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That death may march in the shade

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Simcha Fisher - published on 05/16/16

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Sara Mujica of Danbury, CT is seventeen and pregnant. A pretty common story. What is unusual about her, at least in the U.S., is that she has Zika virus. She caught it in Honduras, where she travelled to visit her boyfriend. She started showing symptoms of the disease just after she found out she was pregnant.

Mujica, who is in her first trimester, has started a GoFundMe account to cover any medical costs if her baby is born with the profound birth defects that may come with Zika. She says:

I have Decided to keep my Baby , Because it’s what God has given to me & I am taking Full Responsibility Of MY Actions &  I do NOT believe in Abortion so I would never do that . Thank you so much .  The Funds That I Receive, Will be used on All Medical Needs For My Baby & Things My Baby May Need.. Thank You So Much Once Again, God Bless You All ! A lot Of People Are Wondering What I Would Do If My Baby Came Out Normal , Well I Would Donate The Money To People In Need !

The Giant Internet Hand of Spanking sprang into action and declared that Mujica is an opportunist, a liar, a cheat, a fraudster, a hypocrite, and of course a slut and a whore. They note that she shouldn’t have been having sex, she should have been using contraception, she should have been in school, she shouldn’t have a boyfriend in another country, she shouldn’t have come home again, she shouldn’t have believed her doctors who told her at age 15 that she was infertile, and she shouldn’t assume that her baby will be born with birth defects.

Most of all, she should get an abortion. She must get an abortion. They could easily forgive her for all her missteps, as long as she makes the only responsible choice now. It’s wrong not to, for her sake (she’s only 17!), for the baby’s sake (he might have microcephaly!) and most of all, for the sake of society (THERE’S MONEY INVOLVED).

There is another choice besides giving birth. If she’s so worried that there will be something wrong with the baby she shouldn’t have made in the first place, she should just unmake it. On the GoFundMe page comments:

Lilith Jade (with 76 favorites): “You’re being selfish and opportunistic. You should abort the fetus before it becomes another burden on society. Also if you’re fine with premarital sex then you can’t use religion as an excuse not to abort.” Diane Pressly (60 favorites): “You are a selfish attention whore. Shame on you. If you were a real mom and loved your child at all, you wouldn’t put an innocent life through what’s ahead. Begging people for money to pay for your poor choices just makes a bad situation worse. So sad.”

Is Mujica some kind of fraudster? I have no idea. Maybe she’s lying about all kinds of things. Maybe she already knew she was pregnant and went to Honduras anyway. Maybe the baby will turn out healthy and she’ll spend the money on sassy fairy tattoos and ill-conceived business ventures. People are stupid and irresponsible and impulsive even after strangers have been kind to them. This is nothing new.

But here’s something else that’s as old as humanity: as soon as death is an option, it becomes the only responsible option. Once death is one possible choice, it looks like the only choice. That’s what kind of thing death is. It is a devourer. It is never satisfied. As long as there’s another victim to offer, the living will be eager to make that sacrifice, hoping to appease death to save their own lives.

What are these commenters really saying, with their anger toward this girl they’ve never met? They’re saying, “I’m not a burden. I’m not irresponsible. I and my family, we’re not going to suffer, because we’re not hypocrites. We’re legal. We’re healthy. We’re responsible. We’re pure. We’re not like her and her unauthorized baby. We deserve to live.”

No one wants to be pro-death, exactly. When there’s a baby involved, we sweeten the deal and say, “Just start over. Maybe you’ll get a better baby next time.” When there’s an old person involved, we say, “He had his chance. Now he needs to move over and let other people enjoy their lives.” We insist on death for some in favor of the living, as if death in all its current popular forms — abortion or euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide — will improve life for the multitudes. We argue that one person’s death makes life better for other people. Choosing death, we argue, is a choice for freedom, for health, for happiness, for life itself — if not for the victim, then for someone else, someone who deserves it more.

Ask the 80-year-old who knows very well that he is tedious, he is smelly, and he is expensive, and his children wish the old fool would croak already and stop gobbling up their inheritance. Ask the married, stable, loving parents of a baby boy whose brain is growing out the roof of his mouth. Ask the woman in the wheelchair, the sexual abuse victim, the burdensome ones. Ask them if a stranger has ever suggested it might be better if they just, you know, die.

As if we weren’t all burdensome. As if we weren’t all disabled. As if we weren’t all needy, all victims, all expensive beyond all reason. As if we don’t all come at a price.

But we don’t want to face what we are. We want to see ourselves as worthy, as indisputably worthwhile. We’re different! We deserve to be here, unlike those others, those living errors, those heavy lives who are dragging us down. And so, as soon as death is a possibility for a stranger, we spring up and tell him that he has no right to continue living. We line our avenues with trees, so that our conquerors may march in the shade. Let death take what it has coming to it, we say, and maybe it will leave the rest of us alone.

But death will not be appeased. It will not rest. It is hungry. It does not stand back and say, “I’ve taken my share; now the rest of you living can abide in peace.” Death is an indiscriminate invader, always looking to expand its territory.

Nothing can appease death, but it can be disarmed. One thing only can accomplish this, and that is self-sacrifice. Not the sacrifice of other lives. Never the sacrifice of other lives.

image: screenshot of gif by Nina Paley

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