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Considering the options

T ime to solve the problems of the day! First up, abortion. Then gun control. And finally, traffic congestion.

Every day I drive past the Planned Parenthood clinic on West Colorado Avenue. Not infrequently, there are a couple of protesters carrying signs on the sidewalk. Sometimes, on weekends, there may be a dozen or two, exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech and assembly.

I have friends who work in that building, friends who have had an abortion in that building and friends who would happily march with the protesters on the sidewalk. Can their beliefs ever be reconciled?

Probably not, but we ought to insist that each set of partisans be intellectually and morally consistent in their beliefs. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, archbishop of Chicago, a man of unsurpassed moral clarity, was ardently pro-life.

In keeping with that belief, he opposed the death penalty, euthanasia and war as a tool of national policy. Moreover, he supported extensive public funding for families with young children as a means of removing economic incentives for abortion. His beliefs were consistent, unambiguous, charitable and compassionate -- more pro-lifers would do well to emulate them.

But they don't. Many of them seem to believe that pro-life is to forbid women from making their own reproductive decisions, to subject them once more to a patriarchal world of men who command, and women who breed. And many pro-lifers seem perfectly comfortable with the death penalty, with pre-emptive war, and with punitive social policies that condemn single women with kids to unproductive, marginal lives.

And what about all of us good Democrats and liberals, who staunchly support a woman's right to choice? Most of us oppose the death penalty -- but why? After all, if we're willing to get rid of a fetus, why not snuff out a few murderers?

And war? Well, as Randy Newman once mockingly wrote, "Let's drop the big one now/They never liked us anyhow ... " And why make a big fuss about, for example, gun control? A few random shootings will always enliven the 5 o'clock news.

So, folks on both sides, here's your dilemma: In order to be consistent in your beliefs, you'll each have to accept corollary positions that you don't like one bit. Why don't you just get together, take the late Cardinal Bernardin as your model, and work lovingly and respectfully both to limit abortions and to ease the paths of women who choose to bear children?

My father had a wonderful gun collection, including a beautiful pair of late-19th-century Colt revolvers. Perfectly balanced, extraordinarily accurate in skilled hands, they're still deadly and serviceable weapons. Not that they're likely to be used as such -- my gentle and pacific brother-in-law keeps 'em in the basement gun safe of his Denver home, and I doubt whether they've been fired in several decades.

But that's the problem with handguns -- most of 'em are simple, well-made tools that'll literally last centuries. There are tens of millions of handguns out there, and 99 percent of those who own 'em will hang on to them, regardless of what the law says. Maybe guns are a public health epidemic, but, like the common cold, they're here to stay.

We'd do better to improve law enforcement, so even paranoid geezers feel safe enough to leave their guns at home, and emphasize gun-safety training. And maybe the example of Iraq, where every revanchist Saddamite has an AK-47 in the closet, might convince ardent gunnies that the sale of assault weapons ought to be strictly regulated, the Second Amendment not withstanding.

And next time you're fuming because the trip from, say, Manitou to downtown takes as much as 20 minutes instead of the 10 to 12 minutes it took in 1983, consider such a trip in 1883.

You'd hitch up your horse to your carriage (a 30-minute job, presuming that your tack is OK and your nag hasn't thrown a shoe), and then trot off to town. The trip might take an hour or so -- longer if you had any problems. Once arrived, remember that you've gotta allow the same amount of time for the return trip -- and once you're home, you'll have to unhitch, stable, water and feed your animal.

Hope you had a comfortable trip, jouncing over the rutted path that we now call Colorado Avenue. Hope it didn't snow, or rain, or otherwise make you miserable in your non-heated, non-air-conditioned, ol' buggy.

Dunno about you, but this congested suburban wonderland, full of argumentative, gun-totin' pro-lifers is looking pretty wonderful to me now...

-- jhazlehurst@csindy.com

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