This week, meme_ster is reporting from Charlotte, site of the Democratic Convention.
En route to Charlotte, I met Frank as we were boarding the plane, and he noticed my 2012 Dem Convention bag tag. First question: “Have you seen the movie 2016?” He seems nice enough, white guy, late 30s-early 40s, casually dressed. Not a player of any kind. I say no, though I am curious about it. He told me it was even-handed, and I expressed surprise because, I said, Dinesh D’Souza had a very right-wing history. I can’t be sure he recognizes the name. I ask Frank what the take-home message of the film is. “That we don’t really know who Obama is.” About that moment as we are getting into the plane, Frank realizes he has left his bag at the gate, and I realize I’ve left my cell phone on the trashcan. We pause while the flight attendants make a decision about whether to let us deplane, and in that moment bond. We make our way to retrieve our things and share the rueful laugh of distracted travelers. I find out he lives in Charlotte, and is returning from Seattle, where he was visiting his children.
Later after we get seated, he is in the row behind me and eager to continue our conversation, so we do, for a while.
I ask if he is a steadfast Republican, and he said no. It wasn’t about party for him, it was about values, one in particular. He is anti-abortion, he says, and won’t vote for anyone who is pro-abortion. I say I’m for all citizens having bodily sovereignty, and I did not like the government intrusion; this is a case of big government telling me what to do with my body, and I don’t like it. Then he begins to parse out why he’s against abortion, ultimately getting to the bedrock pregnancy-as-punishment-for-loose-women: “most abortions are from women using it as birth control, and if they don’t use birth control and get pregnant, then they should have to keep the pregnancy.” He said technology has really come a long way, and there’s far too many pregnancies.
I agree, to his surprise. But I suggest then he’s pointing to a bigger problem, that of men not taking responsibility for their bodies. When I was first sexually active, I tell him, I would ask men if they wanted children. Few 20-something guys did, so my next question was “what kind of birth control do you use?” And I say to Frank, if a man doesn’t want children, he needs to use birth control every time. He can’t trust that the woman is “taking care of it.”
Frank explains that here again, technology has gotten a lot better. Twenty years ago, he said, condoms weren’t very good, and “it didn’t feel like enough.” I’m sure he doesn’t mean that they didn’t seem effective enough in the contraceptive area, so I gently state “if the concern is around preventing pregnancy, then your sexual pleasure is not the big issue, is it?”
He says things have changed so much, like “20 years ago, the gay rights thing wasn’t big at all, and now it is.” Yes, I say, but women’s reproductive health issues were much more liberal 20 years ago. All that’s gone in your direction, I say.
Amazingly, perhaps, this conversation was entirely civil and pleasant. Still, the man sitting next to Frank makes a comment suggesting he is getting too much information, so we stop.
Turning around in my seat, I find my Obama button, affix it to my blouse, and look forward to being amidst thousands of Democrats, whose platform advocates a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.