August 22, 2005
The callused applause of "little Himmlers"?
An important moment in the plot is when a character announces she is pregnant, and considering having an abortion. In fact, she tells her mother-in-law, she's already put $5 down with the local abortionist. It is a dramatic moment. And you know as you watch it that when this play came out in 1960 it was received by the audience as a painful moment--a cry of pain from a woman who's tired of hoping that life will turn out well.Peggy Noonan is right about abortion being a tragedy. Whether that is an argument for imprisoning the mother is of course highly debatable. Still more debatable is whether taking the "morning after pill" like RU-486 is a tragedy, and if so, whether the tragedy rises to the same level.
Yes, matters of personal tragedies have now become highly political, with grandstanding and cheerleading on one side, and moral scolding on the other. The result has been a near-deafening chorus of political hyperbole on both sides. The idea of publicly applauding a decision to have an abortion is sickening. As Bill Krumm says, it's a callous change.
Yet calluses take time to develop, and I'm not altogether sure that these calluses were produced solely by shrill groups of angry feminists waving coat hangers. I've previously posted about an incident in which local college-age girls went into their student lounge to be confronted with huge placards of mutilated fetuses. This is intended to have "shock value" and it takes an emotional toll (at least it did on the girls there at the time).
"Desensitization" is, I believe, the expression which is used. If you stick enough gruesome images into people's faces, it is only natural that they will no longer have the desired effect. The effect can backfire, and "desensitization" can morph into backlash. (At the time, it seemed more likely that the offended girls would be motivated to drive to Washington to fight the sign wavers than support them. And I wouldn't be surprised if such "calluses" helped them do things like cheer at inappropriate times.)
When RU-486 is likened to Zyklon-B, and the drug companies and doctors involved are compared to Himmler, is it any wonder that the people who are not persuaded (or who feel maligned) by these comparisons might become more cynical? More callused?
Few people liked Ward Churchill's "little Eichmanns" remark, but I'm now looking back at some of the callused things I wrote. I cracked insensitive jokes -- directly as a reaction to his ridiculous hyperbole.
At the risk of asking a callused question, am I not supposed to laugh at my own calluses?
I wouldn't even applaud aborting tiny dog fetuses. I'd actually feel sorry for the canine mother. (That's probably just an example of misplaced anthropomorphism -- something for psychoanalysts to ponder. I'm too callused.)
posted by Eric on 08.22.05 at 09:38 AM
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