Ignored, But Not Silenced

As my regular readers know, most of the time I write about what we might call sit back and relax matters – art, architecture, film, cultural history, and so on.  This is not a political blog, even though if you follow me on Twitter or can read between the lines on this site, you will have no doubt as to where my sympathies lie.  However one has to make exceptions from time to time, and around January 22nd each year, I have the opportunity to make one of those exceptions.

Today is the 39th annual March for Life here in Washington, D.C., when those of us opposed to legalized abortion on demand rally to peacefully protest the Supreme Court’s infamous decision in Roe v. Wade back in 1973.  As is regrettably too often the case I will not be able to make it down this year to the rally on The Mall across from The White House before the March begins, nor will I be able to participate in the March itself as it makes its way up Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court, though I have participated many times in the past.  I am, however, following the lead of the bishops in marking today with fasting and with prayer, in atonement for the millions of people who have been legally murdered in this country as a result of the worst high court decision in U.S. legal history since Dred Scott v. Sanford.

It can be disheartening at times to be Pro Life in this country, given that the so-called mainstream media is heavily populated by those who prefer legalized infanticide to the protection of the unborn.  There will be passing references on the evening news tonight to the hundreds of thousands who will be in attendance at the Rally and March for Life here in DC today, with more time given to those who favor abortion to react to the events of the day, but virtually no live coverage apart from one or two of the religious cable networks such as EWTN or CatholicTV, and perhaps an occasional check-in from Fox News.  And that is all we can expect.

If the topic was anything other than opposition to abortion – the environment, immigration, taxation, and so on – and so many tens of thousands of people showed up in the Capital to peaceably protest, the media would be falling all over themselves to be a part of it.  All of the morning news shows on both broadcast and cable news would be sending in pieces from their reporters in the field throughout the day in order to properly cover the story.  Today at least that will not, and probably never will, come to pass.

Imagine a protest against the war in Afghanistan, for example, attracting a quarter of a million people or more to Capitol Hill, and the major news outlets failing to cover it live.  They would (rightly) be accused of failing in their duty to report on a significant event.  Yet the fact remains that this is what happens, inevitably, for those involved in the Pro Life movement.  It is easily the single largest under-reported story of the year, every year.

Of course, this ignoring of the voices of so many people is completely out of proportion to reality, as occurred during the recent, ridiculously disproportional World Youth Day coverage in Madrid, or as is going on now, and for far too long already, with respect to the various “Occupy” movements.  The couple of hundred Occupy Wall Street protesters camping out on Federal property here in the Nation’s Capital for example have received, and will continue to receive, an infinitely larger proportion of coverage from media outlets.  This is in part because of the sympathy of reporters for the scatterbrained, nonsensical views of those participating in what the National Park Service laughably refers to as an ongoing, 24-hour “vigil”, and in part because protesters who break the law and behave violently are simply more interesting to cover than are well-behaved people peaceably exercising their freedoms of speech and assembly.

In such an environment, speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves can feel like trying to shout into a storm.  You may feel as though the world is drowning out your voice, no matter what you say or how you say it.  And there is no question that this situation can lead to feelings of discouragement.  However, during the homily at mass yesterday, our pastor Monsignor Langsfeld made a very good point about our always seeking to move forward in doing God’s Will, even when the odds seem impossible, and we worry that no one will bother to listen to us.

The first reading yesterday came from the Book of Jonah, and described how Jonah was told to go through the giant city of Nineveh, warning the people there to repent of the evil they had done.  Jonah thought that this was pointless, that no one would listen to him, or that he would be killed for calling the people to repent of their evil ways. Yet much to his surprise, the people did repent, and changed their ways as a result of God’s Grace working through him.  Jonah did not want to undertake this task, and as we all know he attempted to run away from it.

As Monsignor pointed out, Jonah was understandably intimidated by the inherent paganism of the people whom he was sent to preach to, as a group who did not recognize the one true God of Israel, as well as by the sheer size of the city, which we are told took three whole days to walk though because it was so spread out.  When Jonah finally gave in after trying to run away from what he had been called to do however, and accepted the role that God wanted him to play, there was a result that no one could have anticipated.

Will the hundreds of thousands of people down on The Mall today who are following a call to witness to the importance of protecting human life have a similar impact on the lawmakers of this country? Will there be an unexpected change of heart, at the highest levels of authority? We do not know, and with the media and other forces stacked against those who speak up for life, we can be forgiven for doubting that they will make any difference.

Yet that does not mean that those of us who view abortion on demand as the greatest evil to affect this country in decades should abandon or ignore what we feel called to do, when the time comes for us to stand up for what is right.  It took centuries and a horrifically bloody civil war to abolish the evil of slavery in this country, after all, and we are still dealing with the fallout from that institutionalized evil.  We have already lost too many American citizens in bloody, horrific fashion to the scourge of abortion, so let us hope that the example of these peaceful but convinced witnesses to life will, in fact, make an impact as great as Jonah’s delayed but ultimately successful witness did on the pagan minds and hearts of his own day.


Detail of “Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites” engraving by Gustave Doré (1883)

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