What do we do next?

I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing this post. On the one hand, I know what I want to suggest. I want to say, we should protest against the murder cheerleaders. We should show them that they are alone, that they are beyond the pale, that they do not have our support, not even in our most private thoughts.

The trouble is, I can’t figure out whether it would help or not.

In my experience, genuinely peaceful pro-lifers can and do issue condemnations all day long and it doesn’t make a bit of difference to the pro-violence wing. They hate us and consider us traitors. They don’t care what we say about them, and they sure as hell won’t listen. In fact, being denounced by other abortion opponents just serves to highlight to them how much purer they are than everyone else. As janinedm puts it, “for a certain type of person, the rhetoric gets to the point that the nonviolent approach is also a form of treason and the violence is as much about spiritual purging as it is about the achievement of certain ends.”

So, I’m at a loss. How do you stop people over whom you have no authority and with whom you have no credibility? Nonetheless, we need to try. I’ve seen pro-lifers object to the notion that we have a special responsibility to stop this kind of violence, because it’s not the fault of people who speak and act peacefully. I say that something doesn’t have to be your fault to be your problem.

I’ve been thinking of writing to the leaders of the pro-life organizations I belong to and asking them to institute a policy stating that anyone who condones anti-abortion violence is not welcome as a member or a donor. I don’t imagine too many advocates of violence are interested in belonging to PLAGAL or Consistent Life anyway, but it would set an example.

I’m still going to do this, but I’m not sure how much of an effect it will have.

Several commenters in the previous thread had suggestions for action:
* Catherine brought up the possibility of donating to Tiller’s church.
* Marysia suggested donating to organizations working against handgun violence.
* Gwendolyn thought that pro-lifers should hold anti-violence vigils.

What are your thoughts?

16 thoughts on “What do we do next?

  1. The “murder cheerleaders” are a very small part of the Pro-life community. In my experience those who say they condone violence fall into two groups: the first are those who don’t really support violence but might think or say violent things due to emotional frustration at the widespread violence of abortion. The second would be those who actually believe that violent vigilante justice is the proper response to abortion.

    The actual believers in violence are a miniscule fraction of the pro-life community. They may not listen to other pro-lifers, but they also have little or no influence or relevance. The fact that there have been only a few (although horrible) violent acts in so many decades of Pro-life activism actually testifies to the peacefulness of the movement. They are like the last of the diehard racists, they will die out long before we convert them. Our duty is to denounce them when they act violently and encourage they be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But spending too much of our energies on such a tiny minority is likely counter-productive to the cause of promoting life–talking about them makes them feel relevant. Like any other terrorist their violence seeks attention.

    The more common sort of pro-violence pro-lifer, does need to be confronted. They may say inflammatory things, but it is more of an emotional response to the tragedy of abortion. Like the peace protesters that say they wish someone would assassinate Bush, they recognize in their heart that their emotional speech contradicts their beliefs and they would be horrified if someone actually does such violence. My mother is such a pro-lifer. Abortion wounded her personally and she might remark Tiller’s murder was justified. (I haven’t spoken to her about it.) Anger is a normal human emotion in the face of injustice, but anger has no place in our advocation of peace and non-violence. I think that the best way to confront these people is to remind them of the peaceful nature of our pro-life ideals. If we demonstrate a commitment to nonviolence as a part of being pro-life I think it will encourage those who are sad and angry of the goodness of what we are doing and they will join us.

    I think that the “Consistent Life” movement within the pro-life community is an excellent example for peace, and serves as an encouragement to other pro-lifers of the right reasons to be pro-life. Perhaps the best thing we can do in response to the violence of Tiller and his killer is to contribute to Consistent Life and increase it’s visibility in the pro-life community

  2. Hi. I’m the SPLASH guy from ‘pro-life non-believers’. I felt like I ought to do something after I heard the news Sunday- so I made this… “http://vitameme.blogspot.com/” I haven’t been online for quite a while, but I remembered that you had a blog and I thought I’d see what you had to say.

    I like that despite the fact that we seem to have some similar views about politics and justice, your mind works differently than mine. It’s very interesting. I’m not surprised then that you ended up writing something very different than what I did. You asked, ‘what can we do?’

    My thinking about what one can do to deter those who endorse violence is pretty straightforward: show them that their actions undermine the movement and actually empower the other side. It may seem so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said, but it must not be obvious to everyone or the attacks wouldn’t occur.

  3. Jonathan:

    I understand that sometimes people say horrible things out of anger and frustration — I too knew people who said they wished George Bush would be assassinated. That’s scary, but I’m less worried about people like that because they can be reached with love and rational arguments. That’s where the denunciations and the discussions of why violence is antithetical to our principles are important.

    If it weren’t for the fact that they enable murder, I would agree that we should ignore the fringe and not give them attention. And in fact, my preferred solution is pretty much shunning — legitimate groups should ban pro-violence people as members and refuse to work with any group that doesn’t do so. We don’t have to name or publicize the cheerleaders in any way to do that. And while it won’t change the minds of the hardcore, I hope that this would at least cut them off from resources and decrease their ability to recruit.

    vitameme: I liked your blog post a lot. I think it’s great that we can approach the issue from such different angles. (And I still owe you an email, don’t I?)

    My thinking about what one can do to deter those who endorse violence is pretty straightforward: show them that their actions undermine the movement and actually empower the other side.

    The problem is that I don’t think they care about any of that. I think that the quote from janinedm in the original post has it about right.

  4. I agree with Jen that even if these homicides and woundings are not our responsibility in the sense that we abhor and oppose these acts profoundly, and would report them to law enforcement if we knew anything that could help prevent a crime: the people who commit these deeds are our problem.

    First of all, in the sense of just very basic human rights and responsibilities. When anyone commits violence, it is a matter of concern to humankind as a whole. Although no one can do everything, it is incumbent on everyone in some way to make it their concern and to help with the prevention and healing of human rights violations.

    This means there are ways we can and should join with prochoicers, asking how we can help to heal the fallout of these crimes, and prevent them from happening again.

    We can certainly reach out to prochoicers and join with them on addressing the systematic causes and effects of gun and other forms of rampant violence. Even as we disagree over whether abortion is such a form of violence.

    That’s one reason why I suggested donations to a handgun control group, because the trafficking in handguns is a big reason why George Tiller and thousands of other Americans, including some of my neighbors, get killed every year.

    In fact we could appeal to both prolife and prochoice to make such donations.

    But there’s another sense in which the advocates of violence against abortion providers are our problem. Whether *we* consider them part of prolife or not, *they* see themselves that way, and prochoicers often see them that way.

    so we are prsented with still further responsibilities. we have to take a good look at ourselves and ask if there are any ways we have, unwitttingly or not, even if only by our inaction, enabled or urged on the violence advocates.

    for example, prochoicers often feel that when prolifers express horror at the provider attacks, it is an insincere and cynical attempt to distance ourselves from the fruits of language that dehumanizes and demonizes prochoicers.

    that bothers me, to be saddled with such horrific deeds i oppose with every fiber of my being…but i feel like i have to get over myself and ask-are prochoicers onto something here?

    if so, what are they onto? and what should prolifers change about themselves in response?

  5. ps I have often thought that the prolife movement as such could stand a good education in peace psychology and nonviolent communication…

  6. Marysia, what about suggesting the latter to Students for Life or NRLC? They could hold workshops at their conventions.

  7. there are ways we can and should join with prochoicers, asking how we can help to heal the fallout of these crimes, and prevent them from happening again.

    Could you elaborate, please? What are good ways that we can reach out? I admit, this is something that scares me, because they are so angry (and rightfully so!). But just because it’s scary doesn’t mean it isn’t right.

  8. re: e-mail- Not at all. I wouldn’t have seen it anyway as I haven’t really been getting online since mid-March. Besides, you did joined the FB page (if I recall).

    re: jaininedm- Ohhh. Your links look different than what I’m used to. I wasn’t sure where the original post was :)

    Well, I still think that the best argument is to tell the person that it is a matter of strategy. If you want to win in the long term, then taking matters into your own hands only moves back the day when winning becomes possible. Given that the number of abortions is about 9 every 4 minutes, making that day sooner rather than later is not a matter of small consequence; it is truly a matter of life and death.

    Violent attacks need to be seen as (assuming the person doesn’t believe in ‘consistent life ethic’) at best a self-indulgent act which is purchased at the cost of more innocent lives.

    If they’re so far gone that they can’t accept that, then they are just consumed with hate and a lust for blood which has little to do with abortion or being pro-life. That’s just their excuse, and it could as easily have been something else. We don’t need to feel any responsibility if that is the case.

  9. Jen, I’d *love* to see peace psychology/nonviolent communication trainings at prolife events. Wonder how to bring that about…

    as for reaching out to prochoicers, just do it, y’all. nothing to be afraid of. just let any anger they might direct at you wash around you and stay focused on the hurt it comes out of…yeah, the character assasination is undeserved, but responding to that anger with love and empathy could only help.

    just say, i’m sorry this happened. what can prolifers who share your horror and outrage at this killing do to help prochoicers so that this doesn’t ever happen again?

    because prolifers are perceived as hatefully self-righteous by definition, humility and openness might be a welcome surprise.

    i just posted something on the naral blog…hope i don’t get trounced…

  10. The more I consider the issue of guns, the more I think that Marysia is on to something. There is no reason that a man with known ties to the Freeman militia, a history of mental illness and instability, and a conviction for carrying bomb-making materials in his car should have had access to that gun. Getting a gun in this country needs to be a bigger pain in the rear than it already is. A group that I had mentioned in another comment, Million Mom March, is working for some commonsense gun regulations that can prevent tragedies like this. This group or someone like it would be a good target for support.

  11. Just want to add (quickly, as we’re about to have dinner), that I’m with Marysia and Gwendolyn on the anti-gun focus. I confess I have no idea if this guy got the gun through legal channels as I haven’t been following his arrest, etc. closely (maybe no one knows yet), but if he did obtain it legally then that’s appalling and shouldn’t be allowed to happen again (…and it wouldn’t hurt the pro-life movement if more of us were known to favor gun control).

  12. Sadly, I don’t think many of the loudest abortion advocates really care what pro-lifers do or say in the response to the slaying of an abortion doctor – they’ll gain more from condemning us as violent fascists than they will from saying “thanks for the condolences.” Far too many of my abortion advocating friends have shown an utter lack of rational thinking after the slaying of Tiller, jumping to conclusions and blaming the entire movement. I attended one of the vigils for Tiller’s death, and found only half of the speakers to be addressing his passing. The other half used the time to jump to massive conclusions, label our entire movement as terrorists, and throw out every stereotype in the book. Go over to Pandagon.net and you’ll find people wishing death on pro-lifers and hate speech worse than the last skinhead rally I went to (to counter protest).

    I firmly believe that many in that movement fully seek to use his death for political gain….

  13. I’m glad to hear that others here see the shooting at least in part as a gun control issue.

    What about the Brady Center & Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as a recipient?

    It wasn’t publicized as much, but the day after Tiller was shot, a military recruiter was shot to death, by someone who claimed retaliation for all the muslims dead in the war–and also who was under law enforcement radar.

    a copycat crime?

    i would be glad to write up an appeal if you all would agree to publicize it…i’ll write something that both prolifers and prochoicers can respond to.

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