When I opened up Twitter recently, the trending topic that appeared above my feed was “A Discussion on Why Men Shouldn’t Ignore the Push to Criminalize Abortion.” I was immediately interested to see what other men had to say about the recent wave of pro-life legislation that has swept multiple states.
I scrolled through stories from would-be fathers, thankful for the laws that made it possible for their sexual partners and significant others, past or present, to have abortions. These men spoke with passion about their dreams, goals and career aspirations that would have been stalled, even derailed by the birth of an unwanted child during an immature season of their life. One man wrote that he owed his life to his mother’s right to choose, confessing gratitude that his elder sibling had been aborted, because he “most assuredly” wouldn’t be alive today. These men were affirmed for sharing their stories, showing bravery and taking responsibility in the fight to preserve abortion rights for women, and for themselves.
Dialogue turned to monologue as I followed a rabbit trail of posts and comments, and I quickly found myself between two types of outrage. One directed at men who dared to take a stance on women’s reproductive rights and the other toward men who took no stance at all. I was surprised by how both men and women slung around the phrase “old white men,” or included demeaning uses of “cis men.” Cis, referring to people who still identify as their natural born gender.
Social groups that decry racial, age and gender discrimination had turned to weaponize the very same behavior they condemn. And the deeper I went the darker it all became. Dark like Jim Carrey’s graphic cartoon of the Governor of Alabama being aborted, accompanied by his statement, “I think if you’re going to terminate a pregnancy, it should be done sometime before the fetus becomes Governor of Alabama.”
“Has the world gone mad?” I thought, as I watched people devour each other in an exceptionally vile form and fashion, even in response to most cordial opposition at times. It was clear that most of them were simply seeking expression and affirmation, not a conversation. That’s when I started to become angry and thought about leaving some comments of my own. My thoughts turned mean-spirited, so I knew it was time to step away and process everything I had seen.
It took a minute for my heart rate to slow down and for the emotional cloud that had enveloped me to dissipate. Raging voices can send me into a haze that’s hard to escape. I collected myself. Still, my heart was broken by the precious moments of life I saw wasted on the demonizing and dividing that seemed to overrun any trace of healthy discussion about the important issue at hand. We were all children in our mothers’ wombs once, with no voice. How might we have felt about the way we are using the voices that we have now?
What’s the takeaway from all this cannibalism? I realize I can’t calm the Twitter rage, and I certainly don’t need to add to it. However, I also can’t be silent. Not a day goes by that I don’t dream and earnestly pray about how a man like me should be using his voice in the world to shed light in dark places. How can I go beyond good intentions and live out redeeming love?
As for today, I know what this man’s response will be to what’s discouraging me in the world. I’m going to look, my wife, Sarah, in her eyes and describe to her why she’s my hero. I’m going to hug my four children a little longer and affirm their worth in this world.
I’m going tell them “thank you” for stalling some of my immature plans, derailing a few of my self-centered dreams and showing me how small some of my biggest aspirations once were, in light of now having them in my life.
I’ll express gratitude to them for teaching me what it means to live out the manhood that I know in my gut I was created for, by welcoming and wanting me to lead, protect, preserve and provide. And I’ll teach them that life is a gift, that it’s meant to be celebrated and that it’s most certainly meant to be lived.
Finally, together we’ll live out a truth that proves itself daily through all the joy and pain of life as a family, that the story of me is nothing compared to the story of us.