Lets not be Dicks

There is a very interesting thread going about in Reddit.com, where the original poster proposed a little exercise. Think about a topic in which you have a really good grasp on and have decided your position on; now write an argument about the opposing position.

I remember this being a common exercise in Debate Team (yes, I was part of one of those; are you seriously surprised?), and one that at first was very frustrating. Then, when I got the hang of it, it was fun to get to know the 'other side', as if I was a spy infiltrating the enemy, getting intelligence to overthrow a brutal dictatorship. However, that ability came with another frustrating edge: indecision.

At the moment that I stepped over that line, and wondered about arguments that I knew were wrong, after a while of hearing them and empathizing with their proponents, I usually wound up not knowing what to believe, what to think. And a lot of the current controversies (in politics, society, economy, etc.) are usually textbook examples of how opposing views have sound arguments. This is probably the reason why there are so many zealots out there: is far easier (and frankly, much better for one's sanity) to go to an extreme view of a topic, not hear the other side, and stay there.

I grew up with a moderately-conservative family; Christian in its core, but definitely not one of those Jesus-is-coming-next-weekend-so-you-need-to-repent-now, batshit crazy kinds. Like in any other family, we had discussions; we still do. But, the difference with my family is that we relish them. We love to talk about things, and try to make the other person admit "you might have a point there"; not precisely win the discussion, just make the other side come a little bit to our side. However, there are some topics that are still considered taboo in the Rascon household (my parents still consider themselves Christian after all): sexuality, existence of Jesus, and, the all-time favorite, abortion.

This topic has been the bread-and-butter of many Debate Competitions, and it has been beaten to the ground to the point that you are guaranteed to hear a sufferable groan of at least one team member when it is proposed to be debated. The reason for this is, of course, that both sides, like it or not, make good points. Now, now, I know what you're thinking, and I'm pretty sure it's one of the following:

Life begins at conception. Abortion is murder, clean and simple.
You don't have any right to dictate what I can do with my body.

Did I oversimplify? Most definitely. And that's the problem: it's not a simple topic.


Pro-choice's view: Life is still something that is very difficult to define. It moves and breathes? So does my urine bladder. The presence of DNA? Cancer cells have it. Potential for life? A carbon clump also has it.

So to use that not-at-all-defined argument as a way of heavily stepping over the corporal jurisdiction of someone that is very much alive and well is, pardon the pun, overkill, and a dangerous precedent for futures lawmakers. What about if the mother's life is at stake? What if there is a severe disease that is going to give more suffering in the long run? What if the parents are not ready to provide the right financial/emotional care? Pro-lifers usually think about the 'life' being taken away, not the 'quality of life' which is as important. And if the 'potentiality' of life is being provided as argument, so does the 'potentiality of a bad/good life'.


(Take a breath.)


Pro-life's view: If life doesn't begin at conception, when does it begin? Where do you cross the line of imposing your corporal jurisdiction over the life of another person? The fetus does turn into a person at some point, and beyond that point, stating "it's my body, I can do what I want with it" doesn't hold when there's another person's body inside of you: it isn't just your body anymore. And killing as part of your birth control plan is borderline sociopathic.

And this also can cause a dangerous precedent for future lawmakers. If it is accepted to end a pregnancy based on whatever the woman wants, would it be fine to end the pregnancy over the matter of, say, the fetus' gender (because she wanted a boy instead of a girl)? Or because the fetus' father is someone other than the woman's partner? Or because at the last minute (literally, when she's about to give birth) she decided she didn't want to be a mother anymore?


I hear you say "there's always adoption!" That's a whole other subject, really. How good will the foster parents be? How good will the orphanage take care of the infant in the mean time? And even if these cases were all optimal, the pregnancy will still need to be carried through, which is the central point of the topic.

I admit using a bit of reduction ad absurdum (aka. the Slippery Slope tactic) in the arguments above, but my point is that the topic isn't simple, and both sides have important and sound points to be considered.

Is difficult to deny, however, that really the main point here is: where do you draw the line? At what point does the potentiality of life trump the woman's corporal jurisdiction? It's hard to say, but what is clear is that any answer to that question would imply some sort of compromise from both sides. And I'd like to weigh in on one:

If the question is hard to answer, why not stick to something that we can agree on? If the process is going to happen (even if it's "morally wrong", people are still going to do it, legal or not), why not do it in a way in which the fetus will not feel pain? So regardless if it's murder or not, at least lets not make the fetus (whatever you think it is) not suffer in the process. I know that this subtopic is also very debated, and there isn't a consensus there either (big surprise), and it should be put in lower priority if the health of the mother is at stake. But, it's a good step forward, from both sides, to comply that, whatever happens to the fetus, at least lets not be dicks about it. And this is what I think the whole point of "listening to the other side" boils down to.

Yes, stepping over that line is frustrating (I can only imagine the comments that this post is going to get), and makes you constantly doubt your own arguments over and over. But it also sometimes provides a nice way to step forward. Sometimes it makes people come a little bit to your side. Sometimes it makes you feel like less of a dick. And that's worth the effort.