Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Kiarash Zarezadeh

"I support abortions. I love NPR. I adore riding trains.

And I believe all of them don’t deserve federal funding.

My positions put me at odds with many of my friends and colleagues. The conservatives often find my pro-abortion-rights, green viewpoints either immoral or alarmist. The liberals don’t understand how I could be against programs that enrich lives and help the needy.

It’s simple: I put my principles before my preferences.

A woman’s right to choose what happens inside her body is sacred to me, just as sacred as a religious man’s God is to him. I firmly believe clinics in America should be free to terminate pregnancies without being intimidated or punished. That’s pretty straightforward.
But I don’t believe my fellow Americans who find the practice barbaric or immoral should be forced to pay for abortions. It hardly seems fair to say, “Hands off women’s bodies, but pay for anything they want to do with them.”

So when my best friend expressed revulsion at The Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which cuts funding for family-planning programs that perform abortions, I had to speak up. I understand Planned Parenthood’s annual budget costs less than a few fighter jets. I understand Planned Parenthood performs important services that help the community. But no one should be forced to pay for it.

And no one should be forced to pay for radio, no matter how good the programming is.
If it weren’t for NPR, my drives to Dayton, Chicago and Goshen, Ind., would be a drab nightmare. Instead, I’m treated to “This American Life,” “Car Talk,” “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” “Talk of the Nation” and “Fresh Air.” Well, maybe not “Fresh Air,” which ironically can be quite stale at times.

Needless to say, I’m a huge NPR fan. I contribute during the funding drives and would be devastated if my favorite programs went off the air.

And that made speaking against NPR painful, but it was necessary. Dozens of my friends posted “save NPR” links on their Facebook pages, which apparently is the thing to do when you care enough to demonstrate outrage but don’t care enough to actually contact your representative or donate money. And I responded to each one, “NPR is state-controlled media. We shouldn’t pay for it with taxpayer money.”

The most common reaction I received was, “Federal funds only pay for 5 percent of NPR’s budget.” Really? Then step up private funding by 5 percent and be done with it.
NPR has some of the most rabid and loyal fans in radio. They certainly would listen through commercials or donate more to keep their favorite shows alive. Would we accept the federal-funding setup if it were a newspaper? Would you read a newspaper printed by the government?
And switching gears from high demand to low demand, Ohio seems to be all right with passing on high-speed rail. My pals in California won’t let me forget it. I’m told we’re a backward state and asked why I don’t return West. I remind my friends they’re a bankrupt state and I have a job.

But sure, I’d love to hop on a train from Lima to Cleveland. I’m a New Yorker by birth and was riding subway trains before I could walk. I like reading a book on my trip, meeting other passengers, and watching the scenery without gripping a steering wheel. But when the price of train ticket costs more than a tank of gas and too few people are interested in riding the rails, train investment won’t pay off. If it would, I guarantee Amtrak would be expanding routes and cramming cars full of riders. Ohio remains a state dotted with small communities and few long-distance commuters. How rail fits into the equation is beyond me.

Again, I like trains. I don’t think all of America should be forced to like them, too.

It’s all about choices. On the points where we disagree, it’s best let each person go his or her own way. Otherwise, we end up viciously dragging one another around."

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