Social Commentary Worth Reading this Election Season

We are in the heat of Election Season here in the United States, and there are many opinions floating around out there in cyberspace. One of the better comments that I have seen regarding social issues comes via Facebook from Professor Robert George of Princeton. I’ll post it here for the benefit of those who have logged off for the Year of Faith like Mary Alice.

“MoveOn is the face of contemporary liberalism. Liberalism used to pride itself on standing up for the little guy, defending the weak and vulnerable, reminding us (in the civil rights struggle, for example) of our common humanity. That was the liberalism of people like Hubert H. Humphrey, George Meany, Robert P. Casey. For all intents and purposes, it no longer exists. Look at how liberalism has been transformed in the wake of Me-generation expressive individualism: MoveOn trots out the Hollywood elite to proclaim—what? The centrality and non-negotiability of the “right” to kill a child in the womb. The “beautiful people” say you should vote for Barack Obama—why? Because he will protect that lethal right. What about the humanity of the child? Silence. What about our obligations to the weak and vulnerable? They evidently evaporate when sacred lifestyle preferences are at stake. For those of us who remember what liberalism once was, and what great liberals like Humphrey and Casey stood for, it is all very sad.” -Professor Robert George, quoted on 10/21/12 (emphasis added)

You can see the video advertisement (which, it is worth noting, is sponsored by that Professor George is responding to here. Although the advertisement itself was political and snarky, I was mostly struck by the social commentary and by the poignancy with which George addressed the mentality of the “Me-generation.” When I think about our country’s future, one of the things that troubles me the most is this mentality, and the fact that people with this mentality are going to be increasingly making decisions that will impact the future of our families. I am concerned when I think about how influenced our citizens seem to be by people like the three actresses in this commercial, who have no credentials other than fame to recommend their opinions to us. Some of their statements are ridiculous (invasive ultrasounds – really?!), but will people take them at face value? I hope that our younger generations can still think critically enough themselves to sort out truth from falsehood, but have we given them the tools that they need to do so?

Self-absorbed individualism, and an inability to think beyond the here-and-now, are not going to get us anywhere. Whining about the tough consequences of our bad choices isn’t going to get us anywhere. We need to work hard to continue changing hearts and minds so that our young people, the “Me-generation” and their children, will freely choose to make responsible, forward-thinking decisions. I believe that we can get there, but that it will be a battle on many fronts.

Holy Mary, Mother of Our Lord, pray for us! All you holy men and women, pray for us!

  • Kellie “Red”

    Amen! I think I am so sickened by this administration because I can never remember a President making abortion and the culture of death such an important part of his Presidential run. In the past, it seemed to me that Presidents were a bit uncomfortable with abortion as a topic, but Obama seems to make the right to kill your child, free contraception, and taxpayer funded Planned Parenthoods a central part of his re-election effort! It is incredibly sad, but at least he is clear about his intent. Liberal minded Catholics must know that a vote for him is a vote to encourage this sort of culture–which is completely unacceptable!

  • Tanya

    Gosh, we’re looking at the same contemporary events, and I read them entirely differently. The pro-life movement has stepped up its game — we haven’t had a conversation about not allowing abortion for victims of rape and incest in decades. But now those are live questions. So-called personhood amendments have put full access to contraception in jeopardy. There have been countless little pieces of legislation in state after state, and congressmen ready to go public with statements about how women who are “legitimately raped” never get pregnant. In that sort of climate, what do you expect a pro-choice president and party to do do? If your position is under assault, you kinda have to talk about it. In the era of George Bush Sr., to name just one era– there was no discussion, because the issue was pretty well resolved.

  • Kellie “Red”

    Tanya, the pro-life movement is failing if the conversation is centered around abortion in specific difficult situations, such as rape and incest. Usually, when you are talking about the “hard cases” the position that is focusing the conversation on those hard cases is winning. If we were talking about partial birth abortion, or late trimester abortions, or gender selection abortions, and those types of choices were all over the news, the pro-life movement would be in much better shape. So I think you have a general misunderstanding of political dialogue and what the news headlines really mean.

    Second, perhaps we are looking at the situation so differently because you don’t recognize the humanity of the unborn child. In history, when we start talking about certain classes of humans that are “less than human” or not worthy of the full protection of our laws because of x, y, or z–really ugly things like genocide and slavery happen. So yes, considering that you have chosen to exclude a certain group of humans from your idea of a human being, I’m sure we do look at things quite differently!

    Finally, I would caution anyone who “serves the poor” with their life to seriously reconsider a position that seeks to eliminate those poor people through abortion. Eugenics promoter Margaret Sanger (planned parenthood pioneer!) was a big proponent of abortion, as she saw it as a way to limit the minority populations, and slowly create a more purified race! I find it extremely disturbing that so many liberals seem to agree with her sentiment, and instead of serving the poor, they think the best way to help them is to encourage abortion, free contraception and other policies that limit their population.

    And as for the issue being “pretty well solved” under George Bush Sr., perhaps I am too young to remember back then, but were taxpayers being forced to pay for abortions at that time? Was the Catholic Church being forced to pay for free contraception?

    I think the reason this administration feels their position is under assault is because they made a huge step forward and pushed abortion and contraception on people with Obamacare and the HHS mandate. This administration sees the right to behave in whatever sexual matter you choose, without consequences, as so sacred that they are willing to violate the religious sensibilities of orthodox Christians, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. And when those with a conscience pushed back, and said they didn’t want to pay for the consequences, the Obama administration made it an issue–and mandated that they pay or be fined. It is bad enough that babies are dying every day, and that our country provides no legal for a child in the womb, but this administration wants abortion to be free, AND wants those with a conscience to foot the bill.

  • Tanya

    Some brief answers: The government has not paid for abortions since the 1976 Hyde Amendment. The Catholic church is not required to pay for abortions either. The arguments of recent months have to do with health care for all in Catholic insitutions that employ non-catholics and receive federal funds. A compromise was worked out (with the initial support of the Bishops) that the church would not be directly involved in payment for contraceptive services. But that was finally deemed “not good enough” but those who wanted to see it made completely unavailable to employees — even if paid for by the insurance companies themselves. (Who, in fact, save when contraceptive services are provided.) I believe the actual language of the bill has been forgotten as it became a political football. Please check an unbiased source for information about what exactly would and would not be required of the church. Let me repeat: no money that you drop in the coffer at your church will ever, ever be used to foot the bill for an abortion. That is not what the legislation will do.
    But yes, I am someone who would like to see abortion “safe, legal and rare.” I don’t know how I could be compared to a eugenicist who is looking to reduce the number of the poor, because, after all, I’d only want poor women to have access to the same services I have access to and have used.

  • Juris Mater

    Kat, thanks so much for bringing this to our attention, and for your excellent commentary–you have a way of being so hopeful and uplifting.

    Scarlett Johansson was one of my favorite actresses. Another one bites the dust.

  • Tanya

    I guess you just haven’t met an inner-city schoolteacher, a peace corps volunteer, a rural church minister, or a soup kitchen organizer, — who happens to support abortion rights, for what he or she might call “compassion for women.” No, anybody who supports access to abortion is just a selfish overprivileged yuppie. You know this to be the case. You’re sure. And you know that Mr. George knows what he’s talking about — that “liberal” used to mean “against abortion.”

    Will you let in a little contradictory data? George McGovern just died — a liberal if ever there was one, and a contemporary of the others named. He supported legal access to abortion. You might also visit the website of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (founded in 1973) for some history about the involvement of clergy, and the statements of many faith groups on this matter. You may not agree with them — but can you really say it is all about the mentality of the “me-generation” when you learn that people of different religious traditions have approached this matter differently for milleninia?

  • Katrina

    Hi Tanya ~
    I’m pretty sure that Professor George knows what he’s talking about –
    But, to your point, my argument was the other way around. I wasn’t trying to say that everyone who is pro-abortion is “a selfish overprivileged yuppie,” as you say, but rather commenting on the fact that the spokespeople of the Me-generation seem to be mostly pro-abortion. Of course I know that there are many pro-abortion promoters of social justice – I would argue that their idea of social justice is terribly flawed. If you are working to protect the weak among us, then how can you be okay with killing the weakest and most vulnerable, babies in the womb? And I would also argue the phrase “compassion for women” regarding abortion is seriously flawed – there’s nothing compassionate about allowing a woman to kill her own baby. And have you heard of PASS (post-abortion stress syndrome) or of the terrible health consequences that can follow an abortion procedure?
    Finally, your comment included nothing about the personhood of the baby. As Professor George said: “silence.”

  • Tanya

    First, I have no idea who the “spokespeople for the me generation” are. I don’t remember there being a vote. I’m not even sure what decade we’re talking about. Time magazine ran a cover story with the title “me generation” in 1967 — speaking of the young people of that time. That’s the generation in their mid- 60’s now. Is that what you mean? Mitt Romney is a presidential candidate. Do you mean him? I’m guessing you have simply conflated selfish and inhumane with being against abortion. And if its a hollywood starlit who supports abortion rights, well then, your stereotype is made! Seems to me your real problem is with people who support abortion. Period. You cannot imagine how a person could be compassionate and allow for women to make that choice. Okay. I’m just suggesting you take a few steps out of your normal circles and meet a humanitarian who just looks at this problem differently. Throw your best stuff at ’em — PASS, and “health consequences” and all that — see what they say. What I wish you could also do is talk to a woman who said, “best decision I ever made .” Perhaps you’ve been told they don’t exist.

  • Katrina

    Tanya, I have spoken with many women who see the world differently, and have moved in “different circles” as you call them. You’ve assumed much about me and my life that you would probably find isn’t true if we had the chance to meet face to face. Really, all of these conversations would be better face to face, but we are confined for the time being to a conversation on a blog. What I have seen in their eyes of women who have had an abortion, or had other invasive procedures performed, is pain, regret, and sadness. I’ve been with women in a hospital setting (in another country), in a crisis pregnancy center setting, and in a women’s shelter setting. I’ve also spoken to many other women just as a friend, and have seen great pain and regret in these conversations as well.

  • Tanya

    Mr. George knows what he’s talking about because. . . he’s a professor at Princeton? You know, it doesn’t work that way. Because professors at Princeton debate professors at Harvard, and they come up with different arguments, rely on different data, and reach different conclusions.

  • Katrina

    No – but you insinuated that he might not even know what he is talking about with regards to political history, and I am pretty sure that he does!

  • DMH

    I find this perspective to be incredibly judgmental and one-sided. Aside from your vote, what have any of you done to truly help women who feel that abortion may be their only option? It is easy to pontificate, but difficult to actually get in on the action.

    Voting is not going to magically solve the problem, and I think this is such a misnomer perpetuated right now. While there is a great deal of responsibility that comes with voting, abortion is a much deeper, multifaceted issue, but it is so easy to just blame the “liberals” as a scapegoat because they just don’t get it, right? In my experience, these so-called liberals -especially the Catholic ones- are in the trenches actually working with the poor, the marginalized, and those most in need. Most that I have talked to don’t advocate abortion, as they are so often unfairly branded. They seem to be the ones who want more of a “womb to tomb” approach to the pro-life movement that has yet to be translated legislatively.

    I don’t find Mr. Romney’s supposed “pro-life” stance to be at all comforting either. Bain Capital has, in fact, profited from the abortion industry, and he was a large part of the deal made. He has made it clear that he will go and do where money and profit lead. Also, research “Romneycare”. His healthcare plan also had provisions for tax payer abortions on demand. I find it baffling that people choose to ignore this and think this guy will truly be pro-life.

    I think what is so dangerous, is that Catholics have become so polarized against each other. How soon we forget that neither side has it right when it comes to living out faith in politics, and our own in-fighting isn’t solving any problems. We also seem to forget that the Republican party isn’t what it used to be either. Social justice has completely fallen by the wayside. The welfare of people has been set aside for record-breaking profit and business. They supposedly want protection for the unborn, but won’t support an infrastructure to help people who are impoverished or who have other issues. Paul Ryan “washed dishes” (ha!) at a soup kitchen to supposedly highlight their work, but failed to mention that in his budget, that very soup kitchen would have lost $12,000 in funding annually that goes to feed the hungry. More than likely, that soup kitchen would have to close. If you want people to live, you have to have a society that supports it not based on the wealthy hoarding all they can, but really giving people a fair shot with some support to help them when they are down.

    Everyone has something to learn. No one has this right. Judgment, stereotyping, and perpetuating the “us v. them” mentality is not the solution here. We all need to be careful of looking at the speck in someone else’s eye, while neglecting the beam in our own…

  • Kellie “Red”

    To answer your question, I spent my entire senior year “writing” about the women and the detrimental effects of abortion on their life (people don’t want to talk about the high rates of suicide, drug addiction, and other emotional issues women face after abortion). I did this through over 100 hours of phone interviews of people working in the trenches. I then spent 2 years working for a crisis pregnancy center, gathering clothes, food, and other supplies for women facing a crisis pregnancy (I worked there about 8-10 hours per week). I then spent countless hours over 4 years working to build a home for homeless pregnant women in my community (Good Counsel Homes). Does my volunteer work in this regard allow me to have an opinion? Because I actually think it is irrelevant to my right to an opinion about the humanity of the unborn child.

    I think it is incredibly obnoxious to ask people what they have done to help women tempted by abortion, and imply that they don’t have a legitimate right to an opinion if they aren’t in the trenches. I think that sort of question misses the point completely, AND makes women who are doing other things with their vocation feel uncomfortable about having a voice. We all have a responsibility to stick up for the most vulnerable among us, to protect women and their babies from the abortion industry.

    Does doing something practical, as you suggest, give you a clear conscience and allow you to vote for politicians who base a big part of their candidacy on abortion rights? Of course I’m not saying Romney is perfect, he ISN’T, and I have no issue with people voting 3rd party if they are dissatisfied with the pro-life stance of Romney, but there is a HUGE difference in the life issues stance between Romney and Obama. I’m sorry, but when innocent babies are being slaughtered by the millions, it makes little sense to me to be arguing about budget issues and potentially closing a soup kitchen?

  • Tanya

    “Red,” you know, I’m glad you did what you did for these women, and glad that people are doing whatever they can to support women in difficult situations. I’d like to think I’ve done and would do the same thing — taking a young woman into my home, paying her bills, seeing that she get appropriate care throughout her pregnancy. But I don’t think that gives you, or me, a particular vantage point from which to judge and decide what every woman in this situation must do.

    I know you believe that a handful of cells is a human being — but you will never convince me that an abortion, in the first weeks as the law reads, is the equivalent of murder. And you will also not be able to explain to me exactly how cause and effect work — what the “emotional distress” comes from for these women — post abortion. I don’t expect such a thing to be a walk in the park — but I’ve sure known plenty of women who say, “I’m glad I had the option. I made the right choice for me.” An unintended pregnancy is always sad, and knowing that some portion of the world thinks you’re a murderer has got to weigh on you — heck, we know that overweight girls are suicidal, just because of what society tells them about themselves.

    Your work at crisis pregnancy centers tells me you are personally invested in this. I still don’t think that gives you the right to decide what another woman can and must do.

  • DMH

    Because babies grow up to be adults. They don’t stay babies forever. Adults are human lives and they need care and dignity, too. Adults also have babies and need support in raising them sometimes. Many pregnant women have come through lines at soup kitchens I have helped at. That’s why budgets and soup kitchens matter- because life matters at all stages. Poverty is also a very large factor with women who have abortions.

    My point was to say that many people think (again based on my experience) that voting is their one-way ticket to utopia when it comes to pro-life issues. It cannot be limited to that only. In my community our crisis pregnancy home closed due to a lack of support (funding, resources, supplies, and volunteers) and then people questioned why.

    Your experience is exceptional, but please understand you are in the minority when it comes to that kind of service. And you absolutely have a right to an opinion, I never said you didn’t. What I posed was simply a challenge and another facet to your experience based on mine. While I understand you probably deal with a lot of trolls commenting at random times, I felt your lack of charity to be striking and just as obnoxious as you felt my question was. I apologize if it came across harsh, snarky, or offensive. That honestly was not my intention.

    Yes, people have different vocations and are sometimes limited to what they can do, but we can all do something. Not everyone is meant to be a counselor, or devote huge lots of time to helping women and babies, and I realize that. But there are smaller and yet still significant things that need done that fall by the wayside. The voice you speak of cannot be limited to only voting.

  • Katrina

    DMH, thank you for your comments. Many of our readers are moms with young kids at home, and although our days are busy caring for our families, we are always looking for concrete ways to help. Usually, volunteer activities need to center around times when there is someone else to watch the kids – evenings, weekends, or when childcare is available. While we may have been very active volunteering at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, crisis pregnancy centers, etc., before having children, these activities may just not be in the the realm of possibility at this point. Rather, we are able to serve at our churches, in our neighborhoods and schools, and contribute financially to causes. We also do our best to raise our children to be charitable, responsible, compassionate human beings, which is a service to society. As children get older, it is possible to take them along to shelter and soup kitchens to serve – we make sandwiches at our parish for kids in need, and our children certainly get involved in this small task. However, many volunteer activities are more difficult at this point in life.
    At the same time, we are always open to suggestions. Please let us know the “smaller yet still significant things that need to be done” – really and truly, I know that many people want to help and just don’t know how. Maybe you can help shed some light on what these things are, and help spark an idea for someone else.
    In my experience, though, the people who really care about being pro-life ARE doing something proactive to help women and families in whatever way they can. Most of these people are just too humble to share, so we might not ever know it or hear about it. There are many silent warriors out there, fighting the good fight.

  • Kellie “Red”

    Thank you for your apology, I thought calling the post judgmental and one-sided was harsh, and lacked the charity I normally see from those commenting on this blog. I didn’t write the post, it was written by Katrina, but, as you can tell, I thought questioning the personal volunteer record of the author was out of line. I apologize if I communicated that in an uncharitable manner. I get very firey when talking about the murder of innocent children.

    I agree with your opinion that our vote isn’t the only way to be pro-life. Of course we have other obligations in that regard, and voting is an essential, but small piece of our pro-life apostolate. I don’t think the author of the post, or Professor George, ever argued that voting was the only way we voice our opposition to abortion.

    But voting is an ESSENTIAL part of our opposition to abortion. And this is where I take issue with your approach. Serving in a soup kitchen or carrying a terminally ill child to full term, both are amazing acts of service, but neither excuses us from our obligation to vote for just laws that protect the lives of all human beings.

    The fact is that Obama promotes legal abortion and free contraception (and a violation of our religious liberty as Catholics) as a central part of his campaign. That is what the commercials are about. Almost every commercial I see is about how Obama will keep abortion legal, fund planned parenthood, and provide free contraception. It is a central part of his candidacy.

    If we were living in the South 200 years ago, we would not vote for a candidate who actively worked to keep slavery legal when there was a candidate who was running claiming he wanted to change that. Even if the pro-slavery candidate did nice things for the local soup kitchens, we still wouldn’t and shouldn’t support him. For some reason, I think people don’t see abortion for the horror that it truly is, and they see it as just one issue among many. But in reality, the government doesn’t have an obligation to run soup kitchens (those can be run by churches or other organizations) but it does have an obligation to make laws that protect the very life of every person. There is a big distinction in the gravity of what we are talking about, and sometimes I think people miss that.

  • Allison

    Shared on FB and Twitter in concern for the women IN the womb…the little guy….the rights of those whose life is ended in abortion. Thank you for “speaking” for her.

  • Tanya