We live in an age of antagonism, where half of the population is set aggressively against that which the other half of the population holds dear, You name it: Tea Party vs. Occupy, religious vs. non-religious, or Apple vs. Android, people everywhere seem to have hunkered down into the trenches. Which trench you are in depends upon whether you are with “Us” or with “Them”.
So, you can imagine my delight a couple of weeks ago when I came across an issue that breaks out of this pattern and unites us all. Everyone agrees that Jared is a [insert here a derogatory term that colorfully describes him as an awful person]. Everyone knows Jared, who has joined the ranks of those known well enough to get by on a single name. He is the likable former hometown hero who lost lots of weight during his years at Indiana University by eating nothing but Subway sandwiches. He was then able to parlay his accomplishment into the kind of lucrative career that made us all proud of him, if a touch envious at the same time.
Well, it recently came to light that Jared seems to have made a habit of collecting child pornography and of engaging in sex with underage girls. All at once, the popular pitchman became a pariah to one and all. My purpose here is not to continue piling onto Jared, who is in quite enough trouble as it is. Instead, my purpose is to recall how everyone in the civilized world joined into a unified chorus of disdain and disgust once the news of his activities became public.
One thing, however, occurred to me. This summer has also brought the revelation that Planned Parenthood has been systematically engaging in the harvesting and sale of organs and other body parts of aborted babies. We are not talking first few weeks of gestation kind of babies, but the kind that are quite well along in their development, right down to their beating hearts. For all of the ink and video devoted to this topic, the reaction of the public and the press has been a lot more of our typical “Us vs. Them” than was the case with Jared. And I have been trying to figure out why.
It seems to me that both situations involve adults using children for their own purposes, and with no regard at all for the childrens’ well being. Am I missing something? Because in one case, the howls of outrage come from all corners of society. In the other, however, the disgust seems restricted to the usual suspects who are generally anti-abortion, a group that does not typically include the press. I am trying to figure out the reason for the difference.
It can’t be the age of the child. With Jared, the younger the children involved in the activity, the louder the outrage. Presumably because the younger the children, the less able they are to defend themselves. But with PP, the victims are the very youngest, those who rely most completely on the adults in their very, very new lives.
It also cannot be the level of harm done. There is no doubt that using a child for sexually explicit pictures or, even worse, as an object for gratification, is horribly harmful to the victim. This is undoubtedly why child exploitation is one of the few remaining taboos in our society, which is increasingly devoid of behavioral guardrails. But isn’t the killing of a child another of those taboos? I realize that those victimized by the porno-industrial complex have a very difficult way back into any sort of a normal life (if they make their way back at all). But those who are killed would seem to have even worse odds.
It also cannot be the scale. Jared may be what we once so quaintly called a pervert, but he is only one guy, and even one guy can do only so much harm. And while he may have been in league with some others to bring his plans into actions, this was still a small and isolated pattern of activity. But I have lost count of the numbers involved in the PP organ-harvesting thing, which has been shown to be not an isolated incident, but a systematic project involving PP facilities across the United States.
I realize that whenever the topic of Planned Parenthood or abortion come up, a commonly heard refrain is about the mother’s right to control of her own body. But doesn’t this refrain predate the modern science that has proven that a child in development is a unique being with his or her own DNA, rather than just a “blob of the mother’s tissue”? That, along with modern ultrasound technology, have made clear that these cases involve two lives, not just one. Other than in cases involving a risk to the mother’s health, why do we so quickly wade into balancing the costs/benefits/worth of those two lives? Those of us in normal society would never, ever do such a thing in Jared’s case.
As to why there is such a division of opinion in the case of Planned Parenthood’s recycling business, I can come up with only this difference. Pretty much no normal human being will ever say, even if inwardly, “I shouldn’t be too hard on child porn or exploitation because there could come a day when I or someone I love may feel the need to exploit one of those kids just like Jared Fogle did.” Normal people do not say this because it would be revolting. But normal people, I believe, do bring this attitude to the abortion discussion every day. Our society has worked awfully hard over the last forty or fifty years to separate sex from child-bearing. Goodness knows, there has to be some kind of backstop in case the contraception fails. “Having a baby would ruin my/your/our life”. There has to be a way to “just get rid of it” so that I/You/We can just move on. Whether this attitude is the result of selfishness, or perhaps more commonly desperation or despair, normal people of childbearing years and their families can and do harbor such sentiments.
And even less understandable are the acts of the abortion provider, who instead of simply getting its nasty business over with as quickly and as safely as possible, carefully manages the situation for a maximum number of intact organs and other parts, in order to receive a pre-agreed payment. It is not hard to see the potential for exploitation of the abortion patient in addition to that of the unwitting young donor.
Both situations seem to me to be cases where one or more adults regard children as mere things, whose value is measured by whether or not the adults in their lives find them useful. Where Jared can waive the poor abused minor away after he has had his fill of whatever he gets out of this activity, the abortion involves more of a final solution, at least as to the one life that is terminally affected. Sadly, this utilitarian view of the value of others seems pretty widely held in modern society, and not just in these sad situations.
I realize that this is a controversial topic (at least half of it is) and that the smarter play is to join the chorus in cheering as Jared’s prison sentence is handed down, but then to shut up about the Planned Parenthood videos. But the right thing is not always the smart thing. I have tried to present my thoughts on these topics as thoughtfully and as respectfully as I can, and I trust that those of you who feel called to comment will do so in a similar spirit.
I have read somewhere that a man, when he is at his best, accepts the responsibility to stand up and protect those who cannot protect themselves. Sometimes, that kind of protection is popular, as when we do what we can to protect children from exploitation by those like Jared. But other times, that kind of protection is not very popular at all. But isn’t that when it is the most needed?