These are serious issues, Mr. Linkins

>> Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hello all,

Be warned that this post is a bit of a departure from normal fare on this blog and I’m not bothering with the disclaimers that I normally include. If you are normal reader of this blog, just imagine the balancing (hopefully) disclaimers I usually include.

I read the Huffington Post pretty much daily. I admit that it’s a fun and engaging site, even if I disagree with most of the views and opinions of their writers and bloggers, and I enjoy the intellectual stimulation and insight into opposing views available on Huffington Post. There is also a good deal of content on the site that I am careful to skirt due to appropriateness issues, which is a disclaimer I am throwing in.

Anyway, while reading yesterday, I ran across a story about controversial statements recently made by former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum. The story includes an imbedded video of the actual comments themselves as well as a brief debate between Santorum and Al Sharpton on the Sean Hannity show. The video is worth listening to if you have 6 minutes and 59 seconds of extra time. The subject of this post though is a different article, this one by Jason Linkins. I should preface this by saying that I have never enjoyed or really read Linkins’ articles as they have never struck me as worthwhile. But this one caught my eye because of its title.

“Santorum Abortion Remark Spurs Incomplete Discussion”

Hmmmm... That got my attention. What could he be referring to?

What I read made me mad. I don’t often get angry by what people write as I accept it as a fact of life that people don’t always agree with me (which is both good and bad) and are sometimes deeply misguided; but Linkins post conveys callousness towards life that is deeply appalling. If you will bear with me, I would like to break down the relevant portions of his article by sentences and paragraphs. The rest of the article, the parts I am not breaking down, is a largely useless and snarky summation of why Santorum would say what he said. You can read it here though if you would like to see the entire context.

“Got that? In case it didn't sink in, Klein summarizes it all thusly: "Now, once again, you may not believe that a fetus is a person--but if you do, as Santorum does, this is a perfectly reasonable argument, an argument against limiting the civil rights of anyone according to race or life status."

This portion is basically summing up Joel Klein’s summation of Santorum’s beliefs regarding life. It’s a reasonable and fair summation, for which both Klein and Linkins deserve credit, though I hate to give credit for things I would expect of any decent journalist and/or opinion writer.

“Yes, okay. But I'll tell you what it isn't. It isn't a "reasonable argument" against "limiting the civil rights of anyone according" to gender. To all the people falling all over themselves to assert the fact that Santorum really believes what he says and that there are others that agree with him -- two facts that no one has actually disputed -- I'll remind you that there actually exists a sizable portion of the population who have consistently made a "reasonable argument" that women are neither chattel nor brood-mares, and that Santorum's non-alignment with that argument is what makes him a radical.”

I know something else nobody has disputed – that women are not “broodmares”. What pro-life advocate has ever said anything remotely similar to that? The closest you can get to that is the very, very small portion of the population that believes large families (i.e. as large as possible) are essentially a biblically mandate and even that is more than a considerable stretch reality. But that portion of the population is so small that it barely registers on the radar. Pro-life advocates as a group believe life begins at conception. That’s it. Being pro-life has nothing to do with making women “broodmares” and there is nothing approaching any kind of consensus among pro-life advocates concerning family size. If Linkins does not know that he has no business writing on the subject. Additionally, Linkins’ assertion that Santorum believes women to be broodmares is absurd.

“Additionally, it shouldn't be overlooked that if we're comparing fetuses to slaves, we're equating women with amoral slaveowners, and elevating the rights of the fetus over those of the woman to choose whether to proceed with a pregnancy that has significant medical risks above and beyond the actual act of parenting.”

Actually, we’re comparing slaves’ God given human rights to unborn babies God given human rights and concluding they are the same. Linkins just summed up Klein’s summary of the pro-life belief that “fetuses” are fully human and thus deserving of basic human rights so you would expect him to grasp this nuance. I guess he just doesn’t understand that we are elevating the right of one human (the fetus) to the same level as the rights of another’s (the mother).

I know people like Linkins scoff and rage at this sort of statement, but women do have reproductive rights and freedom – the freedom to reproduce or not to reproduce. To confuse that right with the “right” to terminate the life of a human is the tragic confusion of abortion advocates.

In closing his article, Linkins makes this bold and unyieldingly principled statement.

“I just wanted there to be at least one blog post on the Internet that sort of considered those matters worthy of discussion, okay?”

Wow. What would we do without this courageous cultural crusader?

Look, people can and do (obviously) disagree on such matters as the beginning of life, women’s rights, and the role of government in protecting both. All of these are very serious issues that demand and deserve very serious treatment. Santorum at least treats these issues with the gravity they deserve, while Linkins does anything but, despite his apparent conviction to the contrary. I don’t expect there will ever be strong consensus on the aforementioned issues, but I am fully convinced that voices such as Linkins will only impede good and grave thinking on these crucial life and death issues.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Censor Huckleberry Finn?

>> Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hello all,

Normally I don’t write posts “off the cuff” as I am doing now, but I was dismayed this evening to learn that NewSouth Books’ upcoming edition of Mark Twain’s 'Huckleberry Finn' will be edited to remove the “N-word” and replace it with “slave” and will do the same to an upcoming edition of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'. The new edition will also remove the word “injun” though I have not heard and am not sure what it will be replaced with (I presume it will be something obvious like “Indian”).

What I don’t want to do is overreact. I realize this may have a limited impact for some time to come if it has a significant impact at all, but at the same time I think this has potential to be very significant in our educational system by promoting and charting a new “course” and means of writing and learning history that would be severely detrimental to learning. In my estimation, it should therefore be treated as significant.

One of the big themes in Huckleberry Finn (if not the primary “take away” lesson/theme) is the silliness, wrongheadedness and moral indefensibility of race based discrimination. Racism imbeds itself into cultures in both subtle and not-subtle ways and in obviously wrong and marginally wrong ways. Terms and labels are often used by a group or groups to demean other people...though such terms and labels in and of themselves might otherwise be harmless. In the case and times of Huckleberry Finn both the terms “nigger” and “injun” were demeaning terms that denoted the slavery, segregation and racism of the times. Jim, the enslaved (runaway slave) Negro friend of Huckleberry Finn represents a class of people who at that time were widely enslaved and treated as less than human physically and - perhaps worse yet - viewed consciously and sub-consciously as inferior beings to their "masters". Terms such as "nigger" are largely born of the conscious and sub-conscious varieties of racism and commonly associated with it...which is why such terms are always a sensitive matter.

As Huckleberry and Jim grow in friendship throughout the story Huckleberry begins more and more to see and view Jim in his true light - not as a “nigger” - but as a human, as a friend and as an equal. For his part, Jim proves himself to be the deepest and truest sort of friend (John 15:13) and by the end of the story both Huckleberry and the reader are struck by the silliness and wrongness of the term “nigger” and - more precisely - what it represented. To remove the cultural words and connotations of the time would be to remove the essence of Jim and his role in the story.

Huckleberry Finn is a carefully crafted masterpiece that does more than tell a good story. But, if we expunge the terms and cultural context of the time how are we to learn from our past? And, if we don’t learn from our past, how are we not doomed to repeat our mistakes?

All this being said…I haven’t even touched the censorship issue and that issue is deserving of much discussion.

I neither doubt nor question the good intentions of NewSouth Books’. No doubt many will question and analyze them and their motives and cast aspersions on them. I don’t wish to do that though. I believe their decision is wrong irrespective of their good or bad intentions and I hope their reasoning does not become a trend. We must not sugar coat history. It is what it is and we are foolish to take offense by it. We should learn from it, and learn from its fullness, even when it is ugly.

In closing - Anderson Cooper conducted an excellent interview (in my opinion) on his show that I am linking and recommend you watch. I don’t necessarily agree with all that is said, but it is worth viewing nonetheless.

New Edition of 'Huckleberry Finn' to lose the N-word

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


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