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DEMOLISHING STEREOTYPES

by | Feb 1, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

Dave Andrusko, NRL News Today editor

Dave Andrusko, NRL News Today editor

Leading up to (and now subsequent to) the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, one of the best received features at NRL News Today has been our look back at stories appearing in NRL News going back to the newspapers’ origins in 1973. The following is from the July 18, 1996 edition. If you are not a subscriber to NRL News, please call us at 202-626-8828.

“The [NRLC] convention is a window into the mechanics of a grassroots movement that is growing in both sophistication and impact.” — Chicago tribune, July 2

“The threat [!] of non-traditional political groups is posed less by their message than by their mastery of grassroots organizing techniques at a time when such techniques have largely been abandoned by the established political parties… [G]rassroots politics may well provide the margin of victory in close elections.” — Campaigns & Elections, July issue

One weakness common to most scribes is that we are prone to over-interpret every “sign.” On that score (as you will see momentarily), I plead guilty.  Yet I just knew something special was in the air—literally—when I boarded my plane for NRLC ’96 and again moments after I arrived in Nashville.

It was an ugly day; rain was already coming down at a brisk pace at Washington National airport.  In an attempt to get ahead of incoming inclement weather, the tower was giving priority takeoff to those planes headed toward the Midwest. As a result we cooled our jets for over an hour.

Sitting next to me all this time was a woman who (one glance could have told me) clearly dreaded flying in the first place, hated the wait, and was already spooked at the prospect of trying to negotiate angry storm clouds at 30,000 feet.  However, I was initially oblivious to all this, for I had my head buried in a book about abortion.  As it happens, it was written by a group of pro-life Methodists, some of whom were identified as pastors on the dust jacket.

Looking anxiously around, my neighbor’s gaze eventually fell upon my book.  Operating, I guess, on the theory of any port in a storm, she cleared her throat to ask (in a voice that clearly was seeking an affirmative response), “Are you a theologian?”

I laughed, said no, and we began to talk.  Did I then launch into a lengthy pro-life discourse? No.  We made reassuring small talk, and in those few minutes it was easy to tell that she  unwound and was markedly less nervous not only when we took off but also throughout the occasionally bumpy flight.

As we prepared to deplane, she asked me where I was going.  To the National Right to Life Convention, I replied.  There was a slight pause.  As her brain shifted between stereotype and what her first-hand experience had just shown her, you could almost hear the gears grinding.  Her face all but telegraphed the thought, “Hmm, he doesn’t seem so bad.”  An instant later, the decision made, she relaxed into an easy smile: “Have a good convention.”

Earth-shattering?  Hardly, but an awfully good omen, don’t you think?  Less than an hour later I was introduced to a reporter from a national publication at the hotel.  After we shook hands he mentioned that on the flight in, he had read the entire last issue of NRL News.  In a voice that combined sincerity with just a hint of amazement, he said, “You’re a very good writer.” 

Do I tell you this to stroke my ego?  No; his comments were overly generous.  Rather, this is worth reporting as foretaste—a sign, if you will—of the media coverage that was to come.  Reporters discarded their usual strategy of fixating on some juicy diversionary morsel.

[What followed were three possible explanations why, at least for this one NRLC Convention, we received half-way decent coverage; and a few words about the Supreme Court’s 1986 Thornburgh v. ACOG decision. Then…]

For those reporters who stayed around for the entire convention , they learned that pro-lifers are a particularly sensitive, caring people, well acquainted with pain and sorrow yet unwilling to give in to despair.  As we gathered, Robert Powell, NRLC’s vice president, only 45 years old, had just passed away.  The wife of an executive director of an NRLC affiliate, her body already wracked with cancer, had just discovered it had spread to her brain.  She is the mother of three.  Then, only one day into the convention, one of the women who had an exhibition booth miscarried at 17 weeks – the second baby she had lost in eight months.

Our hearts grieving, we all prayed for her, her family, and her baby.  None of us pretended to know why God allowed the annihilation of 33 million helpless babies.  We just continue to attempt to be a vehicle of reconciliation to end the slaughter.  For our part, we are driven by the knowledge that everything we do on our behalf of the children must be undertaken in a spirit of love and compassion.  Without these ingredients, our labors will be in vain for, as Dr. Jean Garton told us, angry people don’t make converts. …

You might say that America today is like a ship upon the ocean, caught in a terrible storm.  Our gyroscope has been broken by the chief petty officer, the rudder of our vessel bent by the first mate, and the maps we use to guide us have been soaked beyond recognition by the captain.  Yet despite all this, many of the passengers refuse to acknowledge that they are utterly lost at sea.

But however many deny the obvious, that doesn’t change one thing: it is up to the passengers to save the day—not the first mate, whom we must give the boot to; not the chief petty officer, who must be disciplined; not the captain, who must be replaced.  You understand this and because you do we need not flee to the lifeboats.

Instead, because of your unwavering help and loving guidance, one day our vessel will return safely to port.  And when it does a grateful nation will pour out its gratitude to a gallant band of everyday people whose steadfast witness saved America in her darkest hour.

If you like, join those who are following me on Twitter at twitter.com/daveha. Please send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com.  

Categories: Pro-Lifers