[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.