We are all blind, or cowards

When I first started writing for this paper about ten years ago, my editor told me that I had a good sense for what was newsworthy and to just go with my gut. As anyone who has ever sent me a nasty email knows, I never had a problem doing that. But it occurs to me that even I, a woman with her nose to the newsworthy grindstone, have gotten lazy. Perhaps it’s because so many important things have been happening lately, from the death of the great Margaret Thatcher to the election of a new Pope to the courageous efforts of Pat Toomey to bring common sense to the gun debate to the eardrum-shattering roar of the gay marriage debate. It’s hard to focus on what’s critical when so many things are competing for attention. And yet. There is a horror show going on right in front of us, and we aren’t even blinking. There is a story so gruesome and vile, so inhuman and repellent that if it were a video game we’d have to put parental guidance warnings on the package. But here, in the city of brother love, no warnings are really necessary because-and this is the sickest part of all-no one is really paying all that much attention. Of course I am talking about the Kermit Gosnell trial. Sure, this paper and its sister have been carrying articles about the judicial proceedings, some of them even on the front page. And sure, there have been a few pro-life opeds printed to balance out the ridiculous whitewash that usually comes from the pro-choice side about ‘safe, legal and rare.’ But where is the daily drumbeat of editorials criticizing society for allowing this type of butchery to happen on our watch? Where are the marches, the senate hearings, the pleas for a stop to the violence? We spend days and months talking about gun control, and in the wake of Newtown that’s completely justifiable, but we remain essentially silent in the face of another sort of infanticide. We talk about justice for immigrants, and given the current defective system that ‘s completely justifiable, but we remain mute in the face of another sort of injustice. We talk about the right for people to get married because they love each other, and given the landmark Supreme Court debates that’s justifiable, but we close our eyes to a civil rights violation that makes the inability to marry look like an oversight. Kermit Gosnell murdered babies. He beheaded them. He crushed their skulls. He severed their spinal chords. He left their broken bodies on tables, like pieces of spoiling meat. He looked at the vessels of God and saw trash. And we in Philadelphia say ‘tsk, tsk, how messy.’ We shake our heads and divert attention from the carnage in our midst by saying that it’s an issue of women’s safety. That is, in fact, the case. It is an issue of women’s safety. But to focus only on the mother here is to surrender that part of ourselves that defines humanity. The Quakers talk about keeping people ‘in the light,’ and I’ve always admired that beautiful and poetic phrasing because it calls to mind the battle that we do each day between good and evil. To me, a non-Quaker, keeping someone in the light means keeping them close to the grace of God, and acknowledging how much they matter. We failed these babies when we turned our eyes from them years ago, allowing Gosnell to butcher their bodies and extinguish that light within them. We continue to fail them today by not talking, every day, on every radio show and in every newspaper column and on every television program about the massacre in West Philadelphia. Some people may not want to do this, because they feel that it would somehow play into the hands of the pro-life movement and impinge on a woman’s right to choose. Choose abortion, that is. The sad truth is that nothing that we say or do will stop legalized abortion from being the default position of this country. Forty years on from Roe, it will be nearly impossible to overturn a decision that never should have been decided in the first place, jurisprudential fraud that it is. What we can do is recognize that there are some things that even those who promote a woman’s reproductive freedom must fight against, must raise their voices in anger at, must push against with all of their might as human beings. And that is what happened in Kermit Gosnell’s chamber of horrors. We need to acknowledge that what happened there was evil, and that it is not an anomaly. It is not Bill Clinton’s ‘rare.’ It is a part of Philadephia history. And unless we pay attention, unless we stare into that bloody horror, it will be our future.

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