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when silence means consent

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 29, 2009

It's Tuesday morning. You throw open the window to get some fresh air, and can't help overhearing the conversation on your neighbor's porch. Skip, the high-school junior, is talking with his parents.

Skip: Can I go out with the guys Friday night?

Father: Sure, son, sure. Oh, I remember my own high-school days. Friday nights with the guys were great fun. Enjoy yourself!

Mother: What are you going to be doing, Skip?

Skip: Biff's big brother is home from college, and he's having a keg party. He said we could come. 

Mother: Skip, you know that your father and I don't want you drinking beer. Isn't that right, Dad?

Father:  I'm sure he can find ways to have fun without drinking beer.

Skip: But all the guys are going to this party!

Father: Who said you can't go to the party? I'm all in favor of the party! Didn't I just say how I wanted you to have fun? I just don't want you going out to drink beer.

Skip: But I'll look like a nerd if I don't have at least a few sips. Everybody's going to be drinking beer.

Father: Just go and have fun. You know our rules about drinking beer. 

Based on what you've just heard, would you expect Skip to stay away from the beer on Friday night? Not a chance. He's just told his father that he's going to a party-- and not just any party, but a keg party. If his father were serious about the no-beer rule, he would have told Skip that he couldn't go. This isn't an abstract question, about whether or not a teenage boy should have fun. It's a specific question, about a specific party. With a keg.


In Washington today, Congress will begin voting on amendments to the Baucus health-care reform proposal.  The Catholic Health Association is on record strongly supporting the general idea of health-care reform, but opposing coverage of abortion. That's a solid stand for general purposes, but we're beyond the point of generalities. There's a specific piece of legislation moving forward, and it includes abortion coverage. When pressed as to whether the organization opposes this specific bill, the CHA replies that it strongly supports the general idea of health-care reform, but opposes abortion coverage. 

Skip will be pounding the Budweiser on Friday night, confident that his father doesn't really mind. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill,... 


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