Abortion is about Life

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Abortion is about Life.

Life is a universal cause.

Life is not a decision that only women make.

Abortion is a disgusting tool. It is a reality, though.

I would rather that it be available than for women to be forced to use back alleys and unsafe methods or services.

However, I would rather abortion did not exist. Perhaps, we will find abortion relegated to the past someday. One can hope. For now, though, it is what we have available to us.

No human who wishes to defend life should be looked down upon. This is so even in the case of those who abhor abortion.

I, personally, would not wish to be involved in an abortion. Having said that, I realize that I have not always been the most steadfast practitioner of safe sex. I will not force another human to abide by my personal moral code. It is up to them and their conscience. Abortion should not be seen as a convenience, though.

I understand, as well, that much lip service is given to the sanctity of life and not much actual practice goes into making it a reality. Life is cheap. Life matters to few people.

It is easier to turn a blind eye to war, famine, poverty, desolation than to make these things relics of the past. These are all instances of how cheaply humans hold life. Abortion is but another.

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The Children of the Khmer


Cambodia is probably the poorest country that I have visited. It’s much more of a backwater than even Afghanistan. Their only industry is the silk trade. Silk crafts such as scarves, table cloths, clothing, etc. Not much else in the way of industry. Handicrafts such as statuary. Precious and semi-precious gems. Tourism must be one of the, if not the, largest industry for Cambodia. Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap are the primary destinations of most tourists. Eco-tourism in the more remote areas for the more adventurous souls. It’s a country stricken with extreme poverty. High illiteracy rates. High birth rates. High crime.

A great part of the tourist industry is Siem Reap and the Angkor Temple Complex. Within this complex and in the three major cities of Cambodia, the children are exploited in order to make money off of the sympathies of tourists. It works. These are children of the Khmer. The children of Cambodia. The children of Angkor. Some. They’re simply adorable. You want to pick them up and hug them and make it all better someway. Anyway. Some will annoy the hell out of you. They’ll make you want to scratch your eyes out. Scream at the top of your lungs for them to get away. So many I wanted to adopt. Take home to my Momma or Sister to give them a good home. I have come to believe that every child deserves a good home. Children deserve a chance. These children are severely handicapped. Not physically. Socially. Economically. In many cases, emotionally. They didn’t ask to be born. But birthed they were. Brought into existence in a world of abject poverty and near hopelessness. My heart went out to these children. Many of whom are loving, adorable, huggable. Eminently lovable. You’ll see just what I mean in the above video.

Most, if not all, of the children seen here work from 7 or 730 AM to 9 or 10 PM. I’ve seen some of them out with their mothers begging or selling food ’til 1 AM. Not the life for a child. When do they get to just be children?

Another strange experience for me were the “beggar costumes.” The faux beggars. It must happen elsewhere. But I don’t think they are as brazen as what I witnessed in Cambodia.

Srey Mao and I had finished our day exploring the Angkor temples for the day and headed back to my hotel room. While passing Angkor Wat, we stopped to grab a beer and watch the sun go down over the great temple. As I did, a mother and 3 children approached us looking completely destitute and pitiful. They were filthy. So I bought some food and gave it to the mother. They went off to eat. The sun went down. I continued upon my path feeling good about having done something nice for someone.

I dropped Srey at the Banana Bar on Pub Street where she is manager. Then returned to my hotel. Grabbed a shower. Dressed and found my way back to Pub Street. By this time it was 9 PM. I sat and drank a few beers with Srey. Then walked over to the Temple Club for a few games of pool with the local gals. The Temple Club is one of the best places in Siem Reap to catch a game of pool. It’s also a great place to watch the Apsara Dance. (I will put some videos of this on the blog at a later date.) Each visit to Siem Reap, I find my way to the Temple Club. I love watching those beautiful little Khmer ladies re-enact the dance of the Gods. And I love to play pool with cute little Khmer women. I played pool for an hour or two and proceeded to get fairly well sauced on the old standby Jack and Coke.

Back in Kentucky, I’m a Kentucky Bourbon man. Rarely drink anything else. I’ll hit Jack sometimes in Kentucky. But usually only when I am first returning from overseas. It’s a habit. Overseas. No one knows Kentucky Bourbon. There is one bar that I have found from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur that serves Maker’s Mark and I once found a bottle of Elijah Craig at a liquor store. Both establishments are in Saigon–Ho Chi Minh City. I guess the communists like good bourbon.

At any rate, I finish playing pool and walk over to the Banana Bar to pick up Srey Mao. She and I return to the Temple Club and sit out on the patio.

That’s when I spot her. (Reminds me of Prince and Raspberry Beret. lol)

The little girl from our “sunset and beer” viewing of Angkor Wat. She is cleaned up and changed into a different set of clothing. I just start to laugh. Rolling up directly behind her is her little sister. Finally, here comes brother. By this time, I am laughing loud and hard. I can barely breath. I realize immediately what I’m seeing. What I saw earlier. The scam that these kids mother plays out every day. Srey looks at me like I’m insane and asks what is wrong with me. Why am I laughing? I point out the kids. She sees it and starts to laugh as well. So I tell Srey to call them over. I ask them to join us and I’ll buy them supper. Srey and I start to poke and prod our way around the subject of their little subterfuge. Whose idea is this scam? Why are they doing it? How long?

So we slowly pull the story out of them. They tell us that their father abandoned them and moved on to Phnom Penh and disappeared. Mom has them dress down in rags to look destitute so they can beg for money. Apparently, Mother can barely write. In typical Khmer fashion she is uneducated. No job. No prospects. It’s either beg or starve. So they ditch their good set of clothes in an alley. Put on rags. Beg for money for food and clothing. Trying to save up money for a simple room to live in.

Honestly, I can’t begrudge that. It may have been an over-dramatization. Even so, these kids were so happy to be eating that I can’t see how it could have been an act. Afterward, I felt so sad for these children that I purchased food for about half the kids on the street. They all shared. No one fought. One little girl came up and held my hand for the longest time. I wish that I had my camera to take a photo. She was adorable. I left that night like most nights in Cambodia with a new appreciation of the life with which I have been graced. Fortune by birth. This old Kentucky boy has traveled to many a place about which many can only dream. I’ve had experience after experience that has enriched my life. Made possible by the simple accident of fate by which I came to be born American.

I know that some of my fellow Americans enjoy poking fun at those who say that America is the greatest nation on earth. But the simple truth is that everyone born in America is blessed. We have the means to lift ourselves up from our modest roots. Our destitution if that is our lot in the beginning. We have the tools to overcome our challenges. Much of the world does not.

To have been born in America is truly a blessing.

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Ta Prohm

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Ta Prohm is magnificent. Walking the path back to this Temple is a journey to the past. You walk down a wide, well trod path through dense jungle. Though the path is full of tourists (mostly Japanese), you still get a sense that you journey towards another world. Another time. At the end of the path, you come upon a stone bridge spanning a moat. An ancient tree has ripped through the middle of the bridge. All of the larger Angkorian temples are surrounded by moats and walls. Some of these larger structures of Angkor seem more fortress than temple. Ta Prohm and the surrounding area was actually built to support some 12,000 inhabitants. This group included the royal family and the royal retinue, priests and guard force and the usual group of royal eunuchs, concubines and servants.

Once across the bridge, you enter the Temple grounds through a small portal. Just wide enough to allow two people side by side. The portal is leaning and looks as if it may not last long enough for you to pass through to the other side.

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Some of the Wats (temples) of Angkor have signs like these that provide the visitor with background information. Many of them are written in English that is so confused and mangled that it’s difficult to determine the intended message. This was one of the more accurate signs that I saw in Cambodia. The aerial photo-map was a great addition. The third picture is the bridge of which I wrote earlier. Notice how the tree has grown through the middle of the moat bridge.

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The West entrance is dilapidated. Leaning to and fro. It was a bit intimidating as I felt as though I were walking towards my imminent death and entombment as the walls look as though they might collapse at any moment. The Wat has been left mostly as it was found. It is a great effect. It is as though you are discovering it for the first time. It’s a little dangerous if you wander from the tourist path, though, as can be seen from the warning in the photo below. I wandered off anyway. It’s more fun and there were fewer of my fellow tourist clogging the way.

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The roots of these magnificent trees wind their way at will in an effort to reclaim the jungle from the grasp of men.

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The Wat is fairly large with many corridors leading you to recently emplaced Buddhist shrines. The shrines are maintained by locals for the most part. You’ll also see some of the poorer local Khmer on the inside. Strategically placed in their attempts to sell small charms or water and soda.

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Above is one of the shrines mentioned earlier. This particular Buddha, I was told, is part of the original Wat. The trees have made the temple grounds their own. Those roots have ripped apart walls that are 12 feet thick. One of the local tour guides said that one of the reasons that they left Ta Prohm as they found it was that to repair it would most likely mean destroying it. My personal opinion is that it would be a great disservice to remove the jungle. This particular Wat is made more beautiful, more majestic with natures touch.

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And, or course, there are always the children. This particular part of your travels through Cambodia will leave you with feelings of great joy and deep sadness. Such overwhelming poverty. Parents and others who use children to earn the families money. Many of these children are so, so cute. That is exactly what the parents and the more decrepit element count on. Empathy and kindness of the tourist leads to many of these children going uneducated. This perpetuates the problem of the lack of education of the majority of the Khmer peoples. It’s a catch 22. Most of the local tourist guides will advise you to not purchase from the local children. Purchase from the souvenir and drink stands in the markets around the temples. Purchase from the handicapped adults that are all around the various sites and in town. But do not finance and encourage the abuse of the children. It’s difficult to follow through on that course of action. Especially when one of these beautiful little children are holding your hand and looking into your eyes like a sweet little angel. My friends and I would more often buy food for the children and let them sit with us and eat. We found that a better way to aid them. It was our own small way of helping.

Quotation from Maurice Glaize:

Ta Prohm should be visited either in the afternoon or the early morning, and crossed from west to east according to the itinerary that we have traced on the plan. This precaution will prevent the visitor with limited time from becoming disorientated, due to the relative simplicity of a clearly marked route. In contrast, those who wish to spend several hours exploring the monument will find here the potential for an adventure – but without danger of ever getting lost, since the main axis is clearly defined from place to place by an uninterrupted line of rooms and vestibules, almost always made inaccessible by their collapse but providing nevertheless a good point of reference. We would advise, however, not to wander but with extreme caution in the areas of crumbling vaulted galleries remote from the normally frequented passageways.

Maurice Glaize was the conservator of Angkor from 1937 to 1945. His book, The Monuments of Angkor Group, was published in 1944. It is still used by thousands of visitors each year as a guide to the Angkor Temple Complex.