Sunday, February 19, 2006

i think i'm a mother

this week on battlestar galactica, president roslin outlawed abortion. part of her decision was purely political. the other part was a misguided impulse to save every human life possible, in order to ensure the survival of humanity. yet in so doing she has sanctioned treating half the population as less than human, thereby eroding some of the very humanity she seeks to preserve.

we're supposed to be caught up in the drama that roslin has always been pro-choice, and it's such a hard decision for her to make. like, she is suffering by sacrificing her beliefs for the greater good. (there's that idea again.) but mostly she is capitulating to the demands of one of the 12 tribes, the gemenon, who are devoutly religious and some might say fanatical. they don't believe in abortion (which, until roslin's order, remained legal, as it was before the 12 colonies were decimated by the cylons.) the gemenon also believe the president is a prophet. in other words, they are a big part of her base. that is, until she decides to grant asylum to a young citizen of gemini who sought an abortion on the galactica. roslin at that point feels it's the girl's right to choose her destiny. then dr. baltar reports, when asked, that humanity will be extinct in 18 years at their present rate of reproduction. and also adm. adama reminds her of something she said a while ago, that if humans are to survive they'd better start having babies. next thing you know, women's right to choose is being "justifiably" terminated.

at first this episode really pissed me off, b/c ... duh. fuck that shit. this is just more fascist bull. roslin is too quick to whip out the unilateral edict. there are options. why not encourage reproduction? including asking pregnant women seeking an abortion to at least consider carrying it to term? make it easy for women who don't want to raise a child to give it up to someone who does? i mean, i personally do not wish to birth nor nurture a child. but if the fate of humanity hung in the balance, i could probably squeeze one out. especially if someone else raised it. she issues this proclamation b/c ... they don't have time to at least try other, less draconian methods of increasing the birth rate? drastic measures are called for? society hangs in the balance? hmmm. what sort of healthy society is it gonna be where some measure of the women are forced to give birth? (not to mention, how many doctors can there be in the fleet? she's going to put them in jail if they perform an abortion? it's just stupidly short-sighted. i mean, lock up too many doctors and humanity might not even make it 18 years, fer fucksake.) and what's to stop "progress" from dictating that the next logical step is to force all women to give birth as much as possible?

besides. i'm no scientist, but there are just under 60,000 human survivors, total. even assuming the women are all of childbearing age -- and some of them must be past that ability, i think humanity is doomed no matter what. it's not enough people to repopulate the species. forcing all pregnant women to give birth isn't gonna help that much. consider cloning, people.

was also pissed b/c this episode caused me to agree with baltar, who of course used the moment that the president announced the abortion ban to publicly oppose her decision and announce his own candidacy for president. i don't relish being in agreeance with humanity's betrayer, and i also don't like the implications brought up by baltar being the voice of what most of us would call reason. i mean, what is being said here? that when the chips are down, women actually are just incubators? huh. how ... ironic that a female cylon -- that race that reveres life soooo much it had to try to destroy all homo sapiens -- tells adama that maybe humans don't deserve to survive, while a female human -- that race that reveres life soooo much it created sentient robot servants -- adds evidence to that very theory.

but perhaps a bigger pissoff is, roslin's action makes a certain lot of no sense, at least characterwise. here is the president, who has insisted on preserving the democratic process, having the representative government that they had before the cylon massacre, keeping intact all the laws they used to have. she is even preparing to run for re-election. sure, she's shown an unwavering ability to do what must be done and to sacrifice what needs to be sacrificed, but now she suddenly outlaws abortion without even considering interim measures? and she changes her mind b/c some man shows her the light? gimme a frakkin' break.

and from this viewer's POV, it also bugs that -- on a show where the women so often are driving the action -- suddenly, with this singularly female issue, the drama revolves around what the men do and say. first, there's dr. cottle, the irascible, chain-smoking ship's doctor who's quietly helping out girls in need. he's the one who puts the asylum bug in the gemenon girl's ear, kicking the controversy into motion. and there's adama, who i am going to guess is opposed to abortion anyway, telling roslin to remember the babies. and there is baltar, whose disquieting statistic seems to point roslin down the pro-life path.

eh, but i don't think this is really about abortion. controversial though it shall surely be -- both inside and outside the world of the show -- the abortion thing is sort of a red herring. it pushes a button, sure. but i am thinking it's not so much meant to cause us to waste time on hypothetical debate about our world -- "so, what if the existence of humanity hung in the balance? would it be ok to outlaw abortion then?" "no." "selfish bitch!" -- as it is a means to demonstrate one of the show's favorite ideas: the lies people will believe, and that people in power will tell (even to themselves), in pursuit of the illusory safety and security. (although i do also think the writers delight, sometimes maddeningly, in twisting up our own real-life scenarios to create drama that leaves us questioning our worldview ... more on that later.)

that is, roslin's decision is not reasonable. it is reactionary, arrogant, and fueled by fear, not to mention a need to please both her press secretary and her base. sound familiar? in fact, roslin is like bush in some interesting ways: she is stubborn, she is a true believer, and she is, though not a total leadership novice, not fully prepared to be a crisis president. yet, she is a liberal, and more sympathetic than bush in other ways as well. yet II, she is capable of making breathtakingly bad decisions. and i do not think it coincidental that this same episode revolves around another rash, arrogant -- and disastrous -- decision made by another leader, the commander of the other battlestar, pegasus.

indeed, i don't think roslin's decision is meant to be reasonable, even in the context of the show. will it even make much difference, as noted above? other than alienating her from certain factions, even the mainstream, while keeping her base support? but, again, although it serves its dramatic purpose somewhat spectacularly, the decision she makes is part of the show's recurring desperate-times/desperate-measures theme. we are constantly reminded that humans have a very limited experience with near-extinction -- a condition it has visited upon an alarming number of other species. (hee. it's almost funny, if you think about it. we do not deal well with our own demise. well, who would?)

still, miz prez's edict calls into question the strength of one's convictions in the face of extreme conditions. now, one might face that test and end up like watchmen's rorshach -- blown to cosmic bits by dr. manhattan, b/c he simply couldn't not tell the world the truth, even though he knew the personal consequences for trying to (e.g., oblivion). but rorshach was one lone lunatic; president roslin is responsible for whatever ragtag remnants of humanity are left. (hmmm ... is there that much of a difference?) i suppose it is right that she should question her beliefs, if they seem to contradict her charges' chances for survival.

i've pondered all this so much, my head's beginning to hurt. (so i guess i can say i'm not pissed off at the show, b/c it made me think very deeply.) i even began to opine that maybe it is not right to claim one's right to choose, when the alternative actually might be humanity's demise. (big flaw in that thinking is that i don't actually think humans should perpetuate.) but today i read something in the l.a. times' sunday magazine, now called west (whatever), that made me think, no. the right to bodily integrity is an inalienable one. it has to be. otherwise, we are not fully human. no one is.

in this feature called "rearview mirror," looking back at past events, today we had photographer ansel adams commenting on the california internment camps for japanese americans in WWII. he photographed manzanar. (it was 64 years ago this week that president roosevelt signed the order, as the mag reports, "'against espionage and against sabotage.'") and adams wrote:

"what is the true enemy the democratic peoples are fighting? collectively, the enemy is every nation and every individual of predatory instincts and actions. we fight to assure a cooperative civilization in opposition to the predatory nazis-fascist-militarist methods and ideologies of government. we must prosecute this war with all the ruthless efficiency, stern realism, and clarity of purpose that is at our command. we must not compromise or appease. ...

"we must be certain that, as the rights of the individual are the most sacred elements of our society, we will not allow passion, vengeance, hatred, and racial antagonism to cloud the principles of universal justice and mercy."

is forced pregnancy -- even for the greater good -- a predatory action? i say yes. does it deny the rights of the individual? yes, of course; it's slavery. it is preying on a woman's reproductive capacity, denying her bodily integrity, not only reducing her to a mere vessel but also, particularly in this scenario, treating her as someone who cannot be trusted to make the right decision on her own (so like the anti-choicers in our world), despite the fact that these dire circumstances would be likely, though admittedly not certain, to create in many women a sense that it is their duty to reproduce. but roslin doesn't allow anyone -- other than herself -- to come to that realization. she could be gathering the leaders of the colonies together and working out a way to create the most kid-friendly society in the entire universe. instead, she clamps down with an oppressive, likely useless, law. huh. perhaps caprica boomer is right. maybe we don't deserve to survive.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

I KNEW this episode was going to really REALLY bother you. Allegory my friend, the show is modern day allegory. Her decision will purposefully come back to bite her in the ass. Mark my words.