Saturday, May 29, 2004

“Life Ends at Birth”

I was talking with a friend who is heavily into the “pro-life” movement.

“Weren’t you once called the ‘anti-abortion’ movement’?” I asked.

“Gosh,” she said, “that was years ago. I’m surprised anybody even remembers that any more.”

“What was the reason for the change?” I wondered.

“Well, partly it was just a matter of changing people’s perceptions of us. We wanted to be seen as bringing a positive message, not a negative one. We’re for something, not against something. And then, nobody wants to be lumped in with all those ‘anti’ groups. The grape boycotters, the anti-globalization crew, the anti-apartheid bunch, etc.”

“’Pro-life’ certainly does sound positive,” I agreed. “And pretty all-encompassing. It must be a challenge to match the movement’s actions with its rhetoric.”

“What do you mean?” she said.

“Well, you know. Life! I mean, nobody could be pro-life and for the death penalty, for example. That lays it out pretty plainly, doesn’t it? ‘Life’ versus ‘death’? If a person is pro-life he couldn’t be pro-death, could he?”

“Oh, sure he could,” she responded. “Take the President. He’s strongly pro-life, and he signed execution warrants for over two hundred people when he was governor of Texas.”

“What about war, then?” I asked. “Nobody knows how many people have been killed in the latest Gulf War—maybe twenty-five thousand or so. And that war is a poster child for stupid wars—illegal, unnecessary, brutal, giving rise to more terrorism, more hatred, more instability. Surely a person couldn’t be pro-life and support a war where thousands and thousands of lives have been squandered.”

She said uneasily, “This administration is staunchly pro-life. We support them wholeheartedly.”

“Well, I was wondering if you were going to expand your line of bumper stickers and billboards?”

“Like what?”

“I was thinking of bumper stickers like ‘I’m 4 Life. Stop the War.’ Or ‘Vote Pro-Life. End the Death Penalty.’ And maybe, in addition to those pictures of fetuses with captions like ‘Abortion Stops a Beating Heart,’ you could put up billboards with children cut in half or decapitated by cluster bombs, and captions like ‘Cluster Bombs Stop Beating Hearts.’”

“We’d really rather not go there,” she said. “With abortion, you’re talking about innocent life. With the death penalty, some of those people executed have committed crimes—vicious ones. And some of the people killed in war are really bad guys.”

“Let me see if I get this straight, then. When you say you’re ‘pro-life,’ you’re actually only talking about fetal life. ‘Life’ essentially ends at…”



© Tony Russell, 2004

Sunday, May 23, 2004

“A Man Who Makes His Own Luck”

We were all sitting around the barbershop, conducting our usual grassroots political symposium.

“This prisoner-abuse thing is really gonna hurt Bush,” said Easy Ed. “It looks like him and Rumsfeld are in it up to their eyeballs.”

“The average man-in-the-street thinks it’ll hurt him,” said Bunson, “but it ain’t necessarily so.”

The barbershop grew quiet. You could have heard a hair drop.

“How do you figure?” Ed asked cautiously.

“Look at it this way,” said Bunson. “Bush was getting clobbered on ignoring all those warnings about terrorists—how they were planning attacks using airplanes. He got some of the warnings right before September 11, and then he took off for a month’s vacation. This business about Al Ghraib takes him off the hook.”

“Actually,” said Lum, “he was lucky that thing about ignoring warnings came up, because before that all people were talking about was his going AWOL from National Guard duty during the Vietnam war.”

“I see what you mean,” I said. “That National Guard thing was bad business. He was vulnerable on that that all right.”

“Naw,” said Lum, “you’ve got it all wrong. That National Guard controversy was actually a piece of luck,” because until that came up, everybody was focused on that lie in the State of the Union speech. The one about Iraq’s nuclear program.”

Ed jumped in to disagree. “Use your head!” he said. “That whole ‘sixteen words’ controversy was a godsend. It took people’s minds off those missing weapons of mass destruction. That was getting to be a real embarrassment. I mean, that was supposed to be the whole reason for starting the war.”

Bunson guffawed. “Are you crazy? That ‘weapons of mass destruction’ fiasco was the best thing that could have happened to him. It took everybody’s attention away from the Enron mess. Enron and Kenneth Lay bankrolled Bush’s whole political career. They were by far his biggest campaign backers, and half the people in his administration were dipping from the Enron honey pot.”

Lum disagreed. “That Enron scandal was just what he needed. Once that broke, people stopped talking about his pushing huge tax breaks for the rich when the economy was shedding jobs like needles off an old Christmas tree.”

“That uproar over the tax cuts and unemployment actually worked to his advantage,” claimed Ed. “People stopped talking about how his operatives and right-wingers on the Supreme Court stole the election.”

Bunson held up his hand. “Boys,” he said, “you’re acting as if these breaks just dropped out of the skies. But when you look at it, he’s a man who makes his own luck.”

© Tony Russell, 2004