For the last several months, since the fateful shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent tragic deaths of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, the media has been transfixed by the sight of the nationwide protests that have been designed to raise awareness of the perceived injustice faced by black Americans at the hands of the police. Whatever you think of the movement that has styled itself “Black Lives Matter,” they have done a masterful job of obtaining media coverage for themselves and starting a national conversation about the issue they are trying to draw attention to.
Today, in Washington, DC, hundreds of thousands of individuals – more than the combined total of all the police protests – will gather peacefully to begin their annual pilgrimage through DC to the steps of the Supreme Court to protest the greatest injustice America has ever faced – the lives of 57 million unborn children have been extinguished in America since the Supreme Court declared in 1973 a heretofore undiscovered right, nowhere written in the Constitution nor imagined when any part of it was adopted, for some Americans to legally kill other Americans, provided that the victims were sufficiently young.
These protestors will block no interstates. They will commit no violent acts against police, local shop owners, or anyone else. They will have dutifully filed for all their permits and will abide by the proscribed march route. They will sing songs, clasp each others’ hands, and shuffle peacefully through the cold. Many will be seen silently crying as the magnitude of America’s loss hits home today, perhaps more than any other day. And other than a cursory mention in the local papers, they will be largely ignored, if history is any indicator.
Whatever one feels about the factual particulars of the incidents involving Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, the plight of those who are too often unseen by those in positions of high authority is worthy of our national attention. And while it is good to consider those who are too often unseen because of their socioeconomic status, the neighborhood in which they live, or the color of their skin, it is even more important to consider those who are unseen because they have been unceremoniously cut into pieces and discarded in plastic bags labeled DANGER: BIOLOGICAL WASTE because they have committed the sole crime of being unwanted by their mothers.
Another year has gone by since last we contemplated this horrible stain on our nation’s conscience. Another million plus unborn children have died. They have no Eric Garner. They have no Tamir Rice. Their poster children were never given the dignity of names.
And so we march. Even if the world at large does not notice, we march.
And we wonder: are we doing enough?
We are fighting tooth and nail against a committed and well-funded abortion lobby to insure that, at the very least, Kermit Gosnell’s house of horrors never need be repeated, by making sure that abortion clinics are at least as safe as other outpatient surgery clinics of their type. We fight for legislation that would ban abortion at least in the rare cases where it is attempted after the unborn child is viable or can feel pain. And we say to ourselves as we lay our heads on our pillow at night as we win these slow, painstaking victories, that we are continuing the fight and we are doing the very best that may be done. And we get up in the morning and go to work in our safe jobs with our safe reputations in our community and we are proud that we, at least, stand on the side of life.
But in the small hours of the night, our souls cause us to wonder: are we doing enough?
Given the enormity of the evil we face, is the resistance that we are offering to that evil enough, or commensurate with it?
As it always does, this day nearly coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This provides us with a serendipitous opportunity to contemplate not only the evil we face, but the courage of a man who was unwilling to be told that he must be ever patient in the face of that evil, and never disturb the status quo in order to overturn it. Our own conscience is indicted by the example of his words, written while sitting in a Birmingham Jail, imprisoned for the umpteenth time because of his firm conviction that the age of injustice was over and that he could not sit idly by and allow it to continue even if his own freedom (and, indeed, his own life) needed to be sacrificed in the process. As he noted on that occasion:
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.
Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
For too long in America, justice has been denied to the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. And although we now mourn that our President is a man so enamored of this particular form of injustice that he could not bring himself to declare it proper to legally protect infants who survived the heinous procedures of abortion, we are not ignorant that the opposition party in which we are forced to primarily place our faith treats us in much the same way as Dr. King described – as a faction to be appeased, mollified, and (when necessary) outright deceived in the hopes that we will forever be content to live with broken promises, failed courage, and demands for gratitude that at the very least they are not as bad as Bull Connor.
At RedState, we will do at least this much: we will not sit idly by and allow the timid and the craven to reduce the pro-life cause to an empty platitude, to be recited at fundraisers but never really meant in the halls of power. When the [mc_name name=’Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’E000291′ ]es of the world betray our trust by giving lip service to our cause, while refusing when the chips are down to raise a finger for even exceedingly modest reforms, we will not be silent. When they shrink from taking a stand out of a fear of electoral consequences, we will do our best to make them fear the consequences of inaction. Because that inaction costs real human lives.
And we will continue to recognize that no right, no liberty, no policy is worth defending over and above the liberty all Americans – regardless of age or developmental status or location (whether within or without the womb) – have to expect that the government will take measures to prevent them from being legally killed in the absence of due process. And so we will not endorse any politician who will not defend this right, and we will continue not to let any writer on the front page of RedState who does not believe in it.
This much we will continue to do as long as we exist. And yet, we are painfully aware that it is not enough. And we pray for the courage to do more, and the wisdom to know what we might do to move an uncaring and indifferent public to action – to help them see the evil that exists right under their nose and to discover the will to end it, so that we may bring a peaceful and swift end to this injustice.
We believe that all lives matter. Even the lives of the extremely young.