something about Anna

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 19, 2005

Rallying the garrison in the abortion wars , Anna Quindlen lashes out at irrational bickering and asks: why can't we compromise and do it my way?

Imagine how it could transform the landscape if somehow abortion were absent from government intervention or interference. Those who believe it is a moral wrong could fight through hearts and minds, not laws that would resurrect the Lysol and the garden hose. Those who believe it is a woman's personal decision could choose either to end a pregnancy or to continue it and have a child. How much money could be raised for safe abortions for poor women and for prenatal care, too, if it didn't need to be poured into the incessant pinball game of partisan politics. And judges could return to those issues that lend themselves to jurisprudence instead of puzzling out the singular fact patterns of the womb.

Taken at face value, this is an argument against any and all laws ("those who believe kidnapping, incest, or treason are moral wrongs could fight through hearts and minds...") but of course the point of the article is not to advance an argument at all. Quindlen is not an arguer but a cheerleader, bucking up flagging liberal spirits by chanting stereotyped boasts in the hope that sympathetic spectators will pick up the refrain.

When a cheerleader gives her pom-poms a shake and shouts, "We're Number One!" you don't stop her and say, "Prove it." She'd look at you blankly. Were you to present her with hard stats on the number of missed trap-blocks and failed third-down conversions, she would not be inclined to alter her message. Nor does her unwillingness to change indicate a lack of intelligence. She's a cheerleader. Truth is not what she's there for.

Unlike arguers, cheerleaders address themselves only to one half of the audience. They neither expect nor desire to make converts from among the opposition. Picture a spectator who overhears the other side's chants, strokes his chin thoughtfully, thinks, "Yes, yes. There's a lot to what they're saying," and changes allegiance. Were such a man to announce the basis of his "conversion" to his new mates, they'd probably be more wary than welcoming. Those pom-pom girls who were students of Habermas would sit the convert down and patiently explain that the proposition "We're Number One," though formally assertoric, was not advanced as a "criticizable validity claim."

I doubt Quindlen herself believes she's addressing all disputants in the abortion debate. No one who held opinions contrary to hers could imagine that she had engaged them. I fancy Quindlen would be put off by a reader who told her, "I used to be anti-choice. But thanks to your brilliant essay in Newsweek, I now think that killing the innocent is the murderer's private decision and government interference should be abominated." It would entail a misreading as grave as that made by our football fan apostate. Re-read her concluding paragraph. She's a cheerleader. Truth is not what she's there for.

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  • Posted by: mrb - Nov. 22, 2005 10:31 PM ET USA

    Hannah, I don't understand what is illogical about having a baby. You have sex, you get pregnant, you (hopefully) give birth. Sounds logical to me. What's illogical is trying to escape from the sex, pregnancy, birthing continuum. You want A but don't want B which results from A. Illogical. Mary Rose Brandt

  • Posted by: - Nov. 20, 2005 9:20 AM ET USA

    The public must be confronted with a single, focused argument: pro-lifers want abortion outlawed because (and only because) it is murder. The arguments against it cannot be presented as part of a package of moral/sexual/sociological/religious viewpoints. Many people are pro-choice for the same reason that they accept gay marriage ---- they hear arguments that suggest further restrictions on their personal freedoms. We must make it clear that stopping the killing is our only political goal.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Nov. 20, 2005 8:42 AM ET USA

    "Why can't we all do 'our own thing' and 'be happy?'" Shades of the Beatles... Nihlistic nonsense to be sure... "My 'private actions' don't affect you..." ? Delusional thinking The only "irrational one" here is Anna Quindlen

  • Posted by: - Nov. 20, 2005 7:08 AM ET USA

    I'm glad you're on our side, Diogenes. Or, I'm glad I'm on your side.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Nov. 20, 2005 3:25 AM ET USA

    Diogenes, Do you work? How do you have time to think of this stuff? This is a great analysis of many writers/cheerleaders that are published today.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2005 9:59 PM ET USA

    Thank God the Church still is "Old Fashioned" and doctrinaire enough to insist that killing innocents is murder plain and simple. Maybe some day our Bishops will attempt to thwart our "Catholic" pro death politicians.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2005 5:11 PM ET USA

    The abortion industry knows and understands this about most women--that we are emotional creatures by nature, not hard-wired for logic. I think that if we were, we wouldn't go through the tortures of childbearing. The real crime here is that we women are not so logical as the Diogenes' of the world, the crime here is that there is an industry willing to exploit the nature of women, and plenty of men in our religious, medical, educational and government institutes willing to stay silent about it.