Paxton Smith and the Global Culture of Loss and Disorientation

Paxton Smith, a high school valedictorian from Texas, gave an abortion rights speech at graduation that went viral on the Internet. Swapping the agreed text, she denounced the state’s strict new anti-abortion law, and her remarks went viral on the Internet. The law – termed ‘the heartbeat measure’ – prohibits abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy. “I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter,” she said.

As expected, the liberal press quoted her extensively, in the United States and in this part of the world. The picture of a young and beautiful Texan woman condemning the horrors of the anti-abortion tyranny was a deja-vu for many. This time, however, it also attracted large audiences in the United States. It is hardly any news that political practices travel across borders to be used in an internal culture war. However, this does not give us any reason to doubt the sincerity of Paxton’s motives.

Paxton Smith

The commentators of Paxton’s speech followed a familiar pattern. Pro-lifers make the point that a baby in the womb is an innocent and defenceless human being and depriving it of its life is cruel. In response, pro-choicers mounted a personal attack on their opponents calling them dumb and hypocritical. They emphasised that abortion rights give women the choice to pursue their careers and that limiting them would transform our lives into an anti-utopia in the style of the Handmaid’s Tale sequel. Alas, no one of them could explain how these arguments justified the deprivation of the right to live of a human being in the womb. Paradoxically, pro-lifers – most of whom are religious – mostly use rational arguments, while their opponents appeal to emotions.

Paxton’s speech was also emotional. One cannot avoid feeling sympathy for the poor young woman. She is frightened, and she is not being treated fairly. Yet her main problem is not that the Texan lawmakers have limited the options for killing an innocent being in the womb but in the broken and dysfunctional culture that sees the wonderful ability of the woman to give birth as her vulnerability and weakness. They can only partially be offset by contraceptives. When they fail, she needs to have the option of abortion as her plan B. The young woman is horrified that this alternative will no longer be available.

She is in a desperate situation, but not because of the limitation of her right to abortion. Like many of her peers in Russia, she is living in a culture of loneliness and disorientation. Occasionally, I come across texts with relationship advice, telling readers how to have relationships that meet their needs and protect their interests. To me, this seems to be a hopeless and futile task, because our most genuine need is for true love and devotion; we need the confidence that we will not be abandoned or let down by our loved ones, and that we will not do the same. Conversely, the relationship texts assume from the beginning that no party to it is willing to sacrifice their lives or careers, or even a tiny bit of their comfort. Each party seeks to hold their ground, keep their boundaries and avoid being used by the other party.

The idea of marriage as a union of love for a lifetime – not as a contract to be terminated at will – has been all but abandoned. Worse still, this understanding of marriage is being denigrated and labelled as ‘patriarchal’ and ‘exploitative’. Yet it is this ideal kind of marriage that is essential to bring forth children into the world. It is a marriage in which a woman who discovers that she is pregnant breaks the news to her husband with joy and contentment, and the husband receives the news as the greatest and most precious gift that a woman can give a man. They are going to be the proud parents of their beloved children. People have been prone to sin at all times, but this common ideal of marriage at least gave them some clear guidance in life. Some may not follow it, but at least they can follow a good model and a positive example. But once this marriage of love and devotion is no longer a shared aspiration in society, and women are left to grow up in a world with no mutual obligations, pregnancy becomes a disaster.

Left without the support of her husband who cares for her upkeep and sustenance, she has to fend for herself, build her career, and achieve financial independence. She simply has no time left to care for a child. Marriage exists for the man to care for the woman who takes care of their children; once this natural arrangement is broken, and the woman is given her hard-won equality, she is left to compete with the men who are bigger, more aggressive and sturdy. They are competing with the men who have the advantage of not having to spend their time and effort on bearing and caring for children. The irony of this situation is still lost on many women. A woman who does not have the benefit of a genuine marriage and has to eke an existence in a cold and lonely world without any care and support will dread her gift of childbearing and wish to get rid of it.

The bitterness and anger of feminist women at the emancipated men are understandable – they are a disaster to live with; yet these same women do not realise is that they have worked hard to advance the emancipation of men, and continue to do so. The much-despised patriarchy oriented men towards fulfilling their duty to their family and resist the impulses that are contrary to it. A man free from patriarchy – one whom the feminist-minded women will typically partner with – is truly an unsympathetic type.

Yet sexual drive is still a part of life, and alternative forms of sexuality – separate from procreation – are still uncommon. Men and women continue to share a bed, but increasingly outside the context of marriage; as a result, the woman can no longer rely on the man. Her position resembles that of the Samaritan woman from the Gospel: “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”(John 4: 17 – 18).

Their physical closeness- however precarious -is also marred by the fear that contraception will fail. So the poor woman wants to keep the abortion as her plan B. She is bitter with the Texan lawmakers for limiting her choices. Abortions are essentially a problem of the erosion of marriage. Moreover, it is a phenomenon of culture with a particular set of values. Perhaps the most conspicuous of them is the high value attached to professional achievements and the undervaluing of childbearing and parenting. It treats bearing children as a liability, a barrier to genuine achievement and success. The true hero in this state of things is not the mother who carried her baby to term and gave it life, but one who killed her baby in the womb for the sake of career advancement. It is a culture with no future in both the literal and figurative sense.
Sadly, however, it is this same culture that dominates the Western world and is being exported to the rest of the world. In the United States, resistance to its influence is visible, as the new laws of Texas and several other states suggest. The tension between Great Babylon and the City on the Hills is so great that many American commentators call it the cold civil war. Yet the outside world is dealing mostly with the part of the American elite dominated by the Democratic party, with policies that evoke the frightful biblical prophesies of the fallen is Babylon the Great, ‘which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.

We must decide whether we are willing to participate in this suicidal trend or choose an alternative, like Hungary or Poland. That would necessitate hard work on the culture, among other things. Instead of barren perversions and adulteries, a culture should prize honesty, loyalty, care and childbearing. It should recognise that bringing a baby into the world is a glorious achievement and a great exploit that surpasses all other achievements and exploits of a man. It is the mission and duty of a man to support the woman in this great labour of love. On its part, the Church is preaching the Gospel and spreading the good news of forgiveness of sins and a new life. People are free to abandon their past lives, as the Samaritan did. They can accept God’s forgiveness and go off the path of destruction and death – both as individuals and as a culture, by following the word of the Gospel – I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44: 22).

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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