Why Thomas L. Friedman is not “Pro-Life”

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Hard-line liberals have gone to new extremes lately in fighting abortion opposition. Saturday, Thomas L. Friedman, a twice-weekly columnist for the New York Times, departed from his usual topic of foreign affairs to dip into subject matters which his previous experience had ill-prepared him. Friedman uses the hot-button topic as a hook to talk about foreign policy issues such as drug control, environmental regulations, and education. “In my world,” Friedman says, “you don’t get to call yourself ‘pro-life’ and be against common-sense gun control—like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater.”

This is not a slip of the tongue. This is the voice of an unabashed foreign interventionist and supporter of failed policies who is intent on using sophistry to draw parallels that don’t exist between policies that have nothing to do with one another: gun control, environmental policy, and head start programs—with abortion.

But judging from the illogical—and borderline delusional—statements regarding the meaning of the word “life” that Friedman proposes, there is reason to believe that this author seeks to bend words and pull heart strings in his usual loose-metaphor fashion, disrupting the delicate balance between those who accept definitions of words and those who wish to manipulate their meanings for their own political purposes.

So to those who want to protect the sanctity of honest communication, let me offer just one piece of advice: to name something is to own it. If you can name an issue, you can own the issue. And we must stop letting foreign affairs writers attempt subjects that he is ill-informed to comment on: like linguistics. It is a huge distortion.

In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be for nation building—a practice that, since its inception (you know, back when they called it “imperialism”), has done more harm than good, not the least of which includes the death of thousands of innocent people through the militaristic takeover required and the havoc such policies wreak on those economies.

You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and, as a foreign affairs columnist, remain strangely silent on drone strikes, which indiscriminately kill hundreds of innocent civilians and leave those it doesn’t kill in constant terror. You also don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and support the 2003 invasion of Iraq. You do not get to call yourself “pro-life” and support any kind of aggressive war at all.

Finally, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and support programs like Head Start, which ultimately has no affect on children and only drain taxpayer dollars (for which the ultimate consequence for not paying is death). You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and lambast people who want to shut down the EPA because funding it (not to mention those wars you wanted) may very well drive our economy down so badly that no amount of spending could save it. You do not get to call yourself “pro-life” and seek to deny citizens the basic tools they need to protect themselves—both from people like the Colorado shooter and the government that has decided it can assassinate them.

You can call yourself a “pro-war, pro-interventionist indifferent-to-life-of-foreign-citizens republicrat.” Because that would be closer to what you are. I will never refer to someone who supports nation building but lobbies against common-sense gun laws (that is, none at all) as “pro-life.”

“Pro-life” can only mean one thing: “respect for the sanctity of life.” Or, in other words, promoting life (which, by the way, has a narrow definition). Subsequently, there is no way that respect for the sanctity of life can mean we are obligated to invade a country, take over its political system, kill citizens who resist, and impose our values on them, but we are not obligated to allow citizens to protect themselves from entities that wish to kill them. I have no respect for someone who supplies a failed governmental system of education as evidence that he is “pro-life”— when data shows time and time again that government-funded education initiatives have no substantial impact.

The term “pro-life” should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at birth and ends at the point of an American soldier’s gun. What about the rest of life—its continuation? That radical narrowing of our concern for the sanctity of life is leading to terrible distortions in our society.

Respect for life has to include respect for how that life is lived, enhanced and protected — not only at the moment of conception but afterward, in the course of that life, whether or not that respect conforms to one’s preconceived notions about the effectiveness of government programs or what is “good” or “bad” for that person. Being “pro-life” means recognizing that life is absolute and that denying life to someone who is not attempting to hurt you is not a “pro-life” stance at all.

Respecting the sanctity of life, or, being pro-life, means one thing: not killing (or promoting policies that kill) people.

Now that’s what I call “hypocrisy.”