Michael Bresciani is not a major influential voice within the teavangelical right, let alone within America as a whole. But this back-bench blogger for The Christian Post recently stumbled onto a statement that I think explains far more than he intended about the imaginary world inhabited by folks like him and the millions of other angry white evangelicals he’s trying to reach.
“Michael Bresciani Says the ‘Ghosts of Millions of Aborted Children’ Will Haunt Obama’s Presidential Library,” Brian Tashman reports for Right Wing Watch. Tashman supplies a helping of Breciani’s own words, to give you a taste of the guy’s rhetorical style and the nuanced clarity of his thinking:
While Vlad was a murderer in real life who impaled his enemies on stakes, he became a legend after death. Millions have been thrilled by the stories of Count Dracula made popular by novelist Bram Stoker. Most great evil figures are not so lucky. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and others are known today mostly for their acts of barbarism and genocide.
History may not be so kind to Barack Obama. He is a gay enabler who with a few well-chosen words has dismissed mostly the entire Bible except the Sermon on the Mount and has abandoned civilization’s longest standing sanctified, God given ordinance – the marriage of one man and one woman.
What will we put in his presidential library? If someday his real birth certificate is found and a release of his school transcripts is made, they may be on display, but who will come to the library other than a few democrats and liberals and those of the LGBT persuasion. …
So, yeah, Bresciani is a birther who equates marriage equality with genocide and thinks Obama is Hitler, Stalin and Vlad the Impaler all rolled into one.
None of that, of course, is “controversial” for the folks at The Christian Post. That site is a click-factory — one which, lacking the SEO-savvy of Buzzfeed or Upworthy, pursues pageviews by constantly cranking the outrage-meter up to 11. That site’s steady stream of Hitler references, white-extremist conspiracy theories and fever-dreams doesn’t keep it from being seen as a respectable part of the white evangelical tribe, though. The white evangelical gatekeepers are quite comfortable condoning this cesspool as an acceptable, non-“controversial” forum for good, upstanding members of the tribe because, even though it’s basically a sanctimonious version of WorldNet Daily and a firehose spewing fevered lies, those lies are all of the proper partisan bent.
But I’m not interested here in rebutting Bresciani’s attempts to replace the lectionary with readings from Orly Taitz, Cliven Bundy and Phil Robertson. What I want to focus on, instead, is this accidentally revealing statement from his Christian Post rant. Speaking of President Obama, he writes:
Being the most active and highest ranking politician in history to wholeheartedly support abortions it is not impossible to imagine a presidential library haunted by the ghosts of millions of aborted children.
Ignore the awkward grammar there and just consider that image: Barack Obama’s presidential library “haunted by the ghosts of millions of aborted children.”
Bresciani says it “is not impossible to imagine” such a thing. I think he may have meant to say it was impossible not to imagine such a thing, although he fails to imagine it himself. Bresciani imagines that he has imagined this. And I imagine that’s true for most of his target audience as well. This idea of “the ghosts of millions of aborted children” is something they imagine that they have imagined, but have never really bothered to do so.
They should. This is important.
I’m not being facetious here — this matters. It matters a great deal that these folks have not, in fact, truly attempted to imagine this thing that they seem to think they have imagined.
So let us try to imagine it for them. As Bresciani said, this is not impossible to do. It is, however, much harder than he seems to think.
First, let’s just consider the sheer scope of this idea: millions of ghosts.
Bresciani isn’t wrong to cite a figure of “millions” there. During Barack Obama’s first term, there were more than 5 million abortions performed in the United States.
Oh, wait, I’m sorry — that’s the figure for the first term of President George W. Bush, during whose presidency the abortion rate that supposedly animates Bresciani’s grave concern was far higher than it has been during the Obama years. But there were 4.35 million abortions performed during Obama’s first term — with the number and the rate falling every year during his presidency, and that rate now falling, for the first time ever, below where it was before the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973.
In any case, we are, indeed, going to need to imagine millions of ghosts.
That’s a bit much for a first step. It can be hard to imagine millions of anything, so let’s start smaller and work our way up. Let’s just picture one such ghost.
Yes, yes, I know — there’s no such thing as ghosts. Fine. They may be legendary, fictional, imaginary things, but we all still know what ghosts look like, don’t we? If I say “picture a unicorn” or “imagine a dragon” we can all do so even though none of us has ever seen an actual, real unicorn or dragon because there’s no such thing to be seen. We all know what ghosts look like.
But the problem here — and this is a huge problem — is that Bresciani’s ghosts cannot look like that. The ghosts that Michael Bresciani has imagined he’s imagining don’t look anything at all like any ghost you’ve ever imagined, heard of, read about or seen portrayed in the movies.
Let’s look again at those 4.35 million abortions performed between 2009 and 2012. These, remember, are the “children” whose ghosts we are being asked to imagine.
The vast majority of those abortions — 98.5 percent — were performed during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, with 94 percent performed during the first 15 weeks.So if you’re thinking of a “ghost” as anything like the ghosts you’re accustomed to imagining, you’ll need to reimagine these ghosts.
These ghosts will be much, much smaller than that — with the largest ones about the size of a quarter. Their heads make up about half their overall size. It may help to think of Casper the Friendly Ghost. That’s a cartoon, of course, and so we tend to think of Casper as an “unrealistic” portrayal of a ghost. But because he’s a cartoon, Casper is usually drawn with an overlarge head (about a third of his total size, usually). So it may help us to imagine Bresciani’s ghosts if we start with something like Casper, blur his face, shrink his body and limbs and …
Well, no — forget Casper. He’s still a bit too typically anthropomorphic for us not to be misled into inaccurately imagining the “ghosts of millions of aborted children” Bresciani has assigned us to imagine. Let’s try a picture instead.
That picture to the right is a rendering of a 12-week embryo — with the dime included for a sense of scale. That’s a good picture of what we need to imagine many of these millions of ghosts looking like.
So try, if you can, to imagine millions of these almost-dime-sized specters haunting a building at the University of Hawaii. They’re ghosts remember — so make them kind of white and shimmery and translucent. And since they’re ghosts, we can imagine them flying around — which is good, since they haven’t got legs and obviously can’t be walking.
That picture is still misleading in that it’s still too large and too well articulated for a great many of our millions of ghosts. That’s a picture from the end of 12 weeks, but many abortions are, in fact, performed at six weeks or earlier — so those ghosts would be even tinier, less-distinct spectral blobs.
And, of course, a small percentage of our ghosts would also be from abortions that occurred after 12 weeks, so we should also try to imagine a few hundred thousand of these tiny phantoms with disproportionate little limbs and with the early stages of male or female genitals.
The largest of our ghosts would thus have “brains” with more than a million neurons, although these would still be largely unformed. This also is important if we are to imagine these ghosts accurately. Most of our ghost stories involve the spirits of the departed who remain here in the world of the living because they want something. Hamlet’s father wanted vengeance. The ghosts of doomed lovers long to be reunited with their beloved. The ghosts of the wrongfully accused want justice.
These ghosts are not like that. Ghosts, the stories all say, seek something, but these ghosts are incapable of seeking. They do not want anything. They are not able to want anything, let alone to accost the living with their demands — or even to acknowledge the presence of the living or of their surroundings.
That’s the trickiest part of Bresciani’s ghost story. How could these millions of tiny ghosts find Obama’s presidential library? They’re all blind and deaf. They cannot speak, whisper, decide, seek, imagine or remember.
None of these ghosts ever took a breath. They never spoke or heard anyone else speak.
These ghosts, if we are to imagine them accurately, are incapable of doing anything on their own without the support provided by the women whose bodies hosted them and gave them life.
And that, I’m afraid, may mean that Bresciani is wrong. It may mean that it is, in fact, “impossible to imagine a presidential library haunted by the ghosts of millions of aborted children,” because it is, in fact, impossible to do what Bresciani’s fantasy requires us to do — to erase all those millions of women and remove them from the picture as irrelevant.
These women do not exist in Bresciani’s mind. But without them, this whole nightmare fantasy of his is impossible.
Erasing those women — eliminating them from our imagining — is probably the second-most horrifying thing about the ghost story that Michael Bresciani has assigned us to imagine.
Perhaps even worse than that, though, is this terrifying realization: Bresciani’s surreal imaginary haunting of the Obama presidential library provides an image of what the majority of white evangelicals insist that Heaven is like.
This is why it is important to try our best to imagine as accurately as possible the haunting that Bresciani has tasked us with imagining. Because doing so enables us to imagine — and to understand, perhaps better than they do themselves — what it is that millions of our fellow citizens believe that Heaven will be like.
These good people do not believe that “millions of aborted children” will become ghosts haunting some archive in Hawaii or Chicago. They believe those “children” will all go to Heaven along with all the “children” who were conceived and then miscarried (a third or more of all pregnancies). If what they believe is true, then Heaven will look exactly like what Bresciani asks us to imagine. Heaven will be every bit as disturbing as his haunted presidential library.
Let us, at least, cling to one ingredient from traditional ghost stories and imagine that these “children” will somehow be able to fly in this haunted Heaven. That’s still an unnerving image — the heavenly air filled with tiny blind, deaf, mute creatures devoid of thought, memory and emotion — but it’s still far less disturbing than the alternative image of all these heavenly “children” lying about as billions of tiny dots across the heavenly landscape.