Today, the Supreme Court struck down nearly 50 years of precedent, finding (correctly) that there is no right to abortion in the Constitution. Finding it there was incorrect in 1973 and proved to be even more incorrect as medical science advanced. To say I am ecstatic would be underselling it; I have advocated against it for decades, and even wrote publicly about it as far back as 19 years ago. This is a wonderful day!
To be sure, this court case does nothing for the generation lost to this barbaric practice, nor does it eliminate it on a nationwide basis; the rescinding of the Roe v. Wade decision returns the issue to the states. I am a big believer in an incremental approach because, in large part, any absolutist effort is doomed to failure. Every prenatal murder we can avoid is a cause for celebration. The states that have laws that go into effect will have the effect of outlawing 12.8% of abortions(subscription-only link) - just over a literaldecimation of this abhorrent practice.
I won't rehash my posts from the past nearly-two decades; if you want to read those, just peruse the “Prenatal Murder” category linked at the bottom of this post. Rather, I want to reflect on various aspects of this decision, what led up to it, and what is next for those of us who value the sanctity of human life from conception through natural death.
Roe Was Bad Law
The Roe decision only made sense by stretching the logic of a 1965 decision that had also stretched to reach its conclusion - Griswold v. Connecticut. Griswold centered around a law that prohibited the dispensing of birth control advice or devices. The majority opinion in this case found a previously-undiscovered “right to privacy” in the Constitution (as amended) that “emanated” from prior case law's “penumbras” (shadows). Calling this innovative thinking is probably too kind; it set precedents in all sorts of bad ways.
Just eight years later, Roe took a hop from Griswold's stretch, equating the act of abortion with any other form of birth control. This was also innovative, but not in the way you may expect. You likely grew up hearing about “trimesters,” those three 3-month periods of fetal development prior to birth. That did not come from current medical thinking; it came from renowned biologist Justice Harry Blackmun, via his majority opinion in this case. (Maybe justices do need to have a good working knowledge of biology, eh Justice-in-Waiting Jackson?) Justice Blackmun used this “trimester” framework to literally "split the baby", finding that the state had no interest in the first, some interest in the second, and the near-prevailing interest in the third. It also provided prohibitions on laws that did not allow abortions to preserve the “life and health” of the mother.
At the time, its companion case (Doe v. Bolton) defined “health” to include “mental health,” which was the key for the abortion free-for-all that followed. Parenting has profound effects on your mental health, whether you set out to be parents or are surprised, and doctors were all too willing to use this as cover to grant abortion for any reason (or no reason at all).
In 1973, the decision was not great; however, in the intervening years, medical science and our understanding of fetal development increased greatly. In 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, the Supreme Court replaced the trimester framework with a “viability” standard. Sadly, they left the “mental health” definition from Doe intact, so the effect was the same. Medical science continued advancing, and as those who were pro-abortion rights continued to ignore it, their “rights” platitudes rang more hollow. In 2009, they thought they had finally won, but in reality…
The ACA's Overreach Accelerated This Decision
The Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as “Obamacare”) mandated, among other things, what type of health care coverage employers must provide their employees (whether they want/need it or not). Reproductive health care was part of that package, and within that were some “birth control” measures that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg or induce spontaneous abortions (“abortofacients”). There were also very limited exceptions to this policy; in short, if you were not a church, you had to provide this.
This took the debate from the public square and into the courts. In 2014, the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby found that this lack of exception for religious beliefs for for-profit businesses violated 1993's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). That was a good ruling, but it only applied to abortofacients and for-profit businesses. Catholic Charities' Little Sisters of the Poor were not as fortunate. The Roman Catholic religion views any birth control as sin, and even if the Hobby Lobby exception applied, they were still mandated to provide something against which they have long-standing, well-documented, sincerely held beliefs. It took until 2020 – 11 years after the ACA became law – to win their exemption via Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania.
While businesses were fighting in court, state legislatures were passing laws. Some states passed laws ensuring that this travesty could occur right up until the moment of delivery, but many states passed further restrictions on abortion. These restrictions varied from those thought to comply with Casey, to near or complete bans that were deferred until Roe and Casey were struck down, to some innovative thinking the other way (which isn't a compliment; Texas gets their own section under “What's Next” below). These laws codified, within each state, where they wished to draw the line on their compelling state interest. Among the ones that took effect, some held, some were struck down (like 2020's moderately surprising decision in June Medical v. Russo), and the Mississippi law challenged in Dobbs v. Jackson is what led to today's majority opinion.
A draft of that opinion was leaked in early May. Not only did this allow me to write large portions of this post ahead of time (hooray), it also led to some really revealing arguments from the side who felt that they were about to lose. Despite their claims to the contrary…
Abortion Is Not Health Care
The most egregious and disingenuous of these claims is that the reversal of Roe will lead to doctors being prohibited from taking care of troublesome pregnancies, such as ectopic pregnancies (where the egg implants in the fallopian tube) and miscarriages where the fetus has already died (but the woman's body is not eliminating it properly). It is true that, particularly with the miscarriage, the medical procedure itself is similar. However, no one is saying ectopic pregnancies should remain (except some knuckleheads in Missouri - again, addressed below), and removing an already-perished pre-born baby is also not abortion. These are health care procedures, and will remain legal in all 50 states, even if it takes a court challenge. (Again - maybe we do want our judges up on their biology, no? Maybe the legislature, too?)
Strawmen out of the way, this leaves us with four general scenarios to consider.
The first scenario goes something like “I just missed my period; uh oh - ain't nobody got time for that!” While I would love for this to be outlawed, the reality is that these will likely be legal - or at least accessible - forever. The Mississippi law challenged in Dobbs mandated no abortions after 15 weeks, which would have no effect on this abortion scenario. All that said, though, this is no more health care than elective breast augmentation.
The second scenario is selective termination after genetic testing. In these cases, there is absolutely no difference in the health of the mother who is carrying a baby with genetic deformities. All her systems still work the same; failing to give these children the opportunity for the life they have been given is something which should be prohibited by law. Again - not health care, just early murder.
The third scenario is a woman who changes her mind well into her pregnancy, and her baby is fully viable outside the womb. In this case, there is no prevailing health care concern that requires the baby to die; a delivery eliminates the pregnancy and gives the baby the opportunity it deserves. “Not health care” is an easy call here; all three cases thus far show that something being a “medical procedure” does not mean that the procedure is “health care.”
The final scenario is pregnancies resulting from rape (which includes incestuous statutory rape; I am not considering consenting related adults' children here). Here, I will probably part ways with some of the more ardent pro-lifers; while I do not believe abortion is the right decision in these cases, girls and women in this situation are already in a non-ideal situation. I believe it should be legal to counsel them to keep these pregnancies, but you will not find me pushing an absolutist position here. That being said, this is the only case where mental health should play any sort of consideration at all; outside of that, this is not health care either.
I mentioned the revealing arguments in the wake of the leak. The health care argument was one, but again, contrary to their claims, this is…
No Slippery Slope
(At this point, I would love to divert and discuss the difference between a “slippery slope” argument and an “argument of progression.” However, this is already essay-length; maybe that will be a post for another day.)
The claim goes something like “If they take this right away, what's to stop them from taking away birth control totally? Or gay marriage?” Well - in two words, “the Constitution.” Eliminating a stretch from the emanating penumbras doesn't eliminate the penumbras themselves, so birth control's legality remains covered under Griswold – just not the murder-your-baby kind. A better parallel for gay marriage would be 1967's Loving v. Virginia case, decided on equal protection grounds rather than right-to-privacy; these same equal protection claims were central to 2015's Obergfell v. Hodges case. There is also no nationwide movement against either of these decisions. There may be local overreach on these laws, and there may be lawsuits where the plaintiff's rights under RFRA were found to be violated – but these (contrary, again, to the hyperbolic claims of the losers) do not remove the laws from the books; they recognize religious freedom in our pluralistic society.
So, all that being said…
What's Next? (AKA “Fix Your Law, Texas”)
The fight for the legal rights of the unborn now has 50 fronts. This is not necessarily a new development; as I mentioned above, there has been legislative action in several states. There will likely be vociferous screeds about abolishing filibusters, expanding courts, and other harebrained schemes, all in hopes of getting a quick nationwide reversal of Dobbs. The conversation around the 2024 election will be hysterical and insufferable – not that the outlook there was all that reasoned and sufferable to begin with…
Some ways I would like to see the issue progress (and things I would support) include:
There will be, no doubt, efforts to reverse today's decision, both in the courts and in Congress. While many of us see today's decision as the natural consequence of the way culture, science, and jurisprudence have been moving for the past generation, we should assume absolutely zero momentum. There will be a reaction, and it will be covered favorably by the legacy media; stand on principle, and do not concede the phrasing or the terms of debate. Culture has changed because pro-life advocates have publicized both the amazing miracle of life in the womb and the horrors of abortion; keep doing that.
We no longer need “bold” laws to “challenge” the unconstitutional Roe; it's done, and the states have the power. “With great power comes great responsibility,” though, so any future laws restricting abortion must be free of some of the sloppiness contained in prior abortion laws (and some current “anti-woke” laws). (No, you may not criminalize treatment of ectopic pregnancies.) These laws must be specific, measurable, enforceable, and medically sound. I like heartbeat bills, I'm OK with 15-week bans; I'm not OK with jailing abortive mothers.
Texas, I promised you some special attention. If your law had been passed contingent upon today's ruling, or passed in the future, it would not have the same baggage that it currently does. I'm quite surprised that the Supreme Court did not issue an injunction; my only guess is that they had an inkling that today was coming and wanted to give you a head start. Working around the Constitution is not the way to accomplish this. Revisit this law; if you want to be the only state in the Union to have a civil penalty for abortion, so be it, but surely you can do better by the children of Texas than outsourcing their protection to (possibly out-of-state) profiteers.
Don't Be “Pro-Life in Name Only”
You know what's tough? Being a mom through pregnancy, birth, and early childhood. (It doesn't get a lot easier, but at least you start getting sleep – until the teenage years, anyway.) Not engaging in an activity that will create life until one is ready to take responsibility for the life created is quite pro-life; this is the “hearts and minds” aspect, which wasn't ever part of Roe. Until that happens, though, we need to be prepared to support those who have created life and don't know what to do. Crisis pregnancy centers will be even more vital in the years to come, and they will need both counselors/volunteers and funding to help their clients.
While Roe v. Wade will exist as reversed Supreme Court precedent, I look forward to the day when “row” and “wade” are just two ways to cross a stream.
This Independence Day, I am saddened by news that pride in our nation has hit an all-time low(for the 20 years Gallup has been asking the question). I am saddened - but I am not surprised. This is the effect of emphasizing group identities over our collective one, the natural fruit of the “salad bowl, not a melting pot” tree. Some of us have been warning that viewpoints such as those were bad for the nation, and would lead to disunity; this has to be one of the least satisfying "I told you so"s of my life.
At this point, we have at least two generations of adults who learned history not as the facts about what happened, but as a narrative of American imperialism and subjugation of every non-white person they encountered. No wonder people are not proud to be part of a nation like that! These courses have failed to transfer the idea that, while imperfect, America is still a place where your voice can be heard, where opportunities to better yourself and your family (still) abound - a nation with vast resources and amazing beauty.
To be sure, we have not always lived up to our ideals. One of our culture's current hobbies is taking the worst possible interpretation of anything that ever happened; but, let's set that aside for a moment. The founding fathers have been derided for writing a Constitution that allowed for even the possibility that slavery could exist. Have you ever thought that, maybe, they deserve some credit for writing it in such a way that it was: a) an acceptable compromise for those who were pro-slavery, getting everyone to agree to rule by the same government; and b) contained the trap-door that eventually led to slavery's abolition? For their many flaws, they brought the country together, and moved us forward towards our ideals, even though they did not see that movement in their generation.
They did the hard work of building a nation. Tearing things down, the “revolution,” the violent mobs - all this is straight out of the Marxist playbook. As anyone who has ever had responsibility to maintain a home or a vehicle knows, it is way easier to tear things up than it is to preserve them; and, focusing on its flaws is a surefire way to discontentment.
Furthermore, forming “separate but equal” groups within a nation does nothing but encourage disunity, no matter how those groups are defined. The NFL is going to play “Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing” prior to “The Star-Spangled Banner” for its week 1 games. In many respects, I have no issues with this. “Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing” is a great song, and in some respects, speaks more directly to our ideals as a nation; I hope people will listen to the lyrics. The NFL is also free to do whatever it wants with its pregame ceremonies. However, this song is also known as the “black national anthem,” and given the NFL's history with protests during the national anthem, this seems to be kowtowing to those who have disrespected the flag and the anthem over the past few years. (Sure, call it protest; “it's not about the flag/anthem” is disingenuous, as they made it about those items when they selected them for their time of protest.)
The NFL isn't the only offender here - far from it. As a public service, let me provide this handy chart for those who truly value unity within our diversity…
This is fine…
This is not.
Working through these - supporting law enforcement is good; superimposing that on the US flag is not. While I disagree with the spirit behind the pride flag, its meaning is well-established; the US flag (per)version is offensive, and narrows their cause. (Did you know that there are nations where being gay is enough to get you jailed or killed by the government? None of those nations are "The United States of America.") Finally, as a Falcons fan, I find both flags on row 3 distasteful; however, I will staunchly defend my misguided NFC South opponents' right to fly the one on the left. (Superiority should be settled on the field, not in fandom; and, as a Falcons fan, I don't have a whole lot to point to in that regard in the recent past.)
Here's what the flags on the right should look like:
While the flags on the left are banners around which people can rally for a cause, the flags on the right take the United States flag and change it into a form of which not everyone will agree. In the spirit of diversity and inclusion (my cause + the US), they end up divisive and exclusive. (Lest you think that I've cherry-picked those symbols above, I've seen all three “in the wild” on multiple occasions.)
Everyone in our nation should be able to see themselves represented by the US flag; however, its supporters have not done much to make their argument. Particularly within the NFL controversy, it was said that disrespecting the flag and the national anthem was the equivalent of disrespecting the sacrifice of those who fought to gain and preserve our freedom. This is not untrue; I served for over 2 decades under that flag, and swore my life to protect and defend that “nation for which it stands.” That argument, though, is too narrow. It turns the US flag into the military flag, which becomes a symbol over which not all of the nation's citizens can agree.
Whether they agree with the current trajectory of the nation or not, every American should be able to see our flag and hear our national anthem, and take pride in their part of this American experiment, going strong now for 244 years. Our flag should be just that - our flag - and should encourage us to see each other as fellow Americans (no hyphens) with whom we can work together to bring us closer to our ideals. May future generations look back at us, and describe us the way I described the founding fathers above. “You know, they had some issues, but they really did a great job bringing us together as a nation, and moving us forward in a land of liberty.”
p.s. Some may say “Are you really this upset about symbolism?” Well - yeah; if we can't agree on the symbolism, how on earth are we going to agree on substance? How can we have serious discussion over multiple ways to get to our goal if we don't agree on what that goal should be? That's -literally- the reason nations are formed.
p.p.s. Unity does not mean uniformity; I have a draft of my next worldview lesson post that dives into federalism and subsidiarity, and its importance in realizing the most effective governance for all. I may have it posted later this month.
The death of George Floyd, at the hands (and knees) of Minneapolis police, was a spark that has lit protests around the world. These protests have varying themes, but most are either against excessive police brutality or “systemic racism.” On the latter - note the scare quotes - many white people believe that this is not the case, as they harbor no racial animus themselves, nor do they know anyone who does. How can people with dark skin look at a system and cry “racism” if we can't see it?
The Dispatch has been doing “Dispatch Live” events for its members, and the one this past Thursday is the genesis of this post. David, Steve Hayes, Jonah Goldberg, and Sarah Isgur were discussing the disconnect I described above, how people's observations and claimed experiences could be so different. They asked David about his experience, and if there was a way we could think about it. What follows is my paraphrase of his point (even though it's in a block quote to set it off from my own thoughts).
Grant the following two assumptions:
First, assume that 1 in 10 white people is racist.
Second, assume that these 1-in-10 people know that their views are unwelcome by the other 9, so they don't ever give any indication of their racist views.
This means that, as white people, we don't know any racists (technically, we don't know that we know any racists). But, as a black person, every tenth white person you meet treats you poorly.
I thought that this was profound, as a great way to understand someone else's lived experience. And, the principle holds even if you want to say that the ratio is more like 1:100 - especially when the consequences of that one interaction could leave you in George Floyd's current state.
(Follow David to keep up with his writing, and subscribe to The Dispatch; it's one of the best places on the Internet.)
Saturday, December 21, 2019
Daniel J. Summers
As I write this, we are on the other side of the House's impeachment vote, though some legal analysis says that it's not official until those articles are sent to the Senate. Our hot take culture is filled with people sharing their view of what's happened. That's not really my thing, though; the early take is often completely wrong. (Exhibit A for this was the circle game non-troversy at the Army/Navy game; so glad the wokescolds wasted our military's time investigating that.) Another of our culture's pasttimes is giving the worst possible reading to anything that happens, and assuming the worst possible motivation behind it. (See “Exhibit A” again…) Again - not my style and not my speed, because doing that rarely leads one to the truth. So, I've been following the reporting, transcripts, defenses, analyses, and prosecutions from an information gathering viewpoint, trying to cut through the partisan bovine excrement and resistance-disguised-as-objective reporting to determine what happened, how severe it was, and what should be done about it.
“These are the established facts” rarely is followed by established facts as I've found them, using primarily the transcript of the alleged dastardly call and the testimony of the Ukrainians involved. The Congressionally-approved aid was not discussed as much as Ukraine's desire to buy more missiles. Then, in the most quid pro quo part of the call, a White House visit was offered in exchange for Ukraine announcing an investigation. Note what this wasn't - it wasn't a request to do an investigation, it was a request to announce an investigation. It also wasn't part of the previously-approved military aid or the future missile sales. The announcement would have been embarrassing to Joe Biden, whose son Hunter would be implicated; interestingly, Biden's lowest polling to date occurred when this was the main story occupying the news. Ukrainian leaders have also said that they did not feel like they were being extorted.
The above are the facts, as the dictionary defines facts; other characterizations are something other than facts. It was neither a perfect call nor a gross abuse of Presidential power.
That being said, what President Trump did with Ukraine was not good. If there is an investigation needed, then encourage them to do it. Unless there are allegations that Joe knew that his son was trading on a connection to the US government, though (which I've rarely seen alleged), doing a “guilt by association” attack on Joe through his kids is way more objectionable than someone making a pun with one of his children's names. And, connecting requests like this with a call that had discussed foreign aid is worthy of official censure…
...which brings us to his detractors. The House of Representatives, and the Democrats within it, have behaved even worse. From Adam Schiff's creative interpretation of the transcript to open the hearings, to their misrepresentation of the facts (holding up Congressionally-approved aid for personal political reasons), to their lack of objectivity and transparency - they seem to be hanging on to a thread of legitimacy. They focus-grouped their prosecution, settling on the term “bribery,” which they repeated ad nauseum until it was time for official articles to be drafted. Then, we get a charge called “obstruction of Congress,” which isn't even a thing, especially as applied to the executive or judicial branches. My more cynical nature thinks that they were hoping that reporters would say “obstruction of justice” (because that's a thing, and a thing to which most people are opposed), or that people would at least think it. Given the misconduct, a motion to censure would have been much more appropriate; interestingly, until they forward the articles to the Senate, that's exactly what they've done.
Those defending the President are just as bad. The call was far from perfect and the aid did not flow when it was expected to flow. Republicans have (rightly) long complained about how Presidents Clinton and Obama (especially Clinton) traded access and overnights at the White House for political gain or favors; how is this now just the way it is when it's someone in the same party? You don't get to claim to be the party of principle if you abandon those principles to keep or maintain power or influence. And, while Trump's impeachment was conceived 60 days before he took office, and has been executed in a purely partisan way, Senators McConnell and Graham deciding to double down on the lack of objectivity bewilders me. In an impeachment trial, the Senate is the jury; juries aren't supposed to pre-judge the case to which they are assigned.
One of the strangest aspects of this administration is how evangelical Christians (among whose number I count myself) wholeheartedly defend Trump not just as a politician, but as a person. This is the crux of an editorial posted at Christianity Today entitled "Trump Should Be Removed from Office." In the editorial, the author says that this removal can come from either the Senate or the next election, but it's hard not to view the headline as intentionally incendiary, particularly given the current context. And, true to form, I've seen liberals and atheists sharing it far and wide saying, “See? Even Christianity Today thinks he should be thrown out!” (It doesn't.) It's also prompted responses from prominent evangelicals, including Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's son), whose defenses fall into the category of the paragraph above. Christians should be better than this; Scripture emphasizes the importance of truth, and of being quick to hear yet slow to speak.
I continue to be an evangelical Christian, believing that our problems will not be ultimately solved by government, but through the transforming work of Christ in each of our lives. This is a key point missed by those who paint Billy Graham's silence on civil rights during his early years as racism. God working in human hearts can eliminate racism, but people in racist cultures (both oppressed and oppressor) need eternal salvation far more than earthly salvation; he was focused on the former. When government follows biblical principles, government flourishes; however, our government cannot follow biblical principles simply because they're biblical. Our government operates “by the consent of the governed,” and forcing behavior does nothing to change the ultimate state of a soul. To be sure, the current administration has appointed many people who protect life and religious liberty; that should not cause us to sweep bad behavior under the rug.
While my Christianity has not changed, the Republican party to which I belonged through 2016 has changed immensely. The GOP has been known, at different times in history, as the “party of Lincoln” and the “party of Reagan.” Both these men were inspirational leaders who presided over difficult times in our nation's history, and the legacy of both only increased once they left office (with reconstruction and the end of the Cold War). The GOP is now the “party of Trump,” demanding sycophantic loyalty to a leader, and looking to use the same heavy-handed government intervention on social issues that the liberals do - just to different ends. This does not align with my conservative principles at all. No leader is perfect, and our presidents put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. And, while the life issue is very, very important, a host of other issues need less government, not more.
Hello, Libertarian Party. You have a new member whose sole dissent with your platform is preborn life, but I know I'm not alone in that. I look forward to working with you to advance the cause of freedom and conservative less-government principles, and I encourage my Christian friends to consider the same things I have. I will write more about how I've aligned my faith and the LP platform in the months to come.
I'm a big fan of what's going on in Alabama. They recently passed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a “clean” abortion ban(auto-play warning on that link) that only contains an exception for the life of the mother; no rape exception, no incest exception, no “health of the mother” exception. The people who passed it have said that they are presenting it as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that discovered this then-previously-unknown right.
I probably should qualify what I mean by being a “big fan” of it. It clearly articulates the value of human life from the moment of conception, and provides severe penalties for doctors who perform the procedure contrary to the law. Would I have written the law this way? Possibly; it's easier to add exceptions to a clean bill than try to remove them, when they were part of the bill the way the legislature voted on it. Do I think it has a chance that it will take effect? Not one little bit; there will be an injunction while the bill travels through the courts.
Personally, I believe that rape and incest are horrible, terrible crimes, that are not improved by committing another violent act. I also realize that, as a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” a law will probably end up having those exceptions in it. We don't have to imagine any exception being exploited; I'm sure Georgia doctors can and will ultrasound not quite right, so the heartbeat isn't found. I believe their police reporting requirement for invoking the rape and incest exceptions is an excellent step; many people who commit these terrible crimes don't just commit them once, and getting these criminals off the street will prevent further victims.
A common argument against those who wear the “pro life” label is that we seem to only care about unborn life. That couldn't be further from the truth; and, in reality, that characterization is often made by political groups trying to marginalize us when we've just made a good point. Most “pro life” people I know also support fostering and adoption (when they're allowed to), work programs, and end of life care as well. What they do not seem to get is this - the key to being truly pro-life is valuing life from womb to tomb. Re-read the last sentence of the previous paragraph; that's a statement that values life! Until we can figure out a way to un-rape someone, preventing future rapes by the same perpetrator is something we can actually do. If you want to move beyond “thoughts and prayers,” there's something concrete.
Life begins at conception; the closer we get to protecting all human life from that point forward, the better off we will be.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Daniel J. Summers
My family is traveling, with our home base in Cincinnati, Ohio this week. Yesterday, we got the opportunity to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located on the riverfront here in Cincinnati. It was sobering, uncomfortable, and inspiring - all at the same time.
Our 20/20 hindsight makes it difficult to understand how slavery was defended. Politicians defended it as right and necessary (and we think that awful politicians are a new invention…). Businessmen claimed it fueled the economy; and, in large part, they were correct. Scientists claimed that people of African descent were inferior; while they were often stronger and more resilient, they drew the short straw when it came to intelligence. That's why owning them is OK. (Beware of “settled science”...) Even Africans themselves would raid other villages and tribes, capture people to sell to the white man, for their own financial gain.
That being said - the most uncomfortable part of this was how the preachers provided supposedly biblically-based cover for all this. Sermons were preached about the inferiority of those with darker skin, and how they are ordained by God to be subservient to the white man. (This was throughout North, Central, and South America - this isn't just a U-S-of-A sin.)
Why was that uncomfortable? It's no secret that I'm a Christian, recently coming on staff with my church. We, as Christians, must be sure that we faithfully divide the Word of Truth so that our ancestors do not look back on us with the same shame I felt when I heard my ancestors. They got it wrong - from the bottom to the top, point-blank, wrong. We are all made in the image of God, not a one of us more or less valuable or worthwhile than another. This does not mean that we completely capitulate to the current cultural zeitgeist, deciding that abortion is A-OK or that the clear prohibition of homosexual behaviors were somehow misconstrued. It means that we, as people of the Word, must make sure that when we stand up and say “thus saith the Lord,” that we're correct.
The most sobering part of the museum had to be the “modern day slavery” section. I knew that slavery still existed under different names, but the prevalence statistics were quite sobering. (I didn't memorize them, so I can't quote them; suffice it to say, unless you've looked into it, it's higher than you think.) We must ensure that, while we're looking for the best deal, or the least expensive way to get something, that we're not enabling modern-day slavery. From unfair labor practices (a big reason I'm against illegal immigration, BTW), to excessively cheap textiles, to service staff, to prostitution and pornography - the market for these things are the current demands that run the engine of modern-day slavery.
Now, apart from the statistics I mentioned in the last paragraph (and some of the details of the “regulated” slave trade), none of what I've mentioned above was new to me; it was just sobering (and good) to be reminded of it. I was also impressed with the even-handed display explaining the 3/5 compromise. (For those unaware, it was Southerners who wanted slaves counted as whole people; Northerners didn't want them counted at all, but agreed to 3/5 to placate the South. It was about apportionment of seats as it related to proportional representation, not an indication of one's humanity.) As with anything, there were a few places where this language was inappropriately applied, but all in all, I was greatly enriched from our visit there.
Let freedom ring; let us Christians amplify the sound, whether others use that freedom to choose the way we hope they would - or not.
Friday, December 1, 2017
Daniel J. Summers
These thoughts all center around issues related to the recently deluge of revelations regarding sexual misconduct.
Men should always treat women with respect. Women should always treat men with respect. However, to deny that we live in a world where what “should” and what “are” will never be aligned.
The vast majority, if not the totality of the current misconduct allegations, are against men. The vast majority (I can think of two exceptions in the past year) of teacher sexual misconduct allegations are against women. I'm surprised there haven't been studies on this disparity; absent those, though, this does point to power as an enabling factor in these cases.
The oversexualization of our society has been a net loss. Even natural expressions of non-sexual friendship and love, such as hugs among friends or a parent kissing a child, are viewed as scandalous. Even a literal pat on the back for a job well done can be misconstrued, and playfulness is simply too great a risk. I fail to see how this is a good thing.
Mike Pence took a lot of ridicule over his stances regarding meetings with women. In nearly every one of these recent revelations, had the men involved had the same stance, we wouldn't even be talking about this. We certainly wouldn't be talking about hundreds of victims, mostly female or underage.
Along similar lines - there is one worldview that acknowledges women's inherent vulnerability in these areas, and provides protection for them prior to marriage and freedom to seek fulfillment within it. It also enjoins men to be respectful, treating women to whom they are not married as they would their own sister and mother. It's a shame it's fallen out of favor among so many, who don't realize the freedom one experiences when one is prevented from even being put in the situation of having to make a potentially devastating choice.
Finally, of course there are people who claim the above worldview and use it (or use the claim of it) to their own nefarious advantage. This brings us back to the first thought above. The existence of people who misuse or fail to live up to the ideal doesn't mean that the ideal is flawed; it's the people who are flawed.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Daniel J. Summers
No, this isn't about Harvey Weinstein per se; he is but the latest in a long string of issues where Hollywood (used here as a proxy for the movie/TV industry as a whole) cannot seem to see its own hypocrisy. People in Hollywood tend to get the large part of their fame from literally pretending to be somebody else. (Yes, I know, it's called "acting.") When Hollywood decides to get political, though, they tend to be virulently against anything representing conservative principles and values. The “why” behind that is multi-faceted: liberalism sounds more compassionate at first blush; those mean, nasty conservatives are the ones against our edgier art; I'm surrounded by these people and I don't want to rock the boat.
Whatever the motivation, though, the Weinstein scandal exposes just another area where Hollywood claims to advocate one thing, but their product and actions contradict themselves.
On screens large and small, guns are everywhere. The criminals have them, the police have them (though sometimes the police are the criminals), and the really good guys can use them to fight for good (think Jason Bourne, or the Taken franchise). Yet, more than 9 out of 10 denizens of Hollywood are pro gun-control legislation, to the point where blood was still drying on the pavement in Las Vegas when they began beating that drum again. (I don't even have time to get into the entire “silencer” thing; I think that they think those work the way they do in the movies, not the way they actually do.)
Well, Hollywood - you've shown us how things get resolved. Bringing in the firepower is the way you fix situations.
Hollywood got on the glow-bull warming train a long, long time ago, and has amplified every doomsday and “man is killing the planet” claim that came along. They are so impassioned about this that they attend global conferences about this pressing issue… in their private jets, the mostly-least-efficient way to get there. Their primary homes are large mansions, and they usually have vacation homes as well. (This isn't simple envy; I'd live in a mansion and get away to my vacation home too - if I could afford it. I just wouldn't claim that I'm saving the planet from a death sentence while doing it.) The logistics required to produce a blockbuster movie are staggering - yet they use them time and again, to line their pockets.
Actions speak louder than words; you say it's a problem, but your behavior tells us otherwise.
Speaking of lining one's pockets…
Hollywood is greatly concerned with the topic of income inequality. I mean, it's just not right that women earn 77 cents on the dollar as compared with men! (Well, except for the fact that, in reality, that number was poorly calculated when it first came out, and even that same flawed calculation gives a larger number now.) Yet, Hollywood continues to have very few female leads, and even when they do, there are often also male leads, who are earning double or more for the same film. It may be hard for us to think that there's really that much difference between $5 million and $10 million.
It's not just gender issues, either; at every opportunity, they support government programs to give things away, whether it's medical care, food, or tax exemptions. Of course, it's the government giving this things away, not them; compared to more conservative parts of the country, charitable contributions are low. In fact, what often passes for “charity” in Hollywood are dinners where the actual stars simply show up; the thousands-per-plate prices are paid by the well-connected but lesser-known people.
Plus - these folks amass their millions off the backs of the ~$10 ticket prices paid by average people. As a generally free-market guy, I'm not faulting them for extracting the value they believe society places on their craft. It does seem to me, though, they could be a bit more magnanimous instead of deriding the very people whose money has given them such a comfortable and fabulous life.
There is one place where actress salaries outpace actor salaries - the adult film industry. Which leads us to…
We'll talk about Weinstein, et. al. - but let's look at some history first. For years, decades, Hollywood has ridiculed those of us who have bemoaned the increasing vulgarity and explicit sexuality, telling us that a) it was artistically necessary to advance their story; b) it's just a fictional story; and c) lighten up, you prudes! Now, I am not unaware of the balancing act between showing enough for people to get the point and not becoming gratuitous (this doesn't apply exclusively to sexual content). If two people are kissing at the end of a date, the screen fades to black, and the next scene are them both in PJs at the breakfast table - does that not advance the story just as much as an extended scene with nudity, thrusting, and noises?
Traditional sexual morality has never been Hollywood's interest. At times, the portrayals are setups to show the negative consequences of those actions; more frequently, they're either just straight titillation, or they're done by characters for whom we're now rooting. Their private lives mirror their art; in fact, the term “Hollywood marriage” describes a union of two beautiful people which will only last until the next opportunity comes along.
The “casting couch” has become legend, and enterprising women decided that they could use their assets to break through that way, literally sleeping their way to the top. It's a terrible thing to spell out that way, but facts are often terrible. Hollywood is not alone in this scenario; business, politics, and sports also have their stories of powerful men who used women for their own pleasure, maybe with the promise of preferential treatment or advancement. I'm glad that they are starting to see that this is a bad deal, but are you the ones telling us conservatives that we have a “War on Women” because we don't want the government to pay for killing a baby in a woman's womb?
I doubt anyone from Hollywood is reading this, and it's already longer than I'd set out to write, so I'll wrap this up here. I'm glad that a lot of people are coming forward to tell their stories and condemn Harvey Weinstein; it would mean a whole lot more if they had done so before it became trendy to do so. In summary, here's how I see the recent action taken by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:
An organization, whose members still include Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby, decided to expel Harvey Weinstein.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Daniel J. Summers
These thoughts all center around issues of our current discussions on race relations, Confederate memorials, etc.
People who are not neo-Nazis or white supremacists all believe that they hold to morally reprehensible views. White people who miss an incident and do not immediately decry it should not be assumed to be “with them.” Their numbers are quite small, and while they are being more vocal as of late, we should be thankful they are few.
Lots of folks are opposed to the concepts of “white power,” “white supremacy,” or “white pride.” Lots of folks also find it nearly as reprehensible when you change “white” to any other term. Diversity is great, but our current iteration seems to be focused on our differences more than our similarities; it should rather be focused on a richer unity.
You can be against white supremacists, and against Antifa. You can even believe that we'd all be better off if everyone just stayed home and did things in a way that wouldn't so easily escalate to violence. And, you can be assured that if you felt the president's initial remarks were a strong rebuke, you're not alone.
It would be a lot easier for some of us to be more vocal if we didn't have this false duality, where to be against one “side” aligns yourself with other. The left has proved themselves the biggest group of sore winners in the world, and any sort of firm, quick “win” in this area will just embolden them to mob-rule their way on top of whatever the next grievous ill they determine. (“THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” - yes, that's why the founders gave us a republic, if we can keep it...)
I do not believe that race relations, nationwide, are nearly as bad as they're made out to be whenever these flash points arrive. Regular people should not buy into the divisiveness an excessive focus on these issues can bring; rather, we should each make positive steps to be friendly, understanding, and helpful. Seek out similarities, don't point out differences.
The same people who sneeringly chide that Antifa is the good guys, because “you're supposed to be anti-fascist,” don't see to see the irony of massing against an event called a “free speech rally.” Of course, the main issues are a) just because you're prone to violence doesn't mean you're legally allowed to stamp out fascists; and b) who decides who is a fascist? Ditto for the Southern Poverty Law Center and “hate groups;” their lists have long ago outstretched the credulity of any fair-minded individual.
I wonder if, now that our country has recently seen how distasteful racism is, if people understand why Tea Party members were so bothered by that same (proved unfounded) allegation? I wonder if anyone feels that they owe them an apology?
(Some of you may recognize this format as one used by the highly-esteemed and, sadly, now-retired Thomas Sowell. The above is an homage to him and his pithy insights he would share from time to time. Do a search for “thomas sowell random thoughts” if you want to be enlightened.)
We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union; and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact, easier, to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these states have even been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these states and the Union; and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without, into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.
...I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife & to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.