John Avlon is a Daily Beast contributer; he also is the author of Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America. Avlon’s definition of “wingnut” often seems to be a politician who doesn’t agree with John Avlon, but his recent list of 15 wingnuts running for office this November would be hard to quibble with, except that 15 is far from enough in this disturbing election.
One aspect of his list is both telling and unfair, however. The policy position Avlon cites most frequently to “prove” that a particular candidate is a wingnut is the candidate’s opposition to abortion “even in cases of rape or incest.” Whatever that position may be, it is not evidence of wing-nuttiness. It is, in fact, evidence of courage, moral consistency and integrity, even if many think it is wrong. If one believes that aborting a fetus is the equivalent of taking a human life, and many abortion opponents do, then holding that an abortion is impermissible under any circumstances makes sense. It certainly makes far more sense than arguing that the life of an innocent fetus is to be valued according to the circumstances of its creation.
The position that shows a truly shallow and superficial opposition to abortion, in fact, is when a politician says that he or she believes abortion is immoral, but makes an exception for incest or rape. This point of view shows a lack of sympathy and understanding of the real hardship caused by unwanted children to women in less dire situations. Such candidates are saying that sacrificing one’s career plans or education or chances at life success aren’t sufficiently important to justify ending a pregnancy, which can be ethically terminated, but only for reasons the candidate has decided are valid. The child doesn’t know that his or her life is being cut short because its mother was raped, or because it would end her hopes of making the Olympic team. or because she wanted to fit in her prom dress, or she was sick of having boys. An abortion is an abortion; a human being/potential human being is being wiped off the face of the earth. Holding that the reason for an abomination doesn’t make it less of an abomination is a tough position, but not a crazy one. It deserves respect.
If a candidate takes the clear, absolutist position that abortion is murder, then there can be no morally acceptable justifications…even the health of the mother. One can argue whether the absolutist position on abortion is supported by biological facts; one can argue that a fetus or embryo is some form of lesser human life that can be sacrificed to the needs and desires of the mother; but a strongly held absolutist belief backed by many ethicists, philosophers and scientists is not a “wingnut” position.
No matter what John Avlon believes.
3 thoughts on “Note to John Avlon: Having Itegrity Doesn’t Make Someone a Wingnut”
I can’t resist quoting Ambrose Bierce on a closely related topic:
“HOMICIDE, n. The slaying of one human being by another. There are four kinds of homocide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another—the classification is for advantage of the lawyers.”
Couldn’t I argue someone who believes homosexuality to be a “mortal” sin which will forever condemn someone to eternal damnation is equally as courageous, if not more so? After all, they’re not just trying to save my health and well-being, but my very soul. If anything, that’s MORE courageous considering that there are (according to such a theology) no reprieves from hell.
I fail to see how you can defend Catholics here while attack them on gay rights? They’re a religious institution which (currently) teaches people to love the sinner, yet hate the sin. I can’t see how it’s unethical or mean-spirited for someone to argue that, in their opinion, something is immoral and should be stopped, so long as they don’t advocate violence as a means of achieving said goals.
Neil, that’s a terrible analogy.
There is no conduct with negative consequences being fairly or logically condemned in homosexuality—the argument is that it’s wrong—a sin— simply because somebody said so. In an abortion, someone dies: the only issue is how much of a someone it is. That isn’t a religious position; that’s fact. The fiction may well be on the other, pro-abortion side that argues, I believe cynically and without objective analysis, that there IS no life.
This has zilch to do with the Catholic Church: opposing abortion as the taking of a life is an ethical position that happens to be a moral one for some faiths. Anti-gay sentiment is a moral position that is unethical. I didn’t mention the Catholic Church in the post, and I don’t see how you can drag it into the discussion. All morality is based on absolutism…so what? Ultimately it is a non-rational position. Absolutism from an ethical side, however, is analytical.
In case I wasn’t clear: I do not believe in an absolute ban on abortion. I think the interests of an unborn child and that of the mother need to be balanced. But the absolute position has integrity, and is hard to debate against. And it is certainly not nutty.
Again, sorry, terrible analogy.
The real question is: why doesn’t Avlon view the “abortion on demand, no exceptions” position as “wingnut?” That’s an absolutist position with no logical justification at all, that depends on an untruth.