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I have now read comments by several logicians who deny that the revelations in the recent round of ‪#‎defundPlannedParenthood‬ videos are game-changing. For the principled and philosophically consistent pro-lifer or pro-choicer, these videos shouldn’t make a difference.

To computers, maybe. Not to human beings. We do not live by logic alone.

It was one thing to think about the evils of the slave trade in the abstract — quite another to see the tiny boxes in the slave ships into which living men, women and children were packed like sardines, or to catch even a whiff of the excrement and vomit they were made to lay in for weeks. It was one thing to read the “Final Solution” — quite another to walk through the camps at Flossenbürg or Dachau in 1945. It was one thing to read Plessy v. Ferguson and Jim Crow laws on a printed page — quite another to witness a lynching, or the burning of a black church, or Bull Connor’s attack dogs tearing into civil rights protesters.

And it is one thing to listen to Planned Parenthood profess concern for “reproductive rights” and bemoan “heavily edited” videos — quite another to hear its own officers and abortionists talk breezily over lunch of altering a baby’s presentation from vertex to breech in order to extract intact heads.

And to bring this, finally, up to the seventh video: It is one thing to hear someone testify “they have cut brains from the skulls of babies,” quite another to hear someone confess “I have done it.”

Abstract principles are not bad per se. But you have to take a good hard look at any principle’s real-world effects to evaluate it accurately. It would have been possible, theoretically, for slave traders to treat Africans “humanely” in the Middle Passage. You could say even that it might have been wiser to do so, because they would then have delivered more living, healthy slaves to the West Indies and the shores of New England. But the slavers didn’t — because the principle that “it’s okay to kidnap African men and women and treat them as chattels” trained them to do otherwise. Dostoevsky wrote that “man grows used to everything, the scoundrel.” Barbaric principles will reveal themselves, sooner or later, by begetting practices that are correspondingly and visibly barbaric.

Procrustes seems hospitable and tidy when he talks of making sure guests and beds are well suited to one another. And then you look at the amputated limbs. Planned Parenthood’s long-faced statements about health, rights and “not in her shoes” have an appearance of compassion and moral seriousness — but its practices have now been revealed as unmistakably callous and Procrustean. When you catechize a generation in the question-begging sophistry, obscurantism, and individual-autonomy absolutism of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, this is the harvest. The tree is known by its fruits.

So let’s talk “black lives matter”/”all lives matter.”

When a weak point in an army’s line of defense is under heavy fire, and the commanding general seems oblivious and unconcerned, someone must point out the weakness, as insistently as necessary for the weakness to be addressed. If the general’s response is “the whole line matters” he is, in his unassailable correctness, missing the point.

“This man has insulted me!” said Syme, with gestures of explanation.
“Insulted you?” cried the gentleman with the red rosette, “when?”
“Oh, just now,” said Syme recklessly. “He insulted my mother.”
“Insulted your mother!” exclaimed the gentleman incredulously.
“Well, anyhow,” said Syme, conceding a point, “my aunt.”

“But how can the Marquis have insulted your aunt just now?” said the second gentleman with some legitimate wonder. “He has been sitting here all the time.”

“Ah, it was what he said!” said Syme darkly.

“I said nothing at all,” said the Marquis, “except something about the band. I only said that I liked Wagner played well.”

“It was an allusion to my family,” said Syme firmly. “My aunt played Wagner badly. It was a painful subject. We are always being insulted about it.”

“This seems most extraordinary,” said the gentleman who was decore, looking doubtfully at the Marquis.

“Oh, I assure you,” said Syme earnestly, “the whole of your conversation was simply packed with sinister allusions to my aunt’s weaknesses.”

“This is nonsense!” said the second gentleman. “I for one have said nothing for half an hour except that I liked the singing of that girl with black hair.”

“Well, there you are again!” said Syme indignantly. “My aunt’s was red.”

“It seems to me,” said the other, “that you are simply seeking a pretext to insult the Marquis.”

“By George!” said Syme, facing round and looking at him, “what a clever chap you are!”

G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday ch. x (1908).

1. When the government declines to license, endorse, use or participate in any conduct, opinion, or symbol, it does not follow that it has “banned” that conduct, opinion or symbol, nor that it has violated your right to participate in that conduct, hold and express that opinion, or use that symbol;
2. When retailers, service providers and broadcasting networks decline to sell certain products or services, or broadcast certain programs, that does not mean that anyone is violating your rights — unless you have paid for and/or entered into a valid contract for those particular goods, services or programs;
(3) If someone proffers an opinion you find disagreeable, or contradicts something you say, he is not violating your rights. He is exercising his. You may join him;
(4) If any of the foregoing principles bothers you, there is a good chance that you have an exaggerated idea of your own rights and an underdeveloped view of your neighbors’.

This morning I visited the Appomattox Walmart, which is located not two miles from the old Appomattox Court House where Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant and the Federal Army.

Earlier this year, in light of the sesquicentennial of that event, the store stocked a bunch of “Appomattox 150th” t-shirts. This is a picture of one such shirt:

Appomattox 150 shirt

Today, upon orders issued by Walmart corporate HQ, because this shirt contains a picture of the Confederate battle flag, it is being removed from the store immediately — despite the fact that the flag’s significance on this shirt, at this time, and in this setting cannot possibly be misunderstood.

Context, people. A flag signifies one thing when it is raised over a Capitol dome in anti-Civil Rights defiance, quite another when it appears on a shirt marking an important historical event — where, significantly, the various parties, victors and defeated alike, acted with respect, dignity, and grace.

A Lurid Living History

Well, you have to credit them for getting to their talking points.

President Obama said of Charleston killer Dylann Roof: “He had no trouble getting a gun.”
Rick Santorum said: “This was an assault on religious liberty.”
Rand Paul said: “There’s something terribly wrong, but it isn’t going to be fixed by your government.”

The Charleston shooting is unspeakably sad. It is not, however, a case where we’re left to wonder what caused it — or to answer “why?” with politically useful speculations. Mr. Roof was quite clear: “I have to do it. You rape our women, you are taking over our country, and you have to go.” The images are right out of lurid antebellum nightmares about bloody slave insurrections, the editorials and speeches of the fear-mongering newspapermen and politicians of the Reconstruction-era South, and the thousands of false indictments of black men handed down in the last decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th.

The echoes of the long centuries when white Americans clung to their European ancestors’ most unpleasant legacy — White Supremacy — have not yet died. Sometimes the echoes grow fainter; on other days they resound like thunder. It’s been a while, though, since I’ve heard the echo with such revolting clarity as today.

Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, recently-departed members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church: Rest in peace.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

In open battle, when you attack an established position, incremental advances are of little or no tactical significance. You take the position; you drive your enemy from it. If you cannot do so in short order, you retreat.

Take Gettysburg. On Day One, Ewell et al. made advances against the Union positions that Buford and Reynolds had established. But the Rebels needed to do more right then, before more Union forces could arrive to reinforce the Federals’ (excellent) position, held by Hancock. The Confederates did not; and so all their gains that day went for little to no tactical advantage.

To apply this principle to the aptly-named culture wars of today: conservatives need to stop being surprised or offended at the zeal and audacity of the so-called Social Justice Warriors. At present the culture wars are not in a quiet season where incremental, strategic stealth maneuvers are the order of the day; this is a moment of open battle. Whatever one thinks of the aims or strategies of SJWs, we cannot misunderstand their tactics, which as tactics are eminently rational. They are doing what all forces that assault established positions must do, what the Confederates should have done on Day One at Gettysburg: press for swift and total victory while the momentum and conditions are favorable. For when the ground is against you, you cannot take the chance that the weather might also turn against you, or that Hancock might receive reinforcements.

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