Saturday, March 30, 2013

If the heart goes first, the mind will follow

A student, a young woman of East Asian (probably Indian) extraction, comes up to my desk last week and sits down in the chair provided to begin her research paper rough draft conference. When I say young, I mean 17 or 18. She's still in high school and taking certain college courses through a thing called dual enrollment. When I had spoken to her a few weeks earlier about her topic, she had chosen abortion - in support of it. She supported it with great conviction and for all the usual reasons accompanied by all the usual rationalizations. The dialogue with most such students runs something like this, and some of it with her did as well:

Me: So what's your topic?

Student: Abortion

Me: Yeah? What about it?

Student: I'm for it. Well, actually, I'm not for abortion; I'm pro-choice.

Me: So you're in favor of the right to choose?

S.: Yes.

Me: Isn't that begging the question?

S.: What?

Me: Well, everything's a choice, for example, whether or not to rob the bank, cheat on the test, cheat on your wife, etc. Isn't the question whether the choice is right or wrong?

S.: I guess.

Me: So is choosing to abort right or wrong?

S.: Um, it depends.

Me: On what?

S.: On the person.

Me: What person?

S.: The mother, of course.

Me: Of course. So when you say "it depends," do you mean that sometimes it's right and sometimes it's wrong?

S.: Yes. I don't think it should be used as birth control.

Me: Why not? It controls birth. Always. Every time. For whatever reason.

S.: Well she should have thought about that before she had sex. It should only be used for serious reasons.

Me: Like what?

S.: If she's been raped or the fetus is deformed or...

Me: So then you'd be in favor of outlawing abortion except in those cases when the reason is "serious."

S.: Well, no...

Me: Then why'd you bring up all that talk about rape, et cetera? You're really in favor of it whenever a woman wants it, aren't you?

Usually, but not always, a 'yes' is at length extracted. Another variation goes like this:

Me: What will be your opposition's main objection?

S.: They'll say that it's killing a life.

Me: You mean an innocent human life worthy of protection under law, and that abortion is therefore some degree of murder?

S.: Yes.

Me: And what will you say to that?

S.: It's not a life yet.

Me: Then why do you have to kill it? You can't kill something that's dead.

S.: (Eyes dart around the room.) Well, it's not a human life yet. Not a human being.

Me: What kind of life is it? It had a human mom and dad, didn't it?

And at this point the answers can wander all over the map, everything from "but it's just a blob of tissue," to "it doesn't look like us," to "it's part of the mother's body," and on and on. So I'll end up saying something like, "By 'life' you must mean something other than 'not alive.' You mean it takes more than a human origin to make a human being. Right?" This is often greeted with relief, almost gratitude, that I've let him or her off the hook.

My favorite occurs when the student claims fervently to be pro-choice, and I say, "So you're in favor of the choice, not the abortion," and the student says, "Correct," and I ask, "The choice to do what?" And then I watch the euphemisms fly.

Anyway this girl takes her seat for her conference. She hands me her paper. The title reads "In Opposition to Abortion."

"Wait," I say. "I thought you were for it. Or am I mistaken?"

She explains that after doing some reading she had changed her mind. Really, I said. You better not have changed it just because I asked some tough questions. Or because you think you know my opinion and are trying to please the professor. Because I hate dishonesty more than anything.

Oh no, she says. She had gone to this website and, after looking at the pictures, watching a couple of videos, and reading some of the personal testimony, had suffered a change of heart. Some of the stories, she said, made her cry.

From the day I first met this girl, she struck me as a really sweet kid. But I meet so many who seem likewise, yet remain untouched by the reality of what they advocate. I was, I suppose, somewhat gratified by her story, but more in awe than anything. It's the only response I am able to summon when in the company of someone who has let grace through the door, and I'm not in that company very often.

"Well," I said, "okay then." And set about perusing her paper.

I don't know anything about the website, had in fact never heard of it until she brought it to my attention, and so don't know if it's really any good. But good for them anyway. They had a part in recruiting another soldier into the army of light.



4 Responses to If the heart goes first, the mind will follow

Lydia says:
April 1, 2013 at 2:45 am (Edit)
Kudos to you. You got her thinking. That must give you a great feeling.

William Luse says:
April 1, 2013 at 10:25 am (Edit)
I honestly don’t know if I had anything to do with it. Seems she was affected by personal testimony at that site. I’m just glad she changed her mind. The older you get the harder it is.

Lydia says:
April 2, 2013 at 1:32 am (Edit)
It actually looks on a brief drive-by like a pretty good site. It sounds like no question that you had something to do with it. She got on Google because you had raised questions about her parroted cliches.

William Luse says:
April 2, 2013 at 8:33 am (Edit)
She got on Google because you had raised questions about her parroted cliches.

Well, she got on google because she had research to do. But yeah, it’s possible. I think that site’s virtue is its transparent sincerity, which seems to have struck a chord with her.

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