August 17, 2007

The Culture of Life & the Culture of Hate

If you've ever been to Florida in recent years, then you have no doubt seen the "Choose Life" license plate. It's yellow and the artwork looks like it was done in crayon by a child. You know the one:

Florida offers 120 custom license plates, and this one is the eighth most popular. Those buying it are contributors to a not-for-profit organization called Choose Life, Inc. that, according to their website, exists to
work with interested citizens within Florida and other states to create a specialty license plate with the slogan "Choose Life" whose proceeds would be used to facilitate and encourage adoption as a positive choice for women with unplanned pregnancies.
They also "work with interested citizens" who block access to women's reproductive health providers and lobby state representative to prevent the opening of Planned Parenthood clinics. The founder of this organization, Randy Harris of Ocala, is a right-wing extremist who, in his apparently copious free time, finds plenty of opportunity to explain to us why if blacks got reparations for slavery, he would also be entitled to a pay-out and make Dominionists happy while he serves as Marion County commissioner.

So, why am I bringing this up? The license plate in question has raised millions of dollars for Choose Life, Inc.-supported organizations, which makes it very strange to see a report like this coming out of Florida:
Infant mortality a 'huge problem' locally

...In Leon County, the death rate for white babies is 3.6 for every 1,000 births, well below Florida's overall rate of 7.2. However, the rate for non-white babies is nearly double the state number. In Gadsden County, the rate for non-white babies is more than twice the state's overall rate. And in Wakulla and Taylor counties, it's more than four times higher, according to the Florida Department of Health...

Some women don't get good prenatal care because they can't afford insurance, transportation or child care, said Dr. Fran Close of the Florida A&M University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Others have a perception that the care they're getting is good, even if that's not the case...
That "Choose Life plate has been slapped onto the backs of cars for the past ten years, but women in Florida, and particularly black women, can't get prenatal care or education? Seems like something is wrong to me. The article gives us the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births in some North Florida counties, too:
Leon: White, 3.6; Non-white, 14.0; Overall, 8.4.
Gadsden: White, 7.2; Non-white, 17.3; Overall, 13.5.
Jefferson: White, 20.8; Non-white, 14.1; Overall, 18.0.
Taylor: White, 0.0; Non-white, 33.3; Overall, 8.2.
Wakulla: White, 3.9; Non-white, 31.3; Overall, 6.9.
Florida: White, 5.3; Non-white, 12.5; Overall, 7.2.
Let's get a little perspective on those numbers. According to the CIA World Factbook: Rank Order - Infant mortality rate, a non-Caucasian baby born in Taylor County, Florida has less of a chance of surviving than if it were born in Indonesia, Guyana or Peru. It's twice as likely to die in infancy as it would be if it had been lucky enough to have been born in Panama or Jamaica, and four times less likely to survive as it would have been if born in the Cayman Islands or Estonia. "Choose Life," indeed.

Still, Taylor County is pretty rural, so let's look at Leon County instead. For those who don't already know this, Leon County is the location of Florida's state capital, Tallahassee. There are two major universities there (Florida State University and Florida A&M). Clearly, the infant mortality rate is lower in Leon than in Taylor, but how does it stack up against the rest of the world? A non-Caucasian child born in Leon County has the same chance of surviving as it would if it had been born in Palau or Grenada. It's less than half as likely to make it as a child born in Guam, Croatia or Cuba and less than one-fourth as likely as one born in Malta, Andorra, or the Czech Republic. Of course, a Caucasian baby's chances are much, much better. That's worth taking note of, too. Why should such a discrepancy exist? Do Caucasians have more of an opportunity to "Choose Life" than non-Caucasians? The numbers seem to show that's the case in a lot of places.

There's simply no excuse for this, not in Florida and not in any other place in this country in 2007. You would think people would look at all of this and see human suffering and respond with concern, and I'm sure quite a few will. Nonetheless, there still seems to be room in society for individuals like those making comments to the news story. Here's just a taste:
sorry for throwing off this story. but what is an african american? you are either one or the other, you can't be both.

— patriot

Of course there is more "blacks" deaths in Gadsden County. Look at the pure numbers, THERE ARE MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN GADSDEN COUNTY!

It's common sense there will be more.

Why doesn't the Democrat give the REASONS with PROOF why these children are dying? Instead of promoting racial BS.


Apparently this moron can't read or understand mathematics well enough to have even the slightest comprehension of what "per 1,000" means. More on that developed below. appropriately claim ancestry, one should do it from the Country of the family origin, not the Continent...which is what Africa is in case you forgot your seventh grade geography. Secondly, I think if someone were to claim they were "african-american", they would have actually had to be an "african" citizen, before they were an American citizen. Blacks are the only people referred to in this country by Liberals like yourself and the media, with a hyphenated background. Everyone else is just content on being..well, themself!

— WeNeedChange

Here's a right-wing nutjob who clearly gets all his information, if you can call it that, from Faux News. His head's gotten wedged so far up his rectum that his ears must be blocked; how else can you explain someone who has never heard anyone call himself an Italian-American or Polish-American? You have to really admire the balls on this guy, though, who can tell somebody else to brush up on their geography while remaining absolutely ignorant of the history of how Africans were brought to the US and why it wouldn't be possible for most of their descendants to pinpoint the country from which their ancestors came... if there had been countries as they now exist in Africa below the Sahara at the time when the slave trade was occurring, which, of course, there weren't. One can only wonder what planet some of these people come from.

You get the idea. How many people who think like this, who see a story in the newspaper about infant mortality rates and the obvious discrepancy in access to prenatal care between black and white citizens, and react by accusing the reporting outlet of being racist. Of course, the implication is that The Tallahassee Democrat is expressing prejudice against Caucasians by reporting this story. It's all a liberal conspiracy! Somebody get Bill O'Reilly on the line and let's get those un-American bastards who dare to publish such nonsense that diminishes the terrible discrimination faced by the poor, oppressed Caucasians of North Florida! I mean, my God, those white children are dying at nearly a quarter of the rate that non-white children are dying. Bigotry, I tell you! We must do something to accelerate infant mortality among rural blacks in Gadsden County. To the burning crosses, boys!


People like these commentors make me think that maybe some sort of basic competency test should be given before people are allowed to vote. I realize that such a test would never be applied fairly (e.g., required of absolutely everyone, without exception). We need a license to drive in this country and we can't purchase alcohol before the age of 21 because, according to the law, we're not competent to act responsibly before that magical age. Wouldn't it make sense, then, that people who want to participate in the democratic process be able to demonstrate that there's even some possibility that they understand the issues they're voting on? Is somebody who can't fathom the meaning of "per 1,000" at all qualified to participate in making decisions about fiscal policies and priorities? Is someone who hasn't the first clue about world history, or even American history, able to make a useful contribution to public debate about immigration? Are any of these people well-equipped to decide anything about education — because you can bet that some significant proportion of them also go about spouting "teach the controversy" Creationist nonsense.

If only such a test could be fairly applied. Nothing fancy; not rocket science or biochemistry, just test a few basic concepts. Questions like "2/5 is more than:equal to:less than 4/10 (choose one)" and "True or false: the first people to inhabit what is now the USA were Spanish" and "The Confederacy won:lost:tied the Civil War." Just something to demonstrate that there's something functioning betwixt their ears other than the sucking void of a black hole of ignorance, you know? That will never happen, and certainly previous experience with things like literacy tests at the polls in this country have been tragic and disgusting because they weren't applied fairly to everyone. They'd never be anything but another tool for manipulation, and would most likely be used to the benefit of the very sort of people who shouldn't be voting in the first place, like the mouth-breathers above. If only the real world could be as ideal as the inside of my skull.

I hope I will be forgiven for my stronger-than-usual rant, but people like these make me physically ill. That's not an exaggeration. I probably shouldn't let them get to me like that, I know, but they do. I just can't stomach people who divide up humanity into nasty little boxes for the purpose of deciding which ones should be stored away on some dark shelf, never to see the light of day. I can't stand those who can see anguish and death among "others" and then pretend that they themselves are being victimized and so insure that the real pain is never addressed. Ironically, one finds a lot of them sitting in a pew or rolling around on the church floor babbling in tongues... or lecturing "liberal atheist materialists" about the proper source of morality. I love that one, you know?

Remember folks — don't make Baby Jesus cry. Choose Life!

Sphere: Related Content