Around three o’clock each afternoon at my retirement center, a gaggle of residents gathers around the coffee machine to discuss, for an hour, the state of the world. I don’t usually join them because it’s the time I exercise. Sometimes, I pause long enough to grab a cup of coffee and briefly listen to the conversation. The topics vary. Once I heard a man talking about rock formations. I admit, I didn’t know sediment could be so enthralling. Another time, a retired physicist brought us up to date on the latest news from the cosmos.
Everyone is welcome to this motley collection of retired professionals — doctors, scientists, college professors, with a housewife and an artist thrown in. Listening to the lively conversation, I’ve come to think the word “retired” should be abolished. Nothing’s retired about the thinking of those gathered around the coffee pot.
This week, while I tarried over my beverage, someone asked what I thought about the gentlemen who was challenging our governor, Kate Brown, in the upcoming election. Unfortunately, words flew from my mouth before I had time to consider whom I might offend. “I wouldn’t walk across the street to spit on him,” I snapped. The retort provoked a chuckle or two.
As I started to leave, someone called at my back, “Why wouldn’t you bother to spit on him?” I pretended not to hear. It was late. The treadmill awaited and the hands of the clock were running faster than my legs.
If I had stayed, I’d have answered truthfully, however. “The man is against pro-choice.” A few eyes might have rolled to the back of their heads, or the faintest trace of a depreciating smile might have hovered across someone’s lips. Worse, a neighbor could have asked, “Should we judge a candidate on a single issue?” My answer would be an unequivocal, “Yes.”
Some issues can’t be negotiated, or set aside for the “broader picture.” Nor can we disparage them as being little more than a litmus test. When a woman has no control over her reproductive organs, the most intimate aspect of her body, then she has no dominion over her life or her future. And without dominion, she is a slave.
Democracy presupposes freedom. Few would argue that for the broader goal of improving the economy, the nation should re-institute slavery. Yet personal freedom remains a question when we talk of women’s rights. To limit choice diminishes me and others of my sex. I could never support a person who thinks of me as less than human.