Toxic identity politics ‘in these tribal times’

Is what unites us still stronger than what divides us?

Where and how America is divided is far more evident these days than where and how we’re united, given the still growing public tensions over symbols, words, gestures and fundamental identities. And media coverage amplifying the worst of it all.

The ‘poison of identity politics‘ is not new.

The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr. ’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.

 

That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion. “Diversity” is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions, and the irony is that America is more diverse and tolerant than ever.

 

The problem is that the identity obsessives want to boil down everything in American life to these categories. In practice this means allocating political power, contracts, jobs and now even salaries in the private economy based on the politics of skin color or gender rather than merit or performance. Down this road lies crude political tribalism, and James Damore’s recent Google dissent is best understood as a cri de coeur that we should aspire to something better. Yet he lost his job merely for raising the issue.

 

A politics fixated on indelible differences will inevitably lead to resentments that extremists can exploit in ugly ways on the right and left. The extremists were on the right in Charlottesville, but there have been examples on the left in Berkeley, Oakland and numerous college campuses. When Democratic politicians can’t even say “all lives matter” without being denounced as bigots, American politics has a problem.

Rod Dreher addressed this in a sobering look at opposing evils.

Looking and and listening to the neo-Nazis and right-wing radicals at the march is not the same as reading about them. Evil has a face, and a voice, and it is chilling….

 

But let’s not “excuse or diminish the real threat to our politics from the violent left-wing agitators of antifa (anti-fascists). You may be tempted to sympathize with them because they punch neo-Nazis…”

But not so fast, or reactionary, Dreher cautions

For a while, antifa has remained on the fringes of the Left, smashing up storefronts to protest globalism, and things like that…

And then, the money quote:

The legitimization by mainstream people of violent political action is a Rubicon. Mark my words, it will be followed by the same thing on the Right.

 

So here we are. And Dreher asks the big question core:

Where are the restraining forces against radicalization on both the Left and the Right?

Exactly. Lately, on radio and elsewhere in conversations, I’ve been calling for voices of authority on both center-left and center-right (or whoever could be a moderating force) to call out the fringes on both sides. But they aren’t on the same side, and conservatives have asked media to stop calling white supremacists and neo-Nazis ‘far right conservatives’, since they don’t share conservative values and principles.

Who speaks for America right now? With the ability to amplify one’s own voice through social media platforms and unprecedented access to the arena of ideas, the people have to speak up and speak out.

Dreher says:

The media should talk about every instance of people on the Left and the Right, especially authority figures (pastors, politicians, academics, and so on) legitimizing violence as a way to solve political disputes. And the rest of us should fight hard to make it taboo, to establish it as a line we as a society will not cross. We have to stop with whataboutism, the habit of responding to revolting things your own side does with “but the other side does it too!”

That’s a point for an examination of conscience for all the people who take recourse to that explanation for the ‘slingshot’ effect of unrest from devolving into 1968 type of riots and demonstrations, says Dreher,

…it is time for people in authority — whatever authority they have — to speak out forcefully and repeatedly. Not just people on the Right, but people on the Left. If we are going to stop this spiral into political violence, we have to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter who’s worse, antifa or the neo-Nazis. Both are capable of doing severe damage to our democracy, because they both hate the political order, and they both love violence.

Denounce it, all of it, civilly and with the counter love of people, community, the common good, human rights and dignity, freedom and justice for all.

Which sounds a lot like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s rousing talk ‘Our God Is Marching On!’ in 1965.

 

If the worst in American life lurked in its dark streets, the best of American instincts arose passionately from across the nation to overcome it. There never was a moment in American history more honorable and more inspiring than the pilgrimage of clergymen and laymen of every race and faith pouring into Selma to face danger…

For fellow countrymen.

The confrontation of good and evil compressed in the tiny community of Selma generated the massive power to turn the whole nation on a new course.

We need to redirect ourselves there now.

Senator McCain’s scold

He told fellow senators, essentially, to get over themselves and get serious.

There has been so much manufactured drama in politics and political punditry for so long now, it’s refreshing when events that happen in real time for Americans to witness firsthand are naturally dramatic and actually inspiring. Sen. John McCain’s return to DC from surgery following a brain cancer diagnosis, his appearance coming just in time to cast the pivotal vote on a measure to continue debate on repealing and replacing Obamacare, restored maturity to the floor of the Senate. And much needed gravity.

Here’s what he said, in full.

“I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics. They came from both parties, and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict. They held different views on the issues of the day. And they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest.

 

“But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively. Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.

 

“That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today.

 

“I’m sure it wasn’t always deserved in previous eras either. But I’m sure there have been times when it was, and I was privileged to witness some of those occasions.

 

“Our deliberations today – not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities – authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role – are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.

 

“Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.

 

“Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But it’s usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.

 

“Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.

 

“Our system doesn’t depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning.’ Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to ‘triumph.’

 

“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.

 

“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.

 

“We’re getting nothing done.

Right. Thank you for stating that so starkly and honestly. Each election cycle, general or mid-term, national or local, brings another round of promises to change things that never change. McCain has been in government long enough to know that and see the best and worst of it all. And he delivered a ‘come to Jesus moment’ to his colleagues, a ‘for crying out loud’ plea to return to civility and honor and statesmanship.

That was so needed, even though it didn’t seem to make a difference, in the end, since the repeal failed. McCain’s speech was ennobling, it was heard, written into the record, and noted by many people and commentators looking for leadership.

Sen. John McCain on Tuesday in the Senate gave one of the great speeches of American history. Its content was an almost perfect distillation of the career-long themes of this remarkable, infuriating, courageous, temperamental, wise, headstrong, indefatigable patriot.

 

McCain has always seemed to operate according to an internal logical consistency whose existence few could doubt but even fewer could fully fathom. The logic’s premises all seem to reside in a five-dimensional Rubik’s Cube, its colored tiles always shifting around, inside McCain’s mind and psyche.

 

What is discernible in this enigma, indeed obvious, is that the logic’s lodestar, the lodestar of McCain’s very existence, is an almost heart-breakingly deep love of his particular country – not because it is his country, but because it is a noble one…

 

But this speech, this raw but contemplative message to colleagues and countrymen, contained the clearest and most accessible exposition of McCainism imaginable.

It is a “privilege,” he said, “to play a small role in the history of the country I love.” He paid homage to senators “who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics.”

Yes. Focus on statesmanship. This was a ‘civic homily’, says Quin Hillyer.

The final passages of McCain’s civic homily came straight from the very soul of a man who, though self-admittedly flawed, has served this nation with a steadfastness and grit beyond most imagining. He served it because, with every fiber of his being, he believes it, believes us, to be morally worthy of selfless service.

 

He is right about that, too. To wit:

 

“America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have been the greatest example, the greatest supporter and the greatest defender of that order. We aren’t afraid. We don’t covet other people’s land and wealth. We don’t hide behind walls. We breach them. We are a blessing to humanity.”

 

Yes, we Americans are a blessing to humanity, no matter how many academics and agitators mendaciously say the opposite. And for some 60 adult years of sharp-elbowed, sharp-tongued dedication to what he likes to call “a cause greater than self,” John McCain has been a sometimes cantankerous, more-often captivating, blessing to America – and thus a blessing to a whole world made better by America’s presence in it.

 

And he’s not finished serving — no, not yet.

Hopefully, he has inspired many colleagues in the Senate to start.

“Just another day in paradise”

Donald Trump, working the media.

Who would have thought that after his first two months as president in daily public combat with big media over everything he said and did, at the end of the day of what was reportedly his biggest political setback, President Donald Trump would make a couple of spontaneous, surprise phone calls to reporters at the two biggest newspaper outlets perpetuating what he labeled “fake news”, to chat about it?

My first thought was ‘seems like what Pope Francis has been doing since he was elected pope‘, in February 2013. Really. Early. And often. And to popular media. It’s a way to control the message, even though both leaders have media handlers.

President Trump had to have thrown the New York Times off their footing when he phoned them to talk about the failure to get the GOP health care reform bill to a vote on Friday. ‘He’s blaming Democrats’, the Times said in this story about the call.

The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, was preparing to tell the public that the health care bill was being withdrawn — a byproduct, Mr. Trump said, of Democratic partisanship. The president predicted that Democrats would return to him to make a deal in roughly a year.

“Look, we got no Democratic votes. We got none, zero,” Mr. Trump said in a telephone interview he initiated with The New York Times.

“The good news is they now own health care. They now own Obamacare.”

Mr. Trump insisted that the Affordable Care Act would collapse in the next year, which would then force Democrats to come to the bargaining table for a new bill.

“The best thing that can happen is that we let the Democrats, that we let Obamacare continue, they’ll have increases from 50 to 100 percent,” he said. “And when it explodes, they’ll come to me to make a deal. And I’m open to that.”

To some degree, this had to have flummoxed Trump’s most hostile detractors.

“I’m not disappointed,” he insisted. “If I were, I wouldn’t be calling you.”

The Washington Post had a great attention-grabbing headline: ‘Hello Bob’: President Trump called my cellphone to say that the health-care bill was dead‘. Well known journalist Robert Acosta recounted the moment the call came in, and the exchange he had with the president when he answered it.

At first I thought it was a reader with a complaint since it was a blocked number.

Instead, it was the president calling from the Oval Office. His voice was even, his tone muted. He did not bury the lead.

“Hello, Bob,” Trump began. “So, we just pulled it.”

Trump was speaking, of course, of the Republican plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, a plan that had been languishing for days amid unrest throughout the party as the president and his allies courted members and pushed for a vote.

Before I could ask a question, Trump plunged into his explanation of the politics of deciding to call off a vote on a bill he had been touting.

The Democrats, he said, were to blame.

“We couldn’t get one Democratic vote, and we were a little bit shy, very little, but it was still a little bit shy, so we pulled it,” Trump said.

Trump said he would not put the bill on the floor in the coming weeks. He is willing to wait and watch the current law continue and, in his view, encounter problems. And he believes that Democrats will eventually want to work with him on some kind of legislative fix to Obamacare, although he did not say when that would be.

I’m trying to picture Bob Costa at that moment, and those cold calls from Pope Francis kept coming to mind.

In sports, an artful move can result in ‘wrong footing’ an opponent. It means a player is lunging right when the ball goes left, or vice versa. You are thrown off your game. I thought of that, too.

These calls had to have thrown off two of the major media outlets Trump and Press Secretary Sean Spicer and other surrogates have targeted for perpetuating “fake news”. They and their entertainment media have played that up, to the point when Saturday Night Live’s string of opening skits satirized White House spokesman Spicer among others, and then Spicer refers to it in his daily press briefings, sometimes playing it up and using lines from the SNL skit, other times fitting right into that caricature. To the point where one TV news roundtable participant said he didn’t know whether it was ‘art imitating life, or life imitating art imitating life, or what’.

Which raises the real consideration of what is news, really. And Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation. The chapter titled ‘The Implosion of Meaning in the Media’ opens with this quote:

We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.

Provocatively, he explores and analyzes basically what we’ve been seeing, experiencing and consuming in news media for decades.

What is news, and what is reality?

Politics right now seem to be operating more feverishly on perception becoming reality. Whether that played into President Trump’s calls to the Times and Washington Post, or to what degree it did, is hard to tell, he’s such a wild card.

But his call to Robert Costa at WaPo was certainly interesting. And lengthy. It’s a back and forth exchange on the politics of trying to get, or stop, health care reform done and who tried to stop it and what comes next, and later down the road, and what it would take to get anything done.

And then Trump said this:

“Well, look, you can say what you want,” Trump said. “But there are years of problems, great hatred and distrust, and, you know, I came into the middle of it.”

So Costa says he wanted to get some clarity before wrapping up the call. It”s easy to imagine how head spinning this was at that point.

As Trump tried to hang up the phone and get back to work, I asked him to reflect, if at all possible, on lessons learned. He’s a few months into his presidency, and he had to pull a bill that he had invested time and energy into passing.

What was on his mind?

“Just another day,” Trump said, flatly. “Just another day in paradise, okay?”

He paused.

“Take care.”

It’s all in how you take it.

Gosnell ‘serial killer’ abortion book is a bestseller

But the New York Times snubs it, revealing that the Times bestseller list is a matter of opinion.

And here we thought all this time that books made that prestigious list by actually being current bestsellers, by the numbers.

Not so, it turns out.

Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer is a new blockbuster exposé by filmmakers and investigative journalists Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, the latest compelling project by the pair known for dogged research and solid documentation in their solid, straightforward documentaries and now this book. It sold out of Amazon and Barnes & Noble in three days, and outsold all but three nonfiction hardcover titles.

But the New York Times refused to include Gosnell on their nonfiction “Print Hardcover Best Sellers” list. Which makes it de facto dishonest about that list actually being ‘Best Sellers’.

Regnery Publishing claimed the Times ‘blatantly snubbed the pro-life book from the bestseller list’, though it certainly earned its place there.

When Gosnell released on January 24, it rose to #3 on Amazon’s best seller list of all book and was the #1 ‘Hot New Release’. While Gosnell landed on the “Combined Print & E-Book Best Sellers” list (at #13), the Times ignored the real sales numbers and refused to correctly list Gosnell as the 4th bestselling nonfiction title. ‘

The book reached that mark without any so-called ‘mainstream media’ attention—no reviews, no features, no author interviews. Gosnell’s meteoric success, and the New York Times’ coverup of that success,  mirrors what happened when the story first broke about the Pennsylvania abortionist’s “House of Horrors’, dubbed that by authorities when they raided the ‘clinic’ as an alleged ‘pill mill’ and discovered atrocities.

I covered it here many times, including the Grand Jury Report, after they visited the site wearing Hazmat suits for protection from any contact with the wretched filth and human decay inside the place. One of the chapters of that report is titled ‘How Did This Go On So Long?’, which Phelim and Ann answer with details and documentation in the book and upcoming film on Gosnell.

Their projects reveal how authorities astoundingly looked the other way when this former back alley abortionist ran an operation in their territory that broke laws and took more lives than America’s most notorious serial killers put together.

When the Gosnell case finally went to trial, it was ignored by media. Kirsten Powers called them out on that, as did other journalists and a Twitter campaign that ran a photo of an empty media section in the courtroom. The lack of media coverage continues now, with this book of revelations people need to read, especially those who may be considering abortion and those who work in the industry.

Ann McElhinney, co-author of Gosnell, says, “This is shocking that the cover-up of the Gosnell story is continuing even after the mainstream media were so criticized for failing to cover the trial.

“It’s clear that this is a blatant fake list in a fake news newspaper. It’s not only an insult to the people who have bought this book, but an insult to the readers of the New York Times who buy the newspaper and think they are getting the truth about book sales across America but instead get false facts disguised as a neutral list.”

McElhinney rightly adds, “The media doesn’t want this story to see the light of day because it shines a negative light on abortion.”

This has happened before with the Times’ bestseller list and been reported before, when it excluded outstanding Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel’s book (ironically, as this article notes), The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech.

NewsBusters posted on the Gosnell omission from the list, including an explanation someone at the Times gave in response to the Media Research Center’s news site.

A New York Times representative defended the outlet’s methodology Tuesday in a comment to MRC Culture:

“The Times’s best-seller lists are based on a detailed analysis of book sales from a wide range of retailers who provide us with specific and confidential context of their sales each week. These standards are applied consistently, across the board in order to provide Times readers our best assessment of what books are the most broadly popular at that time.”

She added, “That process is not influenced in any way by the content of a book, or by pressure from publishers or book sellers.”

Ann and Phelim don’t buy that disclaimer, nor does their publisher, with so many people buying the book it sold out on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books A Million in the first week. I talked with each of them on radio last week, both passionate authors, filmmakers, journalists and storytellers. They just want to know the truth about the most important events and news stories of our times, stories impacting the lives of so many people in communities and across the nation.

Crime stories are big sellers as television series, drama or horror stories in film, and fiction novels. This is a real life one, possibly flagging us to the possibility of other Gosnells out there doing these same things undetected or unreported right now, in other states in the country.

While the New York Times and other big media outlets continue to ignore Gosnell, the sales of this new book clearly prove that the American people want to know the truth.

What were two major marches and a campaign in January about?

Women’s March on DC, March for Life, Human Trafficking Awareness.

None of these things is like the other, except that for the marches, hundreds of thousands of women and male sympathizers and advocates, of all ages, descended on Washington DC within a week of each other. While the effort to combat human trafficking was a month long awareness campaign. They got varying degrees of news coverage, and had core commonality: women.

And that tied them together in a ‘what’s wrong with this picture’ snapshot of division and dissent in America.

An Independent Journal Review writer captures it with little text and ample photographic proof of points.

A week after the Inauguration of Donald Trump, politically active women across America could choose to make themselves heard at two major rallies revolving around women’s issues. They could attend a pro-choice, feminist march known as the Women’s March or they could wait one week and attend the 44th annual pro-life, March for Life.

Some lucky few, such as myself, were able to attend both.

How were they different? She supplied ample proof in the photographs that they were diametrically opposite.

Take a look for yourself, perhaps you will agree.

The photos are lined up according to categories, and each type had comparative color photos to illustrate the point:

Young adults at both marches (photos) Examples of inclusion (photos) Signs at both marches (photos) Attire (photos) Speakers (photos) Men (photos)

The main reason for the 1st annual women’s march (photos) The Main reason for the 44th march for life (photos)

Then she concluded:

“Only one march persuaded me to attend again.”

Her reason was obvious, and made abundantly clear. (I don’t link to the article intentionally. Some of the graphics are vulgar and terribly undignified to the women and men who chose to portray themselves and make their graphic statements as they did. I choose not to make such disgrace more accessible.)

A writer who attended the March for Life turned up this past week in First Things with a first hand account that made admissions not often heard but painfully accurate in their incisive truths.

The voices proclaiming the “Forty-Fourth Annual March for Life” seemed to be celebrating an anniversary, not observing four-and-a-half decades of failure. If there was mourning at this event, it was hidden behind the banners and posters, behind the colorful sweatshirts of school groups, behind the cheers and prayers of the friendly crowds…

“This is the generation that will end abortion!” the speakers exclaim, every year. And every following year the marchers return, with equal enthusiasm and good cheer, as our national shame grows one year deeper.

But this year there was some justification for the enthusiasm. For the first time, a vice president visited the march, and the president tweeted his full support. One did not need to be a Trump supporter to applaud the administration’s reiterated promises to defund Planned Parenthood and appoint pro-life justices…

A week earlier, the Women’s March had formally committed itself to the abortion license, and anti-abortion women marching against Trump had found themselves heckled and marginalized. But at the March for Life, no efforts were made to police the ideology of the marchers. Feminists for Life, some stalwart Democrats for Life, and a pregnant woman carrying the quixotic poster: “End Abortion: Abolish Capitalism” walked side by side with the #MAGA caps and monarchists. All political differences faded in a cause greater than any government.

Since we must have a government, those of us who oppose abortion will listen to Trump’s promises. We will hope that he keeps them. But the enthusiasm I saw at the march last Friday, the cheerful and confident faces, was not the result of any recent election. It has been there for years, and will be as long as the fight against abortion continues.

And that will be for a while, since the major setbacks Planned Parenthood and the entire abortion industry and its backers suffered in Election 2016, in addition to the increase of common sense abortion restriction laws, and the undercover investigative series of videos revealing the marketing of baby body parts, has – somehow – helped the abortion giant mount a massive fundraising campaign. And use those funds and that marketing campaign push back against the federal government redirecting taxpayer funds away from abortion providers and toward federally qualified, comprehensive women’s health clinics.

All of which is aided by complicit big media, whose style books don’t allow for the ‘pro-life’ designation and haven’t for years. Or decades.

NPR is a good example.

The New York Times has plenty of examples, from this article using ‘anti-abortion march’ (as opposed to the Women’s March on Washington) in the headline of an article that opens with the words “For opponents of abortion…”

Which, interestingly, this NYT article did only slightly differently, using the headline ‘Abortion Foes Aim to Compete With Turnout for Women’s March’. Which also opens with the words “Opponents of abortion…” (And, note to NYT staff writers: The March for Life just held its 44th annual event, swelling each year into higher numbers of young activists joining the faithful annual attendees, making the whole event hundreds of thousands strong, and not competing with anybody. Though that was a revealing claim.)

And then there’s this post-March report in the Times declaring that “Pence Tells Anti-Abortion Marchers That ‘Life is Winning’, and again opening the article with the words “Abortion opponents…”, and used that wording in the text to talk about “opposition to abortion” to define a huge swath of America committed for four decades and growing, by what they oppose, and not propose.

Just saying. It’s so entrenched, so ingrained, so obvious, the bias.

But look who did that. This little blog post, off the beaten track of big media websites and spinoff blogs, written by a Dominican Brother to share experiences in the Dominican priory which happened to be situated just off the Mall of Washington and close to massive crowds assembled there for the Women’s March.

There were not enough restrooms set up for the Women’s March that took place in Washington, DC, the day after the presidential inauguration. I found this out while visiting the Dominican priory on the southern side of the National Mall, where I saw many people from the March looking around for a restroom. Observing the desperation of those outside, some friars kindly offered to let a dozen marchers use the public restrooms in the priory. But, unexpectedly, hundreds of people quickly formed a line seeking relief.

While I was interested in helping those in need, this small act of mercy became a source of anxiety. Not only was a large crowd descending on the priory, but with the people came many disagreeable signs, shirts, and hats, some of which had messages that were anti-Catholic, pro-abortion, vulgar, or even pornographic. Nevertheless, those carrying or wearing these things had the courtesy to cover them up. The fervor that may have animated the large crowd did not go so deep as to make people oblivious or rude to flesh-and-blood humans.

That’s great news. Br. Martin’s account gives hope that “we can often find common ground on many issues when we take the time to speak with others.”

I have had several conversations on radio with guests who are doing this in their daily work, as I am in mine, speaking with whoever will listen and speak in turn, and engage. Anyone open to dialogue, with ideas grounded in fact and reason, and propositions backed by resources, and offers to help in any way needed, free for the taking. Especially for those in crisis, trouble, or need of any kind.

January was Human Trafficking Awareness Month. But Wednesday was ‘International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking’ marked annually on 8 February, which falls on the feast of St. Josephine Bakita, who Pope Francis called an “enslaved, exploited and humiliated girl” who never lost hope, ended up a migrant in Europe, and became a nun.

Wednesday I featured a guest on radio who devotes his work to battling human trafficking and calls for “a new vigilance, a rising up, particularly of men who will love incredibly and sacrifically,” It was Australian musician Joel Smallbone, lead actor of PRICELESS, the top independent film on launch weekend last October, dramatically dealing with the issue of human trafficking in what turns out to be a drama about heroic love and sacrifice. Joel and his brother, Luke Smallbone, head the Grammy Award-winning band for KING & COUNTRY, and are releasing the film on DVD and On Demand February 14th from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, in time for Valentine’s Day.

Joel explains it’s a love story that emphasizes the value of women, building a movement on the “idea of respect and honor in relationship and women being priceless. What we’ve found in our beliefs as men is that people are made equal. No one is a commodity and everyone deserves to be loved and loved well.”

He told me that “women are being objectified for their body or their looks, but not loved for their inherent beauty,” and he called this “a blatant ideology” that unfortunately, enslaves so many people in America and the world.

I thought of those in the Women’s March in January, who marched through the streets of DC in costumes made to appear as ‘women’s private parts’, female genitalia, and the signs with vulgar messages. And wondered how they could not realize how they degraded themselves and other women, objectifying them and playing right into the “blatant ideology” of women as commodities.

As Br. Martin showed, we’ve got to try to speak with each other, and find common ground.

President Trump’s first full business day

Included an Executive Order on taxpayer funding of abortion.

This is a ritual that the past several presidents gave Day One priority to, in deciding the order of business requiring immediate attention when sworn into office. It’s called the Mexico City Policy and Democratic presidents overturn it while Republican presidents reinstate it. President Trump did that, and then some.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser headed the pro-life coalition of advisers Trump consulted late in his campaign, and her organization has kept elected officials and voters well aware of the promises he made to pro-life citizens, and updated on latest news following up on those promises. Even since the most recent post to its website, SBA List sent out an update with more background on how comprehensive this Executive Order is, and why it needed to specify more than past reinstatements. And what Dannenfelser added:

1. President Trump has modernized the Mexico City Policy by directing the Secretary of State to implement a plan to extend the Mexico City Policy across all global health assistance funding.

2. President Trump has directed the Secretary of State to ensure U.S. taxpayer dollars do not support organizations that support or participate in the management of a coercive abortion program. An example of this would be the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has a long history of supporting the Chinese population control program, which has included forced abortions.

“Not only has President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, he’s modernized it by applying it to all foreign health assistance programs,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “For nearly a decade under President Obama, Americans have funded UNFPA, which has a long history of involvement in China’s brutal birth limitation policy – enforcement of which routinely includes the atrocity of forced abortions. Thanks to President Trump, the Secretary of State is directed to ensure Americans are no longer complicit in violating the dignity of women and children overseas. No longer will abortion be a top U.S. export.

This came as great news to pro-life advocates based in the U.S. and abroad.

Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers had written an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump in December, asking him to investigate Planned Parenthood and “If they are found to be complicit with coercive population control in China – as we believe they will be — we request that you defund them.”

Obianuju Ekeocha of Culture of Life Africa has released a video revealing the reach and attempted grasp of Marie Stopes International in exporting abortion to Africa. Culture of Life Africa has reason for hope in the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy.

Marie Stopes says abortion is at the core of their mission and hopes to double their abortion-related services by 2020. Their staff has been caught on tape boasting of doing illegal abortions around the world, and their United Kingdom branch was recently forced to temporarily suspend abortion services for children and vulnerable populations due to serious safety concerns. Marie Stopes is also actively involved in trying to overturn prolife laws overseas. Organizations like Marie Stopes should not receive American taxpayer support.

Both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush cut off funding to the UNFPA during their administrations. In 1993, President Bill Clinton resumed funding for UNFPA, but for fiscal year 1999 signed a foreign aid appropriations bill that zeroed out funding for UNFPA. Funding to UNFPA was again completely cut off under President George W. Bush. In 2008, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell explained: “UNFPA’s support of, and involvement in, China’s population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion. Therefore, it is not permissible to continue funding UNFPA at this time.” President Obama resumed U.S. taxpayer funding of UNFPA in 2009. From 2009 to 2016, over $300 million has been appropriated for UNFPA.

Both Uju and Reggie will be my guests on radio Tuesday to cover the impact of the Mexico City Policy being reinstated, and the operations and agenda of the international abortion movement. They’re both eager to engage the conversation and more fully inform the public. This is the global conversation we need to have and to hear.

America gets a new president

Like him or not, the office is bigger than the officeholder. It’s time to rise to the occasion.

For the moment, let’s put aside the divisions and differences and for one, major, historic occasion that comes along only every so many years in a lifetime, come together as a nation of free citizens. And be grateful, together, and respect each other, for our shared dignity and humanity.

That’s not a lofty goal, it’s reachable. I knew that from earliest childhood, seemingly innately but surely also because of the upbringing I had in a good, strong family and my classical education in a Catholic school, where discipline, order, morality and service were in the air we breathed.

Growing up, I soaked in news and politics because that’s how things were communicated and run in this country. I asked questions and listened, keenly, to what was said. By my parents, other extended family, news reporters, politicians, the nation’s top leaders. I read the daily newspaper cover to cover from a very young age, cutting out the photos but writing my own story in the little newspapers I made. But I made them especially for the big stories of the day, for posterity I think. Stories about political conventions when they lasted much longer and politicians were longer winded (believe it or not). About the aspirations of some big name people and desperation of little known people, especially those in the path of danger or despair.

The presidential cycles were always big, because of the big ideas debated and promises made and plans offered. No matter who won, the swearing in of a new president was a Very Big Event in America, and in my life.

So I really appreciated the commentary I heard earlier this week from newsman Neil Cavuto at the end of his news hour, brief as it was, because it said what I felt, and I suspect a lot of Americans do as well. At least I hope so.

Honoring the institutions that define us.

This is, for the most part, what he said.

This peaceful transfer of power is what we’re all about. We are free not to like our presidents. It’s our business. But it’s our country. This isn’t so much about honoring the man who is assuming the office, but the office itself. This is not so much about the president, but the presidency.

It’s about what unites the vast crowds who brave the Washington cold every four years to witness history, to see something historic, no matter who is being sworn in. Just to be there. To feel it. To witness it. To be a part of it. Whether it’s about a retired General without a lick of political experience [Eisenhower], or a peanut farmer from the Deep South without any Washington experience [Carter]. Or an Illinois backwoodsman who takes command of a nation just as it’s coming apart [Lincoln], or a ridiculously young Massachusetts senator emerging from the closest American election to that date [Kennedy], or an African American drawing record crowds [Obama] to witness that moment, whether they voted for that man or not, because it’s not about the man, nor someday soon I hope, the woman, not the officeholder, but the office.

It’s about not just the house, but the White House. The institutions that define us are so much bigger than the passing occupants who come and go before us. Inaugurations are about honoring that, all of that, and all of us, that space in time we give space to each other, even as many are packed on the Mall, vast numbers, like sardines, with eyes fixed on the Capitol, some so far away they can’t even see who the heck is being sworn in. Just that they swore to be there to see it as it all played out…

What really matters is our American rite of passage, whether we like what’s passing before us or not. This is the day we give the benefit to our doubts, even as history shows, we doubted in our darkest moments whether we’d see any benefit at all. Yet we did, we do, it is our constant, our core. It is our right to celebrate, or not celebrate at all. As long as we step back and recognize this day, that it’s not about our next leader. It’s about us, the people he is leading.

Let’s celebrate, somehow, together. And then take up our responsibilities as citizens to make ourselves, our families, our communities and our nation better.

Inauguration week civics lesson

From Martin Luther King Jr. to his followers in Congress, the rights movement has changed.

In a providential alignment of historic dates on the national calendar, Monday of ‘Inauguration Week’ was the annual celebration of the great civil rights leader Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr., news reports circulated that early civil rights activist and now senior Representative John Lewis and a growing company of protesters would not attend the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, which shared attention with reports that a Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration would bring hundreds of thousands of protesters to DC to repudiate the new president and what they expected would be the damage wrought by his perceived policies.

Dr. Martin Luther King delivered one of his lesser known talks, ‘Our God Is Marching On’, in 1965 to encourage engagement in public policy and the political process, with a timeless message.

Let us march on ballot boxes until we send to our city councils, state legislatures, and the United States Congress, men who will not fear to do justly love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.

Let us march on ballot boxes until brotherhood becomes more than a meaningless word in an opening prayer, but the order of the day on every legislative agenda.

Let us march on ballot boxes until all…God’s children will be able to walk the earth in decency and honor…

And yet, this week is a snapshot in a ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ look at the setbacks King’s aspirations have suffered in the modern day splintering of the movement into diverse ‘rights’ groups, many based on identity with redefined terms and redirected energies.

Here’s one, based on the new activism of Congressman John Lewis against President-elect Trump, with Lewis leading a boycott of the inauguration by members of Congress who don’t see the incoming president as ‘legitimate’.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Tuesday accused Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) of resting on his status as a civil rights icon, arguing he has done little in Congress.

“I have long contemplated the idea of just going to the [House] floor and saying, ‘John Lewis, thank you for your contribution to civil rights during the Civil Rights era. I would appreciate it if you would contribute something since then…

King also criticized Lewis and other Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members for sharpening divisions in Congress.

“When they formed the Congressional Black Caucus back years ago in the aftermath of or in the immediate beginning of the civil rights movement, the shape of that, I looked at it even then and said, ‘How can you form a caucus that’s established on race?’” he asked. “And now, the Congressional Black Caucus, I just openly say it – they’re the self-segregating caucus.”

“I mean, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. – as [this week] we celebrated his birthday – wasn’t about segregation, it was about de-segregation,” King added, citing Monday’s holiday for the civil rights leader.

“But now, they self-segregate and use the vehicle created as the self-segregating caucus in order to advance a leftist political agenda that is not at all reflective of Martin Luther King [Jr.’s] memory.”

This is all a shame. Dr. King and his family who continue his work today have long referred to ‘the Beloved Community’ based on ‘love and mercy, peace and brotherhood, decency and honor’. That’s pretty much gone in this post-election transition time, as it was through the campaign and election season.

And about “God’s children”, not only does this week fall within a week of the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court law legalizing abortion on demand – which King’s niece Alveda never stops reminding the country is the new civil rights movement – this year the annual March for Life in DC is preceded by a Women’s March on Washington to protest the presidency of Donald Trump and the perceived harm his administration will do to women’s rights.

But can’t they walk together, as Dr. King asked in his day, especially of fellow clergy in Letter from Birmingham Jail? Isn’t there some common ground?

The stated goal of the March for Life is “a world where every human life is valued and protected.

The vision statement…of the Women’s March pledges a commitment to nonviolent solutions, noting that there is “no true peace without justice and equity for all.

Furthermore, even though the women who are organizing the Women’s March had only two months to put their event together, they have created a diverse, enthusiastic and eager community.

Since those words were written in that article, the women planning this event narrowed their community to those who shared the core belief in abortion as a woman’s right. So the Women’s March grew less diverse, when organizers disinvited New Wave Feminists and other pro-life organizations. Though some enthusiastic and eager pro-life women plan to go anyway.

But that’s January 21st, a full news day away from all the planned protests in DC of the inauguration, the parade and celebrations scheduled for those historic events. If only those who celebrate King’s legacy actually tried to live it, we would have more decency and honor.

Nat Hentoff, civil libertarian, human rights champion, passes on

The practically peerless legend leaves his great defense of life to others. What a challenge.

Great human rights activists tend to know each other. Wednesday, Wesley J. Smith joined me on radio to talk about life, Nat Hentoff, and Wesley’s tribute in National Review Online last weekend.

We have lost a great writer, civil libertarian, free speech absolutist, jazz historian, and pro-life advocate, Nat Hentoff, who died today at 91.

As an atheist, Nat took much heat from his fellow liberals and rigid fundamentalists among the “free thinking” crowd for standing against abortion, euthanasia, and opposing protocols that would leave babies with spina bifida and other disabilities to die without attempts at curative treatment.

The conversation was both joyful and a little sad, because Wesley was one of many who knew Hentoff as an original and one of a kind, who has no immediate, obvious successor with his pure brand of civil engagement and reasoned, clear thinking.

At the end of that tribute, I noted with some sadness, Wesley wrote “We will not see his like again.”

He called Hentoff “a superb writer and first class public intellectual…a man of consistent, steadfast principle, a moral purist in an age of hand-wringing accommodationists. This unyielding consistency has made him an iconoclast’s iconoclast.” In fact, Wesley noted, Hentoff described himself as “a Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, left-wing pro-lifer.”

One could disagree with Hentoff’s politics but appreciate his sincere humanitarian principles, we both admitted. Wesley’s tribute noted that ‘his style was as individualistic as were his principles. In an age of shouters, he was quiet. In an era of facile talking heads, he remained profound. Where others agitate and self-aggrandize, he relied on steadfast cogent argument to persuade. Where contemporary pundits often tailor their views to cater to the powerful or popular, Hentoff courageously remained a challenger of orthodoxies.

Hentoff’s advocacy cut a wide swath across what are often called ‘the life issues.’ Indeed, his unyielding stand over many years against abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, unethical human medical experimentation, and the ongoing bioethical construction of a “duty to die” has made him a moral beacon for those who believe that universal human liberty depends on society’s embrace of the intrinsic equality of all human life. And for decades he…connected the dots for his vast audience, expertly charting the consequences of our steady, but. not always slow, slide down the slippery slope toward a veritable culture of death.

NRO ran this piece the next day, by Jack Fowler, who also knew Hentoff and called him “a unique advocate for the humanity of the unborn child.”

He was also a champion of free speech, and the two issues collided in 1992 when he hosted Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat — denied a spot at his party’s presidential convention earlier that summer — for a speech and discussion at New York’s historic Cooper Union. The topic: Can a liberal be pro-life. On hand: plenty of Leftist radicals.

(Sounds like a very fitting commentary for today.)

Fowler published a snip from Hentoff’s column on what happened at that ‘free speech discussion’ at Cooper Union, on whether a liberal could be pro-life.

As moderator, I started what would have been the discussion by pointing out that this was an evening about free speech — not only that of the governor of Pennsylvania but also that of anyone in the audience who wanted to challenge him. The hooting, screaming, pounding and whistle blowing began. Strategically located at both sides of the hall — disruption by stereo — a preening array of hooligans made all speech except their own inaudible. They reminded me of the domestic brown shirts breaking up Jewish meetings in my youth, but these were howling soldiers of the left…

At least 80 percent of the audience wanted to hear Casey and said so, as best they could, by applauding his attempts to get started. But they were no match for the speech muggers. After several tries, Gov. Casey yielded. “The Democratic Convention suspended the First Amendment,” he tried to say, “and tonight you did the same thing.” Casey walked off the stage as the shouters congratulated each other.

Fowler says

It was an infamous event that has seen itself repeated many times, and with great intensity, over the years; and over them, Hentoff was on hand to bear witness to the assault on free speech in places where open debate and discussion were supposed to be the rule, and to call out those who were supposed to be protectors of the First Amendment.

Then, with the tinge of resignation that Wesley Smith expressed at the end of his tribute to this singular, Fowler posted a 1967 video of Hentoff in debate with the inimitable William F. Buckley on an episode of Firing Line. It was priceless. Though the topic of that was ‘Black Power’ and civil rights, defense of the vulnerable and our duty to the poor in need, some of Hentoff’s remarks were remarkably relevant to this very day’s news of politics and ‘culture wars’.

“Liberals seem to be amused by their own language” he said. “It’s not a conspiracy, they’ve just stopped thinking. They don’t think about things after they’ve talked about them.”

He was sincere, knowing from whence he spoke. Continuing to explain the liberal mentality, Hentoff added: “You don’t really do things, you plan things.”

In that column with that video, Fowler left the reader this note, presuming readers would watch two great intellects speak, and listen, to each other for genuinely civil discourse, with conviction and respect.

Enjoy, as you will, but be warned: You will despair that the quality and level of public discussion on display is in our rear-view mirror. RIP Nat.

We don’t have a Lincoln, a Martin Luther King Jr., a Reagan or Buckley, a Hentoff still among us. But we have their legacy and model and witness. And it’s our right to choose to carry it on.

New Congress quick to focus on abortion

Planned Parenthood is doubling down.

Last Wednesday, a Select Investigative Panel in the U.S. House of Representatives released a report accusing Planned Parenthood of serious abuses and possible criminal violations in transactions between abortion businesses and fetal tissue harvesters. This came after months of hearings and investigations into a series of undercover videos showed abortion clinic workers in different parts of the country discussing ‘fetal product sales’ and the value of different baby body parts, especially if obtained intact after an abortion.

Congress started this investigation months ago and with the election year frenzy, it was probably forgotten by anyone not somehow involved with a vested interest. But it’s a whopper (full report here), finding a range of abuses in a number of clinics across the country. That same day, the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom issued this report on waste, abuse and potential fraud by Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion providers in billing for Medicaid reimbursement.

The next day, Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced essentially the defunding of Planned Parenthood and reallocation of those funds to federally qualified comprehensive community health centers for women. Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser responded quickly.

“Planned Parenthood is America’s largest abortion provider, performing over 300,000 abortions per year. Today’s commitment by Speaker Ryan to re-direct the abortion giant’s taxpayer funding to community health centers is a victory for women’s health care. Community health centers provide far more services than Planned Parenthood and outnumber them 20 to 1 nationwide…

“Polling in 2018 Senate battleground states shows that voters support re-directing Planned Parenthood’s funding to community health centers. Vulnerable pro-abortion Democratic Senators need to do a serious gut check, especially following the 2016 election outcome, and decide if they will stand with their constituents and women’s health care or continue to funnel money to big abortion.”

President-elect Trump has made key, distinct promises to the pro-life coalition of advisers he assembled and consulted over the final months of the presidential campaign, and in their messages of thanks and congratulations after his victory, they assured him and their nationwide followers that they look forward to seeing him follow through on those promises. Some of his top aides are pro-life, and his party platform was built partially on pro-life planks.

After the the House Select Panel issued its report last week and then Speaker Ryan announced the intent to redirect federal funds to community health centers for women, Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins was my guest on radio to talk about these and other developments in the lead up to the Inauguration and the March for Life DC just days later, which grows larger and younger and more exuberant every year. She said Planned Parenthood is on a major new, urgent campaign to raise funds and build support, and the abortion giant is taking its appeal to every social media platform and major media outlet where they can reach the most people to convince them of the importance of Planned Parenthood’s work and necessity.

It’s a battle for hearts and minds, with directly competing narratives. We will be talking and hearing a lot about abortion, and we should, for everyone’s sake. This will be a very big year for the test of scrutiny.