Friday, September 18, 2009

Violence and More (Possible) Abortion Terrorism

Back in June, I wrote about the politically-motivated murder of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few providers of late-term abortions in the US. In this article, I specifically avoided arguing that violence was a problem unique to the anti-abortion crowd. Instead, I wrote:

"I know many people who oppose abortion and all of them are quite capable of opposing abortion without murdering abortion doctors. As with any movement, there are those who go beyond rhetoric and peaceful demonstration and engage in acts of violence."

I said that because I think that we get into trouble when we point to instances of horrendous violence committed by our ideological opponents and say "Look, see how violent all of Them are compared to Us?" This is not some startling revelation to many people, but I think it bears repeating that it is not an accurate reflection of reality to be believe that only people on one side of an issue are inherently violent and that certain others are not. In truth, we are all inherently capable of violence, whether we view ourselves as victims or perpetrators in the grand scheme of things. Anyone paying attention can see that some of those who express feeling the most persecuted by others-whether they are gay, Christian, heterosexual, white, black, or whatever- are sometimes some of the most rude, aggressive, condescending, violent people out there.

I don't say that to minimize people's struggles and experiences of oppression, goddess knows anger is often justified. Yet, people often justify their own violence and aggression, be it physical or psychological, by claiming that they are only reacting to violence and aggression done to them. It is a common refrain, especially in the internets, that "turnabout is fair play." Some people are almost impossible to argue with because when you call out their poor behavior their catch-all response is "your side does it too." So focused on what others are doing, they fail to take responsibility for that which they can actually control- their own actions and their own participation in the cycle of violence.

Last Friday, a gunman murdered an anti-abortion activist in Detroit. This abhorrent act, just like Dr. Tiller's murder, is nothing less than domestic terrorism if it was done for ideological purposes. Those of us who are pro-choice have a duty to condemn this act, even though the wrongness of murdering a human being is self-evident to most of us. I say this because people have a lot invested in seeing those they disagree with as inherently bad sorts. It's as though some people think that if other people are inherently "bad," their own position is more "right." And, I have no doubt that this act of violence is further cementing the view among some of those opposed to abortion that pro-choicers are Bad People who like killing babies and who get off on perpetuating a Culture of Death.

Those who are prone to demonizations in that way should think twice about pitting everything as these huge black and white battles where Good and Evil are fighting one another in an Armageddon-like battle of Ultimate Morality. Abortion is rarely simple. And the majority of those who have abortions, who help women have abortions, and (*deep breath deep breath*) who oppose the right of women to have abortions are not monsters.

Given the cyclical nature of violence, the tendency of humans to see violence and hatred only in those they deem Others, and the heated debate that surrounds abortion, we should not be surprised by this latest act of abortion-related violence.

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