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FORT WORTH, Texas — No one who pays attention to politics and culture would deny we live in particularly contentious times. But it seems, in recent months, even our policy “debates” have sunk to new lows.

Cynthia M. Allen mug

Cynthia M. Allen

When it comes to discussing issues that matter, too many of us have become less serious, more susceptible to extreme and absurd arguments and drawn to increasingly unhelpful tactics. This is especially true when it comes to already divisive issues like abortion.

Consider the recent comments by Alabama representative John Rogers, who argued in opposition to an abortion ban that “some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or kill them later.”

Or the now viral “debate” on Chris Cuomo’s primetime show on CNN during which former New York City Democratic politician Christine Quinn made the laughable and wholly unscientific assertion that, “When a woman is pregnant, that is not a human being inside of her.”

Still, the most unfortunate and illuminating example of the utter collapse of civility and rationality in the debate over abortion comes courtesy of Brian Sims, a state representative from my hometown of Philadelphia.

Last week, the self-proclaimed champion of women’s rights, who quite ironically represents a district in the City of Brotherly Love, proudly filmed and then broadcast on social media his unrelenting harassment of a peaceful protester — an elderly woman — outside a Planned Parenthood clinic.

That protester did not appear to be an outspoken activist like Sims; she didn’t carry signage or engage people entering the clinic — at least no such behavior was caught on video or described by Sims. Instead, she paced the sidewalk quietly praying, a rosary clasped in her hands.

To any reasonable person, even one unopposed to abortion, she was not a threat to anyone attempting to enter the clinic. But to Sims, her vulnerability and peacefulness made her an easy target.

“An old white lady,” the representative assailed her, “telling people what is right to do with their bodies. Shame on you. Shame.”

Sims proceeded to mock her race, age and religion and encourage anyone watching who recognized the woman to provide her name and address so that he could stand outside of her home and protest. Exactly what he’d protest remains unclear.

“You’re out here shaming people for something they have a constitutional right to do,” he continued, a rather dubious claim from a civil rights attorney who most certainly knows that abortion is not an enumerated right in the Constitution. Free speech on the other hand ...

Most bizarre about Sims’ verbal assault was his decision to publish and share it. What worthy cause could he possibly advance by exhibiting such utter disdain for a person — likely a constituent — peacefully exercising her right to express a perspective shared by half of Americans?

In fairness, the same might be said of Arlington Rep. Tony Tinderholt, who earlier this year proposed a so-called “pro-life” bill that would have criminalized abortion, classified it as homicide and made a woman who received an abortion eligible for the death penalty.

“I’m not specifically criminalizing women. What I’m doing is equalizing the law,” Tinderholt argued, comparing abortion to the murder of a pregnant woman. But Tinderholt failed to recognize what most pro-lifers readily accept — that many women seeking abortion require empathy, care and viable alternatives — not prosecution.

Indeed, not all of the unhelpful behavior, rhetoric and policy proposals occur on the side of so-called reproductive rights.

In this case, the bill was roundly criticized by conservative pundits and even some pro-life organizations, recriminations that probably helped ensure its demise in the Texas Senate.

That’s more than can be said about the antics of Rogers, Quinn and Sims, who appear to have endured relatively little criticism from fellow Democrats. Even Sims’ response to outrage from pro-lifers fell short of an actual apology.

More and more states are considering and enacting legislation to address so-called abortion rights — some to expand those rights and others to restrict them. Neither cause is well-served by extreme policies, rhetoric or tactics.

If we want to participate in the debate, we must do so with rational arguments, respectful behavior and condemnation of those who do not act accordingly.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram Cynthia M. Allen can be reached at cmallen@star-telegram.com.

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(28) comments

martian2

I see now the Alabama legislature has passed a bill to outlaw all abortions. Only exception is the life of the mother. Rape or incest pregnancies must be carried out to full term too. If a doctor does an abortion he/she faces 99 years in prison. This passed by a legislative body that is 85% men. Guess this doesn't affect them. Well they wanted a show down in the supreme court over this issue and now they will get it. Interesting to see what will become of Roe vs. Wade.

DMoney

By "life", I mean it's literal definition. Not the right to "middle class equality and support and protections against all injustices and inequalities of a sometimes unfair and imperfect society".

oldhomey

Weasel words, again, D. You want to insist women faced with an unwanted pregnancy to go through to birth. You seem to feel women are incapable of judging what the pregnancy will do to their own lives and the prospects of the child if it is born; So you want the government to control the most intimate and perhaps the most critical decisions a woman might face in her lifetime when, in fact, it is a decision about her body, not yours, not mine and not some government factotum. Hers.

And, once you and the radical right force the birth, you want nothing to do with the mother or the child. Will they fall into poverty? More likely than not. Do you give a hang? You have already said you do not. Should their rights of equality and protection against injustice be recognized and enforced? You say right there in your 7:12pm post that you do not, though you will now waffle that you meant something that you term "middle class equality". This coming from a guy who feels billionaires have the system so fixed to benefit them and not the rest of us and it shall ever thus be. This coming from the guy who thinks correctly that, yes, humans are causing the coming destruction of climate change and global warming, but there is nothing we can do about it except condemn future generations to die. I guess it should not surprise me that you endorse treating women second class citizens with no say over control over their own bodies, thus condemning millions to grim, harsh lives of poverty.

DMoney

If a baby can survive outside of the womb how is it now the mother's body and decision? Simply because the fetus can't communicate? Where's the logic there?

I watched the movie "Precious" for the first time tonight. I thought it would be a cheap gimmick flaunting socialist ideals. It was not. I wept. I can't remember the last time I had tears of sorrow in my eyes, let alone cried, but I did. The reason children should have a shot at life is because of that character. There are millions of "Precious's" out there. Many will succumb to poverty and crime. But some will make it. They deserve a chance.

DMoney

And because that comment will draw smart azz responses, I'll state: if you watch that film and are not emotionally moved, you lack a pulse.

oldhomey

Sorry, D, but I freely admit to being a cry baby. Even a well-made cornball family tenderness McDonald's t.v. spot ad will get my tear ducts revved up. But I don't allow my over-active sentimentality to dictate how I regard political decisions that will impact millions of people. I don't know the film you speak of or its premise. But you are asking the outcome of a movie to override the rights of women to control their own bodies. P.U. Ending Roe vs. Wade will certainly be a terrible blow to people who already are saddled with terrible poverty. If it happens in your family, you will have the wherewithall to go some place where abortion is legal, problem solved. Not for millions upon millions of other women. They will either be forced to carry an unwanted child to full term, or they will risk being butchered in an illegal abortion clinic. You will proudly wear Melania Trump's denim jacket with "I really don't care, do u?" embroidered on the back.

DMoney

You need to watch that movie, politics aside.

oldhomey

When anybody tells me I need to see a movie to form my political opinions, you can be sure I probably will ignore it, because it almost certainly is a calculated piece of propaganda more than an actual, compelling story.

DMoney

Nothing to do with politics. In fact it's a very left valued film. Simply a powerful experience and will make any problems you think you have seem trivial.

DMoney

I could tolerate the status quo defined in Roe v. Wade with it's limitations. The modern movement to go beyond that (I thought the "slippery slope" concept was just paranoia?) to the point of ending a viable child's life in the third trimester is intolerable. While a woman has a right to decide on her body--that right should not interfere with the right of life for a living thing (a viable fetus which is capable of survival if outside the womb). Once and if this child is born, it's entitled to the same rights accorded to all by Divine and Constitutional powers. This does NOT mean I feel it or the mother is owed "extra". But the child has a right at life--as does all living things.

crank

Yeah, a circus...

This is for the King of Kong’s and Puller of Strings who seems confused about the meaning of the word “doxing”.

“...encourage anyone watching who recognized the woman to provide her name and address so that he could stand outside of her home and protest.”

crank

If someone were to make good on Sims' request and publish her name and address, that would be doxing.

(It was really much better when it rhymed...King of Kings and Puller of Strings.)

oldhomey

Well, crank, I see you now are familiar with and accepting the the actual definition of "doxing", which you previously had been misusing.

crank

Here you are 'mis-remembering' things again.

oldhomey

Perhaps, then, crank, you can fish up a few examples in which I doxxed you?

crank

Perhaps, FIRST, oldhomey, you can fish up any examples in which I said you had doxed me?

Have you had a fall recently...bang your head? You are very confused about so many things lately. Dementia, perhaps?

oldhomey

Okay, crank, I may have to concede you this. I just made a quick whirl at finding examples through Google of you accusing me of "doxxing" you, but I came up empty with the only two instances Google produced of you using the term.

However, for the last few weeks you have almost daily accused me of "doxxing", whether it was you or others on these boards. As I have responded every time you do it, you don't even seem to understand the term "to dox".

This is the definition from Webster's: "slang : to publicly identify or publish private information about (someone) especially as a form of punishment or revenge".

It would be impossible for me to "dox" anybody on these boards because I haven't got the foggiest idea who any other person is on these boards, nor do I know anything about their lives. One current poster, one of the silliest, is Ricky, who apparently uses his actual name. If so, so what. I know nothing about him, nor am I interested in knowing any of his actual biography. Ditto for a former poster on here, Buggs Raplin, who often used his real name and referred to actual biographical facts about himself. I very studiously tried never to make reference to him or his actual life when I responded to his posts as Buggs Raplin.

That, so far as I know, is the extent of actual facts about others who post on these boards, both those with whom I agree generally and those whom I disagree with strongly. So there is no way I could "publicly identify or publish private information about (someone) especially as a form of punishment or revenge . . . "

So despite your frequent accusations of me being a "doxxer", it simply is not so, just as your other frequent accusation against me is false that I use more than one identity to comment on these boards.

Are you a "doxxer", crank? There is evidence that you are trying to be, since you have freely admitted that you have urged people to use links you have posted on these boards, then you have freely admitted that you have tried to trace the computer accounts and the names of the persons that connected to the links you proffered. Why would you do that, unless you were trying to discover personal information on a person who trusts the anonymity of these boards. Because you disagree with that person but can't otherwise win an argument with him or her? That would appear to be "doxxing" as Webster defines it.

crank

Uh.... Yes, I know. So many words, old pompous. You're talking in circles. Really, have you fallen and bumped your head?

I have never claimed you have ever "doxxed" me because I know you are completely incapable of doing so. (...and you seem to agree.) I have never been confused about the meaning of the term but you (evidently) are still having some trouble with it despite several visits to Webster's and a couple of spins around Google.

Anything else, little fella? [rolleyes]

oldhomey

Oh? Have you been tracking my visits to Webster's for "dox" visits and the number of my inquiries to Google, crank? Is this your way of telling me that you would NEVER track me on the internet?

The rest of your post is yet another duck on your part, avoiding the issues I brought up. You have accused me repeatedly of "doxxing" people. Are you now denying it? You have misused the term, because there is no way a person who knows no personal details about another person to "dox" that other person.

I now do know one thing about you, crank. You freely admit to trying to use subterfuge in order to try to trace people on these boards, learning their identities and information about their computers and how they use those computers. That makes you a gigantic slimeball, a nasty human being who apparently can't handle his disappointment in losing an argument, That is valuable to know. I hope others on this board take notice of the nature of your character.

crank

↑↑↑ oldhomey's ranting [alien] ...anyone? [unsure] ↑↑↑

oldhomey

Desperate for a friend, are you, crank? Behavior such as yours might make it hard for you to find one these days. You are a slime.

crank

Unlike you, oldhomey, I don’t go to the Internet to find friends or create imaginary ones here like you do. #sockpuppets.

What else ya got, little fella? More petty insults? Perhaps copy and paste the definition of that word you’re confused about then obsess some more about me catching you playing with puppets? How many more empty, rambling paragraphs can you throw up....like a slimy little squid squirting ink in the water.

oldhomey

crank, after posting the following, tells us he is not desperate for internet friends:

"↑↑↑ oldhomey's ranting ...anyone? ↑↑↑"

Your insults only gauge how wounded you apparently are feeling currently, crank. You are wounded because you have been singled out for your despicable behavior on these boards. You are a slime-balling would-be bully. Prove me wrong.

crank

Hmmm... So now you're feeling wounded and singled out, little fella?

oldhomey

No, big fella, I am not feeling singled out or wounded at all. You certainly seem to be in that state, however. You never seem to have an answer for anything anymore, so you simply try to accuse others of possessing your own obvious flaws. Anybody looking at your replies in this particular string can see that in spades.

crank

You wrote, "Your insults only gauge how wounded you apparently are feeling currently..."

If that is true and given the insults you've been flinging, you must be speaking for yourself and certainly are feeling wounded.

Now I have answered everything... It started when you asked me to "fish up" examples in which you "doxxed" me.

I answered, because I never have accused you of "doxxing" me, and asked you first to FIRST fish up any examples where I had made this accusation.

You replied May 16 at 8:13pm that you could not find any after checking Google.

Then you went off the rails... Talking about Ricky and Buggs, accusing me again of saying YOU had doxxed me after admitting you couldn't find any instances where I had said this. Then you accused me of doxxing you (again) but this has all been answered...never happened. You're so confused. Now you're "wounded" and feeling singled out. Poor little fella...

oldhomey

Good Lord, crank! If that was some sort flow chart of how you feel wronged by me, there are so many directions that it goes in that there is not much I can say about it. It says nothing and leads nowhere. The best I can do is say you have for weeks repeatedly accused me of "doxxing" people. I believe you have accused me of "doxxing" you, personally. I tried Googling some instances by providing the following subjects to be searched: "la crosse tribune crank oldhomey doxxing". Out of what I would guess to be at least two dozen instances of you accusing me of "doxxing" only two appeared, neither of which was an example of you accusing me of "doxxing" you. That doesn't leave you off the hook, it just means that is what came up in a Google search.

The fact remains that you have overstepped the bounds of good and reasonable behavior in a discussion board such as this. You did so by your own admission, telling everybody that you have urged people to open links that you have provided on your posts. Then you used software to try to track down the computers of those people who opened those links to find out the identities of those people, the accounts those computers were registered to and other information. You are a slimeball. There is no other word that adequately describes such behavior. And I say that firmly believing you found very little or not information through those efforts, anyway. Prove me wrong. Put up or shut up.

crank

An accurate flowchart, nonetheless.

This latest only confirms your continued confusion about what actually happens when you browse web sites and that despite copying and pasting the definition from Webster’s, you STILL don’t know the meaning of the word you’re using. Or... you are simply lying, old troll.

The puppeteer doth protest too much, methinks.

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