Monday, May 14, 2012

Is it really so hypothetical?

[Today's post is written by Jameson Graber, originally posted on his blog, "I think, therefore I blog." Excerpts are reprinted with permission.]

The following comment on facebook made by a pro-choicer was meant to challenge pro-lifers on their belief that abortion really is murder: 
What if there was a building in your town where they chucked two year olds into a furnace. Would you be able to go about your day in a normal fashion if you knew that was taking place? Would you shake your head and say "We need to start some grassroots organization to lobby congress to put an end to that"? Would you go a period of a few days where the fact that kids were being tossed into a furnace wasn't the most pressing thought in your head? Would you solemnly condemn someone who violently attacked that establishment or the people who work there in order to stop the constant, unapologetic murder of babies that took place there every day?
My response: is it really so hypothetical? People have to live with these kinds of contradictions every day, actually. It's not like people three hundred years ago people had no idea how bad the slave trade was. It's not like Americans in the nineteenth century didn't know how awful the Trail of Tears was. It's not like Germans under the Nazi regime really thought it was okay to lock up millions of Jews in concentration camps. These things really happened, not because people were so different from you or me. They happened because normal people like you and me aren't so wonderful as we think we are. It's remarkably easy to justify evil. You'll even hear words like "freedom" used to justify these atrocities: Hitler thought Germans should "liberate" themselves from the Jews, as I'm sure American Southerners wanted to free themselves from the presence of the Cherokee Nation.

The simple answer to the commenter's question is, sadly, yes. Yes, I can go about my day in a "normal" way, knowing that thousands and thousands of my fellow human beings are being killed at the hands of people who probably feel justified. Yes, I do think that for now the political process and grassroots movements are probably the best means I know of for doing anything about this problem in our society. Yes, I will condemn acts of terrorism done in the name of the pro-life movement, partly because I think it's wrong to fight fire with fire (I'm not even sure the Civil War was justified for all the blood that it spilled), and partly because I think it's futile to act in this manner. If a pro-choicer really wants to understand how pro-lifers don't go insane under the mental strain of knowing what injustice is committed in the name of "freedom," well, maybe the answer is that it kind of does drive us insane. Maybe if you think about it long enough, you'll start to understand why the rhetoric gets so heated.


To sum up: don't kid yourself with such "hypothetical situations." In many ways, the world really is as bad as the worst hypothetical you can come up with. It's only because your brain can only handle so much stress at once that you choose to mostly ignore it. And I'm right there with you.


Anonymous said...

"Pro Lifers" don't have real convictions if they think that "compromise and the legal process" is the solution to protecting the ongoing holocaust of hundreds of thousands of innocent babies.

Why don't you just admit that this issue is used by the Republican party to turn religious folks out to the polls against Democrats. The overlap between the tea party and the pro-life movement is disgusting. It seems a little bit silly to call it a "pro-life" movement when it allies itself with folks against the "affordable health care act", folks in support of an invasion of Iran, folks who oppose the right of gay americans to have a common law marriage.

My theory is that folks are pro-life because they want to be part of a religious community. (they might no necessarily be a believer) and they don't want to be socially isolated from that group, so they adopt those values. Religion has always had a dangerous influence on political policy, and the first amendment was written specifically to counteract the nefarious influence of religion on government policy. Yet here we are, with a propoganda outfit whose stated goals are to make religious doctrine part of government policy.

M said...

I can go about my day knowing there are thousands of abortions happening the same way I can go about my day knowing there are people around the world starving, or dying in wars, or being used in sex-trafficking. Perhaps sad, certainly true: you don't stop living because atrocities are happening somewhere.

Most people focus on their own lives and don't try to fight the horrors around the world, and yet if pro-lifers try to fight using anything short of guns they are accused of insincerity? Makes no sense.

Kelsey said...

That second paragraph says it all. If people truly focused their full energies on all the atrocities of the world, they'd go crazy, or despair and wind up doing nothing. There's a delicate balance (in all human rights activism, not just pro-life) between having passion and being productive and maintaining your own life.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

Good point. If I'm not running around shooting abusive husbands in the head, that means I don't oppose domestic abuse. Um, what?

Simon said...

Hmm why do we just get the stupid trolls?

Anyway there is also the problem like slave owning societies that when the other side are so socialised into thinking there is nothing wrong with what they do, any violence or extreme actions validate the claim that the opposing side are extremists.

Damned if you do damned if you don't.

Painis oReilly said...

The question of Slavery was settled by a bloody civil war, it proves the exact opposite of the point you were trying to make.

Wait a minute, where you raised in one of those states that thought the civil war wasn't about slavery but "states rights"?

Simon said...

I was actually thinking of ancient societies esp Rome where advocating an end to slavery would have gotten you killed.

I would make the same point about womens a rights through history. & just because there are counter examples that involve an unjust norm ,I still think a general claim still stands that if a fundamental socialised unjust norm is accepted, to question such a norm- esp if you use violence- will validate the view of the people who accept it that you are an extremist.

BTW I have read historical accounts from an foreign economist that did point out it wasn't just slavery but other factors as well in teh civil war. Like the War of Independence I know you probably want it to me all pure and noble but human motivations are rarely like that esp in politics.