Before the Law, or, From the Notebook of Chiara Finestra, April, 1995 [a Short Story]

How much more do we need to know about Ms. Finestra? What esle should I say, or allow her to say–I do not feel that I am impeding her from saying anything that could be said about her, or in her defense, or in aside. Whatever she would need to say would be said. Whatever she could have said she would have said. What we have herein is really enough for you–and if you do not think so, then so be it. We really can tell a lot about person by what she says and how she says it. Diction does tell us more than we are often willing to accept, or are able to understand by what we have read, often times each of us no more than sweeping the page the way a tailor would with those hand held corn straw brooms he would use to sweep clean a suit or a coat. The inferences should be clear, but only if you have really been taught to read, what reading is, what reading can accomplish when done correctly, effectively, yes, correctly and effectively, to read or not to read has to be every literate person’s to be or not, whether or not to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous texts–civilization depends on what we have lost as part of our art of teaching, and teaching is and should be considered an art, and it wouldn’t be so bad if it were scientifically approached, but is that what we have, science, or is it pseudo-science, which is what most social science is anyway, unavoidably invariably. And what we really have is pseudo-social-science which is a mock of a mock, lost are the arts, are they not, drunk as we are on the lies of what our technologies mean, signal, portend. 

 

“Before the Law”

The Emancipation Proclamation did not give human rights to the slaves. The slaves emancipated by law had human rights before the proclamation. Lincoln did not make slavery immoral, religion did not do that. The immorality of slavery and the un-alienableness of the human rights of slaves was and is irrespective of what the society said or says. Jim Crow did not and cannot mediate our humanity or the necessity to treat other human-beings humanely. I have acknowledged this before in other essays. I have chosen herein to repeat myself. I have used the theme herein with slight modification of an idea from another essay–it might be others, plural. I must reiterate this notion of unalienability of rights and their universality and their precedence before the law. This idea that rights–human rights, civil rights, woman’s rights (which are not apart from or other than human rights)–yes, that these rights we hold to be true and self-evident–or at least we must do so to ensure we perpetuate a respect for them–yes, these human rights precede any law that supports them. They extend beyond any attempt to frame them, to articulate and thus support them–they are, as we would have said in a time that did not bow to the dogmas of empiricism or Positivism, transcendent human values.

I know how difficult it is for many of our educated to handle metaphysical arguments and metaphysical thinking, as persistently as we have attacked the veracity of metaphysics–and we have attacked it. I am not here to launch an assault on Positivism or positivist thinking of any close or remote association to the Positivists, themselves perhaps only strict scientists. This truth I do hold to be self-evident–thus I no longer put it on the table for debate–and that is that the law can only uphold human rights, thus women’s rights; they can protect them; they might even ensure they are universally respected; however, it is our humanity in itself that guarantees our unalienable rights, these rights transcendent of and discrete from all practical attempts to deny them or support them. If all the world were to forget this maxim, I hold that it would still be true, although the truth of such a maxim in light of a worldwide and absolutely pervasive amnesia would be moot. This latter point is the one that compels us to keep vigilance with freedom, keep vigilance and constancy with our humanity, a persistence for the humane treatment of all human beings. We must be clear what we are saying, as we have said above that ‘The Emancipation Proclamation’ did not give the slaves their unalienable human right of freedom–likewise, Jefferson having owned slaves, slaves he freed in his final will, is not a refutation of the principles he established for our civil society. In fact, Jefferson’s wording in a bill he introduced as President, preventing slavery from entering the northwest territories of the United States, was the wording used in the ’13th Amendment’ outlawing slavery throughout the land. We must be very careful how we address our past and interpret that past.

The law in the United States currently stands behind the right to choose an abortion, which I assert is part of the great human-humane, the imperative to act humanely toward other human beings irrespective of race,religion, ethnicity or nationality or gender or sexual orientation, or whatever else we have or might have in the future that defines us as human-beings. Human rights as Human Rights, unalienable, are not subject to the whims of democracy or of how law gets administered. The majority in voting whatever policy in society gets enacted or made into law do have the last word on Human Rights. Law is distinct from rights; rights transcend situation, culture, power, authority, influence, courts, judges, popularity, the will of the people to go to hell in a handcart.

For Human Rights to flourish, yes, for Human Rights to be actualized and not remain the great humane potential, law must be put in the service of Human Rights . . . but once more let me insist that we should not confuse legal protection for absolute sanction nor for deliverance. Now, everything Jefferson proclaimed in “The Declaration of Independence” was true and is true with or without the Constitution. They would have remained true irrespective of our winning or losing the war for independence. Winning the war and ratifying the Constitution gave other valency to human rights. Women in West African Muslim Theocracies who have enforced clitoral-dectomies have the right to control their own body; they do not have law on the side of their rights. Their bodies are violated; their human rights are not protected. Power works against them. And some metaphysical systems are more hostile and violent to women than others, and if they’re not some times, then that’s the accident.

I know that abortion is still a complex issue filled with contradictions on the sides of either pro or con. I am not herein going to enter a litany of redressed grievances against a culture narrower than it should be, needs to be, could be but can’t because . . . on and on and on once more the petty paces, each of us, more specifically, each woman the poor player who struts and frets her hour upon the stage of having to dance a dance of control in return for the privilege of acting on some of her human rights. I know what this is like–I am sure every woman knows what this is like.

Is the theater of life going to be another Grand Guignol, Artaud’s theater of cruelty taken literally. It is cruel and unusual punishment to subject a woman to unsafe non-medical procedures that mimic mechanical procedures in an auto body shop when she wants to exercise her basic human right to choose what she wants to do with her body–and any repetition herein about what a woman wants to do with her body should only instill with vigor the necessity to respect this right. I am not critiquing Artaud here–he has a lot to say to women in the manner with which they perform their lives as actors on the stage of their lives, but here is not the place to explore this.

Choosing is a woman’s birthright, as it is any person’s birthright, and this choosing to have an abortion is not an easy one for any woman or teenaged girl to make. Forcing women to make choices that are unavoidably illegal would be for what reason, to what effect? I would not want to be in her place if the choice were legal and unanimously accepted across all classes and persons in the society; no one would. The horrors of illegal abortions cannot be made to stand as a rebuttal for abortion–that’s grotesque, just as grotesque as any back-alley gynecological surgery. I cannot be in her place, as no other woman could either. And this is important to understand–because no one can be in her place, only she can decide. I repeat myself when I say she alone is faced with this dilemma, conundrum, problem, issue, rock and another hard place. I know that I am no one to speak for her–but I am speaking for a protection of her rights to decide what no one can decide for her, least of all men, least of all men who have nothing left to help them at least imagine they could be in her shoes. I know am not one to speak for anyone. I am never more certain of the trueness and rightness of my convictions than when I pontificate on what another person should do. Seriously articulating how every should, would and could the person I’m talking at ignores will cost him dearly is an occasional indulgence. I don’t imagine others are any different than I am; in fact, I see too many who are far worse, and they are also sometimes the ones who put bombs where their mouths are. I don’t see the future; I can’t imagine anyone else does either, but if someone does have a crystal ball, let me have a look and then maybe I’ll change my mind about telling others how they should live, but I don’t think so. It’s interesting how a nation founded on the idea that we should live free or die, be given Liberty or Death should put women in the position of being offered liberty curtailed. I am just as tired of other women telling me what I can and should do with my body as I am tired of men thinking they have the right to do so or that they have acquired a proxy for me through their money or their power or their positions of authority.

You cannot possibly want to know more about her, or should I say that you cannot possibly need to know more facts about her, as if knowing where she was born could help you in what way I cannot imagine now; or, as if knowing where her parents came from could help you in some other impossible-to-imagine way; or, as if knowing what her politics were, what her opinions on abortion were, or on gay marriage, or her opinions on the geo-politics of the United States in the middle east–what any of these could do for you or for another and another and another each one of you creeping in your petty paces until the last tolling of the bell you should not ask whom it is for . . . you know this too as you already know the answers to many of the questions I have posed herein throughout the prefatory remarks made and now the afterwards-words.

I do not want to know and would not desire to know if I were you (or, really, if you were I) what her religion is or what her ethnicity is–what could any of these fore mentioned things that sopme imagine are things to know–what could they do to help you know better what you already know from having read this essay, and re-read it, as you most surely should. Who does not know that all good reading is re-reading? Does it matter of she is Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh or Shinto; does it mater if she is an Atheist, a Communist, an Anarchist?

You have to know the answer to these questions already–they have an answer contained in their asking. The form is rhetorical; how could anyone not know this? Why do I think you need me to say this? Why do I imagine that there must be enough readers who will misunderstand what I am trying to say here, what I have said here, what I assume everyone who calls himself a reader must know? I know that I think believe imagine that there must be too many from among who we call educated who have little idea, an idea that I have taken to be self-evident to anyone I would call educated, higher education educated–yes, who have little idea just what reading actually is, what the process, the operation, the engagement is. I’m wrong? I doubt it.

 

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