Friday 13 May 2022

Struggling Upwards For America’s Soul.

Justice Denied: At the heart of the “Pro-Life” cause was something much darker than conservative religious dogma, or even the oppressive designs of “The Patriarchy”. The enduring motivation – which dares not declare itself openly – is the paranoid conviction of male white supremacists that if “their” women are given personal control of their wombs, then white Americans will soon be “outbred” by Blacks and Hispanics.

THIS IS WHERE it was always bound to end: at the base, not the summit, of the political pyramid. The acceptance of racial equality. The recognition of a woman’s right to choose. These are battles that have to be won on the ground and in the ballot boxes, not at the Supreme Court Of The United States.

Dr Martin Luther King understood this necessity better than most of his white supporters. The whole point of his campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience was to produce not only political but spiritual transformation.

Nonviolence certainly ennobles those who practice it, but of equal importance is the impact on those who resist its objectives. Against the hardened shells of unrepentant racists the disciplined sacrifice of the civil rights activists make no impression. But these lost souls are fewer in number than many reformers suppose.

What many knee-jerk racists saw happening in the streets and at lunch counters across the South gave them pause. It made them think. And when they learned about the children killed in the Birmingham bombing, it made them ashamed.

This was precisely the response Dr King was hoping to evoke. The fight he was engaged in was for the souls of the whites who had been raised to see African-Americans as something less than truly human. He knew the battle for racial equality would never be won until his movement had made the process of dehumanisation morally repugnant – not only to decent America, but also to its indecent bigots. Only when these ‘good ole boys’ no longer had the stomach for repression would the Civil War finally be over.

The great tragedy of the Civil Rights Movement was that it required a measure of patience and forbearance beyond the reach of all but a handful of very special human-beings. The race-riots of the mid-Sixties: in Watts, Detroit and Newark; were catastrophic to Dr King’s cause. “Burn, baby, burn!” let White America off the hook. The violence and destruction, no matter how egregiously provoked by racist police officers, reconfirmed all the old racial prejudices.

Ultimately, Dr King’s moral struggle failed. Supreme Court rulings might compel racism to adapt, but they could not kill it.

Something very similar happened in relation to the struggle for the right of women to control their own fertility. The protagonists for abortion never truly plumbed the depths of their opponents’ determination to overturn the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision, referred to simply as “Roe v. Wade”, which decriminalised terminations in the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy.

At the heart of the “Pro-Life” cause was something much darker than conservative religious dogma, or even the oppressive designs of “The Patriarchy”. The enduring motivation – which dares not declare itself openly – is the paranoid conviction of male white supremacists that if “their” women are given personal control of their wombs, then white Americans will soon be “outbred” by Blacks and Hispanics.

The family size of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants has been steadily shrinking for generations. The United States of America, which these “WASPs” regard as their own, could not be permitted to fall under the sway of ethnicities typically producing larger families. Not for nothing did the Far-Right demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, greet Black, Hispanic and Jewish counter-demonstrators with chants of: “You will not replace us!”

It is surely instructive that the legal grounds for protecting American women’s right to abortion is located in the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Passed by Congress in 1866, this amendment guaranteed the bodily liberty of America’s former slaves, along with the “equal protection of the laws”.

The Supreme Court has found that without individual privacy, individual liberty is rendered legally unintelligible. Private decisions about what we do with our bodies, and who we choose to perform those acts with, cannot be the proper business of federal and state legislators.

To revoke Roe v. Wade not only strikes at the heart of women’s freedom, but at the bodily freedom of all Americans.

To “breed” slaves it was necessary to impose a tyranny of terrifying intimacy. Neither the womb, nor the child that issued from it, belonged to the female slave. White Supremacy’s need for this intimate tyranny endures, extending now to the wombs of all American women. With the Supreme Court under its sway, the struggle for America’s soul must toil upwards.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 13 May 2022.


David George said...

I've no idea how widespread "if “their” women are given personal control of their wombs, then white Americans will soon be “outbred” thinking is Chris but a check of abortions by ethnicity shows the African Americans (34% of live births) having them at over triple the rates of European Americans (12%). The rates of abortion overall have declined quite dramatically in any case but particularly among European Americans - from about 27% of live births in 1980 to just 12% now.
Perhaps the good ole boys need to read some stats or, perhaps, you're just making up a story to fit.

Tim said...

In what sort of fantasy world are you living, Chris? Instead of taking some of the stated reasons, you impute something that most of the pro-life folks would regard as totally absurd. I challenge you to watch American-Spanish pentecostal channels or read Spanish magazines in America beyond those praised by the progressives. You would find that a lot of the pro-life folk in America are Hispanic women.

I have to admit that many conservatives in the US are somewhat dense and have somehow not realised that their greatest allies are among the Hispanics in many respects. Many conservatives in their fear of change and foreigners have driven away the Hispanic population from their causes. But in a cause such as this they are fairly united.

I think you are right that such an issue is not decided by Supreme Court edicts, but in the hearts and imagination of the people. I would guess that overall the progressives have won that issue in the US and this will only be a brief victory for the pro-life crowd. But I don't think that the main holdouts of pro-life sentiment will be among angry white folk, but rather among traditional Hispanics.

David Stone said...

This argument acknowledges the rights of only one of the lives involved in this often tragic and traumatic and common human experience. There are two at least involved.
I would not vote against the right to a woman choosing to have an abortion in the early stages of her pregnancy , but I do not agree with pretending that a life did not exist. This is a misrepresentation of the facts and the most likely person to feel the consequences is the woman herself. It is a very serious decision to make and though it is fashionable to dismiss it, only some women are likely to be able to do this successfully. Others will never put it behind them, always there will be a vague memory of the little creature they chose not to give life to. This i believe is the worst aspect of an abortion, not the preempting of a life that may never have made it all the way anyway, but the potential long lasting psychological effect on the mother.And no amount of rationalisation is likely to cure that in the quiet and privacy of the future consciousness .
This is not to contradict the various background motives put forward here for why the judgement was made.

Archduke Piccolo said...

Who was it said that the success of non-violent protest was predicated upon the people people being protested against as having a conscience? That this is by no means a given might be demonstrated by the murder of an Al Jazeera journalist, Sherin Abu Aqla, by an Israeli sniper, and the sequels (yes, plural) of that murder: Israeli denial, Israeli pretense, Israeli attacks upon the mourners.

That is a mere microcosm - an example - of conscienceless authority that has placed itself above all morality, all decency, all law. The United States' socio-political 'elites' have been practising their own conscienceless and parasitic empire building globally since at least 1990. It was a mere matter of time before they battened upon the US population at large. This goes far beyond mere authoritarianism - so far, withal, that I doubt that the English language has yet a word to compass its meaning.

The blow that has led to the cleavage of the US nation was not administered from below; it is part and parcel of the US programme of divide and rule. The blow that has cloven US society in two has been administered from above - deliberately, and with malice aforethought.

Ion A. Dowman

The Barron said...

I think Tim has a fundamental misread of Chris' thesis. The American WASP conservatives are anti-choice in the same way as they are anti-immigration. It is a fear of loosing control.

Throughout the 1960s and into the 70s, most evangelical commentators, pastors and magazines were at best neutral on the subject of abortion. It was perceived as a Catholic anachronism. It was not a biblical subject.

Ancient Jewish biblical law saw both the mother and the fetus as the property of the father. If another man was in a fight during which a pregnant woman was hit or knocked over causing miscarriage, compensation was given to the woman's husband as a loss of property, not as a loss of life. If a woman was pregnant and suspected of adulatory, the temple priests would force her to drink poisons, which included a written incarnation and dust from the temple floor. If she died or miscarried, it was an indictment from Yahweh. Any view that Biblical law gave any personhood on a fetus is unstained.

As Mark Twain said, "the best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible", and most evangelical do not realize they are slavishly following the view of Pope Gregory XIV in 1591 which was likely more about Catholic demographics competing with post-Luther movements.

Abortion has become a touchstone issue for American WASP conservatives for the reason Chris has put forward, the fear they are no longer able to be in control. This includes the control over women's independent spheres, including over their own bodies, control over others sexual preference and practice, control over others gender identity, control over the ethnic and 'colour' make up of the communities and the political power that derives from equity. It is about control over others, politically, financially and bodily.

The Hispanic vote is diverse, with only 55% of American Hispanics now identifying as Catholic. While Tim is correct that Hispanic evangelical identification is growing, it is not at the same speed as religiously unaffiliated. Most Catholic countries free of state institutional support for the Catholic church, have liberalized abortion law. But the real issue is, the politicalisation of the abortion issue is advocated by many of the same people that wish the suppression of Hispanic numbers, language and culture.

That Alito quotes Sir Matthew Hale in his decision demonstrates the desperation for control. As Propublica describes Hale 'a 17th-century jurist who conceived the notion that husbands can’t be prosecuted for raping their wives, who sentenced women to death as “witches,” and whose misogyny stood out even in his time.' I really think people should hesitate using terms such as 'pro-life' when drawing from someone who was responsible for women being hung as witches -

“That there were such creatures as witches he made no doubt at all; for first, the scriptures had affirmed so much. Secondly, the wisdom of all nations had provided laws against such persons, which is an argument of their confidence of such a crime.”

Hales' views on abortion had no previous jurisprudence, Biblical or scientific basis it was 'plucked out of thin air'. His view on woman was they were contracted by marriage for sex, and marital rape was therefore impossible. Hales has been the basis of anti-abortion and anti-woman law in the white Anglo-Saxon world. Surely we have accepted bodily autonomy of women three and a half centuries later.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"In a sample of teenagers who obtained pregnancy tests in 1985–1986, those who terminated a pregnancy were no more likely to have psychological problems two years later than were those who had not been pregnant or had gone on to give birth. In fact, they experienced less negative psychological change than the others."

So no David, as is so often the case you are not necessarily correct.

It was I who made the comment about nonviolent protest Ion. I'm not quite sure why you mentioned it, but I couldn't make head nor tail of the remainder of your paragraph, sorry.
The rest I certainly agree with.

DS said...

Some points:

(i) WASP refers to Northern Whites. Not Southern, who have quite a different culture. Your typical WASP conservative is basically the hold-out of pro-choice Republicans.

(ii) "My body my choice" absolutism gets you anti-vaxx nutters. There is substantial room for nuance in social policy.

(iii) Regardless of what one thinks of abortion, the leap of logic required to get you from the Fourteenth Amendment to Roe v. Wade is incredibly sketchy. So sketchy that the best analogy might be Lochner v. New York, where the Supreme Court decided that "life, liberty, or property without due process of law" meant an inalienable freedom of contract that could not be invaded by things like work-regulations and minimum wages.

(iv) The Democrats (and liberal Republicans) have had half a century to pass an actual law, rather than relying on one sketchy legal case.

(v) Abortion is one of those issues where perfectly reasonable people might disagree, without necessarily being White Supremacists. Pro-life Democrats are most certainly a thing. Frankly, the bigger outrage is that the very state legislatures so keen on criminalising abortion have zero interest in financially supporting young mothers.

Barry said...

Chris - I saw a T shirt which appealed to my sense of humour. It said "I might be wrong but its very highly unlikely".

The reasons you extol above come under this sort of saying " I might be right but its highly unlikely".

My attitude to local largesse being handed out to Maori and tax advantages ( waitangi payouts income are untaxed) and cogovernence etc are of no concern. Maori are not getting educated well enough to take advantage of the largesse.
The same applies in the US. Blacks are escuing education, some saying education is racist.... . They might become a larger percentage but at current education levels they will remain an underclass.

Barry said...

Lee Kuan Yew said that when he took over Singapore - a grubby crime hell hole at the time - his objective was to get the population educated and to give them a good health system.
The result shows the importance of education.
Without LKY Singapore would be a small indonesia - corrupt and lergly lawless

Tim said...

Hi "The Barron". A few days ago Chris argued that people hold to pro-life opinions due to their irrational religious beliefs. Now he says that it is due to their desire to retain a white majority. Those two only go together with lots of difficulty and to me it seems more that Chris is looking for all sorts of angles to attack these positions, ascribing motivations to causes, which clearly have not been expressed by a significant portion of those advocating those causes. Maybe I could concur with the conclusion that there are many different reasons that people are pro-life. That's undoubtedly true. But he seems to say that (twice) he has found the underlying reason for pro-life opinions. In a complex world such simplification is normally wrong and serves mainly to demonize the other.

I agree that many people hold pro-life convictions due to religious beliefs. And many hold pro-life convictions due to political tribalism. Some do it out of expediency no doubt. But what you and Chris are doing is essentially conspiracy theory, seeing a cabal of blood-sucking WASPs around every corner. The strange thing then is that their ideology is taken up by the very people they do not want it to be taken up: the Hispanic foreigners. If the white majority is to be maintained, why then is it expressed in terms and actions that would significantly increase the Hispanic population?

Hispanic culture in America is more influenced by explicit pro-life opinions than in Latin America. After all it also reflects the cultural currents around it with its polarisation. Certainly, anyone who has connections into Hispanic American culture is aware how deeply it runs, from my experience more so than in white groups (even white conservatives).

I wonder who in the USA Chris is talking to, what shows and books he is reading (including in Spanish) to come to such a conclusion.

greywarbler said...

As Mark Twain said, "the best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible", and most evangelical do not realize they are slavishly following the view of Pope Gregory XIV in 1591 which was likely more about Catholic demographics competing with post-Luther movements.

That's a good one Mark Twain for PM. Damn he's dead. Reminds me of Marx saying that he wasn't a Marxist. Perhaps Christians, so called, are way off the mark, which mightn't be a cross after all. Only the good die young. (Read about Norman Kirk in Saturday's stiff - sorry Freudian slip - in recent obituary in Stuff - for Meates. Quite a lot of political high-jumps in his life besides rugby.)

Charles Pigden said...

To Archduke Piccolo. One person who said this was Bertrand Russell. See pp 430-431 in the one volume edition of his Autobiography