February 10, 2003

From Gerald R. Lucas


On my way back to Macon, I stopped at my mom’s house to spend the night. I thought a short visit would be nice, since I do not get to see my mother as often as I used to. I left Tampa a bit late, but I made good time and arrived in Raiford (about 30 miles north of Gainesville) about 7:00. They had already eaten, but Mom offered to cook me some spaghetti, and we caught up a bit in the kitchen over the boiling pasta. We argued momentarily about the imminent war with Iraq; she repeated the standard support line that we’ve been hearing from Dubbya and his supporters for a while now. I decided not to argue, as I find myself doing more frequently when around her.

After dinner, Mom, Terry, and I decided to watch a DVD. Since I was the guest, I got to pick. I chose The Cider House Rules after scanning the back and seeing that it was written by John Irving. The film problematizes the idea of absolute truths that many of us try to live our lives by. To address this theme, the film uses abortion as the catalyst: the father figure, Dr. Larch, performs illegal abortions for young woman. His view is a humanitarian one: each case deserves consideration, and often an abortion is the best thing to do. Homer Wells, an orphan who has grown up under the guidance of Larch, believes otherwise, but Homer learns the doctor’s trade.

Homer leaves the orphanage and Dr. Larch to find his own way in life. He begins to live and work with a crew of black migrant workers who teach him the apple business. In their shanty, Homer finds the house rules which none of the black men or one woman can read. Mr Rose, the crew boss, explains that those rules were not written by them, so they do not apply to them; it’s better not to even read them.

Homer eventually finds himself in a situation where he has a choice to make: let a young girl have a child that would ruin her life (she would be having her father’s baby), or perform an abortion. He chooses the latter.

Both Terry and my mother really like this film; I liked it, too. Afterward, I asked them the title’s significance. Terry said something about the applicability of law to those who make it. Mom said something about rules being made to be broken. Neither mentioned abortion, so I ventured: "So do you think the film suggests that sometimes abortion is OK?" Both being conservative Christians, I already knew the answer, despite what the film clearly illustrates: Terry said, "well, the film suggests that." Mom: "No!" Well, good night.

The next morning, both of them sat me down to tell me that they were worried about my immortal soul. I was pretty much asked point-blank, and I responded, "No, I do not believe in a Christian God." I felt as if I was fifteen and getting a talk about the birds and the bees. All I could do was listen to what they had to say and keep my damn mouth shut. That was the best decision I could have made, and the pain was over within ten minutes. I had a dozen or so arguments to counter every one of their points, but it’s not worth it.

My mother’s points sounded as if they were coming from my young, God-fearing students who criticize “you’re looking too deeply into that” as if they are broken toys that will never be fixed. “I don’t know who poisoned your mind, Jerry. You were brought up right, then you go off to college and it ruins you. You shouldn’t look too closely at things.” Etc.

I don’t even have to comment, do I, about the pressures of the orthodoxy? Man, if they can’t appeal to my intellect, they have to attack my human fears about death. My own family. To make things worse, arriving “home” clouds the light even more. Macon feels so alien, as if the whole town is like my mom wanting to show me the right path to salvation. I’m a heathen in a Christian land, and I’m on my way to be stoned, or worse, converted...