Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I've been remiss

I should really have written something -- anything -- about the murder of George Tiller. But others have said it better, and it's not like the Internet lacks for commentary.

I suppose the one thing I'd say is that America has been, is, and will continue to be a country where terrorism works. It worked to reverse the tender shoots of racial equality post-Civil War. It worked to keep southern blacks out of any positions of power for generations. It is working today to deny poor women the right to choose the fate of their own bodies. (Wealthy women will continue to have options when their Republican husbands leave the poor none.)

Even moderate conservatives have been pretty atrocious in the last few days. When you can't even make an unconditional declaration that murder in church is bad you've really lost the plot. But it's the hypocrisy that really angers me, as it angers Fred Clark here:
Such condemnations seem to be self-refuting. How can they condemn men like Hill or Roeder just for taking their own arguments seriously?

Paul Hill argued that abortion was the moral equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust -- just like the National Right to Life Committee, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and dozens of other evangelical groups said it was. If that's true, Hill said, then he wasn't merely justified, but obligated to take up arms against abortionists. If you're confronted with an evil equal in magnitude to that of Adolf Hitler -- as all these groups insisted was the case -- then surely one is obliged to do more than vote Republican every four years in the hopes of one day appointing enough judges to change the law of the land. Confronted with what all of these groups assured him was the Holocaust, he decided to become Claus von Stauffenberg.

Yet when Hill repeated their own argument and their own rhetoric back to them, these groups all recoiled.
They all claimed to share Hill's premise, but not to share his conclusion. That won't work. Hill's violent conclusion arose logically from that shared premise. If he was a madman to be condemned -- as all those groups suddenly insisted he was -- it was because of the madness of that premise. So how was it possible they could repudiate him without also repudiating that rhetoric that compelled him to act?

What I realized then, in 1994, as I watched these groups line up to condemn violence against "mass-murderers" and to renounce armed opposition to "the Holocaust," was that these folks didn't really mean any of it. They were horrified by the spectacle of someone taking their own rhetoric and arguments seriously. "We don't really mean anything we say," these groups rushed to announce. "We don't really believe any of that."

And since they no longer bothered to claim they believed it, I stopped trying to believe it too.
You cannot regularly compare your political opponents to Nazis, mass-murderers, and genocidaires and then demand that the rest of us believe your words are without consequence.

And this isn't over. Listen to this video, especially starting at 05:15 :

The same voices that are cheering Tiller's death in private will cheer the next death, and the next one, and the next one.

1 comment:

Steve Muhlberger said...

Well, I'm glad you posted the video.