When It Becomes

An allegory.

 

Seth’s ninth birthday seemed like a welcome time for skipping school and a take-your-son-to-work day. As his father, the architect, did most of his work from home, his mother was quite excited to bring Seth to see her latest projects.

The housing development was designed to accommodate 73 homes. With only about 20 homes completed, the sunny day was a great chance to show the nine-year old the various stages of home building.

Seth knew that his mother was a home builder but had never really understood what was involved in her day-to-day activity. He was very excited to find out.

They parked at the entrance of the complex and got out of the car to take in the lesson on foot. Seth was surprised that they began at an open field.

“There’s nothing here,” Seth said, “it’s just a bunch of grass.”

“Yes,” his mother replied, “this is how things are before we break ground. I wanted you to get a sense of how a house is built by taking you through the various stages of home building. Here we have a flat field which will one day have a four-bedroom house.”

They walked up the road to what looked like a large hole in the ground. Inside the pit were rectangular gray walls with various notches on top. Seth was confused. “What’s this?”

His Mom replied, “that’s the foundation to a house. It’s what holds up the rest of the house and keeps it from sinking into the ground. We start by digging a hole and then pouring concrete which is very strong that can hold up the walls of the house. These gray rectangles will become the rooms of the basement.”

“I can’t really see it,” Seth mumbled. “It just looks like a jumbled maze.”

His Mom laughed. “I know, it’ll look more obvious to you as we get further along.”

The next stop had a few people working. They wore helmets and were standing among lots of wooden beams. Measuring tape and tools were everywhere.

“What’s happening now?” Seth asked.

“They’re putting up the walls. Those are wooden frames of the outside and inside walls of the house.”

The child was frustrated. “I still don’t see it. It looks like a jumble of wood. There are no walls! I can see though everything!”

The mother was upset. Her goal was to make this interesting and exciting, not frustrating. She decided to move onto a more complete project. They took a diagonal cut through some sites to a large building.

Seth became excited. “Now I see it! There’s the roof and walls and windows! That’s where the door goes!”

“That’s right! You can start to make out the definite outlines of the house at this point. Grab this helmet and let’s go inside!”

The two of them walked up some boards and into the house. “Be very careful and try not to touch anything,” she warned. “It’s an active construction site so there’s a lot of workers with nail guns which are dangerous. Stay close to me.”

Seth was excited. It finally felt like he was seeing a house.

Seth noted that the tone of his mother changed. She suddenly went from being his Mom to a working professional. “This is going to be the entrance hallway. Over there is the living room. Come with me and we’ll look at the kitchen,” she said.

The large space looked much like the other large spaces. There was saw dust everywhere just like the first rooms. His mother started going into details about where the refrigerator and oven were going to be, the sink and the island. She waved her hand at the open walls which was going to have the kitchen table. Suddenly, it started to come together in Seth’s mind. “I get it. I can imagine the table, but it’s hard to imagine all of the appliances. I still just see open walls.”

“Come to the next house which already has the plumbing and electrical work installed. We will be closing the walls this week. A building inspector is going to be there tomorrow.”

The house next door was still under construction but clean. There were wires and pipes in many of the walls. “These are the guts of the house. These thin wires are for electricity and broadband. These pipes are for hot and cold water. And these big tubes are the air conditioning.”

Seth nodded. “So that’s why the walls aren’t solid? So you can put in all of the pipes and electricity?”

She smiled, “that’s certainly a big part of it. It also would be much more expensive to make all of the walls solid.”

They went outside and down the street to a home that looked totally finished. The grass wasn’t in, but the house itself looked safe.

They went inside. Aside from the lack of furniture, everything looked finished. “Didn’t anybody buy this house? Why is it empty?” Seth asked.

“The owner’s want everything completed before they move in. They’re adding some chandeliers, changing the paint in some rooms, adding window treatments. A bunch of little items before they move in the furniture.”

Seth paused for a second. “So Mom, when is a house officially a house? Is it once a person moves in?”

“That’s an excellent question. I would say a house becomes a home when a family moves in. That’s when there’s a personal connection to the building, when people make memories. But a house becomes a house much earlier.”

“Like when a foundation is put in?” Seth asked.

“No, that’s too early. That’s the building blocks for a house, but not yet a house itself. I would say it’s when the building gets the ‘C of O,’ the certificate of occupancy.”

Seth was now confused. He didn’t see any ‘C of O’ on the tour. “What’s that?”

“Do you remember how I said that a building inspector was going to come look at the wiring of the house before we closed the walls? The city sends a person to look at the house during various stages of the construction to make sure that everything is safe and up to the latest safety codes and regulations. When they’re satisfied that everything is done and the house is ready to be occupied, they issue a Certificate of Occupancy. Typically, no one moves into a house for many more weeks as the house gets the finishing touches, but I would say the C of O probably marks the house as officially being a house.”

“So even though the government doesn’t own the house, it gets to decide on whether it really is a house?”

“No one ever suggested that the government owns the house and gets to decide on the colors of the draperies or anything like that. But the government does get the sign-off on when the building is ready.”

“And how long does that typically take?” asked Seth.

“There’s no set formula, but for this project, from the time we break ground to getting a C of O takes about 24 weeks. The last weeks before people move in are installing lighting fixtures, back-splashes and other incidentals that invariably take a bunch of time. It’s about 9 months from the start until someone moves in.”

“That’s almost like a baby,” noted Seth.

“Yes, it’s very much like the development of a baby. It takes about 24 weeks from conception to become a viable person, and a total of nine months for the baby to be born and for a family to begin to build a lifetime of memories together.”


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The Misogyny of Treating Women like Victims

On January 21, 2017, the streets of Washington D.C. were flooded with a Women’s March to protest the election of President Donald Trump. The group was clearly angry that the nation did not elect the first women president, their preferred candidate Democrat Hillary Clinton. Even more, they came to voice their concerns about what President Trump might do to abortion rights. The ultimate position paper of the march’s organizers spanned a wide range of issues beyond core women’s issues like abortion, to concerns like minimum wage, union rights, immigration policy and clean air.

But back to core women’s issues.

Donald Trump initially caused a stir when he said during a presidential debate in March 2016 that women who perform illegal abortions should be punished. After a loud public outcry, Trump back-peddled from his statement. In October 2016, he amended his comments that he is pro-life and would appoint judges with similar opinions, but ultimately the decisions regarding abortions would be left to each state. The outcry against his comments continued, but this time he did not reverse his position.

So who would get punished for abortion? Trump said If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.

Many women’s rights organizations were happy with this Trump statement, albeit still concerned about his other pro-life statements. They shouldn’t be. Their agreement that a woman is always the victim is arguably more misogynistic than curtailing abortion rights.

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Women’s March in Washington D.C. January 2017

Abortion

The Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade permitted abortions up until the time that a fetus was viable outside of the womb, roughly 24 weeks at that time (the viability is closer to 20 to 22 weeks today due to advances in medicine). That means that an abortion after viability is not a legal procedure, unless there were particular circumstance like a threat to the mother’s life. In 2014, there was just a small number of such late-term procedures, 1.3% of all abortions. Most states (43) place limits on late term abortions.

What is the punishment for the 1.3% of women who get abortions after 20 weeks? There is no comprehensive information. People assume that late-term abortions must only happen when the mother’s life is at stake, but the reality is that very few abortions overall happen due to the “big three” issues that abortion-rights advocates site as additional arguments to gather support for abortion: rape; incest; and risk to the life of the mother. The vast majority of abortions happen because the mother is concerned about her work or her partner, or the financial ability to support the baby.

So consider a woman that is eight months pregnant who breaks up with her partner and therefore no longer wants to keep the baby. Should the doctor performing the abortion procedure be the sole party punished for killing a perfectly viable fetus? Should the woman escape all liability for such a decision? That would be a mockery of justice.

The Women’s March claimed that Women’s Rights are Human Rights. Indeed they are. But baby rights are human rights too.

Prostitution

The march’s position paper of 16 bullet points chose to not call for the legalization of prostitution, a curious call for a group that demanded “gender justice.. for the power to control our bodies and be free of gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.

Are the march’s organizers so puritanical that they cannot imagine women willingly be paid to have sex?

This is not just on the march’s organizers, but on society as well. Our government has inverted policies regarding prostitution laws, where new laws in the country seek to punish the purchasers of the service (the “johns”) instead of the prostitutes themselves.  This is a clear inconsistency of punishing the purchaser of the illegal services for prostitution (typically men), but only the service provider in the case of abortion (the doctor). Logic would suggest that either the person paying for the service in each instance is punished (the woman in abortion and man for prostitution) or the service provider (the prostitute and the doctor). Instead, society has chosen to have an overriding concern to not punish women in each case.

That is wrong.

To respect women is to hold them accountable. Women cannot claim complete control of their bodies unless they assume FULL RESPONSIBILITIES for their bodies, as well. In that regard, the women’s rights movement and society should finally push for legalized prostitution and for the punishment of women who perform late-term abortions for non-medical reasons.

It is time for the women’s rights activist and society to stop being so protective of women as to treat them as passive wards of the state.


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Israel, the Liberal Country of the Middle East

Summary: Israel is by far the most liberal country of the entire Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). It is also probably the most liberal country from Western Europe to Australia and down to South Africa.

Diversity of population. Israel has a diverse population. The majority, 75%, are Jewish, about 20% Arab Muslims, and the balance of 5% a mix of Christians, Baha’i, Druze and others. Almost all of the MENA region is 90%+ Muslim, with a large number being almost completely Arab Muslim (Morocco; Tunisia; Iran; Yemen; Iraq; Jordan; Turkey; Algeria; Gaza and EGL; Saudi Arabia; Libya; Egypt; Syria). Lebanon is the only other country in the region with some diversity.

Equal Justice. Israel administers its legal system to all levels of society.  Consider that both a former Prime Minister and President were sentenced to jail for general crimes such as bribery and sexual assault (as opposed to a method to remove a dictator). They were afforded no special privileges compared to ordinary citizens.

Salim_Joubran
Salim Joubran, Israeli Arab Supreme Court Judge

Women’s Rights. Women in Israel have full rights of equality including the ability to vote, inheritance, walk in public alone, drive, etc. These are rights that are not found in much of the MENA region. Saudi Arabia has virtually no rights for women.  The new 20th Knesset will have 29 women– 24% of the parliament, significantly higher than the 16% of women in the US congress.

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Ayelet Shaked, Member of Knesset

Free Speech, Assembly and Press. Israel permits freedom of expression. Freedom House ranked Israel as the only country in MENA with a free press for several years, and just added Tunisia. The MENA region continues to be the most repressive in terms of freedoms in the entire world, such as Turkey which leads the world in jailing the most journalists.

african protest
Thousands of illegal African immigrants protest in front of parliament

Freedom of Religion. Israel allows people of all faiths the freedom to practice their religion. This compares to much of the MENA region which has criminal laws against apostasy– changing one’s religion from Islam to something else- even though such right is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A growing number of countries in Europe have begun to restrict freedom of religion including bans on minarets at mosques, head coverings in public and permitting kosher and halal foods.

mormon
Mormon church in Jerusalem built with assistance of Israeli government

Gay Rights. According to a gay rights group, ILGA, Israel was the only country to get a perfect score on gay rights in the region between Western Europe, South Africa and Australia. For example, Israel permits gay couples to adopt children and serve openly in the army , something which many western countries do not permit. In some MENA countries such as Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania, gays are actually publicly executed by the government.

gays in israel
Gays in Israel

Environmental Matters. Israel is a “green” country. It leads the world in recycling plastic, having surpassed Europe in 2012. It created the first commercial wind farm in MENA and the first permanent bike sharing program. It leads the word in drip irrigation technology. It was one of only two countries in the world to have more trees entering the 21st century than it had in the 20th due to forestation efforts.

windfarm
Wind Farm in the Golan

Open Public Office. People of all backgrounds and faiths are allowed to serve in the Israeli government, to become Prime Minister, serve in every branch of the military and Supreme Court. The new 20th Knesset will have 17 Arabs – 14% of the parliament. This compares to 8% black representation in the US Congress. Many countries, like Syria, restrict the participation of people who are not Muslims from participating in public office.

Ayoub_Kara
Ayoub Kara, Druze MK from Likud Party

Death Penalty. Israel only has a single reason for sentencing someone to death – crimes against humanity – which it has carried out only once: fifty years ago for Adolf Eichmann for his role in the Holocaust. Much of the MENA region uses capital punishment for a range of offenses including: apostasy; adultery; drug trafficking; being gay; murder; witchcraft; and prostitution.

Abortion. Abortion is legal in Israel for a variety of circumstances. It is illegal in almost the entire rest of the MENA region, with the exception of Tunisia.

The Arts. Israel is the only country in the MENA region to have both an opera house and a ballet company.  Opera exists in Israel, Oman and Syria and ballet companies are in Israel, Tunisia, Egypt, UAE and Iran.

opera
Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center

Animal Rights. Israel became only the third country/ entity (after the European Union and Norway) to ban the sale of cosmetics that were tested on animals.

Human Body Rights. Israel permits full control of a person’s body including tattoos, body piercings and prostitution. More neighboring countries are enforcing bans on tattoos and piercings such as Turkey. Lebanon and Israel are the only countries in MENA that permit and regulate prostitution.

tattoo

Protecting Women. Israel passed a law that bans the use of underweight models to prevent women from becoming anorexic.

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Israeli model Bar Refaeli

Universal Healthcare.  Many countries in the Middle East provide universal healthcare including: Israel; Kuwait; Bahrain; and UAE.

 

Israel. An open society in the middle of the Middle East.


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