The Frustrations of Being a Consistent Life Activist
by Lisa Stiller
I recently attended a rally in support of the people in Charlottesville, Virginia. The previous Saturday a “Unite the Right” rally protesting the removal of statues of Confederate figures had erupted into violence, as one participant plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many. Many Confederate statues were raised in the early 20th century as explicit support of Jim Crow segregation laws and “white supremacy.”
I wanted to be part of a gathering supporting love, respect, and dignity. That seems to me to be a pretty “whole life” issue. Racism and bigotry are an especially insidious form of violence. We all know that racism motivates people to hurt and kill others, and it also does terrible psychological damage. Racism destroys the dignity and sanctity of the human person, injuring its perpetrators as well as its victims.
But those of us who spend much of our time as activists speaking out for so many whole life issues such as health care and housing, and opposition to poverty, the death penalty, and war, find ourselves having to navigate a difficult path when other issues get thrown into the mix.
This is what happened at the rally. Most of the speakers at a rally that had a compassionate, community-oriented tone stuck to the message of intolerance for racism and called on members of our community to support one another. A few people ventured to speak about the influence of unregulated capitalism on racism (and a case can be made for that, as it contributes to the economic inequality that largely targets minorities and women) and the need to support measures that protect human rights.
But when a speaker got up and decided that not only was he going to recite the slogans on the “resistance flag” (pictured below) but have the crowd recite it back to him, I had a momentary feeling that I didn’t belong in this crowd. Most of the flag’s slogans are pretty much benign and support a whole life world view: “All People are Equal,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Immigrants and Refugees are Welcome Here,” and so on. But slogan number six is definitely not whole life: “Women Are in Charge of Their Bodies”.
Bringing support for abortion into a rally addressing racism, bigotry, and intolerance is nothing short of an oxymoron. Supporting the right to take a human life while advocating the need to defend human life from the violence of racism is, to me, counterintuitive.
Also, consider the fact that a very disproportionate number of minority and low-income women have their unborn babies aborted. Also, abortion clinics are most likely to be located in minority and poor neighborhoods. It makes no sense to advocate for the protection of our most vulnerable people, such as low income people and racial minorities and people with disabilities, as well as Jewish and Muslim people who are also targets of hate groups, while affirming the right to kill unborn children, the most voiceless members of our society. And, as our friends at Feminists for Life of America remind us, in the process of taking the lives of unborn children, we are hurting women.
So, as with other rallies and events I go to where I fully support the main issue, I have to find a way, when support for abortion is brought up, to remain “present,” put aside the seething anger, and acknowledge and let go of the discomfort. I have to carry on. And keep looking for ways to send a different message.
The “resistance flag” at the rally.
Our own yard sign, available through Café Press, that those who wish to can use in similar locations to gently counter it.
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