Public officials must be very careful about what they say and when they say it. They naturally try to steer clear of controversial issues, but when they do touch on said issues, they do so in a tactful way, being careful about both the phrasing and the timing in light of recent events. For instance, if (hypothetically) a crazed person were to run into a Scientology function wearing a bomb vest and kill himself and 30 other people, no one could publicly criticize Scientology for at least two months, no matter how ridiculous the whole Xenu bit may seem to them. Any public official violating this unwritten rule would be obliged to immediately issue an apology.
You just have to be careful – even if you are saying something that would normally make your voter base glow with satisfaction.
This is why I am so perplexed about President Obama’s strong language at a recent Planned Parenthood event. He is normally a man who is very good at stepping only on the right toes in the most politically beneficial way. In his speech, though, he collectively criticized all conservative-led efforts on the state level to place limitations on abortions, accusing conservatives of wanting “to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century.” Of course, these words come as no surprise to us: we all knew that he was a strong abortion-rights advocate, and that, unlike his constantly vacillating stance on homosexual marriage, this is something he has been quite solid about. However, in the wake of the media firestorm surrounding the prosecution of Kermit Gosnell, a physician accused of various crimes relating to the deaths of numerous viable babies who had reached a point of development at which they were supposed to be protected by law, one would think that he would have been more careful with his rhetoric. Images of infant body parts being cut off and kept around Gosnell’s practice like trophies – and other such atrocities – should have been enough for even the strongest abortion advocates to take a sudden, shocked breath in response to President Obama’s diatribe.
But President Obama made no gaffes in front of the Planned Parenthood crowd: his address was carefully framed and calculated. And the backlash? Well, the President is hardly feeling a tickle – because there was no media firestorm surrounding Kermit Gosnell. A psychologically imbalanced mother drowns her children, and it is front-page news on every major news website for months. A (supposedly) sane physician knowingly takes the lives of many human beings in his care – children who have developed enough to be wrapped in a blanket and taken home – and no one is even reporting on it except FoxNews. And this is because, in some twisted logic, our society has decided that anyone who has a problem with delivering a viable, moving, feeling, breathing child into the world and then cutting that child’s spinal cord with scissors is obviously a hater of women and should not be regarded as an enlightened human being. CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and CBS do not report on the Gosnell case because, like our President, they feel that it is a woman’s right to create a human life with a heartbeat and a nervous system that responds to stimuli and carry that life for seven, eight, or nine months – only to then have someone take scissors or a scalpel to “it” and scrape “it” out like a tumor.
When I was a child, my English teacher assigned The Giver to us as required reading. That short novel chronicled a medication-balanced dystopia of bicycles and sameness in which real human emotions were chemically and socially subdued in an effort to avert or ignore real human problems. The most gripping image of just how far the fake heaven has fallen comes when the protagonist sees what happens to imperfect newborns behind closed doors: they are injected with a life-terminating drug and thrown away in a neat white box. This grisly revelation leads to the protagonist’s complete abandonment of everything he has been taught to love and trust – in an effort to save another newborn from the same fate.
Like the protagonist of that book, I stand agape and wonder: Have we really fallen this far? Can it be true that our media and our President flatly ignore something that easily constitutes the most heinous of atrocities – out of fear that they may lose ratings or political supporters? In their advocacy of what they call compassion and tolerance, how can they be so callous toward the most vulnerable members of the human race? As we progress toward what we believe to be enlightenment, to what extent are we forsaking the best parts of human nature and carrying the worst parts along with us? When we reach that destination – whatever it may be – will we read the books of generations past and realize that we have become the very monsters of whom they spoke?
When we stand to be judged, we will have to answer not only for any young voices that we have silenced before they could speak, but also for our own silence. And when we do so – when we look our victims in the eyes – we will again be silent, knowing that our petty excuses mean nothing.