Thursday, July 16, 2015

Planned Parenthood: The New Confederacy

Photo credit: USA Today
When I was about ten years old, my family attended Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The dinner show took place in a huge barn, where guests ate greasy food with their fingers and watched a dramatic display of stunt riding and antebellum fashion, to the backdrop of bluegrass. It was Southernness exaggerated, packaged, and monetized on an enormous scale. The guests were filtered to either side of the arena, based on place of origin. Yankees on one side; Johnny Rebs on the other. My family sat with the Confederates, and booed whenever the boys in blue galloped across the arena. Our Yankee opponents did the same as the Confederates appeared. It was fun, all in good humor, and in retrospect, more than a little obscene.

150 years ago, 600,000 men were slaughtered in a conflict which concerned the forced enslavement of 12.5 million human beings. The Dixie Stampede reduced that conflict to the level of a football game.

I didn't notice, because I didn't think about it very seriously. I wasn't alone. Southerners are quick to defend the confederate flag, because to them, it means a football game and not a war. Ask them to defend the flag, and they'll talk your ear off. Ask them where Antietam is, and they'll say, "What?" If you didn't know, the battle of Antietam was the single bloodiest day in the history of the United States.

Up until recently, a football team was all the Confederacy meant to me. It was just one of those things that came with being Southern - it was rebellious and funny and gave us a sense of pride. But with age, and the constant stream of racial violence on the news, I had to come to the same realization many To Kill a Mockingbird fans have lately: something I love, which speaks to me of old world romance and nostalgia, is probably way more complicated.

The most persuasive argument, for me, came from the fellow conservatives and Christians that I respect (accompanied by my own research into the horror of historical slavery). Dislike of the flag and the Confederacy comes not merely from liberal African Americans, but from conservative blacks as well. Republican commentator Alfonzo Rachel emphasized that, for the Right, allying ourselves with a historical Democrat symbol was a bad move - and that if we really want harmony between the races, we would discard a symbol of racial strife and oppression. Another African American conservative points out:
No one is saying the United States is without blood on its hands, and I don't have some oversimplified idea of the Civil War and racial relations. There were slave owners/sympathizers in the North and abolitionists in the South. There were black slave owners. But the fact remains that the Confederacy is a part of our past, and not exactly the nicest part. If we hope to foster healthy relationships, clinging to something that has such painful connotations for so many Americans in the name of "my rights" probably isn't the best approach.
And the flag isn't just a Civil War symbol; it was embraced widely during the Jim Crow era. The confederate flag in the South Carolina Statehouse, removed in the wake of the racial shooting in Charleston (by Republican governor, female person of color, Nikki Haley), was only erected in 1961, at the height of the civil rights movement. Coincidence? Of course not.

In the last month I've seen more people flying the confederate flag than I have in my entire lifetime here in Appalachia. The front page of our local paper showed a picture of half a dozen chunky white dudes waving the flag. Facebook friends posted the usual "my rights are being infringed" rants, to general applause. I found the whole thing painful, and felt bad for our local African American population. I was out of step with co-workers and friends who defended their "Southern heritage." And I got a bit of a glimpse of what our black brothers and sisters feel like, living among us.

Should the flag be legal? Of course. But, to quote G.K. Chesterton, “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

Weeks later, Chesterton's words came to mind again, when the Planned Parenthood video broke. If you've been living under a rock, or only follow the mainstream media, the story is this: a pro-life group caught Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood senior director of medical services, discussing how she harvests organs from aborted babies. The group, Center for Medical Progress, used a hidden camera to film a nearly 3-hour lunch, and then pared it down to a single 8-minute clip (to those complaining about "selective editing," check out the full video, it's available and tells the same story.)

In between bites of salad and gulps of wine, Dr. Nucatola clinically described the process of removing organs from a fetus: "We've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver because we know that, I'm not going to crush that part."

While the MSM lagged on its reporting, once the story did break, they'd had time to assemble rebuttals. Salon coldbloodedly published a defense of Planned Parenthood with this outrageously misleading title: "What the Planned Parenthood hoax really proves: Right-wing extremists have no qualms about destroying peoples’ lives." Salon's argument was basically this: what Nucatola did was legal, and therefore conservatives are terrible for getting upset.

Do not be fooled. Do not let them euphemize this. When they substitute "legal transfer of money" for "buying," and "intact specimen" or "tissue" for "organ," do not accept it. To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it. Nucatola talks, offhandedly, about the process through which she kills a child, uses an ultrasound to see what she's doing, and crushes body parts around the organ she wishes to remove. And Planned Parenthood has apologized for Nucatola's "tone," not her words or actions. They know very well the importance of using the right euphemisms. When you're crushing a baby, make sure you discuss the act with medical language.
Nucatola: I’d say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps....So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.... 
Nucatola: Some people want lower extremities too, which, that’s simple. That’s easy. I don’t know what they’re doing with it, I guess if they want muscle. 
Buyer: Yeah. A dime a dozen. 
Nucatola: Mhm.
Planned Parenthood, like the Confederacy, is built on other things than one particular sin. But both of these diseases - slavery and abortion - have grown to infect everything the organizations stand for. Both now hold the legacy of killing millions of black Americans. One continues its grisly trade today. It's time for conservatives - and everyone else - to abandon both.

Conservatives cannot allow regional pride to overcome a desire for racial reconciliation. Liberals care about the oppression of innocents which occurred 150 years ago (good!); they must stop the oppression which occurs today. Unless we all recognize the need to empathize with the suffering, to look past the calm and logical lies which paper over atrocity, then Dylann Roof and Deborah Nucatola will be the names carved on our nation's tombstone.



  1. I don't really care either way about the Confederate flag, but my younger brother and sister are upset that the flag is slowly being taken away. I was curious to know why they were so wound up about it and asked my brother. According to him the Confederate flag has lost its original meaning after all this time and has been adopted by rebels, people who use it to remind themselves and everyone else not to tolerate government oppression.
    A lot of changes have been made over the years by the government as they slowly try to take away certain freedoms we have taken for granted and I think the main reason why people (at least those I am associated with) are so upset about this issue is because this is yet another thing our government is taking away from us.

    1. Obviously, to the African Americans I quote in the article, the flag does retain much of its original meaning, and reminds them of an incredibly painful time within living memory. The flag was actively identified with Jim Crow during the 60s and 70s - many people are still living who were there during that time. As Christians, I think it is entirely unconscionable for us to elevate our Southern pride above our sensitivity towards our black brothers and sisters.

      Paul explicitly commands us to abandon our pride on this issue:

      I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died....Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble."

      Now, as a conservative, I believe that identifying myself with the rebel flag probably won't do much to back up my claim that I'm not a racist. Republicans are frequently accused of it - taking up a symbol of it is unhelpful at the very least.

      Lastly, if it really is a symbol of rebellion against the government, why aren't they knocking down our doors to get it? The issue was only ever about the removal of the flag from government property, not from private ownership. Furthermore, the Confederate government was actually an oppressive government. It forced people to fight for it, violated people's individual rights, and built itself on the foundation of one of the most inhumane trades known to man.

      If we want to rebel, what's wrong with the "Don't Tread on Me" flag?

    2. To be honest, I have no idea why people would use the Confederate flag over the "Don't Tread on Me" one. It would make more sense to me. In spite of the liberties our current president has taken we are still supposed to be a nation governed by the people and the president is suppose to follow the Constitution set down by our Founding Fathers. Even though we are slowly morphing into the very thing we sought to get away from when the colonies broke away from England the government is technically not allowed to start knocking on doors and taking away certain items just because they might represent a rebellion.
      Addressing what you said about the removal of the flag from government property; that is not the only thing they are doing. A few days ago, Kentucky decided they weren't going to print the Confederate symbol on any merchandise anymore and ebay and amazon both are no longer allowed to sell any Confederate merchandise other than what had already been listed by individual sellers. So I would say that they are actually trying to do more than do away with the flag on government property.
      As for the flag itself, I agree that the south during the Civil War was the oppressive side and had they won our country would be considerably different than it is now.
      Contrary to popular belief the Civil War was not about slavery. It was about the United States splitting apart. Abraham Lincoln foresaw that, that could lead to disaster. We were still a young nation and had we been split apart at the time other countries surrounding us could have taken advantage of the panic and confusion the separation would have probably brought.
      I do agree that as humans and Christians we should do everything we can to try to eliminate racism (that includes abandoning our pride), but I don't see how getting rid of a flag that has been part of our history will help. History, even the painful parts, are there as a reminder to better ourselves.
      I know a few African Americans I have the highest respect for. They are hard working, dedicated people; however, a large percentage of the black population believe the white people owe them and expect us to fall over ourselves to accommodate them. As long as this percentage keeps believing that racism will never end.
      People need to realize that black people were not the only ones mistreated. When the Irish first came to America they were not allowed to have most jobs. A lot of them ended up working on railroads for almost next to no pay. They were not allowed to go to restaurants or other public places and yet you don't hear them talking about how we need to get rid of railroads because it brings back painful memories.
      The best way to be rid of racism once and for all is for both parties to let the past hurts go and move on from there, striving to make a better future for other generations.

    3. Actually, Amazon removed the confederate flag themselves. I don't think Ebay has enforced a ban, but either way, these are voluntary acts. There is no coercion, and it was their right to do it.

      And while I disagree that the Civil War was not about slavery (I've heard the arguments for and against, done my own research, and concluded slavery was the primary motivation), that's really beside the point here. I don't think the flag should be expunged as a piece of history - I just think we shouldn't take it as representing ourselves now.

      Also, sure, there was plenty of persecution going around - but none quite as brutal as that towards blacks. Nor as recent - the Irish - as far as I know - were not persecuted through the 60s and in some places onwards. The anti-flag movement gained new strength after the murder of nine in Charleston. I don't think Dylann Roof represents the entire South - but embracing his flag won't convince anyone different.

  2. Some people wave the Nazi flag... their hearts are truly full of hate for other races. As for most who support the confederate flag, I truly believe it's just a southern heritage sort of thing. Dukes of Hazzard, country music like Alabama and southern rock like Lynard Skynard... not that these are any of my own favorites, but the confederate flag has been displayed in such venues for quite a long time.... there is a confederate flag flying about 100 feet high over that mill in Rural Retreat, Virginia. And that wasn't there before all of this fuss started. :o

    I predicted that the movement to erase the confederate flag from view in America would have the opposite effect. You'd see them everywhere... and so now we do. Americans don't like being told what to do. We did the same thing when the libs wanted to take our guns... we just bought more. And more. And ammo. Lots of ammo. :)

    I don't display a confederate flag because I don't want to upset those who would be upset by it. But my first thought when I see one isn't that "that person is a racist." If you take away that symbol, will racial healing follow? I'm sure we all know better than that. The small percentages of blacks and whites who want to hate each other will find a way, with or without flags.

    I think the confederate flag debacle is much larger than an alleged issue of racism. I think there is what I would call a "northern elitist mindset" that has always looked down on southern culture. That flag--like it or not--is as much a part of southern culture as fried chicken and sweet iced tea. These elitists don't like us, or anything about us, and they don't see the confederate flag so much as an outright symbol of racism; they see it as a symbol of... "us" :(

    1. I think that's partly true. Honestly, I think Northerners don't realize how, for many Southerners, the flag doesn't refer to the confederacy at all (like I said, most are historically illiterate). It's become something different. But God forbid my Southern nostalgia hinder the Gospel. Now that the whole flag thing has passed, I don't feel quite as strongly as I did, but in the moment, right after the slaughter of fellow Christians within the walls of their church, I just felt disgusted watching people buying flags and flaunting them around town only a few days after the shooting. And, of course, it hardly helps the conservative cause. Guns are an essential pillar of freedom - the confederate flag is merely a nostalgic symbol of a certain subset of Americans. If we truly want unity with our black brethren, why embrace a symbol of division?


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