Of Planned Parenthood and the NRA

This is likely to offend, even anger, almost everyone. Such is the predicament in which we find ourselves — entrenched, heavily defended, convinced of the rightness of our own position. I once tried to raise this topic in a casual weekend gathering of liberal-leaning friends (of which most of our friends tend to be). Wow, I was shut down in no uncertain terms! Even I know when to shut up.

But I simply cannot keep quiet. The question continues to haunt me, perplex me, goad me. Be assured, I restate it here with real trepidation. Perhaps in the protective security on my own blog I can express it safely in a manner that is inviting rather than incendiary. Perhaps from the privacy of your own space you will be better prepared to entertain the same question with civility and curiosity.

Here is the rough, raw and unrestrained way the question finds itself expressed in the private recesses of my brain: “Is Planned Parenthood to the Left what the NRA is to the Right?” Or, for the sake of fair, unbiased representation: “Is the NRA to the Right what Planned Parenthood is to the Left?”

Here’s another way the question has presented itself, “How can we defend a woman’s very personal and unfettered right to end a pregnancy and not equally defend the unrestricted right of every American to bear arms for personal defense and the protection of one’s family?” I’d really like to know.

It feels like it is apostasy deserving of shunning and expulsion to voice any position other than the absolute, ultra-orthodox position of one’s own ideological subgroup. Neither side of the polarity seems willing to concede any restriction or hint of compromise. Somehow such intransigence and conviction — about any issue on which good people disagree — just doesn’t sit right with me.

When I tossed this question out at the party with my liberal friends you would have thought I’d betrayed women, exposed myself to be grossly ignorant or deserted to the dark-side. But the question hasn’t gone away. I’d really like to have a mature, mutually respectful conversation about our values, convictions and moral beliefs.

As a nation we seem wholly incapable and unwilling to engage in respectful dialogue with anyone other than those who espouse our very same predispositions. I leave too many gatherings of such like-minded friends reminded of a hamster running madly in its squeaking wheel — like a whole lot of energy has been expended getting nowhere with nothing to show for it but a lot of repetitive noise.

Its far too late in the game to ask how we got ourselves into this predicament. It’s time to start listening to voices other than our own and truly hearing what is being said. We either get ourselves out of our entrenched, heavily defended “correctness” — of whatever stripe — or I truly fear for the future of our democracy.

The way all this finds expression in the private machinations of my brain is often an exasperated, God help us!

4 thoughts on “Of Planned Parenthood and the NRA

  1. I recently heard someone quote Michael Moore as having said that since the mass murders here in America have all been committed by men, the answer is simple. Let women have guns and don’t let men have guns. Hmmm. That means women would be in charge of “life”? Would it help if we dig deeper than either/or social, political, and religious stances?

  2. Well put (and in many fewer words)! Sadly, I fear most Americans don’t see any need to “dig deeper” than their staunchly held, socially sanctioned and self-serving presuppositions. Why change when you know you are right! As I wrote, God help us!

  3. Richard, your question is fair enough to ask and ponder and I definitely see where you are coming from. You might find the book I am currently reading, which was recommended by Matt, quite helpful in understanding the underlying explanations of how we got where we are now. It is “The Righteous Mind” with this subtitle “Why good people are divided by politics and religion” by Jonathan Haidt. Maybe we can talk about it further when I come out in May.

  4. I had something of a similar insight recently. After hearing at mass during the prayers of the faithful the same prayer every day, namely, “for an end to Planned Parenthood,” I had the insight that these people praying this daily prayer are the Catholic Church’s Tea Party, no different from that Party, the NRA or Planned Parenthood. They appear to have no appreciation of all the good Planned Parenthood does for women’s reproductive health. These “faithful” are sincerely opposed to Planned Parenthood’s absolutist stance on abortion (like the absolutist, uncompromising stance, as you point out, that is true for the NRA and Planned Parenthood or visa versa). Yet, wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if their prayer was instead for the conversion of those in Planned Parenthood: that they come to a full appreciation (whatever that means) of the dignity of life from womb to tomb, rather than want the entire organization simply eliminated? Couldn’t a similar prayer be used for the NRA? Your analysis is right on, therefore, Richard. Thanks. Also I was happy to hear Marilyn’s mention of Jonathan Haidt. It is on my list. I did read his earlier 2006 book, “The Happiness Hypothesis.” Excellent. I suspect that book sets the stage for this later book, given his introduction of the helpful metaphor to describe our minds as being composed of an elephant and a rider. His understanding that our mind has these two pulls provides an insight, I think, into why many do not “dig deeper” – the elephant is in charge.

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