My toddler and I were playing on the floor just inside the door. We saw you through the glass window above the knocker and thought you saw us too. I smiled and you turned away so quickly, I guessed you were in a reverie or on the clock. Perhaps the sunlight was too strong outside, I thought.
My son was enthralled to see a piece of paper suddenly appear through the door. He grabbed it and spent several minutes trying to return it to the other side, but the protective shutter wouldn’t allow it to flap both ways. Returning to the shoe mountain he had been working on, the flyer sat forgotten on the slot ledge.
I noticed it again, coming down the stairs after putting him down for his nap. He had curled up on my lap in the rocking chair, winding a strand of my hair around his tiny finger as I told him a story. It was the same one I always tell him. Once upon a time, I began, lived a little boy who had a blessed life. He was born into a family who loved him more than the entire universe smooshed into a teacup—stars and all. But before we could get to the heart of the tale, he was asleep, so I lowered him gently into the crib and tiptoed out of his room.
I walked as softly as I could down the squeaky stairs and through the child safety gate, closing it behind me before heading to the front door. Pulling the scrunched up pamphlet out of the slot, I got settled at my desk to get in a few hours of work, powering up my laptop while absently stroking the curled paper into its original folds as best I could. Then I spotted the headline.
“SHOULDN’T ALL HUMAN BEINGS HAVE RIGHTS?” it screamed in capital letters stamped above graphic pictures of what appeared to be a human embryo alongside a fetus. I opened the top right flap of the foldout and bit my lip hard. A mangled fetus, like a horror movie prop, torn into two stared up from a pool of blood. Its dead eye bored into me and I recoiled, slamming the pamphlet face down in superstitious terror. My heart was pounding and tears blurred my vision. “It’s probably photoshopped,” my rational mind was quick to think. “It had to be. No human being could legitimately conduct a photoshoot with a fetus. This is simply shock mail delivered to achieve this very reaction.” I had just begun to breathe again when it hit me: My child saw this.
My Child Saw This.
My sweet baby boy saw this. How could they do it? Didn’t my two-year old count as a human being? What about his rights? How could they deliver this gore directly into the hands of a child? How dare they profess to represent a cause that protects children, while clearly acting in a way that would cause them harm?
In a rage that resembled the blood-filled propaganda on my desk, I tried to recall the delivery girl’s face. Tried to imagine where she might have gone—whether I could still catch her, shake her, ask her how could she do such a thing? Force her to tell me who was behind it all. And then find them, to ask what they were thinking by creating this insane propaganda. To develop, publish, and distribute this horror show imagery meant only to destroy women. To hurt families. To frighten children. To prey on people’s sense of morality and goodness and right and wrong by capitalizing on tragedy and the sadness of the unforeseen and the consequences of rashness.
This was just a cruel act that proved nothing except that some versions of ‘doing good’ is simply a violent show, not a heightened sensitivity for human life. Instead of making an argument, this group of jerks just demonstrated that they have absolutely no regard for the very real and very terrible implications of what happens to cornered humans and those close to them. They showed beyond doubt that they exist in sheer ignorance about how terrifying and demanding and stretching parenthood is in the BEST of circumstances—never mind those living under the worst.
As new parents we spent months living from minute to minute in a twilight somewhere between life and death. We almost gave up again and again, staring down the black abyss of the unknown despite how prepared we thought we were. Even though we’d planned this baby’s arrival inside out. So the questions seemed to scream back at these offensive pages: how can you be so blind to miss how impossible this decision would be for any woman or man? And how can you justify delivering these terror-inducing guilt tactics and short sighted, narrow-minded morality through one’s mail slot? The answer is that these people are just real life trolls. It takes no guts to shove propaganda anonymously into a hole. It takes no balls to act with total disregard for humans when you’re a group of faceless, self-righteous villains.
I am so angry. And also, so very sad. I think about the girl at the door; I’d guess she was in her early to mid-20s. She was old enough to know ownership of her own body and mind, and young enough to destroy her own future through making one terrible and destructive choice. Like not using birth control in a moment of weakness. Or thinking she’d be safe to walk home alone across campus one night. Or joining a cult of radical anti-abortion fanatics.