Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Puddleglum Wisdom

This morning, I received a mass email sent out by President Obama’s campaign manager.  As I read it, I found myself wishing that I could get excited about a second Obama term.  The president seems like a good husband and father and a decent human being.  On a personal level, I like him.  I want him to do well and I want good things to happen to him. 

As I continued reading the email, I saw a phrase that has been frequently used by the Obama campaign that filled me with sadness and reminded me why I could never support his candidacy.  The email warned that Obama’s opponent had a horrible record when it came to “women’s issues.”  In this election cycle, that phrase has come to be synonymous with abortion.  It meant that this president remains committed to—in the name of choice—supporting some of the most aggressively pro-abortion policies this nation has ever seen.

The idea that being pro-life is synonymous with being anti-woman is bizarre.  And yet, in this strange world we live in, many take it as fact.

As I read the email, I was reminded of a scene from The Silver Chair.  It is toward the end of the book and the children and their guide named Puddleglum have traveled deep beneath the earth.  The wicked Queen of Underland has captured them.  Lighting an enchanted fire, she attempts to convince the children that there is no world above them and no Narnia.    

What she say seems right.  Denying reality and embracing a lie seems so enticing.  But just as it seems the children will fall for her fiction, Puddleglum bravely stamps out the fire with his own foot.  Then gives the following speech:
“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world that makes you real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for the Overland.
It can be discouraging to live in a world where up is down, right is left and black is…aqua blue.  Puddleglum reminds us in our darkest moments—when real seems fiction and fiction seems so plausible—that we must continue to hold fast to the things of which we've become convinced.


Anonymous said...

This post only makes sense if you are equating contraception to abortion. Is that indeed your position?

Otherwise connecting abortion as code for "women's issues" seems far fetched.

Sandra Fluke's testimony and the following comments by Rush Limbaugh seem to be the real political reminder that the President's campaign wants the public not to forget.

To quote the NYT: "Meanwhile, Democrats and their allies are painting Republicans, including Mr. Romney, as “a radical bunch when it comes to women’s health” who are “going backward on birth control,” as Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in an interview last week. If that message sticks, it could hurt Mr. Romney with women and independents, a critical voting bloc in a general election."


I hope you are well.

Daniel Bennett said...


Good to hear from you. I disagree. I think when the Obama campaign blasts Romney and Republicans on women's issues (which is going to continue), that is code for reproductive "freedom," which includes abortion. If you look at Obama's kick off speech this past week, he mentions his desire to preserve his daughters' right to choice. Do you think that is referring to abortion? Do you think he is not committed to a pro-choice agenda?

I would suggest that it isn't me who confuses contraception with abortion but Democrats.

Check out this page and note how Obama's campaign refers to policies that include abortion as "birth control":


jdurham said...

There may be a segment (even a large segment) of Republicans and/or conservatives who oppose the free distribution of contraception in general, or who oppose the mandatory funding of birth control by health insurance plans, or the idea of free contraception paid for by tax dollars. These things may or may not have something to do with women's rights. Obama may or may not have these things in mind when "women's issues" are addressed in a given situation. Regardless of these things, contraception is only a small part of what may be considered "women's issues". Also, the contraception issue is not even close to being as controversial or as hotly debated as the abortion issue.

My primary concern (and likely Daniel's) is not about anyone's stance in regards to condoms or "the pill". Rather, the reason why I absolutely cannot vote for Obama is because of his disregard for unborn (and even born, in some cases) human life. Lest we believe the lie that the president can have very little influence on pro-life/pro-choice decision-making, we would do well to remember one of his earliest actions as president: the overturning of the "Mexico City Policy", wherein, in short, he saw to it that federal dollars could be used to fund and promote overseas abortions.

As I see it, one of the most basic roles, if not the most fundamental role, of the government is to protect human life...all human life. How can I ever even consider supporting a candidate who so clearly sees things differently?

Daniel Bennett said...

@Brian: I do agree that the Obama team wants to make it look like the Republican party opposes contraception. I think that's another reason why they are vague on what "women's issues" refers to.

Anonymous said...

@jdurham Your questions are good ones, and I understand your position.

@ Daniel I think I understand the post a little better now. For me, however, it is always important to distinguish between the verbal throwing of red meat by both political parties on the abortion issue, and actual legislative achievements. So I'm not too interested in rhetoric from Democrats (or Republican's too for that matter) other than to think through the question of why, and how the answer to the why question will inform future legislative achievements.

For both Republicans and Democrats the throwing of verbal red meat raises a lot of money for each party during campaigns. No surprise there. Introducing a bill works too. But introducing a bill with intention to raise $$, and introducing a bill with intention to pass it into law, are very different things. And it doesn't take a policy wonk to distinguish the difference.

For Republicans the legislative achievement category isn't impressive. At all. Makes you wonder how much they really care outside of the raising of money?

I'm not sure what to think of the Democrats legislative achievement category. The "Mexico City Policy" as referenced by @jdurham is significant, but I haven't seen good studies on its overall effect. It's quite possible that repealing that policy decreases the amount of abortions in these other countries, as legalizing abortion and increasing sexual education often does. So I don't know. Ignoring the rhetoric and focusing on actual policy muddles the issue, I think.

I'm very open to dialogue and learning on this topic, as it is important. But let's get past political rhetoric and look at actual policy implications on the amount of abortions that occur and the significance to future human life.


Anonymous said...

What's the difference between rhetoric and information? Even the way stats are provided includes bias. Voting based on what a person says they believe in and how they've voted in the past beats anything else for me.
-Dan H