A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 18, 2009

Media and Framing of Culture

This is a paper I authored analyzing an an ethnographic study performed concerning the media and cultural occlusion vis a vis The Vietnam War.

This paper is the intellectual property of the author and may not be utilized in any form without proper citations and/or permission of the author.

The Media as a Framer of Cultural Norms

 

            In society today, as well as in the past, there is a constant shifting of oppositional positions.  One of the major functions of the media is to inform the general public of the relevant issues which are parties to the constant stir in the social and political realm.  The media – whether in book, radio, television, daily publication, movies, and most recently in electronic weblogs (blogs) – serve a dual purpose in society as a reporter of the events, and also as a framer of the discussion regarding those events.  Media can by the sheer volume of their voice call attention to or occlude reality, and thereby frame a discussion or limit discussion by eliminating it from the public discourse.  A common perception is that the mass media is a vital player in the framer of societal norms, values within a culture which supersedes the framing role of the educational system, family system, and the political system.

            How the media frames a cultural curriculum was the topic of a study (Wineburg, Mosborg, Porat, Duncan; 2004) performed concerning generational perceptions of the Vietnam War, and whether the history represented by the media formed a “collective memory”.  The study posed to answer the question how media and popular culture frame historical knowledge and how it is transmitted across generations. 

Over a course of 30 months, 30 members of 15 families were interviewed about how their conceptualization of the past may form a collective concept about a historical era.  One parent and one child from each family were interviewed about their knowledge and conceptual framework concerning American involvement in Vietnam.  Each member participating in the study was also asked to provide their interpretation of well known photographs taken from the Vietnam Era.  Each of these photographs had become iconic of the Vietnam War Era.

Prior to the interviewing the student’s perceptions of the Vietnam War and the instruction offered concerning the topic were analyzed by the researchers.  Despite the detailed instruction concerning the issues at stake in the Vietnam War by the schools of the students, as a group, had a similar perception of the Vietnam War – “A war without a reason”.

Using well documented photos, produced by the mass media, both parent and child were asked to write down their reactions to the pictures shown by answering open ended questions, such as, “What do you see in this picture?” and “What associations does this picture bring up?”  Later on the responses elicited by each respondent was coded with a graphic textual spreadsheet in order to develop emergent themes from the interview process. 

The first photo used was a picture of a veteran of the Vietnam War looking upon the names etched on the wall while his hand gingerly touches the wall.  Of all the photos presented, this one image was the most identifiable picture.  All of the teens and all but one of the parents (who had been born in the former Soviet Union) were able to recognize the memorial.  Every student also knew what the man was attempting to do.  For the parents, the picture brought back memories of loved ones or friends who had served in the Vietnam War, and the veteran took on a symbolic identification of long remembered people from their past.  However, the students’ answers were more general, with the man depicted in the photo not taking any symbolic meaning at all.  The experience for the adults in the study also reflected their own personal opinions concerning America’s involvement in Vietnam.  Words and phrases such as “resolution”, “respect that was deserved” appeared in the responses in the adults.  Interestingly, the man portrayed in the picture is seen by all as a victim of the war, and not as a perpetrator of war, who is worthy of respect and pity, not hatred.

The second photo is also an icon of the Vietnam War era, a photo of a young man placing flowers in the barrels of guns of soldiers in the 1967 March on the Pentagon.  The adults surveyed instantly identified the clash between the flower and the guns as a symbolic clash of war opposed to peace.  Terms used to qualify the event express the antithetical symbolism the picture displays, “Blocking soldiers with flowers”; Peace, not power”; and “a divided country”.  For the students there was a significant disconnect with the interpretation of the picture.  Only eight of the fifteen could identify the basic concept of peace versus might.  The symbolic elements of the picture were even less easily discerned by the youngsters.  One student thought the soldiers were North Vietnamese, another felt the incident was meant to mourn the dead. 

Interestingly, for the adults, while the first photo brought about feelings of the nation coming to reconciliation about the war, the second photo brought the sharp divide felt by their generation back to the forefront.  One parent spoke warmly of the camaraderie felt by members of the anti-war movement; while another contemptuously replied, “He’s a slime-bucket”.  Part of the student’s problems with this photo was their failure to identify the clean cut youth as a “hippie”.  The young man is clean cut and wearing clean clothing with an overall appearance which does not align with their perception of the prototypical hippie of the 1960’s. 

The third photo, a “hard-hat” rally drew strong responses and identification by the adults in the group, and almost universal misunderstanding by the younger generation.  The rally, which was a pro-war response by blue collar workers in New York City in support of the war in 1970, elicited two polarized replies.  One reply stated that “although there was confusion about the issues in the war, these guys, typical working men, were going to support the government”.  This picture also drew a rather strong comment by an opponent of the war, “These men are a bunch of assholes, guided by their penises”. 

The majority of students were unable to interpret the photo.  One person identified the type of people represented, “blue collar workers”, but had no idea what the purpose of the rally served.  One thought that a sign, which referred to “Building America”, was an anti-war sentiment, as it contrasted the destruction which was going on in Vietnam.  Many of the students were surprised to learn that people actually protested in favor of the Vietnam War.  More than one of the students cited the movie Forrest Gump, which had framed their perception that all of America was against the war, when in reality, as late as 1972 a Gallup Poll showed that 70% of the nation felt a renewed confidence in the prosecution of the war.  However, the media through a repeated message – that the Vietnam War was without support and baseless – had constructed a framework of history apart from the reality of fact.

The findings of this study concluded that the younger people perception of the war had not been formed by instruction or by a true understanding of the concepts involved, but had been formed by images found in media such as movies about the Vietnam War, such as Forrest Gump, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, which were frequently cited as sources of history.  Despite various ethnic and cultural variances, a consistent perception about the war had been formed in these young people, and their perception about the war was remarkably more similar than those of their parents, who had experienced the war from a more personal vantage point.  The young people’s perception allowed no room for pro-war demonstrations and “the silent majority” that supported the Vietnam War.   In the eyes of this generation, removed by the war from time, the Vietnam War was one fought without supporters.  In a real sense cultural occlusion has come about with regard to this historical event, and in effect, the icons of the Vietnam War have been selectively used or occluded to create a historical construct and the largest framer of that occlusion has been the media.

The findings of this study have vast implications for the transmission of knowledge to a society by the media.  The demonstrated ability of mass media to control the flow of information, through a mode of entertainment, gives it the ability to form a cultural curriculum, and a view of historic events which may be anything but a view which is based upon the truth. 

The challenge facing educators is one of coalescence.   In many areas, in particular to this study, The Vietnam War, a common belief about the war has become imprinted upon the framework of the nation.  Any idea which challenges this view reached by occlusion, must take on a cognitive dissonance, which precludes any view other than the one which is currently held.  The common belief of a culture, particularly when spurious, must be challenged by other sources to allow students to use inductive reasoning to frame a true understanding of historical consciousness.  The real danger resides when educators themselves have bought into the common belief of history, which is often formed by ideology rather than reality, and are no longer capable of presenting historical information apart from the vantage point of merely spewing out what other sources have programmed them to say.

 

References

Wineburg, Sam; Mosborg, Susan; Porat, Dan; Duncan, Ariel; (2007). Common Belief and the Cultural Curriculum: An Intergenerational Study of Historical Conciousness. American Education Research Journal, Vol. 44, No 1. pp. 40-76.

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November 11, 2008

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Conservatives,Culture,History,Inspirational,Philosophy,Politics,Quote of the Day — avoiceofreason @ 11:21 am

It is well that war is so terrible – lest we grow too fond of it.

Robert E. Lee

November 9, 2008

Quote of the Day

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
George Orwell

November 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

 Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for yourself.

Viewed on a bumper sticker.

November 7, 2008

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Conservatives,Election '08,General,Liberals,Obama,Philosophy,Politics — avoiceofreason @ 4:47 pm

Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.
Alvin Toffler

June 8, 2007

The Formation of Cultural Icons: A Critical Analysis Pt. I

This is a paper I am presenting and thought it might generate some interest here.

Icons are a part of any culture. However, they often serve a role which detracts from a role which would be more fitting. In the sense of this report, an icon is an object which takes upon mythical meaning beyond the symbolism which it attempts to represent. Three areas of society which could easily be identified as icons are elaborated upon in this analysis of three historical studies.

How common beliefs become part of a cultural curriculum – or in a sense an icon – was the topic of a study (Wineburg, Mosborg, Porat, Duncan; 2004) performed concerning generational perceptions of the Vietnam War. The study posed to answer the question how historical knowledge is transmitted across generations. Over a thirty month period the authors interviewed fifteen families, drawn from three different communities. The author’s purpose was to ascertain how two generations defined moments of history, and whether the history represented by the generations formed a “collective memory” with regard to a historical event.

Over a course of 30 months, 30 members of 15 families were interviewed about how their conceptualization of the past may form a collective concept about a historical era. The sample families represented Evangelical Christians, lapsed Roman Catholics, Buddhists, and Jews. Four of the families consisted of members who had been born outside of the United States; twelve families were Caucasian and one each as African American, Native American and Asian American. One parent and one child from each family were interviewed about their knowledge and conceptual framework concerning American involvement in Vietnam. Each member participating in the study was also asked to provide their interpretation of well known photographs taken from the Vietnam Era, which could easily be identified as icons of the era.

Prior to the interviewing the student’s perceptions of the Vietnam War and the instruction offered concerning the topic were analyzed by the researchers. Despite the detailed instruction concerning the issues at stake in the Vietnam War by the schools of the students, as a group, had a similar perception of the Vietnam War – “a war without a reason”.

During the interview process both parent and child were asked to write down their reactions to the pictures shown by answering open ended questions, such as, “What do you see in this picture?” and “What associations does this picture bring up?” Both participants would then be asked to respond to the photo and their corresponding interpretation, with the child. This was done in order to protect against parental input having an impact upon the child’s answer.

Later on the responses elicited by each respondent was coded with a graphic textual spreadsheet in order to develop emergent themes from the interview process. Various combinations of grouping students with other students, students and parents from one subset being compared to other students and parents from other subsets, and then groupings based on conceptual agreement were formed.

The first photo used was a picture of a veteran of the Vietnam War looking upon the names etched on the wall while his hand gingerly touches the wall. Of all the photos presented, this one image was the most identifiable picture. All of the teens and all but one of the parents (who had been born in the former Soviet Union) were able to recognize the memorial. Every student also knew what the man was attempting to do – search for a name on the wall and then etch it into a piece of paper he held in his right hand. For the parents, the picture brought back memories of loved ones or friends who had served in the Vietnam War, and the veteran took on a symbolic identification of long remembered people from their past. However, the students’ answers were more general, with the man depicted in the photo not taking any symbolic meaning at all. The experience for the adults in the study also reflected their own personal opinions concerning America’s involvement in Vietnam. Words and phrases such as “resolution”, “respect that was deserved” appeared in the responses in the adults. Interestingly, the man portrayed in the picture is seen by all as a victim of the war, and not as a perpetrator of war, who is worthy of respect and pity, not hatred.

The second photo is also an icon of the Vietnam War era, a photo of a young man placing flowers in the barrels of guns of soldiers in the 1967 March on the Pentagon. The adults surveyed instantly identified the clash between the flower and the guns as a symbolic clash of war opposed to peace. Terms used to qualify the event express the antithetical symbolism the picture displays, “Blocking soldiers with flowers”; Peace, not power”; and “a divided country”. For the students there was a significant disconnect with the interpretation of the picture. Only eight of the fifteen could identify the basic concept of peace versus might. The symbolic elements of the picture were even less easily discerned by the youngsters. One student thought the soldiers were North Vietnamese, another felt the incident was meant to mourn the dead. Interestingly, for the adults, the first photo brought about feelings of the nation coming to reconciliation about the war, the second photo brought the sharp divide felt by their generation back to the forefront. One parent spoke warmly of the camaraderie felt by members of the anti-war movement towards each other; another contemptuously replied, “He’s a slime-bucket”. Part of the student’s problems with this photo was their failure to identify the clean cut youth as a “hippie”. His appearance does not align with their perception of the prototypical hippie of the 1960’s.

The third photo, a “hard-hat” rally drew strong responses and identification by the adults in the group, and almost universal misunderstanding by the younger generation. The rally, which was a pro-war response by blue collar workers in New York City in support of the war in 1970, elicited two polarized replies. One reply stated that “although there was confusion about the issues in the war, these guys, typical working men, were going to support the government”. This picture also drew a rather strong comment by an opponent of the war, “These men are a bunch of assholes, guided by their penises”. On the other hand, the majority of students were unable to interpret the photo. One person identified the type of people represented, “blue collar workers”, but had no idea what the purpose of the rally served. One thought that a sign, which referred to “Building America”, was an anti-war sentiment, as it contrasted the destruction which was going on in Vietnam.

Many of the students were surprised to learn that people actually protested in favor of the Vietnam War. More than one of the students cited the movie Forrest Gump, which had framed their perception that all of America was against the war, when in reality as late as 1972 a Gallup Poll showed that 70% of the nation felt a renewed confidence in the prosecution of the war.

The findings of this study concluded that the younger people perception of the war had not been formed by instruction or by a true understanding of the concepts involved, but had been formed images found in media such as movies about the Vietnam War, and that despite various ethnic and cultural variance, a consistent perception about the war had been formed by these young people, and their perception about the war was remarkably similar than their parents who had experienced the war from a more personal vantage point. The young people’s perception allowed no room for pro-war demonstrations and “the silent majority” that supported the Vietnam War. In the eyes of this generation, removed by the war from time, the Vietnam War was one fought without supporters. In a real sense cultural occlusion has come about with regard to this historical event, and in effect, the icons of the Vietnam War have been selectively used or occluded to create a historical construct.

May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell The Moral Majority and Me

A short report about the death of Rev. Falwell.

One short comment, I am sickened by the vitriole that some of the left wing blogs are showing.  I mean you can disagree with a man, but the moment of their death isn’t the time to do so.  What should I expect though from pigs, but grunts.

I started college in 1979 and became interested in GOP politics shortly thereafter. My family had a split political history. My mother was a staunch pro-labor, Irish/Catholic Democrat. My grandfather had been one of the founders of the NYC Electrical Workers Union, and was called “The Great White Father” for pushing for minorities to be allowed into the union in the 1920’s. I am very proud of his work on the behalf of working people. My father was a staunch Republican and was Protestant. However, he had become a minister when I was about thirteen, and my mother had left the Roman Church beforehand. In 1976, they both backed Jimmy Carter, and it was odd not to hear the political debates, as they thought they had found a candidate they could agree upon. Boy, did they get hoodwinked on that one.

Early on I was not overly impressed with President Carter, and the Iran crisis sealed the deal. I had actually always been a bit more Conservative on military and foreign policy issues than my politically divided house, and I think Carter was the straw that broke the camel’s back with regard to supporting Democrats.

So when I received a newspaper from this organization called “The Moral Majority” I didn’t know what to think. I read the paper and found out that I agreed with many of the their positions. I was in favor of supporting Israel’s right to exist along with the concept that I trusted those guys more than Muslims and Arabs. I was concerned about the lack of respect that many in the country had towards our nation. I was a troubled about some of the content of the political process. I was – and still am – in favor of limiting abortion. I was fearful about some of the language in the ERA movement and mostly I was ticked about Iran and the hostages. I joined the organization at 17 in 1979. My wife rolled her eyes when I told her that one and had one word, pathetic, as a rejoinder. At 17 in my first year of college I should have been partying, getting drunk and laid, and not lining up with social conservatives. I guess you can tell she and I are a bit different in our political outlook – but she did wave a “W” placard and campaigned for President Bush in ’04. Her family still doesn’t talk to her!

I think what Rev. Falwell meant to me, at that age, was that there were people who were concerned not just about politics as usual, but who were concerned with cultural climate and its rapid change. Maybe they saw a connection between the dots – and that social outlook was related to economic policy and even a world view towards foreign policy.

I know that my views were a bit different from the Moral Majority, but there was enough agreement for me to join and to send my fees in cash – talk about naieve – in $10 increments, as I was indeed a struggling student in my first year of college. From that launching point, I became involved first in George Bush (41) campaign for the nomination, and later switched to Reagan when he won the nod. I guess that choosing of Bush over Reagan showed that I was a bit more centrist than dyed in the wool with the “MM”, but I knew that I was more comfortable with that crowd than the “rabble” I saw endorsing – and the rabble has gotten worse – Democrat candidates.

I with my still soft positions upon some social issues, such as abortion and rights for homosexuals (I support civil unions as policy), put me at odds with many of the antecedents of the Moral Majority, but I am understanding of their views, and I view our slight differences as a friendly disagreement within the family. I still feel that they are my people. So, for that, I am thankful for Rev. Falwell’s life. He profoundly shaped my growth as a person in the political realm, and though I still politely disagree with some of the social agenda of him and others of the harder Evangelical Right, and I do profess my own Evangelical foundation as a view of life, I recognize their value as a part of my family. Most importantly, I know that Rev. Falwell, despite some of our differences held a strong view upon the value of loving God. He also understood that the love of God requires action. Although in many ways I take that interpretation to promote egalitarianism, something that many of the Moral Majority/Christian Coalition/Focus on the Family crowd typically endorse, I find that we are using the same source, and in the end probably have similar intentions. This is how a person who is still, a good deal more Centrist – and still thinks that while Reagan was Great, and he was, that I like Bush 41 more for his intellect.

Let this be my final thought towards Rev. Falwell; May you wake to find you are resting on quiet shores.

May 11, 2007

Nothing to Fear but Polls Themselves

From an article by Bill Kristol

The 1990s were a silly time. But that decade did produce, at its close, an impressive pair of vice presidential candidates–Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman. Both spoke up last Thursday as the congressional debate over Iraq reached a new low.

Vice President Cheney was asked on Fox News about concerns that the Iraq war was hurting Republicans. “We didn’t get elected to be popular,” Cheney said. “We didn’t get elected to worry just about the fate of the Republican party.”

Well, that’s good, because you didn’t get popular, but the American public is fairly fickle. I remember this quote by Howard Fineman, now a regular Bush basher, “We had controversial wars that divided this country. This war united the country and brought the military back.” I don’t think he’s gonna requote that line with Chris Matthews anytime soon.

This was a just rebuke to the 11 Republican congressmen who had visited the White House the day before. They had two purposes in mind: to tell President Bush that the Iraq war was harming the GOP, and then to tell the media that they had visited the White House to convey that message. The media are primed to reward Republicans for defecting from the White House on the war. The on-the-record star of the meeting was Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia. “People are always saying President Bush is in a bubble,” Davis told the Post. “Well, this was our chance, and we took it.”

But what chance did they take? How did they help the president deal with a crucial foreign policy challenge? Davis “presented Bush dismal polling figures to dramatize just how perilous the [Republican] party’s position is, participants said.” Polling figures!

The chance they take is losing their seat, and this is regrettable, because it seems that the DNC Caucas is determined to basically take a much larger chance by pulling out of Iraq.

Do the Republicans who want Bush to cut and run really think they would benefit if Iraq were to blow up, with U.S. troops helplessly standing by watching the slaughter, the full spectacle of American defeat unfolding before the American people? Here is a fine posture for a Republican to assume in 2008: I voted for the war, and then I voted for the surrender. Who in their right mind would vote for such a person?

As for the Democrats, they are in a way less abject. Most of them simply believe the war is lost, or that it should be lost, and want to throw in the towel.

This won’t play with the American people, but it will do one thing. If you think that Vietnam cost the country credibility, pulling from Iraq will guarantee that America is a laughingstock in the Middle East. Bin Laden’s words of America is a “paper tiger” will be remembered. These people who are our adversaries are not living in the comfort of air conditioned homes where being overweight is a national health problem. They are patient and merciless, and they do have a goal of obliterating our culture. The Democratic Party needs to remember that, and the American public who have the backbone of overcooked spaghetti also need to be reminded of that also.

Only one Democrat–now an “independent Democrat”–called them on their vote: Joe Lieberman. As the members of his party voted for defeat, he took to the Senate floor to plead for full funding of our troops: “Only a couple of months ago, the Senate confirmed a new commander to implement a new strategy in Iraq, General David Petraeus. That new strategy is now being implemented, and it is achieving some encouraging, if early, signs of success. . . . Yet, now many in Congress would pull the plug on this new strategy and thwart the work of our troops before they are given a fair chance to succeed. I am aware that public opinion has turned against the war in Iraq. . . . But leadership requires sometimes that we defy public opinion if that is what is necessary to do what is right for our country. . . . Al Qaeda itself has declared Iraq to be the central front of their larger war against our way of life. . . . Our judgment can be guided by the polls and we can withdraw in defeat. [But] no matter what we say, our enemy will know that America’s will has been broken by the barbarity of their bloodlust–the very barbarity we declare we are fighting, but from which we would actually be running.”

I think Sen. Lieberman needs to be renamed, “Fighting Joe”. If anyone was a victim of the mealy mouthed, gutless milksop cry babies in our country, it is Joe Lieberman. However, if that is now the majority of what this nation is composed of, we may as well pull the troops back home, because this no longer a nation worth fighting or dying for.

May 10, 2007

What do you Value?

As I’ve been mulling over resumes, and the course of my life, interspersed with reading about how an American icon, IBM, is on the fast track to screwing over their workers, most of whom happen to be my fellow citizens, I realize that my values may be out of sync with the rest of society.

I value my family.  I take great joy and a small sense of pride in knowing that my children are decent kids.  Yeah, they have problems, but they are overall doing well.  My eldest daughter is a tremendous source of pride.  She has taken a position as a Social Studies teacher, just like her Dad.  I can’t tell you the joy that brings me, that perhaps she saw maybe something in me, that maybe nudged her towards that.

That brings on another thing I value, community.  To me it was shown when I volunteered and enlisted in the 82nd Airborne, a decision I think was one of the best I have ever made.  In that action, I feel I made a slight downpayment in the debt that I owe those members of my family, and those who served, and often sacrificed more than I was called to do, in order that I may live in a world which they may only have dreamed of.  I am a lucky man indeed to have the knowledge that I was fortunate enough to serve my country.

I think that my desire to teach and be a leader in a public school is also a part of that value of community.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel I am underpaid, and I don’t mind that either.  I also know that I put a great deal of effort into my students, and that I take a particular joy in seeing the progress they made.  Today, when I was reading their essays about how our government used ancient Rome as a model, I took a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that my love of history, and probably a deep love – although I guess it is true that “Love Hurts” – for my country has been shared with them.  I value their learning, and I value what they teach me daily.  I learn more from them than they would ever guess.  I am lucky for that.

I value community, and I think that extends from the home to the schools and churches that so many of us enjoy.  I value the happiness of my community, and hope that my neighbors feel the same way.  I value the aspect that God plays in my life. I am not so sure as what I believe as when I was a younger man, but I think that my understanding that I need for the grace that is offered to man, as a part of my life.  I like that, and admit that I am happy to say that most times, I truly understand that God calls me friend.  I value that.

I understand money, and of course it has a value.  I guess what I don’t get are those entities that value a buck more than the people that labored to make that dollar for the company.   I know things are hard, and a business has a right and the responsibility to make profits for the shareholders.  I guess it’s not in my values however, when that company still makes money, but outsource jobs from my neighbors, and yours, and sends them over to nations which are our economic rivals, who would never give something towards us to help out our economy.

I have a feeling that most who regularly read this blog would say that they value the same things.  If that’s the case, why aren’t things different?  After all there are more of them than there are of those other bastards.  I am thinking about Governor Al Smith, of the fifth ward, a son of immigrants, who rallied the day laborer and the common person of New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and forged a movement that was founded on that idea, that there are more little people than big people.  Maybe we just have to remember that.

I guess its a question about what we value.

May 4, 2007

Pro Life, Pro Choice: Symbol Over Substance

One of the more controversial instances in a rather ho hum “debate”, which was really trying to squeeze talking points between questions that sometimes lacked great meaning, may have been former NYC Mayor and front runner, Rudy Giuliani hedging a pro-choice political position in a very pro-life atmosphere. Did the former mayor handle the matter deftly, the consensus seems to be probably not, but was his answer the wrong answer is another issue entirely.

The GOP has made it a point to put a pro-life face on the party since Ronald Reagan’s stance in 1976. This was used to contrast against GOP apparatus candidate the then unelected, President Ford. Reagan’s bold campaign, which did benefit slightly from the pro-life movement’s involvement in his campaign. By 1980, the pro-life movement was a force in the GOP and played a role in Ronald Reagan, who had governed California with policies which were anything but “pro-life”, but publicly stated the lingo that the movement wanted to hear, and propelled the issue to prominence within the party. Pitted against this, oh Lord forgive me for invoking this with the name of Reagan with this term, flip-flop, George Bush who was not as ardently pro-life, but had never cast a pro-abortion rights vote or signed pro-abortion rights legislation, was seen as “soft” on the issue, simply because he didn’t run it up a flagpole, and inferred there was room for reasonable disagreement.

Now while I don’t doubt that President Reagan may indeed have had a turning moment in his life, and I would argue that Mit Romney deserves the same benefit of the doubt, the actual impact of his support of the pro-life agenda – and that is not inherently a perjurative, since “everyone” has an agenda – was little of substance and a lot on symbol. You have to hand it to President Reagan, he knew how to get mileage on an issue, and nobody expected him to come out of California, home of the most progressive abortion rights laws, many signed by him, and overturn Roe v Wade. Talking the talk was enough, and has remained so for the past 27 years. This is not to say that the sincerity of GOP candidate’s opposition to abortion on demand is disingenuous, it is to say that despite their sincerity and placing it as a bona fides to be a “true Republican”, very little has been accomplished towards ending this practice despite it being a rallying cry for the political party that has held the executive office for nearly 20 of the past 28 years, and has had control of Congress for approximately 12 of those years. Simply put, there appears to be a lack of political will to push the symbol into substance.

One can look to the steps that have been made towards restricting or to at least stemming the tide of abortions taking place, although they still run about one million or more a year. Although the raw numbers are going up, the percentage rates seem to be decreasing, partly because of shifts in public sentiment towards unwed mothers raising children. However, abortion remains a relatively common practice in the nation, and despite gains such as the Hyde Amendment – which is very good legislation from the pro-life vantage point, and the recent SCOTUS affirming of a ban on partial birth abortions, which is the epitome of symbol over substance when one considers the miniscule numbers of abortions performed in this admittedly disturbing manner, and even the wrapping of nine of the GOP candidates firmly in the mantle of symbolicly being pro-life there is little to hope that much substance will be reaped from this act.

Which leads us to Roe v Wade, or the decision that fires the hearts of the pro-life movement much in the same way that the number 666 makes a old fashioned tent revival preacher tone up the occilation in his voice with the mandatory appearance of veins bulging from the neck. The real point is that Roe v Wade is symbol, and not really much in substance. If the decision is overturned, and the best path for the pro-life advocates is via the judiciary making decisions pushed forward by state legislatures which will take away the reach of the law, there is no reason to believe that abortion will be outlawed in the vast majority of states, nor that the number of abortions performed in the nation will go down in a drastic manner. Just as Roe v Wade served as a symbol for the women’s movement, rather than giving much substantive relief, as abortion was readily available in most areas, its overturning will be a symbol without much substance. If this issue were cereal, it would have snap and crackle, but lack pop.

So what is the big deal about having the pro-life mantle and wearing it proudly? What is so heretical about saying, as Rudy Giuliani did last night, that this is a highly personal decision that is ultimately up to the woman? If a woman wants to end a pregnancy, she will do so. Should the state make it easy by funding her desire, well the law says no, however, should the state governments “put obstacles” in the path in the exercise of this decision, would be fully in line with Federalism. However, the role of the Federal government advancing or putting up obstacles remains the area that will likely be debated. Perhaps this is just the instance the the 9th Amendment was framed, let the states fight it out, and keep it out of the pervue of the Feds. Although it is the “dream of dreams” that abortion will be nationally outlawed by the of the pro-life movement, and conversely the “sum of all fears” of the pro-abortion rights crowd, both sides need to face reality, that like it or not, abortion is a reality and an option that whether Federally deemed as woman’s right, or given protection by the states, is likely to remain among us. It would also be the reciprocal of a bad decision that allowed Roe v Wade, and if you understand math reciprocals have the exact qualities of their counterpart. It would likely be just as bad from a Constitutional framework as the 1973 decision.

A reasonable position is that probably both poles don’t have a monopoly on the truth. To assert this position as a human right, although it is the law, is hard to imagine to be the intent of the framers of the Constitution, but rest assured, women were having abortions, lots of them in colonial days. They just didn’t get Federal funds for it, nor have Congress stopping production of whatever plant women used in a “tea” to end an unwanted child, and this disinterest is likely the best position. Funny how the middle of the road, although hated by the poles, is where the vast majority of the public, and in this case,  Constitutional ground.

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