NRL News

A Small Band of Rememberers

by | Oct 24, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

typewriterAs part of our year-long “Roe at 40” series, we’re reprinting stories that have appeared going back to 1973 in National Right to Life News. This account appeared in the September 1999, edition. The Beloit College survey mentioned in the beginning continues to this day. We need to be reminded often what are the points of reference for younger people in order to best reach them with the message of Life.

“Police said that [Sean] Steele, the baby’s father, told Barbara Watkins they would go shopping together August 26 for baby clothes but instead he strangled her and left her body in the woods.”  —  In re: the death of 15-year-old “Bobbie” Watkins, allegedly murdered when she refused to abort her baby.

Like you, perhaps, several months ago I read a news account that was simultaneously amusing and alarming. It seems that the administrators at Wisconsin’s Beloit College want the faculty to immerse themselves in the truth that (as the story explained) “the majority of freshmen on campus this year were born in 1981.”

Overwhelmingly, these young people had never owned a record player, never dialed a rotary phone, didn’t have the foggiest idea what a “breadbox” is, or ever took a swim and thought about Jaws. John Paul II is the only pope they have ever known and Jay Leno the only host of The Tonight Show.

At 18, they were too young to remember the space shuttle Challenger disaster and not only do they not care “Who shot J.R?” they haven’t a clue who J.R. is! [He was a character on “Dallas.”]

Referring to the box office smash of a couple of years back, their response to its basic premise is, “The Titanic was found? I thought we always knew where it was?”

Did your jaw, like mine, drop when you read the list of what these freshmen’s circle of cultural cues does not include? But the admonition of one administrator was very helpful: “It’s a useful way of reminding college professors that the cultural literacy they take for granted is not something they can take for granted in their students” and vice versa.

Likewise, only a tiny percentage of people who will read horrific stories like the one alluded to in the beginning of this column will be jarred by memories of similarly macabre accounts. A chill will run up the spines of this small band of rememberers when they harken back to the 1970s, when, in some cases just months after Roe radically devalued the lives of unborn children, stomach-turning stories began to appear that even today are hard to believe.

Quoting from (where else?) NRL News, “Among the most notorious were experiments in Finland studying metabolism in the living decapitated heads of victims of hysterotomy abortions. Some Americans became aware of these atrocities through a series of articles that appeared in April 1973 in the Washington Post.

“In the United States itself, experimental development of life-support systems of ‘artificial placentas’ made use of premature infants dying from late-term abortions. Other researchers surgically exposed the umbilical cord and injected drugs into the umbilical vein during pregnancy, so perfusion of the drug through the child’s body could be analyzed after an induced abortion.”

Clearly, there is a cycle to the depravity. While it is true there can never be an “up time” when more than a million unborn babies are dying annually, it is no less true that there are especially difficult “down times.” These are the periods in which the savagery seems so completely out of control, that it is as if some malevolent force has crept up unnoticed and sabotaged the brakes.

But, in the early days, when all else failed we still retained (as it were) an emergency brake. Most of us had grown up in a time when unborn babies were welcomed, not abandoned.

However as you look around you can’t help but wonder if we are not suffering from a kind of collective amnesia, a failure to remember even the basics such as compassion for those who are completely and utterly helpless.

In the opening paragraph of his classic, The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton observed, “There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there.” Clearly, in our treatment of unborn babies that is not an option for us, for we have wandered far from home.

“The other,” he wrote, “is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place.” Sometimes it can seem as if we have walked halfway around the world and yet we are as far away from home as we can possibly be.

To some minds, a better imagery than east and west is north and south. For it seems as if we have descended into the nether regions of our souls.

What can we do to help the American people complete the journey back home? Let me answer that by tying together the preceding two ideas.

I am no psychologist and I offer what follows only as a means of trying to think about what we are witnessing. I read somewhere of the “Johari Window,” which is, I gather, a psychological model in which the self is envisioned as a window with four panes. To quote my notes (from where, I don’t know, sorry!),

“The Open self is known to the self and to others; The Hidden self is known to the self but not to others; The Blind self is unknown to the self but known to others; The Unknown self, which lives that Deeper life, is unknown by all.”

When it comes to abortion and the descending spiral of violence, it seems as if we can learn from this description of the third pane. Referring to the Blind self,

“There are things about ourselves which we do not know, but that others can see more clearly; or things we imagine to be true of ourselves for a variety of reasons but that others do not see at all. When others say what they see [in us] in a supportive, responsible way and we are able to hear it, in that way we are able to test the reality of who we are and are able to grow.”

Take this insight and return for a moment to our friends at Beloit. We learn that “the college has developed a 43-item ‘list’ to ease communication between generations that share the same college campus but not necessarily the same frame of reference.” By going through the list, faculty and students alike attempt to find a common realm of language, references, and idioms so that they can dialogue. (What we forget is that if much of what we adults take for granted is “Greek” to college freshmen that is no less true when the tables are turned.)

How does this help us, then, as we experience our culture’s attitude toward unborn babies slip into an ever more cavalier, ever more brutal pattern of dehumanization and depersonalization? It teaches us that we must help Americans address “things about themselves” which they “do not know.”

This requires that pro-lifers like you and me must in a “supportive, responsible way” speak the truth to a people whom I truly believe are far better deep down inside than their outward behavior towards the powerless would suggest.

Why will this work? Because there remains a core of shared values–a “list”– momentarily hijacked by the anti-life forces. But by our example, by our diligence, and by our genuine love for both mother and child, we can return the values of generosity mercy, compassion, and justice back into the home where they belong.

Our task, though immense, is clear. It is restoration. We must restore memory, mercy, and mankind’s reverence for life.

If anyone can do it, let me boldly suggest, it is the marvelous men and women who make up the pro-life movement.

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