Friday, September 27, 2019

Hey La, Hey La, My Buffer's Back!

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series: Start here with Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23Days 24-31. Day 32. )

"So, why do you support a pedophile?"

Sometimes not being allowed to respond to protesters is a feature, not a bug.

Our buffer zone is back (for now) and I hadn't realized how much I missed it. Standing inside the yellow-lined semi-circles which bracket the doors once again was made possible by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by reversing the previous ruling. This is by no means over - it's likely that The Runner and her rabidly anti-choice lawyer will continue to fight tooth and nail to the bitter end - but for now the half-circle of peace and sanity is back.

The return of the buffer means that escorts within it have to keep their political and religious feelings to themselves - in other words, Kit needs to shut up. We're wearing pink vests instead of our rainbow ones and my Pride flag stays in the center console of my truck. I'll miss the both the fashion and the versatility of the cape, but since being here isn't about me it's a pretty great trade-off.

"Hey, you know, I believe in climate change now! I do. Don't you want to know why?"

Have I mentioned how much we love having the buffer zone back?

This is not to say it's transformed the area outside the clinic into a hassle-free zone - the protesters have a large turnout today and the sidewalk beyond the lines of yellow paint (and one hastily scribbled chalk line) is crowded. While they're not allowed to preach, demean, harass, or shame within the buffer they are allowed to pass through. Parker makes a production out of it, slowing to a glacial pace and once pausing to ::shudder:: shake his rear in what I assume to be what he considers an act of defiance. I (semi)politely ask Hinton to move his sign when he sets it down just inside the the line while taking his turn as a screamer, and multiple times I'm forced I to shoo a woman in a long skirt who, horror of horrors, appears to be fashioning herself as a protege of The Runner. Ye gods, nobody wants that.

Speaking of, the fleet non-respecter of both personal space and the phrase 'please leave me alone' isn't putting so much as a single manicured toenail within the buffer. No doubt operating under strict orders from her lawyer, she avoids it as if she's playing The Floor is Lava game, screeching to a halt at the zone's edge. She won't pass through it at all, choosing to get around it by looping out through the handicapped parking space in the street instead. When she's not busy trying to make people take plastic fetus keychains she's jabbering into her phone, glaring at the buffer zone with what one would assume to be burning hatred.

"Hey! Fake News! Are you on Epstein's list?"

I turn away, shaking my head. Ridiculous questions can die lonely deaths outside the yellow lines.

* * *

"'Mommy! Please don't take me to this murder mill on Death Row! Please, Mommy!' That's what a baby in the womb would be saying if he or she could speak."

Yeah, Parker is getting extra weird this morning. 

It doesn't take very many shifts on the sidewalk for one to realize the protesters will say anything and everything that occurs to them. Some are planned approaches that have been honed and polished, either in practice sessions or through repeated usage out here: The Runner referring to patients as 'Mom;' Parker giving out ridiculously inaccurate fetal development timelines; Alex and his semantic games; and so on. You do your best to tune them out and not let them get to you.

"Mommy! Give me life, Mommy, don't take me in there past these deathscorts to be ripped to pieces! I'll be good!"

Part of me wonders, as I stand in the buffer zone listening to a grown man who bears more than a passing resemblance to Sgt. Schultz from Hogan's Heroes pretend to be a 'womb-baby,' if I should be horrified by this behavior. It's difficult to get beyond the utter absurdity of hearing rhetorical commentary from an imaginary ball of cells having a pretend conversation with its host, but at the same time it's quite disturbing to think that someone thought about this approach, considered it a good idea, and took the time to suss out some sort of script. 'Pleading Zygote' does not feel like off-the-cuff improv.

Parker has much more to say in this role but most is lost to the wind as we have a rush of incoming patients. You'll just have to imagine the rest yourself.

Or don't.

You'll be happier if you don't.

* * *

"I want to talk to the young woman who went inside this factory of death before!"

Angry Grandpa's obsession with youthful women may not be the creepiest thing about him, but - 

No, wait, it is. There's other stuff as well, to be sure, but his focus on that particular age bracket engenders its own level of ickiness. He's becoming more of a fixture lately, an unwelcome addition to the unwanted menagerie. Given his glasses and pornstache he's been tagged with 'Groucho,' but I find it difficult to besmirch a great comedian's name like that. I've mentioned Angry Grandpa in passing before, noting his predilection to pepper most of his interactions with a healthy dose of 'sweetie' and 'honey.' It's easy to discern that he finds himself quite witty, and as some sort of karmic retribution for something I did wrong during some existence in my past we're being treated to him on the mike today. Oh, joy.

This is not to say we haven't already gotten wayyy too much info from him this morning. Our Lady of the Theater has spent a good ninety minutes engaging the protesters and while most of the interactions are barbed Angry Grandpa seems quite happy to brag about his life before he 'found God and became humble.'

"In the 70's I smoked pot! In the 80's I did coke! And women, well, I did really well with the ladies, let me tell you!"

Gah. Evidently he was quite the rapscallion who lived a hedonistic existence until ::GASP:: he realized his wicked ways and turned to God for redemption. How very convenient for him that his redemption came *after* he'd spent decades doing everything he wanted, free of judgment. No doubt the timing had nothing to do with advancing age and fear of divine retribution drawing nigh.

His turn on the speaker is unremarkable except for the disturbing focus on young women, be they patient, companion, or escort. He keeps beseeching one who went inside earlier to come out and talk with him, reinforcing the fact that they have never believed us when we tell them that they are an unintelligible drone at best in the waiting room. What do we know anyway, we're all just godless heathen deathscorts.

Having tuned him out, it takes me a moment or two to realize when he's finished. Handing the speaker off to someone else, he takes a moment to look around before proclaiming to nobody in particular, "I was great!"

Guess he's still working on the 'humble' thing.

* * *

"I'm not here to judge you. We're not here to judge you. None of us are going to judge you."

Do you get a discount if you buy your cognitive dissonance in bulk?

I'm doing slow twirls within the buffer zone, arms extended as I savor the empty space, not paying much attention to the current screamer. It's late in the morning and a quick consult with the guards has let me know that almost all of the scheduled patients have already arrived. The protesters have more or less settled into ragged clumps of conversation, occasionally remembering to brandish their signs with a notable lack of vigor. The Runner is still prowling about with her protege, while Q-Tip stands on the far corner extolling the virtues of Jesus to passing cars. A tall, skinny kid hovers along the the yellow line, mumbling something at me during pauses in the current oratory that I can't quite make out. I'm okay with that.

No dramatic ending awaits on this day, no great story to tell. It's just another shift on another Saturday, another display of bravery and kindness from my fellow escorts in the face of intolerance and hatred.

Speaking of . . .

As far as the screamers go, this part of the morning is more or less a dumping zone for the less-polished to be given time on the amp. The guy - of course it's a guy - on there now is so unremarkable he hasn't even earned a nickname yet, a short dude given to scowls and stares. His delivery included lots of pauses that are meant to be poignant, I suppose, but instead keep making us wonder if he's done or not. Right now he's focused on Aimee, who has worked the door the entire morning with nary a complaint. Looking in his direction has given him what he supposes is an opening.

"Again, I'm not going to judge you." Pause. "You're a sinner, you lead a wicked life, and the choices you make mean you're going to hell."

No comment.

May all your days contain some sort of buffer zone.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Just Because I Can't Eat It Doesn't Mean It's Not Sweet: - Snapshots from Day 32 as an Escort at a Women's Clinic

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series: Start here with Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23. Days 24-31.)

(writer's note again: last time I apologized for the long gaps between posts. This time I'm going to assume a slightly different approach. Instead of waiting until I have enough material for the usual length of post I shoot for, I'm just going to go with what I've got after a shift. This means the posts will be more frequent than in the recent past but likely somewhat shorter. Tl;dr: More posts, shorter posts. Thanks for reading - Kit)

"I don't know why you have to use the rainbow, but you can't even get that right. A rainbow has seven colors!"

Yeah, Parker's still hung up on our escorting vests and my Pride flag/cape. Evidently on ROYGBIV, as well, which actually makes sense for someone stuck living in the past.

I'm never going to say that an escorting shift can be 'easy' but when a quiet, uncomfortable-looking young couple bolts at around nine o'clock we outnumber the protesters for the moment. Maybe it's too nice a day to SAVE THE BABIES? Not going to complain about that, but I will kvetch with great and furious purpose about the Runner showing up at 8:30, which is just straight up bullshit. Nobody wants that.

Low protester turnout plus us having a full crew allows me to stand directly in front of Parker's speaker, which has him in an extra salty mood. He snarls at me as I once again question his assertion that 'Satan is a murderer,' first insisting he answered it last time (he didn't) before launching into a lengthy rendition of the Adam and Eve fairy tale. When he finishes that he says, "There. That's why he's a murderer."


 As he drones on it comes apparent that the rainbow thing is really sticking in his craw, as he can't stop going back to it. Other screamers in the past have insisted that they were 'going to take the rainbow back,' whatever that means, but Parker wants to claim superiority because my Pride flag only has six colors. He's pretty smug about it, smirking at will. "Everyone knows a rainbow has seven colors."

Alas, his arrogance may well be misplaced. In recent years indigo has pretty much been combined with purple, as the concept of a seven-color rainbow has a pretty strange origin. Hell, half the people with me on the shift have never heard of good old Roy G. Biv. I do my best to explain this to Parker but he's shifted tactics to talking over me and insisting I'm FAKE NEWS.

A breeze kicks up, only for a moment or two, but enough to make my cape flutter in his direction. Six colors seem like enough to get the job done.

* * *

"Can I steal their signs?"

My rookies are *feisty* today.

In the early days of our escorting crew, long before I entered the ranks,the founders often found themselves taking shifts on consecutive weekends to make sure they had enough escorts. They didn't have the numbers they needed to give themselves some well-deserved time off but were so dedicated they did what they had to do. I didn't understand what my wife and others were pouring into this, didn't fully appreciate what they were doing. I do now and consider myself lucky not going through that as well.

There was a large bump in enrollment after 2016 - hello, Kit - which allowed them to both expand the size of the crews for each shift and  take some well-deserved time off. The numbers stayed relatively steady for a while, but with the march toward medieval times happening in places like Alabama and Georgia we're getting an influx of interested candidates again. Three training sessions have swelled our ranks and I find myself having to look at least a month or so out to book a shifts.

This is a good problem to have.

I was supposed to be a foot soldier today but when the scheduled Team Lead had to bow out I was happy to step up. A few months ago I would have been worried about having a pair of rookies to watch over, but putting them with experienced escorts to teach them the ropes makes having concerns unnecessary.

"Can I kick the signs instead?"

Okay, maybe not *entirely* unnecessary.

The training sessions are excellent (or so I've been told ::cough cough::). My rookies are both female, so they're already well-versed with having a bunch of arrogant, entitled men telling them that they're wrong, that they shouldn't be here, and that they have no right to make decisions concerning their own bodies. The sidewalk is a different venue, that's all.

I'm happy Roxy (her real name isn't Roxy but it absolutely should be) isn't going with the 'easier to request forgiveness than ask permission' approach. More questions follow about what we can or can't do, most of them garnering "uhm, please don't" from me as a response. We don't trip The Runner, we don't throw glitter, we don't use super soakers, we don't toss water balloons. Given the heat, I'm not sure anyone would mind the latter two today.

It's possible the rookies are a little underwhelmed by their maiden shift, given the dearth of protesters and the lack of zeal from those that are here. I've had this before with a first-timer who worked the door with me on an exceptionally quiet day. His second shift was a sidewalk-jamming circus where we were outnumbered three to one. You learn to appreciate the easy ones. Maybe there's not as much to write about, but it's not about us anyway. In a better world patients would be visiting the clinic with zero harassment and we'd be off doing different things on Saturday mornings. Alas, here we are.

At least Silly String hasn't come up for discussion yet.

* * *

"Hey! Uhm, I have something for you."

If I had a nickel . . .

One of the other nice things about having a crew of seven is that it gives me a good deal of freedom to move about and go where needed. With two on the door and pairs north and south, I can join escorts to make a trio for incoming patients (always a boon when The Runner is underfoot), cover for someone who needs a break, or stand directly in front of the current screamer so my body can block their speaker. I'm just finishing up a final rotation of teams - the northern chunk of sidewalk stays in shade during most of our shifts so I've been shuffling people around to give them respite from the brutal sun - when someone calls out from the street behind me. Wariness is the first feeling to arrive. I turn, expecting, well, anything.

It's a young woman in a coupe, pulled far enough over so that she won't greatly impede traffic. Her door is open and she offers me a smile before saying, "Hold on." She then turns and reaches over to the passenger side seat. I'm in no-man's-land here, between two of my crews and being largely ignored by the listless protesters. If this is someone who wanted to turn and fire a shot into my chest, the tableau couldn't be any more perfect. I'm not getting that vibe, so instead I mop sweat from my brow and I wait.

"Here. Thank you all so much for what you're doing." She's holding a paper bag by the string handles, the side emblazoned with the name of a fairly famous bakery that's on the one-way street that runs parallel to ours. After shifts I almost always get caught up in the overflow from their undersized parking lot.

I take the bag and offer thanks, blushing like I do whenever someone does something nice for me. There's an awkward moment where I think she's trying to decide if it's okay to get out of her car and hug me - it would have been - but in the end she settles for thanking us again, smiling once more, and shutting her door before driving away.

There's a box inside the bag with writing on it. Of course I can't read it without my glasses, but I don't want to open it around others and I'm certainly not going to take it into the clinic before determining what's inside, despite how pleasant the bearer of gifts was. I step to the curb and, making sure nobody's near me - not even the Runner - I lift the lid and take a peek inside.

And smile.

We don't do this for glory, recognition, or rewards. It's not about excitement or having an adrenaline rush - truly, the best shifts are the ones during which nothing happens, when the incoming patients suffer little to no harassment. We're out here doing what we can to protect a woman's right to control decisions about her own body, and so many of my fellow escorts do even more in arena besides this one. We're not out here for supportive horn honks, enthusiastic thumbs-ups, or drive-by gifts of delicious pastries.

That being said, they don't go unappreciated and they never, ever miss hitting our hearts.

Thank you, Sonia

Friday, May 31, 2019

Bad Religion is a Much Better Band than Bad Faith - Snapshots from Days 24-31 as an Escort at a Women's Clinic

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series: Start here with Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23.)

(writer's note: please accept my apologies for the long stretch of time between posts. If the material isn't there there's not much I can but wait until there's something to write about. Despite the claims of the protesters, I don't make stuff up. Also, my fellow escorts are awesome. If you're interested in being an escort please search for a local team or hit me up and I can help you go in the right direction. Thanks for reading and feel free to spread these essays far and wide - Kit)

(Day 31)
"So you say terrible things about our President, say he's bad and evil, yet you're down here helping people murder babies, what does that say about you?"

I love the smell of logical fallacies in the morning. Smells like . . . ignorance.

It's a miserable morning outside the clinic. The rain is steady and, aided by the wind, coming in sideways. Despite an umbrella the left side of my body is soaked fifteen minutes into the shift, my third as a team leader. Others have much more effective rain gear and I'm not going to dwell on my extremely poor choice of footwear. At least it's not too chilly. Plus the Pride flag I'm using as a cape keeps flapping up near one of their speakers.

I helpfully point out Alex's mistake, an assessment he doesn't agree with. For the next ten minutes or so I try to have a serious debate with him, which is *my* mistake. Sure, it keeps him from yet another droning monologue on his loudspeaker, but it also serves as a reminder of the folly of attempting to have rationale discourse with the protesters. It's simply not possible.

Why? It's not necessarily an intelligence issue (although it might be) but rather a spiritual one. They consider their belief in the Bible and all things it contains to be factual. Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt . . . they flat out believe these things happened because a poorly written book tells them so. Hence, every discussion shared with them starts in bad faith on their end. They won't accept any facts or logic that are at loggerheads with their beliefs. When they have no legitimate rebuttal they fall back on their version of  'A wizard did it!' It's wearisome.

Alex and I go back and forth for a while as he does his best to lay semantic bear traps. Later one of the escorts stationed up the street asks me what was going on, since she could only hear the part of the conversation being broadcast over his loudspeaker. Lots of 'no,' and 'you're wrong,' both of which are better than moral parables and judgmental rants.

It's a fair trade-off. I'll take it.

* * *

(Day 30)
"All women *always* regret having abortions for the rest of their lives."

That's right, females of the world, a man is here at the clinic to tell you what you think and how you feel.

Aren't you relieved?

Early morning showers have given way to something acceptable, pleasantly warm and dry as the sun keeps trying to break through. It's my fourth shift as a team leader and with a crew of seasoned vets today I'm feeling pretty relaxed, despite the increased saltiness of the protesters. One of their higher-ups is here today - maybe the Northeast Regional Overseer or however they rank themselves in their weird little cult - and the regulars are peacocking around, trying to impress him. It would be sort of adorable, like goslings around a goose, if the bile they're all spewing wasn't so repulsive.

"Are you going to go home and post about this on social media, m'aam? Are you going to put this up on Facebook?"

The woman who exited the clinic stops and looks back at him. "I'm sixty years old. What is it you think I'm here for?"

NRO (I know his name, but since his ego desperately wants attention I'm going to eschew mentioning it) ignores her response and continues trying to shame her, working his online angle like a dog gnawing a bone. His tone drips condescension and as he drones on during his second turn on the loudspeaker it becomes somewhat obvious that he *likes* this, likes being in this role, with others kowtowing to him as he berates women via amplification. There's nothing new or witty about his approach - same old tired tropes, same old shaming tactics.

"These deathscorts are out here laughing and giggling at you, they think what you're going through is funny."

It's true, we have been laughing a lot today. I'm running an experienced and amicable crew, or rather it's running itself, and the protesters have been particularly incongruous. Still, we're mindful of our surroundings - nobody is cracking up while we're bringing someone in or escorting them out. We understand the gravitas of what's happening, of what the patients and their companions are going through, and aren't going to belittle it in any way.

Once they're safely delivered, though? Damn right we're going to laugh in the faces of the cultists who were just crowding us, screaming horrible things, waving gruesome and misleading posters. For f*cks sake, Alex is carrying one that says, "EVOLUTION IS A HOAX."

How do we *not* laugh?

* * *

(Day 27)
"Why do you have to try to tie homosexuality in with murdering babies?"

It appears that the protesters aren't fond of our new rainbow vests.

The warm-up we've been promised didn't appear to get the memo about making an appearance and instead we have a bone-achingly cold morning. I'm extremely humbled and honored that the kick-ass warriors who lead our escorting group have decided that I'm worthy enough to be promoted to team leader, and nervous energy is doing its best to keep me warm as I make my debut in that role. I've gotten the first part down - I showed up with bagels and hot chocolate - but now it's time for juggling the tricky tasks of spotting incoming patients, getting them through, and not losing my cool with the cultists clogging the sidewalk.

And clogging they are. There's a whole slew of them and they've been pushing the envelope lately by using their signs to make getting by as difficult and traumatic as possible. They're not straight-up blocking the door - they know better than that - but they push in from all sides, either shaming patients for making a choice with their own bodies or begging them to keep the baby with promises of support and aid. For the latter, all you need do is join the cult. What could possibly go wrong?

Parker is standing behind me by the door, his balaclava askew as he mutters in my general direction. The Pride flag I'm wearing as a cape is irritating him, as usual, so he's telling me that I'm just wearing it for attention before launching into a 'fake news' rant.

Is he right? Sort of. First and foremost it's to show support. We have LGBTQ members on our team, and if you'd like to hear Jesus' teachings twisted and perverted beyond belief stop by when the protesters know we've got, in their words, 'one of them' out here. They're even more vicious if a pair of partners are on duty. They lead with a bad faith argument - apparently the theme of this post - in that they, the protesters, are the good people here because they want to 'help' the homosexuals. They want to make them see 'the error of their ways' and to find salvation in Jesus.

It's an approach that sounds chillingly like the base tenets of the loathsome 'gay conversation therapy' that has been rightfully getting banned in states all over the country. That's not surprising when given the knowledge that the lawyer Luis used to battle a harassment charge was the same one who was the legal representation for a couple who tried to get GCT overturned in New Jersey so they'd have the right to have their child legally tortured. It underlines what appears to be their outlook - you don't get to make choices. Only God does. If that's the case, then hasn't God or Jesus or St. Somebody already made the celestial decision for that person? Indeed, aren't they invoking wrath by questioning their savior's plan?

So to answer the query that started this section - because hatred is hatred, and it needs to be fought at every level, no matter what gender or orientation it's being directed against.

Plus the vests look pretty cool.

* * *

(Day 29)
"Yeah, you know, you're so proud of Planned Parenthood, do you even know about the founder?"

Oh, boy. Here we go again.

There was a time when I thought Alex was a little smarter than the rest of the protesters. Maybe he is, but after repeated exposure to his rhetoric I've come to realize he's more akin to a jukebox that's no longer can be opened to change the contents inside - it's just the same limited playlist, over and over, never changing, never evolving. Definitely one from some good ole' boy diner in Alabama or Georgia, where they're evidently trying to become Gilead. I have no doubt the protesters will be cackling with glee over those soon-to-be-quashed laws, bits of ridiculous jurisdiction created solely to be struck down and used against Roe v. Wade. They'll say their joy is because of the babies, but we know the truth - it's about more agency over women.

Am I making it up? I could ask some of the women the protesters allow to preach on their speakers - if there had actually been one in the two-plus years I've been doing this.

"Yeah, this guy should do some research into Margaret Sanger, he'd find out she was all about eugenics."

This raises the question - are Alex and the others willfully ignorant of the truth, or do they just believe what they're told without doing the research themselves? It doesn't matter, I suppose. The disinformation about Sanger was exposed as a hoax years ago, yet still the protesters try to beat this drum (the clinic we escort at isn't Planned Parenthood anyway, but the cultists seem to forget that from time to time). The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, yet still they slander an organisation that provides healthcare - not just abortions - to millions of women by touting a discredited story and ignoring the truths about Sanger and her life.

This can be applied to the 'picture' of Sanger at a KKK rally as well, which was also patently faked. So eager to strike down anyone who might champion the right for women to have control over their own bodies, the protesters will take quotes by people such as Dr. Martin Luther King and twist them out of context for their placards. Words may be better than being forced to see images magnified hundreds or thousands of times, but that doesn't make them any more truthful. When Parker offers his wildly inaccurate fetal development timeline (usually multiple times during each turn on the mike - it's his oratory version of comfort food) it's not just a mistake - it's deliberate misinformation, dangerous and misleading.

"There's a professor, Richard Lewontin, he's one of the leaders of evolutionary biology, and he says that scientists 'cannot allow a Divine foot in the door' when it comes to finding material explanations in the world. Think about that!"

Okay, Alex. Let's do that.

This is a textbook example of how the protesters attempt to twist and manipulate actual science to support their religious beliefs. The statements he's shouting about are from an article written in a pro-creationist magazine dated over twenty years ago. Is Alex aware that Lewontin's words are taken from . . . a book review? Probably not - the 'magazine' footnotes it but doesn't provide a link, increasing the likelihood that readers would never bother to do the research.

But let's think, as Alex says. Forget for the moment that the quote is taken out of context, and instead view it as it's presented. 'Cannot allow a Divine foot in the door.' For the cultists, it's proof that science a the foe of religion and further stokes their fervent desire to view themselves as persecuted, their beliefs viewed with unfair perspective. In truth, isn't it a viewpoint that has enabled us to grow and thrive as a species? The death toll from diseases has steadily declined as cures/vaccinations are developed and implemented. It's a certainty that solutions weren't discovered the first time, the second time, or even the one-hundredth time the issue was approached. What might have happened if they'd embraced Alex's viewpoint? "Well, we tried, but we haven't figured it out yet so it must be God's will that people are dying from Disease X. Let's not try to find a cure anymore."

That is a dangerous, chilling approach to science and, truth be told, to life as well. Scientific discovery is about trial and error, about failure and persistence. It's not about hitting a setback and being allowed to say, "I don't know why we haven't been able to isolate that pathogen yet, so I guess it's supernatural in nature." Science deals in facts, not bad faith arguments. Do the protesters pause, even for a second, as they take a pill for high blood pressure or get a flu shot, and consider that they are being spared sickness and/or death because a scientist somewhere refused to believe the answer they were seeking was something divine?

::sigh:: I know the answer.

* * *

(Day 31)
"Billy. C'mon now, Billy. You know what you need to do, Billy. You need to be a man now, Billy."

And thus we reach the portion of a shift where the protesters actively try to goad someone into committing physical violence.

Sherlock, aka the Queen of the Sidewalk, is running the team today and I'm content to be nothing more than just the guy on the door. The weather gods have finally decided to bestow a nice Spring morning on us, and for the first time in a while sunscreen had to be broken out in our prep room. The ranks of the protesters are swollen today with a number of older folks I haven't seen before, including one particularly charming fellow who offers such discourse as, 'It's Summer, let's murder babies!' Everything he says to a woman ends with either 'sweetheart' or 'honey.' He brags about the stories that he tells his grandkids and my skin crawls a bit at the thought of him being allowed near children. "Hi, Grandpa! I lost a tooth! Wanna see?" "Sure, but first let me tell you how I slutshamed some whores at the murder mill today!"

Billy is a young guy, late teens or early twenties. He keeps coming back outside, either to feed the meters or have a smoke, and once he showed he was either too nice or too laid back to shoo the protesters away they latched onto him like leeches on a swimmer's leg. When he wanders down the sidewalk a couple follow him, rattling away while he nods absently. There's not much we as escorts can do in that situation - unlike the protesters, we recognize that patients and companions are adults that respect that they have the right to make their own decisions about their lives.

The cultists? Not so much.

"Be a man, Billy. Don't be feminine like the guy standing next to you."

He glances over at me, chuckling. Either he agrees with their assessment or is laughing at the absurdity of the statement, but either way he shakes his head and takes a long drag. It's not a great idea for him to stand in front of the doors like this, but I'm loathe to shoo him away and have him out there in the thick of them again. At times he seems like he might be paying attention what they're saying, but so far they haven't seen the results they're hoping for. It's not the first time I've observed them working on a companion like this, calling him 'Dad' and trying to shame him into doing something potentially dangerous, but today it feels like there's an extra bit of venom in their patter.

"Billy, you know what you need to do. Go up there, grab her by the hand, and drag her out of that place. Do it, Billy!"

And there it is. I blink a few times behind my sunglasses, processing what I've just heard. No respect for a woman's sovereignty over her own body, no respect for law. Drag her out, as if she's an unruly toddler who won't sit still during Mass. Assault her, forcibly remove her against her will, force her to bear to term a pregnancy she doesn't want. This is the true face of the anti-choice protesters, and it's an ugly one. I keep silent because it's not my right to tell Billy what to do with his life, but you can be damn sure if he nods his head and goes in under a full head of steam I'm going to give the security guard a heads-up.

After a few tense seconds, Billy dons an 'aw shucks' grin and waves a hand in their direction. "Nah, I'm not gonna do that. I can't afford any more child support. Unless you want to pay it?"

There are no takers, and Billy shrugs while stubbing out his cigarette before slipping inside without a word. Later, when he emerges with the patient he arrived with, the protesters' previous demeanor towards him takes a markedly sullen turn. His smile at their attempts to further shame him with their disappointment causes one to yell out, "You won't be smiling in Hell!"

Since he won't be forced to smile from the prison he'd have been sent to if he'd listened to them today and attacked someone,  I guessing that dire proclamation won't have much effect on Billy. Flanked by a pair of escorts, Billy and the patient head towards their car, holding hands.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Be Like Willie

(name changed to protect the identity of a minor)

You might have a difficult task before you right now, or perhaps looming in the near future. Something daunting, terrifying, seemingly impossible. Formidable. Staggering. Intimidating. A challenge you don't want but can't avoid.

I'm going to try to help.

I'm going to tell you about Willie.

7:40, Sunday morning at a rink in northern NJ. I have an 8am game and am the only person in the referee locker room, almost ready to go. The door starts to open and I catch a glimpse of a mother for a second before something pulls it shut again.

A few moments pass before there's a knock. I say to come in. The door opens again and a young girl enters, decked out in a full kit of reffing gear. She's a wee slip of a thing, tiny, with a sheet of white-blond hair hanging down one side of her face. The woman I glimpsed and assume to be her mother has followed her in and is standing quietly off to the side. I smile as benignly as possible.

The girl unshoulders her bag, plops down in a seat, and pulls out her skates. "Hi! This is my first time reffing." There's a pause. "I'm kind of nervous."

Indeed, she looks very much so. Doing my best to set her at ease, we launch into conversation. She's eleven years old but small for her age. She plays PeeWee hockey and has been skating since she could walk. She passed the online test, watched all the videos, attended the seminar. Now it's time for her first game, and she's a little scared.

The assigner has given her half-ice Mites, which is the perfect place for her to start. Technically it's the *only* place she can start, since she has to be at least two years older than the kids she's officiating for. Generally, reffing half-ice Mites is a task akin to herding rambunctious puppies. There's no offsides, no icings, no checking, no real penalties. Still, that doesn't make it any less important of a job. She's responsible for the safety of a few dozen kids while attempting to teach them the rules of the game and trying to make sure they have fun  - all at the same time.

The other two refs arrive - one to work with me and the other to work the other half of the ice with Willie ("My name's Wilhemina, but I prefer Willie, if that's okay") - and her mom senses that her daughter is going to be okay. She leaves without making a scene, letting her know she'll be there watching. Willie asks me for advice, which is a bit humorous as I've only had my crest for three months, but I give her what others were kind enough to teach me: Be decisive. Be confident. Err on the side of caution. Hustle, hustle, hustle. Keep your head on a swivel. Deescalate. Have fun.

I check my phone. It's time. She asks me which route she should take to her rink and I offer to walk her over while her partner finishes getting ready. At Rink 3 the Mites are waiting, eager, itching to get out on the ice. She's not quite ready to head out yet - she wants to wait for the other guy to arrive. The coaches look over at her and offer smiles, which she returns. She spots her mom along the boards and waves.Yeah, she's going to be fine.

This story might have a much more satisfying ending if I could hang around and watch how she does (or lie about it), but I have my own game to get to. That's not really the point, anyway. I don't know which particular dragon you have to slay and I'm not here to belittle either it or your discomfort in handling it. I'm here to say I watched an undersized eleven-year-old girl face something that frightened her in order to step into a new world that most kids her age wouldn't dream of being able to attempt.

Willie did it.

I bet you can as well.

Go do it.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Summertime and the Lying is Easy - Snapshots from my Twenty-First, Twenty-Second, and Twenty-Third Days as an Escort at a Women's Clinic

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series: Start here with Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20.)

(Day 21)
"They're going after them again. Watch the door. I'll be right back."

With that, my Team Leader darts across the street, weaving through traffic.

The Mean Girls are stalking a couple and Ronnie's had enough.

It's hot and humid, the default setting for this summer, and I wipe sweat from my brow as I watch Ronnie make it to the other side. One of the usual Mean Girls - Sad Eyes - showed up this morning with a friend sporting some sort of hat - trilby, fedora, I don't know, I'm no expert - and together they've been super aggressive so far. Their ranks are further bolstered by a young couple - her with long hair in tight cornrows and a propensity to hold her protest sign upside down; him tall, awkward, and given to low-talking in my general vicinity so that I'm not sure if he's trying to engage me in conversation or chatting with himself. He moves about five feet away and begins mumbling what sounds like an inner monologue, questioning how I could do what I'm doing and so on. At times I can make out questions but he never pauses, so I don't know if I'm supposed to respond or not. He seems satisfied to ramble on uninterrupted, so at least one of us is interested in what he has to say.

The subject of Ronnie's concern is a young couple with an apparently shaky grasp of English who had the protesters set upon them like a pack of starved hyenas the first time they tried to approach the clinic. While we've been blessed with a lack of The Runner the Bread of Life gang has more than taken up the confrontational mantle in her absence. Spooked by the yelling and perhaps not comprehending that the people in the pink vests are here to help, the couple turns around and retreats, disappearing around a distant corner. After a while they try coming in from a different direction but once again flee after being spotted.

Now they're across the street, walking past the Mushrooms and the other Catholics. They keep looking in this direction, clearly wanting to come over but intimidated by the religious mob. Sad Eyes and Bad Hat peel off from the group and head over, and seeing them buttonholed is what sets Ronnie off. There's a animated conversation, words drowned out by distance, traffic, and the droning of the shouter currently on speaker. After a bit the couple crosses the street with Ronnie, but pause by the southern corner of the block. About thirty seconds later one of the security guards, an ex-cop who radiates calm and professionalism but also clearly isn't interested in taking shit from anyone, emerges from the clinic and makes his way down. Flanked by three escorts and the guard, the pair finally makes their way inside.

As I shut the door behind them Ronnie takes up the post opposite me, and for the first time in several sessions of having had her as my team leader I spot actual anger in her eyes. She shakes her head, glaring in the direction of the Mean Girls.

"They were lying! Flat out lying! They told her the procedure is very painful, and that the discomfort lasts for days! That's not true." Ronnie takes one deep breath, then another. "Sorry. I was already upset with the way they were hounding them but when I got over there and heard what they were saying, well . . ." She trails off with a wave of her hand.

Mumbles comes back over near me and starts up again, but is quickly drowned out by a produce truck that has pulled up to supply the restaurant next door.

That's okay. I'm sure I can guess what his message is.

* * *

(Day 22)
"There's murder going on behind those doors! Babies are being murdered and you Deathscorts are out here because Satan is your father! Satan was the first murderer! Oh, he's a murderer, the very worst!"

Is he, though?

Over my past few shifts I've been trying to lessen the amount of interaction I have with the protesters. Pseudo-debates littered with their logical fallacies and outright falsehoods are pointless in the first place, and aside from distraction engaging with them seems foolhardy. It can be frustrating to let their grandiose lies go unchecked or to ignore when they project and refer to *me* as 'fake news,' but that's not why I'm out here. We escorts are essentially their only audience - their sermons are unintelligible in the waiting room, a vague murmur easily drowned out by a TV. When they're bragging about someone from a year ago who changed their mind and had the baby instead, it seems clear that their shaming and harassment tactics have an extremely high failure rate on their own and don't need me shooting my mouth off.

Still . . .

For people who refer to and quote the Bible CONSTANTLY they seem to have curious gaps of knowledge, intentional or not. Despite the fact I'm certainly no scholar of the Scriptures, Parker's statement about Satan's murderous ways seems off to me. It's late in the morning on another scorcher and there's not a patient in sight, so I figure that maybe it's okay to relent just a little.

It's not, but I do it anyway.

"Who did Satan kill?"

Parker pauses in his oration, donning a smirk. "Have you never heard of Job's children?"

"Yes, but he was commanded by God to do that, no? In that insane bet where they destroy Job's life, torture him, kill his kids, and so on? Was he supposed to not obey God?" If I'd been more well-versed I would have remembered that the kids got resurrected anyway. Mea culpa.

There's a pause that draws out as Parker is clearly trying to bring up other instances of Satan murdering but perhaps finding himself unable to do so. I wait patiently. When the silence is broken it's not Parker but rather Alex, who's sidled up near my elbow.

"Satan crawled into Judas' heart and caused him to betray Jesus, which led to Christ being murdered by the Romans."

I tilt my head and give him the hairy eyeball before turning back to Parker. "So, anything else?"

He pulls his mike back in front of his mouth. "Satan is a liar, the greatest of liars, much like you and your fake news."

I lean back against the wall as he takes off on another tangent. It appears that Satan is not the serial killer they've made him out to be.

Wonder if there's any other people they falsely name 'murderers.' Hmm.

* * *

(Day 22)
"Look at this guy, out here trying to get attention. Just like when he puts all that fake news in his little blog."

The anti-choice folk are not fond of my new cape.

I must give credit where credit is due. Evan, one of my fellow escorts, showed up a few weeks ago wearing a Pride flag as a cape. The fashionable clothing he sports draws their ire in and of itself, but the flag proved an absolute lightning rod. It seemed logical to get one of my own to show support for his bravery and strength.

So I did. 

I've become aware that Pride flag capes are extremely useful in a number of ways. For instance, it hangs down far enough in the back to protect my legs from harmful UV rays. You become a better beacon for people trying to find the clinic entrance - 'Walk toward the guy with the rainbow.' Also, it turns out that if you hold the flag with the same hand of the arm you extend out, it forms a barrier that's difficult to get cult-related propaganda past. Hard to see though as well. All in all, a pretty handy bit of apparel.

"Hey. I gotta show you something."

When Alex says something like that while reaching into his backpack, there could be cause for alarm. However, it turns out he just wants to accessorize as well. 

"So, does this make you angry?" He's sporting a large grin as he pulls out a MAGA hat.

I frown. "I mean, it does in the sense that it exists at all and because of the idiot it stands for, but I'd always figured you folks as Trump voters."

He shakes his head as he zips his bag up. "I didn't vote for Trump."

That's right. He's told me that before. He's a Cruz guy, which is somehow worse. "Then why do you have the hat?"

Alex flashes a smile. "To trigger you guys," he says as he waves it in my direction. With that he heads off down the street to try to provoke the pair of escorts stationed there.

Yes, *I'm* the one looking for attention.

* * *

(Day 23)
"Take a look at all these deathscorts out here and what do you see? They're all white! They're here to help murder black babies! What does that say about them?"

87, 84, 88.

When Parker blows his racist dog whistle, he blows it with volume.

I'm not ruffled by Parker's tirade - while I haven't conducted a detailed analysis on the ethnic breakdown of today's team, he never trots out this tripe when we have obvious PoC in our ranks. The more pressing issue is the noise level, particularly for someone like me who spends most of the morning directly in front of the speakers worn by the screamers. It's amazing that such little boxes can be so effective at amplifying hate and ignorance, which just goes to prove not all technological advances are good ones.

"Any doctor will tell you that at conception all the baby's parts are there!"

88, 83, 87.

Maybe he thinks that if you tell a ridiculous and easily disproved lie loudly enough that magically makes it true?

As per this study, exposure to a decibel level over 85 is considered unhealthy. I've installed a sound meter on my phone and the results are somewhat disturbing. He's regularly spiking over 85 today and it doesn't feel like he's got his amp turned up as high as it usually is. A few shifts ago the police showed up early to tell Hinton he had to turn his speaker down, but aside from the visit by the health inspector/noise control who showed up during a convenient-and-not-at-all-suspicious lull by the screamers the protesters generally crank their speakers as high as they'll go without creating feedback. Since city ordinances allow them to begin using amps at 8 o'clock those of us stationed in front of the doors are exposed three hours of listening to the equivalent of a power drill.

Is it sad that I'd prefer the screeching of the tool?

"Adultery, fornication, blasphemy, homosexuality, you're going to have to stand before God for your sins!"

89, 86, 92.

Spreading the word of Jesus through threats and intimidation tactics brings Parker to the level of a hair dryer, which seems appropriate given the amount of hot air he's blowing around. It makes for a wonderful juxtaposition a few minutes later when he winds down and, with a fortuitous break in traffic, we're given a few moments of relative silence.

Moments later the cars are rushing by again and the moment is gone. It was nice while it lasted.

* * *

(Day 23)
"See, that sign above the entrance - 'Reproductive Rights Center' - that's a lie. There's nothing 'reproductive' going on in there, there's nothing but children being slaughtered."

The Pastor believes this, I think. Not sure if his ignorance is due to being na├»ve or harboring a willingness to remain in that state, but either way it's wrong. Indeed, they do provide abortions. Pretty damn up front about it on their website. Of course, it also lists all of the other services they offer, from birth control to checkups and so on, but that doesn't fit the Pastor's agenda and so he isn't talked about.

Instead he's on a lengthy diatribe about the Creation myth which, judging by his comments, he believes to be true. That humans came from an all-powerful being who made them to be pets and kept them ignorant. That genetic evidence be damned, we all came from the same two people. That a serpent made us be bad, although if Adam and Eve never got 'knowledge' then how would there have ever been other people?

He believes in a fairy tale - a bad one - and wants to use it and other ridiculous stories to force other people to live their lives the way he thinks they should. I cannot be the only person who finds that frightening. They way they lie and try to twist scientific fact to support their groundless positions is alarming - wrap yourself in your faith and you're justified. You're doing God's work by spreading his word. Is it still considered spreading if you're trying to ram it down someone's throat? Or using it to wrap them up in chains they want no part of?

That's a question I don't bother asking. I don't need a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge to know that answer.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

I Don't Want to Belong to Any Club That Would Accept Me as One of Their Members - Snapshots from my Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Days as an Escort at a Women's Clinic

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series: Start here with Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17.)

(Day 19)
"You know, I'm not surprised that you brought that up, probably because you found it on Google."

After a miserable Spring the weather is finally gorgeous - a perfect day to be doing something, anything, other than dealing with the crew of protesters outside the women's clinic in Englewood. For the first time in several shifts I start the morning out on the wing, but as we hit the halfway point Lexi has moved me back in by the door to give the guy who'd been there a break from the screamers. Alex is quick to renew our acquaintance, so to speak, and quick to pounce when I mention that the current screamer is violating Biblical law by wearing clothes woven with more than one fabric.

"See, you're wrong, and I'll tell you why." He's not shouting and his voice is earnest. This is clearly something he deeply believes in. "The Ten Commandments, those are God's ultimate laws, and they always apply. What you brought up was part of the laws for the Israelites, and those don't apply anymore."

I *am* wrong, at least according to the unknown (to me) tenets of his religious sect. It seems like yet another case of Biblical cherry-picking at work, wherein they adhere to what they like and ignore the rest, but getting into deep discussion of the true meaning behind Leviticus 19:19 or Deuteronomy 22:9-11 really doesn't interest me.

Later they tell Lexi that she needs to read my blog because I'm planning on usurping her position as leader. I hadn't been planning on it but she *is* wearing socks that are clearly a blend . . .

* * *

(Day 19)
"So that's Fake News. He writes in his little blog, fills it with lies."

What, no 'Keyboard Warrior' this week? I'm hurt.

Parker and Alex are standing with someone named Don as I lean against the wall of the clinic, the former pointing in my direction. I've seen this guy around before - must be someone important to the protesters, given the way they defer to him - but if I did there was nothing memorable about the experience.

I'm always a little tickled when they refer to me as 'Fake News,' since their accusations are patently untrue. Allow me to use this space to make an offer: Protesters - the ones reading this, like you do - please feel free to call me out on anything I've written about that you think I made up. I will gladly admit that while I attempt to get our exchanges down verbatim there's no way I've gotten every word exactly correct, but I haven't lied about anything. Fire away.

"Do you know who Norman Bates is?" The question comes from Don and it takes a second to realize he's addressing me. Muttonchops is taking his time getting set up for his turn on the speaker - no complaints here - and there are no patients in sight. That's when the protesters usually target the escorts for abuse and this morning is no exception.

I want to make sure I've heard him correctly because this seems pretty far out of left field. "What?"

"Do you know who Norman Bates is?" he repeats, half-smirk already in place. This is a loaded question, no doubt, but I simply have to know where he's going with it.

"The character from Psycho? Uhm, yes."

"Yeah, he was a legend in his own mind too!" The three of them break into braying laughter as I glance over at  Lexi, nonplussed. The Queen of the Sidewalk - although by morning's end they'll have demoted her to Princess, the heartless cads - has no answer for me, offering a bewildered shrug. Was it a joke? I think it was a joke. I suppose I should treat it as a joke.

I nod for a few more seconds before barking out a laugh. "Oh, I get it!" Pause. "You think you're witty!"

From his sour expression it doesn't appear he appreciates *my* sense of humor either. A little while later he sidles up next to me. "See, it's funny because -"

I start laughing again. "You're explaining why your joke is funny? Dude. If you have to explain it . . ." I trail off and shrug as he moves away, muttering. Turns out his joke was fake news.

* * *

(Day 19)
"What? You're wrong. In fact, that's why Toys R US went out of business!"

You might need to borrow a springboard if you want to join Alex on this leap.

He's chatty today, trying to make me see the error of my ways as often as possible. It's not quite as amusing as The Runner continuing to incorrectly tell the male companions she's harassing that it's Father's Day, but at times it gets close. He's been going on about how every baby is a gift from God and how important they are, and when I mention that babies are one thing in the world there's no shortage he pounces with the line above.

Lexi and I manage to both look at each other and roll our eyes simultaneously. "That's not why, Alex. They were bought up by vulture capitalists who then rolled the debt into the company as they sold off assets and bled it dry."

"Yeah, but there being less kids is a part of it. Even a small part is a part."

There are times when you're involved in an intelligent discussion that you'd like to continue. This is not one of them.

* * *

(Day 20)
"See, you keep changing your answer! You keep moving the goalposts!"

Part of the problem with the buffer zone being gone is that there's more opportunity for interaction with the protesters. Almost invariably they try to drag you into their well-rehearsed 'logic' traps, which only count as logic if you're willing to accept that at any time they'll pull out the God card and insist that means they've won. It's even more tiresome then it sounds, and the fact that it's already above ninety degrees this morning makes it even less appealing. The guy currently trying to weave his web of words is new to me, a youngish guy who earlier was desperately trying to escape Our Lady of the Theater. He's got on black jeans and a shirt under a long-sleeved shirt, which given the heat and humidity seems like a modern version of flagellating yourself with reeds.

Josh - I think his name is Josh or Joshua or Who The Fuck Cares - is coming at me on two fronts: he wants me to admit I can't have moral objectivity without God while also demonstrating how human laws are fallible. He's trying to accomplish the latter by using slavery as an example, which is going over about as well as you'd expect. The goal is to draw a parallel to how it was morally repugnant but legal then, just like - say it with me - they consider abortion to be now. It's a facile argument at best, but one he sticks doggedly to when not veering off to ask me when a fetus becomes a human. I make the mistake of changing my opinion from the end of the second trimester to when it's viable outside the womb, which leads to a whole new attack angle that eventually follows the circular argument back to where it started, yet again.

Later I'm gently admonished by my team leader for engaging too much. It's difficult to disagree with her assessment.

* * *

(Day 19)
"Ladies, before you go in there to murder your baby let me tell you about Hagar."

My eyes widen. Really? He's going with Hagar? I'm dying to hear how Don is going to spin this one.

"Pregnant, she went off into the desert to die, but there she found God, who told her that if she worshipped him her son would have twelve sons and they would all be princes! And that's what happened!"

Ah. He's going for a full-on ridiculous version. Got it.

"Hey," I ask, "what did they become princes of?"

Don stops and stares at me. "What? Have you not heard of Abram?"

"I asked what they became princes of. A prince is royalty. I can't imagine there were twelve openings lying around waiting to be snatched up, so what exactly were they princes of?"

He stares for a moment before dismissing me with a wave. "Look it up, it's in the Bible."

It's not, though. At least not in the versions I know, which has to be taken with a grain of salt because it seems like each new branch of this cult cherry-picks and sanitizes their own version. There's a good chance their holy text does indeed grant the fantasy that they all became princes, but in any case it's a very strange choice of story to use to try to dissuade women from having a child they don't want. I mean, super bizarre. 

For those not familiar with the tale, let's take a quick and magical ride through Don's choice, which (trigger warning) features slavery, abuse, and rape. FUN. Abraham (or Abram) is in his eighties and decides he needs to sire a kid. His wife, Sarai (or Sarah), has insides that are rocky and infertile, so she offers her husband her slave Hagar (or Agar) as a brood mare. Abraham gets Hagar pregnant through what is unlikely to have be consensual sex because SLAVE but hey, he's going to have a kid so it's all good. Hagar is none too pleased about this - can't imagine why - and her attitude ticks off Sarai, who starts carping at Abraham about it. The doting father-to-be is such a good and caring person that he more or less washes his hands of the situation,  telling Sarai that it's her slave and she can handle this however she wants. Sarai 'mistreats' Hagar, which can be interpreted in a number of ways but let's assume physical and emotional abuse. THESE ARE SUCH GOOD PEOPLE.

Hagar, deciding she's better off possibly dying in the desert than staying near Sarai, flees. She meets an angel, who is *surely* not a hallucination caused by dehydration, and is told she should trust in a god that is likely not one she worhips (she's Egyptian). Her son will have 'descendants without number' which serves as enticement enough for her to go back to a horribly abusive situation. She gives birth to Ishmael and everything is great until Sarai gets pregnant (!) and has a son of her own. After catching Ishmael teasing the kid she demands that Abraham throw them out and disown his firstborn, which of course he does. With God's encouragement, no less. Are you charmed by this tale yet?

So Hagar and Ishmael go wander the desert for a while. Then Ishmael has a dozen kids who all become tribal chiefs, which seems legit for the unknown son of a slave to accomplish. Chiefs, not princes. THE END of this inspiring story.

I'm less concerned about Don exaggerating about princes than that he thinks this is a good story for changing women's minds about unwanted pregnancies. Maybe it's more effective if they're slaves.

* * *

(Day 19)
"Yeah, we do stuff for foster kids. Absolutely we do. We do."

I'm a little shocked at how unconvincing Alex sounds. I can't possibly be the first person who has asked him why he and his brethren seem to care more about unwanted zygotes than actual living, breathing children, but he seems caught off guard by the question. 

"I mean, I don't understand why you wouldn't focus your efforts on helping kids that are already alive and need a home. You keep telling patients that you have couple who would love to adopt their baby. Why not have those people do something for the kids already in need?" As he starts to formulate an answer I add, "Do you care more about the embryos than actual kids?"

"They're not embryos, they're children. And yes, they're more important to us."

I do an actual double-take. "Really? You think it's better for you to be here?"

"Absolutely. There's more of a crowd for us to spread the gospel of Jesus and help save these people from going to Hell. Like you." He looks for a second like he wants to pat me on the shoulder, but wisely does not. "I pray for you all the time."

"Okay," I say with a dismissive wave. "So what you're saying is that fetuses are more important than kids in foster care, but preaching your doctrine is what matters most?"

"Yes, because we can save more souls that way. We got to many places where there's a crowd."

So. Women struggling with a difficult decision are shamed, mocked, belittled, spoken down to, and pelted with guilt in what amounts to a recruiting effort for the protesters' particular sect of the cult they follow. Would Alex's words be echoed by his cohorts, or is this just a personal tack for his own zealotry? I try to wrap my mind around the concept of thinking that I want people to join my club so very much I'm willing to say horrible things to them, to dance as close to edge of the law as I can to impede them, to make them feel like some kind of monster. 

 I can't. I lack the faith, I suppose.

Or maybe I just don't want my own Hagar.