Friday, May 31, 2019

Bad Religion is a Much Better Band than Bad Faith - Dispatches 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 find 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.