Robins hitting window panes, the war in Iraq and abstinence-only programs.
For the past few weeks a robin has been ruining my mornings by ramming himself repeatedly into my bedroom windowpane as soon as the sun comes up.
Apparently he sees his reflection in the window and, thinking it’s a rival, he’s seeking to drive it away. There is no threat, of course, and there never was; it’s simply a case of misleading information being analyzed by a birdbrain.
The robin has been paying a heavy price for his misconception. He’s been bashing his beak upwards to 20 times in a row, time after time, day after day, but the threat won’t go away. It’s hurting him on the home front as well, taking time away from his nest-building. Yesterday he lost a beak-full of grass he’d gathered for that purpose when he engaged in one of his fruitless incursions. But still he persists.
The robin isn’t being stubborn; he’s acting on instinct. Humans have other options; we have the ability to reason, re-evaluate and re-adjust. But we often have other agendas that block us from acting in our own best interests or in the best interest of others.
The war in Iraq is the most glaring example of how we stubbornly pursue a destructive path based on a fallacy. Despite evidence to the contrary, despite the lack of progress and despite the mounting casualties and costs we keep ramming into that same windowpane again and again.
The mindset that has led us into war with Iraq and has kept us on that same one-way track is symptomatic of an inability or unwillingness of some to change course even when the facts say that they should. Last week the American Public Health Association and the U.S. Medicine Institute told Congress that studies have shown that abstinence-only programs aren’t working. The response from those who support the Bush-blessed single-option solution to preventing pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted disease among adolescents has been: damn the evidence, full speed ahead.
There is obviously no doubt that abstinence from sexual activity prevents teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted disease. But if the aim is to curtail these conditions, why limit the means to do so?
The answer is simple: priorities. For some, morality is the priority, and providing information to adolescents on safe sex is seen as giving implied approval to what they view as an immoral act. And so they hold to the belief that abstinence-only education is the only answer, despite the lack of any evidence showing that it has resulted in a reduction in teen pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases, or delayed the time when teens become sexually active.
For others it’s a matter of money. In his 2009 fiscal budget proposal, Bush asked for $141 million in funding for abstinence-only programs, an increase of $27.7 million. Add to that the campaign contributions that politicians who support the program can expect to receive from conservative donors and you come up with a lot of people wanting to keep the program going.
Abstinence education that is not part of a program that also provides information on other means of protection isn’t just failing to slow the spread of disease or lower the number of pregnancies; it may be playing a part in their increase by denying adolescents information that may protect them.
According to statistics provided by Planned Parenthood, 750,000 teenagers in the United States will become pregnant this year, and at least one in four teen girls in America has a sexually transmitted infection. Those are intolerable figures.
The robin that’s been banging in to my bedroom window has been putting himself at risk in order to assure the survival of his offspring. And if his futile forays prove to be his undoing, it is because he knows no other course of action.
But those people who insist on following failure don’t have that excuse. And the risks that result from their decision are not being borne by them. It is their offspring who are paying the price.
You can call Joe Burns at 508-375-4936 or e-mail him at email@example.com.