20 September 2003

Nicholas Kristof Gets it Right, Again

The Bush administration is at it again, cutting more and more funding for family planning groups, including Marie Stopes International, operating in Africa. Why? It seems the President is so concerned about coerced abortions in China he's willing to let pregnant women and their children die in Africa. No, it doesn't make sense to me, and Kristof points out why:

Complications of pregnancy and childbirth kill a quarter-million African women each year, and those deaths are what the refugee consortium is trying to prevent. I visited five Marie Stopes clinics in Kenya, spoke to the patients and front-line doctors, and found them to be a lifeline for destitute girls and women who have few alternatives.

That number will only rise if the administration continues to cut funding. Furthermore, the organization Kristof visited isn't even involved in forced abortions in China.

It's true that Marie Stopes International operates in China — providing contraceptives that reduce the number of abortions there. If Mr. Bush were trying to do something about coercive family planning in China by denouncing such abuses, I'd applaud him. But instead he's launching his administration on an ideological war against groups like the U.N. Population Fund and Marie Stopes. In fact, these groups are engaging China in just the way the White House recommends most of the time.

When the topic of human rights abuses in China is raised, Mr. Bush usually argues, wisely, that it would be wrong to impose sanctions that punish the Chinese people. So it seems odd that when the issue is Chinese family-planning abuses, Mr. Bush responds by punishing African women.

It seems odd indeed that an administration preaching life seems willing to cause the deaths of poor African women for the sake of domestic politics.

03 September 2003

Happy Birthday (a)musings of a grad student

I have just realized I completely missed my blogoversary. I made my first real post on July 31, 2002. It was a nice bit of history:

If you've ever wondered what happened towards the end of July, 1642 in New England, John Winthrop left this fascinating tidbit:

28 July 1642: "One Wequash Cook, an Indian, living about Connecticut river's mouth, and keeping much at Saybrook with Mr. Fenwick, attained to good knowledge of the things of God and salvation by Christ, so as he became a preacher to other Indians, and labored much to convert them, but without any effect, for within a short time he fell sick, not without suspicion of poison from them, and died very comfortably."

The Puritan mission to bring salvation to the native peoples of New England had mixed results. Some groups of Indians converted and went to live in the so-called praying towns, where they practiced Christianity and were supposed to pick up other trappings of English gentility--English clothing, agricultural techniques, and gender ways, for example. Most avoided this cultural absorption, and according to historian Richard Dunn, the Pequots believed their shamans used sorcery to kill the unfortunate Wequash after his conversion. The episode is an apt illustration of the perils of crossing the cultural divide: Winthrop's insinuation of poison notwithstanding, Wequash's time with English missionaries brought him into much greater contact with English diseases. Native Americans had no immune protection from European germs--Wequash was more likely smitten by microbes than by poison (or sorcery!).

When I started this blog I had every intention of doing more posts like this one, which would introduce readers to primary source materials in early American history and give me the opportunity to pontificate about them. Of course the political climate has given me all sorts of other things to post about. But as a New Year's Blog Resolution, I promise to post more history tidbits in the future.