full of people with no voice at all in their governance, are easily privatized, thus reducing the tax burden. See? Problem solved.

And the planet we all depend on for life?

There’s another development reported in this week’s New York Times that amounts to another whiplash juxtaposition to the Other Party’s professed fondness for life. As David Gelles and Hiroko Tabuchi report, there is an organized Republican effort to go after companies who take the initiative to combat climate change. This story has gotten buried under the carnage of the past horrific days, but we should all be paying attention.

Because another feature of the Guns & Glory vision of America is that we simply pay no attention to our planet’s alarm signals. Not if it means we have to give up the profits from coal and petroleum and the other extractive industries who, like the NRA, are so generous with their campaign donations.

Let’s stop calling this outlook pro-life

It looks more like a death cult. And I don’t want any part of it.

Here’s what a truly pro-life America looks like to me:

  1. Where every child is wanted, loved, and provided for

  2. Where families of all colors and configurations are supported with policies like paid family leave, universal health care, and well-funded, well-staffed childcare

  3. Where these children can go to school in safety, knowing the adults in charge put their welfare ahead of guns

  4. Where children can envision a future without fear that their planet may no longer be able to support them because the adults in charge are following the science and innovating industry and technology to create a better, sustainable world

  5. Where children grow up in a society in which individuals are encouraged to cultivate their interests and abilities in order to contribute to the whole, because we’re all in this together

  6. Where these children can go on to higher education, without it burdening either them or their families with debt

  7. Where these children, now adults, can look for their efforts and achievements to result in good-paying jobs that promote a healthy balance of work and personal life

  8. Where these adults are able to take their place in leading this society, with civility, respect, tolerance, and a firm commitment to the democratic principles that undergird it

  9. Where these adults are able to choose if and when to establish families of their own, of a size that they want to support

  10. Where these adults, as they become elders, can look forward to having their needs met with respect and expertise by professional caregivers

  11. Where these elders, when the time comes, are supported in meeting death with dignity

If that makes me an enemy of the Second Amendment, “schooled in the ways of Marx and Lenin” as Gov. Kristi Noem assured attendees of the NRA convention, then so be it.

From here on out, I’m pronouncing myself pro-life.

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