#323: The Abortion I Didn’t Have
Long ago, when I taught U.S. Government, I believed in the soundness and durability of American institutions, in particular the Supreme Court. My students learned about the rule of law and the power of precedent. But last week’s oral argument in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson reminded me that abortion, more than any other issue, stirs up our visceral moral beliefs, leaving legal doctrines like stare decisis invalid.
Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life (or both – as several of you told me after Issue #311), you’ll appreciate this week’s lead article, “The Abortion I Didn’t Have.” The piece is measured and nuanced and full of feeling.
The rest of today’s selections are also well written. Devin Kelly explores the true meaning of community, Bill Adair asks if it’s ever OK to lie, and Lex Pryor cherishes an American tuber. I hope you’ll find at least one article that resonates with you.
+ Tonight’s HHH is sold out, but if you’re feeling festive and competitive, the 2nd Annual Highlighter Game Show is next Thursday at 5:30 pm. There are still two spots left. Sign up here!
+ Next week, I’ll share my favorite articles of the year. Can you predict which ones I’ll choose? Let me know which pieces deserve top praise.
When Merritt Tierce got pregnant at 19, she felt “a physical splitting.” A Christian and a student of the Bible, she didn’t want to get an abortion, which she considered “a holocaust.” But adoption also didn’t feel right. Instead of pursuing a master’s degree at Yale, she gave birth and got married. “I believed I should be punished for having premarital sex,” she writes, “so I felt I deserved to lose control over my life.”
Now, 20 years later, Ms. Tierce reflects on becoming a mother. She loves her son; she regrets becoming a mother. She wants to go back in time but knows she cannot. She understands the word “incontrovertible.” She realizes she never made a decision because she never had a choice.
Ms. Tierce writes: “Our reductive and linear frameworks around abortion, and our very understanding of what it is, force a zero-sum choice between the idea that it’s hard to become a parent if you don’t want to and the idea that a child is an absolute good. We insist that if a child is an absolute good, then becoming a parent must also be, by retroactive inference, always and only an absolute good. I want to report from the other side of a decision many people make and say: Yes, it can be true that you will love the child if you don’t have the abortion. It’s also true that whatever you thought would be so hard about having that child, whatever made you consider not having a child at that point in your life, may be exactly as hard as you thought it would be. As undesirable, as challenging, as painful as you feared.” (33 min)
I Miss It All: Against The Commodification Of Community
A year into the pandemic, and eight months after injuring his knee, Devin Kelly can’t run. He feels isolated and wants real-life connection. Except he can’t find it. Late capitalism has made us lonely by commodifying community and convincing us we’re not living unless we’re optimizing. But Mr. Kelly seeks the ordinary, with real people. “Living can simply mean time spent among. I find value in this. In the time spent among one another. Not just with, or next to, but among.” (22 min)
+ Do you like Peloton? (Mr. Kelly doesn’t.) I haven’t tried it. Who’s your favorite instructor?
Pip, who belongs to loyal reader Abby, is proud to be the second turtle featured in The Highlighter. He enjoys basking in the sun, standing on his tankmates, and peering at students. Want your pet to gain additional fame? hltr.co/pets
Ever since my high school journalism teacher Nick Ferentinos taught us the rights and responsibilities of the press (first responsiblity: tell the truth), I’ve been fascinated by reporters who make stuff up. My favorite fabulist of all time is Stephen Glass (played by Hayden Christensen in “Shattered Glass”), who has spent the last 20 years vowing to make amends by never telling a lie. But this touching story by Bill Adair explores when lying is more loving than living with the bitter truth. Sometimes, Mr. Glass says, “The only compassionate thing to do is not to tell the truth.” (29 min)
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The Deep And Twisted Roots Of The American Yam
Lex Pryor, on the American yam: “What was once regarded as unsophisticated and inherently deficient became not only a necessity but an outright custom. The thing to remember about the growth of both the sweet potato economy and minstrelsy is that inevitably the co-opters came to embrace the very thing they long professed a commitment to ridiculing. Racial theft is often perceived as a matter of robbery alone, but at its most basic form it is equally an act of exacerbation. Perpetrators venture up the same roads they once burned and compliment the scenery. It is not the eating of this thing that is wrong. It is the commitment to forget all that came before it.” (23 min)
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