Letters to the editor (03/06/13)
Making a point while thanking a critic
When Margaret Sanger wrote that “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it,” she was making a comparison.
She was comparing the two possible outcomes for children born into large families, living or being killed. (People should read “The Wickedness of Creating Large Families.” They will see that she did mean “kill” and she did think large families were immoral.)
Ultimately, she was comparing consequences. Her point was that the consequences of a living child (therefore, in her comparison, large families) were less desirable than the consequences of a dead child. I do not claim she was advocating for more dead children, she was advocating for less of the consequences she associated with living children.
Her concern with consequences is the very position Terry Mehaffey defends in his recent letter attacking me for my earlier use of Ms. Sanger’s quote. He claims that if we look at the context of Ms. Sanger’s statement, we would see the hardships which awaited children of families “ensnared” by their circumstances; that if we look at the context of 1920 we see how some families had “incredibly sorry lives;” if we only understood the context, we’d see Sanger’s point.
Mr. Mehaffey went on to say how my use of the statement showed my lack of integrity and it was an “acid in the face” assault on Ms. Sanger’s “lifetime of efforts.” My context free use suggested “historical family survival infanticide.” His point, “in context” Ms. Sanger’s statement is right, my use of it was reprehensible.
Well, let’s look at context. I used the statement as part of a paragraph in which the theme was that society largely buys into the philosophy that “freedom means freedom from consequences.” In support of this proposal, I gave two examples of statements by people generally favored by society — Mr. Obama and Ms. Sanger — statements in which they gave voice to this philosophy.
Both said it is better to kill a baby than suffer the consequences of the baby living. In context, my use of the quote reflects Ms. Sanger’s meaning accurately. It is the same meaning Mr. Mehaffey supports as he is chastising me.
Mr. Mehaffey, in apologizing for Ms. Sanger, had he considered the context, could have just said, “Thank you for helping me make my point.”
Of course, the bigger case I was making in my letter was that people who are pro-abortion often use groundless personal attacks in an attempt to vilify and marginalize anyone who takes a pro-life stance. Unable to dispute the actual argument made, they ascribe straw man positions to their opponents and respond instead to those.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Mehaffey for helping to make my point.