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taste-my-wrathO’s pitcher Koji Uehara was forced to leave the game yesterday after three innings due to dehydration.  Okay, it was pretty hot in D.C. yesterday, where the Orioles were playing, and we did win the game and all…but could we please teach the O’s coaching staff how to say, “Hey, have a cup of water,” in Japanese?

Onto other matters: I was listening to a discussion on Nominally Public Radio about the hullaballoo over President Obama’s address at Notre Dame.  The usual balance stunt was in effect: a member of the faculty for the neutral stance (he was obviously in favor of Obama’s speech, but was very carefully asked neutral-seeming questions in an effort to bleach out his viewpoint), a Catholic activist for the antis, and – all together now! – E.J. Dionne for the liberals.  (As an aside, can we just buy that man a sign that says “LIBERAL ELITE” and have him wear it on every single channel?  Good thing that the MSM is so independent and all.)

Anyway, the interesting part popped up when the conservative – a Catholic who’d written some books and been named to one of the Pope’s citizen boards or something – was delivering the predictable rebuttal.  The quote came out something like, “We’re sorry that Notre Dame chose to welcome someone with such a poor record on human rights.”  (Emphasis mine.)

Dionne of course missed it, but I immediately realized that the anti-abortionists now have yet another frame.  They’ve even borrowed a liberal one – rather broad-minded of them.  And if Dionne wasn’t sticking to the lib-elite script and being polite so he knew that he’d get invited back to NPR instead of, say, Jerry Springer, he’d be able to connect the dots to the nascent forms of the movement, and its unfortunate, underlying hypocrisy.

Now before we start, there are three things.  First, despite the fact that the Orioles won, I’m in a lousy mood, so this might be, um, a bit more direct, let’s say, than I might usually be.  Hey, I told you that if I didn’t get the coffee, things were gonna be ugly…

Second, frame-borrowing, even from the other side, isn’t a new or amazing practice; witness, for example, the liberals’ criticism of Dubya for his military record.  Someone who dodged military service would otherwise be a liberal hero, because, well, liberals don’t like marching off and killing people for proto-fascist reasons, but they were more than willing to point out that W was a bad guy for not doing exactly that during his service.  Of course, there’s one major difference here, and that is hypocrisy.  When you are waddling around on an aircraft carrier deck as the big, brave kicker of Muzz-lee-im terr’ist butts, the fact that you welched out on your country earlier and got away with it because you’re a privileged white preppie is just a bit…yeah.  When the conservatives change frames, more often than not, they’re marching right in the opposite direction, happily embracing the raging contradictions of their stated positions without a hint of irony, which I’ll get to in a second.  The actual positions – the ones below the stated ones – don’t really change, but they can’t really let them out to play too much in polite company.  (Okay, David Duke did, but he’s an exception.)  I mean, sure, everyone knows what they are – witness the crowds at a Sarah Palin rally – but the guys actually delivering the speeches can’t say them.  Darn those lib-uh-rulls.

Third and finally, I do feel I should back off on the Catholics concerning this particular issue.  While the foregoing applies to conservatives in general, the Catholic community really does seem to have a particular slant on the issue that absolves them.  They don’t mind going to the “other side” if the Pope announces that he’s against war, or against the death penalty.  Granted, they seem to have caved on this particular frame, but they haven’t quite landed themselves in the same category as the rest of the Neanderthals on this issue.

So, yeah, if you’re Catholic, this article applies…but not with as much snark.

Okay…with that as prologue, let’s examine the anti-abortion movement over time.

Fact is, at the start, there was no “pro-life” movement.  Those who were opposed to abortion were opposed to it on religious grounds, period, end-of-sentence.  Those who were married didn’t get abortions; ergo, abortions were out of wedlock, and therefore, it was a matter of sin.  Those who did such wicked things were expected (by those who didn’t do them, natch) to be burdened with the wages of their sin.  That was, for the most part, it.  The baby itself wasn’t even a consideration in this matter…it was about the mother, and more specifically, about the mother’s (and father’s, to a much lesser extent) moral fibre.  Not her life, or her well-being.  After all, she should have thought of that before she sinned against Jesus by sleeping with that man that wasn’t her husband.

Unfortunately, I do not have the sources to back me up on this, but it’s easily enough checked by examining the media of the time: the term “pro-life” didn’t particularly emerge until the 1970s.  It was adapted thanks to a need for a new frame, and a response of a very deliberate re-frame.  The Sixties saw the rise of cheap and available contraception and the Sexual Revolution.  Anti-abortionists responded by attacking The Pill – a perfectly acceptable and in-character response, given their actual beliefs, but not a very effective one, as it exposed them as a bunch of reactionary anti-sex fuddy-duddies who didn’t keep up with the changing times.  The few remaining leaders of the movement met in Washington – the state, not the city – and deliberately chose the term “pro-life” as theirs, refocusing away from their true beliefs to a secondary but much more politically palatable alternative, with the added bonus of demonizing their leftist opponents.  (Again, I don’t have the source where I heard this, but do trust me on this one.  I ain’t gettin’ paid for this…it’s opinion.)

It worked like a charm.  The GOP picked up a pro-life plank, Reagan got elected, and things went swimmingly except for that naughty Supreme Court.  But that was okay – legal justification based on the new frame was being marshalled.

The problem then developed with the burgeoning neo-con war and the conservative “tough on crime” canard that for the most part, pro-lifers aren’t really, um, pro-life.  They’re pro some lives, sure; little babies are cute, after all, but if they grow up to become soldiers, and our country sends them off to die…well, that’s okay, then.  Or if they’re one of the countless number of brown people that happen to be living where we’re invading at the time – no problem with them dying.  Or if they do something really bad in our own country, and happen to be the wrong color, and the government decides they have to die – they’re all for it.  Heck, some of the pro-life conservatives didn’t even go as far as the babies thing: fetuses were okay, and needed protection from Uncle Sam…but once they were born?  Heck, that was your problem then.  Assistance?  In keeping your child alive?  What are you, some crummy welfare mother?

There were even some (Mike Huckabee comes to mind) who were suggesting that if people really were “pro-life”, they would start supporting some of these initiatives so that those who were born would really have lives once they were born.  This of course couldn’t stand – it wasn’t punishing the people who had babies enough (remember what the original cause was?), and when people in the conservative movement take off the armbands and start thinking about what they’re doing instead…then buddy, it’s time for another re-frame.

And what a frame they’ve now got.  Granted, things are coming apart on the GOP side pretty egregiously nowadays, but the thought of a micro-mind like James Inhofe or Mitch McConnell using “human rights” in a sentence would send me screaming for the exit of this funhouse.

As I noted, the Catholics are not comfortable members of the conservative “movement” anyway, and they do pay attention to human rights, so I’m not as boggled there.  But for the more numerous, Palinesque GOPers out there, you wonder what’s coming next.


3 Responses

  1. “The Sixties saw the rise of cheap and available contraception and the Sexual Revolution. Anti-abortionists responded by attacking The Pill – a perfectly acceptable and in-character response, given their actual beliefs, but not a very effective one, as it exposed them as a bunch of reactionary anti-sex fuddy-duddies who didn’t keep up with the changing times.”

    Question: What do you think of the late ’60s sexual revolution? More good than bad? More bad than good?

    Seems a bit hypocritical to me to decry the Greed is Good 1980s narcissism, and then make excuses for the If It Feels Good, Do It 1960s/70s narcissism. I’m not saying there weren’t side benefits to the sexual revolution – the equality of women obviously being the biggie – but the cost seems to have been pretty high as well. Ah well, that’s just a side point anyway.

    To your overall point:

    I can agree with you half-way. You’re right about the hypocrisy of the pro-lifers who care nothing about poverty, unnecessary war, anything else that might also reasonably be considered “pro-life.” I honestly can’t even make sense of them.

    Other than that, I have a hard time buying your premise that a) because the term “pro-life” came out of some Luntzian group reacting to the “fuddy-duddie” label; that b) there were in fact no pro-lifers pre-1970-something. I know several pro-lifers, and not one of ’em fits the Old Scold caricature you put forth. They must’ve really been brainwashed by that re-branding effort – so much so they actually believe they care about life, and aren’t aware that they only care about punishing sinners and that “factoring” the baby in is just a matter of marketing.

    Other notes:

    1. You and I will never find common ground in our image of the Right, will we? To you, they’re forever the townies in Deliverance; to me, an endless parade of Uncle Moneybags (himself a depiction of Mark Hanna, but that’s a whole other story…)

    2. Don’t pick on E.J. I grant you he’s not the most original thinker, but he’s one of the good guys. Unlike most members of the Liberal Elite, he actually likes people. He has less snark and more sincerity, you know?

    3. My goodness – just pick Koji up off the waiver wires and get past your little man-crush on him.

  2. Actually, I was going to make a comment here about conservative bedrock issues boiling down to “That’s not raht, Bubba,” with what “raht” is being defined solely by what they feel at that moment, based on whatever was around them that did or didn’t scare them…but I did realize as long as you were with the Dems, I couldn’t just say that the conservatives did that.

    Fact is, your version of the Republican Party is now quite dead, so no wonder you think you’ve won. The real party wouldn’t be anywhere near as dangerous without the fact that millions of brain-damaged legions are wearing their armbands. That continues, unfortunately, and it’s what we have to worry about in 2012 and beyond.

  3. My version of the Republicans = Uncle Moneybags. How exactly is that part of the Republican Party “quite dead?” Cause, maybe it’s just me, but the fact that the RNC just passed a resolution condemning the Democrats “march to socialism” kinda hints at their priorities.

    By the way, you didn’t answer the other stuff. I am interested to know your take on the sexual revolution. It’s Memorial Day and I have that Greatest Generation vibe going… doesn’t really mesh well with an appreciation of self-indulgence and identity-seeking. Hedonists. Just ain’t raht.

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