I learned a long time ago in a high school photography class that the best pictures aren’t from bright sunny days, the cloudy ones can actually be better. Clouds filter the light and add a little grey which actually makes things pop a little better in the shot. I want to live in the grey when it comes to looking at issues and people. I don’t want to vote based one one issue, and let that define whether I think someone is right or wrong. It’s not that I don’t think there are certain issues that are black and white, definite right and wrong things, but I don’t want to live in those spaces, I don’t want to look at at people through those lenses. I want to live in the grey first. I want to see the person living through the issue and not the issue itself.
I used to think things were a lot more black and white, but I as I have experienced more of the world, met more people, learned more of their stories, things are changing for me. I don’t see things so clearly defined anymore. One of the biggest confrontations with my black and white thinking came during our surrogacy journey. In order to work with our agency, we had to agree to terminate a pregnancy if there was an issue of severe disability and the baby’s parents wanted to terminate. This was a huge decision for us. We very much value life, and we were hurt very deeply when someone close to us had a late second term abortion, even after we offered to adopt the baby. Both Valentine and I saw abortion as something not to be used for birth control but something to be used when life was in danger. Disability was a different issue entirely. As we talked to the agency and each other more about this issue we learned a great deal about why someone would terminate. Apparently early termination was much more common in international surrogacy situations, even in very highly developed, wealthy countries. In those countries there does not always exist the same support for children with severe disabilities that the US has. Kids with disabilities may not be as accepted by communities and in the larger family context. In short, it can be much harder to raise a child with severe disabilities and their quality of life much less, than what we might expect here in the US for children. We also know kids in the US with severe disabilities and we know how hard it is for their families, even with the opportunities available to them.
This wasn’t just an issue about the child’s health either, it was very intimately intwined with my own health and the mental health of our family. I have known women that had to carry pregnancies to term, that they knew would end in tragedy. I have watched them carry their babies, knowing that they would die shortly after birth. Yes there are miracles where death in babies is beaten, but there are also great medical advances that can give us a pretty certain picture of what lies ahead. Those that carry their terminal babies to term get to enjoy what precious moments they have with their baby, before they die. They enjoy kicks and movements, and can soak it all in. Our baby’s parents would not have had that luxury. I would have been the one experiencing that, I also would have been taxing my body, and my family’s endurance emotionally day after day for a very horrible outcome. I have to say too, after the miscarriage, after being the only one to “hold” that baby with my body, I can’t imagine going through an entire pregnancy to have that same awful outcome. After much thought and prayer, Valentine and I made the decision to allow someone else to make that decision for their baby that we would carry. We made the decision to allow an abortion if we found out the baby had a fatal condition or would have severe disabilities. We decided that we would not to international surrogacy as that would up the probability of making such a hard choice, but we decided we would ultimately let the parents choose. It was not easy, but we looked into the stories behind the issue, and the people that would be affected and we just couldn’t see it in black and white anymore.
You may not agree with that decision, you may even be pretty angry with us for it, that’s ok. You don’t have to agree, and honestly my need to live in the grey is about so much more than abortion. There are so many issues that people decide are the absolutes of how they will base their vote. We have so many things that we cannot imagine as anything more than completely right or completely wrong. I just worry that when we do that, we dismiss the people and the stories behind those issues. We see the issue instead of the person. I think that doesn’t help morality or people, it dehumanizes and demoralizes. Whether it’s abortion, guns, welfare, marriage equality whatever it is, you name the issue, there are so many complexities surrounding it, that you really have to hear the stories, and get to know the people behind them. We also have to realize that no one candidate or law is going to fix any of these issues. Something isn’t going to suddenly become legal or illegal because of one elected official. Something also might not need to be made a law, if other parts of the story are addressed.
I want to vote from and live in the grey area. Honestly, I think that is what Jesus did. When approached with religious law breakers, Jesus addressed the person first. He knew them, he spent time with them he didn’t just dismiss them for their issues. Yes he would steer them in a different direction, he would tell them if they were wrong, but that came later, that came after he loved them as a person first, and sometimes, he didn’t even have to say anything, just being in his presence, and being loved by him was enough to change their lives. I want to see the overall picture of the candidates, how their position on a bunch of different issues comes together, and how they came to those positions. I want to see how they treat others when they too are forced to live in the grey. I want to try harder to see the person and not the issue.