Has it really been two years since Dr. George Tiller was shot while walking into a Kansas church by an anti-choice terrorist*? A frequent name in lists of “targets” on anti-choice terrorist websites, Tiller worked at a medical clinic in Wichita, Kansas which was known as one of only three nationwide that provided abortions after the 21st week (derided as “late-term abortions” by right-wing conservatives, a slanderous term that has no medical or scientific basis or definition whatsoever).
*And before I go much further: Let me be clear that it is not accidental that I call these people “anti-choice terrorists.” Because people who openly target a person or group and systematically attempt to murder them based on one characteristic/vocation/political belief/religious identity/et al is nothing short of terrorism. To harass, impede, cause bodily harm to or otherwise viciously attack a group of people is terrorism … especially if the intended action is motivated not just to silence that individual but to send a political message and cause public fear … that is almost a textbook definition of terrorism**. And that goes for the people who send me pictures of dead fetuses, too. Period.
**And as those who commit these acts of domestic terrorism almost always identify as Christians… To those people I would ask: Is that what Jesus Christ died for? Is that what he taught? Because I am a Christian and I am prochoice. I believe in Jesus Christ. My family and I go to church on Sunday. Indeed, my daughter was baptized just two Sundays ago. And nowhere in the teachings of Christ — in His devotion to the sick, the poor, and yes,the prostitutes and most marginalized among us — nowhere do I hear Christ saying that we should judge the sins of others. (Isn’t that what the plank in the eye is about?) In fact, I’m pretty sure Christ tells us that is his Father’s job. And, just as an example, nowhere does Christ chastise a prostitute for her vocation. And if Christ could not just forgive but LOVE a prostitute — someone I’m sure you loathe and detest with every fiber of your being — how could you think that Christ would want you to MURDER a man simply for the act of being a medical doctor? It disgusts me that there are people who pervert my religious beliefs to suit their psychotic, delusional, twisted rationalization of terrorizing women all over America and MURDERING another human being. It is because of people like anti-choice terrorists that progressive people like me sometimes feel nervous “coming out” as Christians.
Okay… now that I got that out of the way …
I have been tracking the #RememberTiller hashtag on twitter all day. My friends @AbortionFunds has been vigilant in asking us all to remember Tiller today as well as to think about what we do to honor his memory. Imagine what it must have been like to go to work today if you work at a clinic that is routinely targeted by anti-choice terrorists? Clearly, we have miles to go before we sleep…
The only thing I can offer is a philosophy I adopted after I suffered the loss of two dear loved ones to cancer in 2008. Both of them were the kind of people who were motivated to help people through grassroots organizing in various forms. They were both people who grew up in rural farm country in communities that were certainly religious and definitely conservative. And yet, both my father-in-law and my cousin were people who could not sit idly by and wait for others to act when someone was suffering. They did not sit silently just because standing up, raising their voices and acting on behalf of the greater good was hard. I dare say neither of them ever ran from Goliath.
What helped me come out of my grief in 2008 was to think about how I could honor those I lost. If the cliché Christian question is What Would Jesus Do? my question became What would Dave do? and What would Gretchen do? Dave was a devout Christian who believed if he needed 2 things and he had 3, it was imperative to seek out a person who had nothing and give them his excess. Gretchen was a healthcare activists and union organizer who followed in the tradition of our grandmother who was a nurse and later a home hospice worker.
On the days I am tired of activism, tired of politics, tired of rhetoric, tired of educating, tired of the fight… I think about Gretchen and I think about Dave. Whenever I think about how much work it is to organize another grassroots rally or encourage people to donate again to the cause, or to simply remember that reproductive health care is health care … every time I feel tired of the fight … I remember that my loved ones both fought this fight, too. And they aren’t here now. So I have to pick up the banner for them, too. It’s my way to honor them to keep fighting the progressive fight.
Don’t let the anti-choice terrorists control what the narrative is on Dr. Tiller’s death. Cry! Get mad! Punch a pillow, if that helps! Then make it mean something that would make him happy — equal access to affordable, quality health care in all its forms.