“I’m having a procedure called a D&C on Wednesday and won’t be home that night. Are you fine to stay alone?”
I was in the passenger seat of my mom’s lime-green Opel Manta on the way home from work. It was summer between my junior and senior year in high school. Mom had found me a job in the mailroom of her employer, Southwestern School of Law. She managed the secretarial pool, and we carpooled together between downtown LA and our home in Westwood.
I was 16, and only really heard the part of her question suggesting I wasn’t old enough to spend the night solo in our condo. “Yeah, sure.” I didn’t ask what a D&C was, but had the sense it had something to do with the great unknown, women’s health, and didn’t ask for details. My mom likely wanted to have a meaningful conversation with me, but that didn’t happen. Meaningful dialogue with boys happens… just not when you expect. The question must have found some purchase in my conscience, as I remember exactly what I was wearing: brown Levi’s corduroys, a Bruce Springsteen t-shirt and top-siders. Not Sperry top-siders, but knockoffs. A pair of real Sperrys were $32.
I was 16, my mom 46. I loved my mom because she loved me, completely. But that’s not what this post is about. I also love the US because it loved us — me and my mom — completely. My mother was a single immigrant raising her son on a secretary’s salary. But this isn’t a sob story. We had good lives. Sure, money was definitely a thing, but we lived in a nice place and took vacations to Niagara Falls and San Francisco, ate out, and went to the beach on weekends.
Our nation welcomed my mother with open arms, despite her having no education or money. The US helped her out in-between jobs and loaned her money so she could go to night school and become a stenographer. The state of California loved her son. The vision and generosity of the regents of UC and California taxpayers gave an unremarkable kid (this isn’t a humblebrag, I was seriously unimpressive) a remarkable opportunity. I received a world-class education at little cost: UCLA (BA) and UC Berkeley (MBA).
Remarkable kids from lower- and middle-income households can get to an Ivy League university, with financial aid — there’s never been a better time to be remarkable. However, it feels as if the US has fallen out of love with the unremarkables, which is most of us. People of my generation constantly comment, with some pride, that they couldn’t get into the college they graduated from if they were to apply today. They are right, and that’s not a good thing.
The ultimate expression, in my view, of our nation’s empathy and love for a single mother was to grant, and protect, her domain over her reproductive system. In the US, 59% of women getting abortions are already moms. Twenty-four percent are Catholic, 17% mainline Protestant, 13% evangelical Protestant. Nearly half of pregnancies in the US are unintended.
Men and women create unwanted pregnancies. However, it’s men’s lack of manhood that is the cause for most abortions. Half of the women who got abortions in 2014 cited an unreliable partner as the primary reason for their choice. In many cases the partner is abusive. Of all abortion patients, 95% report abortion was a good choice — they remain relieved several months after the procedure. Violence towards women declines precipitously after abortion, because they can break ties.
Heels vs. Toes
If my mom, at 46, didn’t have access to affordable family planning, our lives would have been changed dramatically. Not only did we lack the funds or connections to figure it out (a rich friend who knew a doctor, or the resources to travel far and have the procedure), but we also didn’t have the confidence. Just as I didn’t apply to out-of-state colleges, as that was what only rich kids did. A lower-middle-class household headed by a single parent, neither remarkable, puts both of you on your heels instead of your toes.
If Roe v. Wade wasn’t the law of the land, things would have been much different for me and my mom. An unwanted child at 46 would have been financially ruinous for our household. There was no maternity leave for secretaries in the eighties. I likely would have done what my father and mother did when their family was in financial distress, and left school to help out. I wouldn’t have enrolled at UCLA. Instead, I would have taken the job my father had secured for me, installing shelving at $18/hour, a lot of money at the time.
If a=b and b=c, then a=c
Just as I was embarrassed to come out as an avid proponent of breaking up big tech (“Socialist!”), I’ve recently found the backbone to state what I’ve believed for a while: We have an illegitimate president whose victory was a function of the GRU’s deft weaponization of Facebook. Penn Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, whose background appears strikingly non-partisan, has done rigorous analysis of the election results in key states. She makes a powerful case that targeted cyberattacks by hackers and trolls were decisive.
This is difficult for us to accept, since humans are easier to fool than convince we’ve been fooled. We, understandably, blanch at the notion that the intelligence group of an economy 1/15th the size of ours weaponized the object of our affection, Facebook, and pulled off the most effective subterfuge of our generation, against the US. An illegitimate president in the White House, as a function of a firm infected with boundless greed and negligence, results in Supreme Court Justice appointments that threaten Roe v. Wade.
“These people [tech leaders] love to ask what they can do. They never ask what they have done.”
I’m back in the Opel, on the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10), with my mom 36 years ago. I think of her, and two questions form:
1. Our nation’s economic policies, laws, and ethos confirm an affection for the rich and remarkable lower- and middle-income citizens. But does the US still love the unremarkables?
2. As Facebook convenes an all-hands to express indignation at Joel Kaplan’s public endorsement of his friend Brett Kavanaugh, and what it signals about the firm’s support of women, should they extend the meeting to query all Facebook employees? The question:
What. Have. We. Done?
Life is so rich,