Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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The problem with "bad" is that it's part of this statement:

'Getting an abortion is bad but the alternative is worse'

It's an ugly choice.

But the ugliness of the choice gets obscured when an opponent jumps up and says "AHA! You knew it was bad. How dare you?" That might get...tiresome.

And even though Saletan's piece indicates that they understand that 'bad' is occuring, they won't say it in those terms because they, rightly, fear decontextualization.


Yes. It is a true gray area (like war). We keep wanting to eliminate the gray areas and make everything black and white. You can't eliminate those gray shadows. All you can do is try like hell to stay out of them.


But the ugliness of the choice gets obscured when an opponent jumps up and says "AHA! You knew it was bad. How dare you?" That might get...tiresome.

What Pooh said. Also - the opponent isn't just saying it's bad, the opponent is saying "AHA! You support murder! You know murderers! how could you!"

Years ago I got a flu shot in my town's local women's clinic. Not too long afterwards is when that guy shot up a Mass. women's clinic and killed people. He killed one woman my age who was engaged to be married.

I just couldn't stop thinking that it could have been me - killed for getting a flu shot.

Some crazy activist on TV claimed that people who were in the clinic - he kind of rationalized their deaths.

Stuff like that tends to harden the debate.


As a further thought, I think Saletan's approach is the "right one" in terms of making the most sense for all involved (to my mind, abortion is a 'symptom' rather than an independant 'disease'). Unfortunately, he's accepted by no one on either side. (For example, Scott at LGM is merciless in his critiques of Saletan, and I'm guessing it's likely the same from the right.)

Hard to build a consensus from that starting point.


Pooh: I think you're right that abortion is a symptom. (Told you to comment!) And at least one thing it's a symptom of, to my mind, is women's . . . what's the word? desperation? insecurity? Looking for love in all the wrong places? Women not valuing themselves highly enough, is the essence of it. It's not just irresistible lust that makes women take stupid risks. (Though there's that.) It's something emotional, too. (And yes, I know that people who take all the precautions sometimes get pregnant too.)

Maybe "sad" is a better word than "bad," but then many activists will tell you not to use that word either, because a lot of women aren't sad, they're just kick-ass relieved.

michael reynolds

I think Amba knows how I feel about the political nincompoops who run NARAL and the other groups. But I'm starting to think this particular part of the debate is swinging too far.

I'm the "father" of an aborted fetus. We screwed up on birth control, exactly once, and suddenly: pregnant. There was no consideration by the woman or me of any alternative but abortion, we both knew what the answer was. It was not agonizing. It was a bit melancholy. We knew we had screwed up. But neither of us wandered through much of a moral morass.

I was present at the event. It was a fairly straightforward matter. And don't waste time telling me I don't really know how the woman felt then or after: I do.

I am closely acquainted with another woman who had two abortions -- not my fault in this case. She had much the same experience.

I don't doubt that for many women it's agonizing. But it's not always so. We should be honest about this. People make mistakes, they unmake those mistakes. They don't spend the rest of their lives wandering the halls like Lady Macbeth muttering "out damned spot." They screw up, they have an abortion, they move on.


Unfortunately, for the middle to make a difference, we need to take on both sides and that means we will need to take on the moral conceits and intellectual conceits on both sides.

And allow both of them to rub their extremist itches against us.

May I just say that there are two kinds of gray, co-existing, but entirely different intensity?

Then again, no.


I wouldn't use the word "agonizing" even in my own case. It was something much slower-acting and and deep-register than that. Bass. But, we're talking about more than women's feeliings. We're talking about the objective fact that someone was started who would have lived, maybe 80 years, and affected the world in myriad unknown ways, but then didn't live. From one point of view, hey, that's the breaks, it's just another hazard like miscarriage (or a condom?) along the path to existence. From another point of view, I find it scary that we in our moments of greatest selfishness and carelessness have such absolute power to determine who lives and who doesn't. And by a trick of the mind, we designate it "a mistake" rather than "my son or daughter." I find this very hard to express, but it bothers me how sacred we hold our own lives and then how dismissive we can be of a life we inconveniently happen to create.

ON THE OTHER HAND (here at AmbivaBlog there's always an other hand): an abortion is often also a merciless judgment on a relationship. There's a real disconnect here between our increasing tolerance for single motherhood, tough as it is, and our gut-level reaction that "I don't want to have this person's child" or "I don't want to raise a child with this person." That was a factor in my decision. It's a huge factor in the decision of women who've been raped. It's a very biological judgment -- it has to do wth "fitness" and mate selection. Christianity, e.g., is very antibiological in that the soul is presumed to come directly from God regardless of what genes, etc. may come from the parents.

What a mess.


Aha! As you say, Michael, over at Donklephant, "We play God. We play God with life all the time."

We also become just a little better at it. Not a whole lot, but over time at least some humans have learned to play more the kind of God we'd like to have. The kind of God we posit or imagine for ourselves: aware, a witness to everything -- beginnings, suffering -- hardened to nothing. Maybe not omnipotent, but never indifferent. Unable to make everything right, but at least inspiring a striving in that direction.


Women not valuing themselves highly enough, is the essence of it.

Amba, I have to say, I disagree with this as a blanket statement. It seems that there is still a vestige of the "sex is bad" judgmentalism, which I think is very unhealthy.


The Netherlands has a rate of 6.5/1000. I think right now that's the lowest recorded rate in the world. (The US is at either 21 or 22/1000)

So what are they doing right?

I don't know what their doing so right in Holland, but someone from Denmark commented about abortion laws on Alas A Blog:

Denmark is lower then our rate - of 16/1000. The commenter said that in Denmark all abortions are paid for by the state, all mothers are paid maternal leave, and before the abortion the doctor is required to tell the woman that the state will help support the child. And it's true! (I guess all parents get money for every child beyond the paid maternal leave.)

I thought that Denmark sounded like a very humane place to live.

It seems like the debate is particularly polarized in the US. For example, Canadians don't really seem to argue about abortion the way we do in their national politics. Why not? Why is it such a political football here in the states?


Well, Pooh, even before I saw geoduck's comment I was going to say that -- to use the dreaded E-word -- the European example suggests that you've got a real point. They are more matter-of-fact and relaxed about sex than we are. And, you may be surprised to hear, at least the European kids I know (Eastern Europeans who emigrated to Germany, so they may not be typical) have been in no hurry to start having sex before their late teens. They live with their parents as a matter of course (often until they're married, and then nearby afterwards), they do not rebel to the extent American kids seem to fee obliged to, and they seemed to think that the idea of having sexual relationships ar 15 or 16 was just personally gross. They weren't ready and didn't see why they should be.

So if Europe is in some ways more "enlightened," it's also more genuinely "traditional" -- not hysterically pseudo-traditional as we often are precisely because we're not, if you know what I mean.

For the record, however, the Netherlands in particular are more sexually amoral than even more liberal Americans might be able to stomach. There is really a sense of anything goes, of an absolutely level moral landscape (just like the physical landscape, funnily enough!). For an American it's positively disorienting. (We have a Dutch friend in our karate org. who must be close to 70 by now. He lives with his wife and a Chinese traditional-medicine doctor who is his wife's lover, and his steady girlfriend, or one of them. I don't know if he and his wife have a relationship anymore. We saw him every year at tournaments and sometimes he'd be with the steady girlfriend, sometimes with some other woman, often very young and Indonesian -- he did a lot of travel to that part of the world and was probably something of a sex tourist. He regarded that part of life with a grinning relish.)


Three words: Minnie. Joycelyn. Elders.

I know I can be something of a broken record on this subject, but it bears repeating like a stuck needle on an obsolete but ever so relevant LP album of love songs: Extended foreplay, mutual masturbation, and soulful cuddling never got anyone pregnant, rarely transmitted a disease, and has almost always provided a satisfyingly tender, honestly romantic, complete libidinal experience (though heartbreak remains, as always, a real risk because everyone knows that sex is never completely "safe" and love can be, as Lou Rawls sang, " a hurtin' thing).


I get and resoundingly second all of that except "Minnie." ??


Thought that was her full name. No? Oops. Change "Minnie" to "Doctor" then.


You may be right! I just thought . . . Minnie Mouse?


he Netherlands in particular are more sexually amoral than even more liberal Americans might be able to stomach.

Amoral or permissive? I'm not a libertine myself, but I support the right to become one!

Seriously though, the 'hysterical pseudo-traditionalism' you refer to only serves to make sex a Big Deal(TM) with predictable consequences.


I wish I could explain how this reception of Saletan's is making me feel right now. pretty much heart-pounding, incredulous sickness in the pit of my stomach.

And really, really sad- like anguish. It happens to me periodically in abortion discussions.

In the post... "Responsibility is to me a code word that has a lot of racial & class... implications.""

How many times has the word ~~poor~~ been used is abortion discussions, eh? That the poor and uneducated are the ones who most benefit from the legality of abortion? If that ain't a discription of bigotry and elite racial and class... implications- what would be?


Know what? I wasn't finished yet!!! My bad.

I just want to add a bit more :0).

When amba commented on the poor self-esteem & valued feelings of women not being high enough- I absolutely agree. And I don't get the *sex is bad* comment, Pooh. Do people really think that parents encouraging- in varying degrees of urgency- to refrain from sex until they are *ready* (or married) means that they are saying... "because sex is bad*? Hell no, I say!!! It's the useage of the body as collateral for nothing more than a desired feeling (sorry, Michael)- that's really harped on in my house. We are far more valuable than the sum of our female bodyparts- surprise, surprise.

Another thing. Saletan got ~~booed~~ for his use of the word "bad". i have another word: WRONG. That's what the choice is, isn't it- what right for me, what would be wrong for me? Memememe. I suppose in that reference, it'd be ok- but how about?: It's wrong to take the Life of a person that- if I don't- I will be responsible for in about eight months time, + or -. My $$$$, my time, my freedom, my entire life warped by MY screw up that this nonentity is going to pay for in body fluid.

Ahhhh, sweet relief.

As an aside, What's wrong w/Walmart, exactly? Personally speaking, when you're poor- it's agreat equalizer for the $$$$. Oh, and Duckie said something about a novel w/artificial wombs to take the pressure off women- or something in sex? I'm pretty attached to my womb and quite sure it's beneficial for being a woman- what would we females be called if our wombs were rendered obsolete?

Men? Do I really want to be THAT equal?


Yeah, Karen, I always thought it meant "womb-man" too!


amba, I guess i have ONE more thing. You say: "Humans have learned to play the kind of God we'd like to have."

If we let Nature take it's course and birth the given pregnancies (God forbid)- would we even have to play God at all? Wouldn't we just be- letting God?

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