Jul. 14th, 2008

greenman: (Default)
Personally, I think that most people have decided, at least for themselves, where they stand on the abortion issue. And most of those people are reasonably firm on whichever side of the debate they are on. I also suspect that it is rare that someone having a issue in their face in a very aggressive way is likely to change their mind and join the camp of those who are aggressively pushing the issue.

Every day, I walk about 5 blocks or so from the train to my office, and then from my office to the train. And about two to three times a year, an anti-abortion group lines about 3-4 blocks of that walk with 5 foot tall placards, one about every 8 to 10 feet or so, depicting aborted foetuses. Obviously, these are very disturbing images. Most of them depict severe damage to the foetuses. They also indicate where the foetuses were buried.

Obviously, these images are intended to elicit very strong repusion. I'm not sure if they're trying to gross people out, and then hope that their intended targets will say "Oh! I didn't know it's like that! I've changed my mind!", or if they're intended to try and shame people into changing their mind. In either case, my suspicion (and it's entirely my suspicion, with no support of numbers or facts behind it) is that these displays are more likely to strengthen the resolve of the vast majority of pro-choice supporters. And while I"m sure the counter-argument would be "Well, if we only reach one person, it's worth it," is it really?

My first thought it when seeing these displays is "Wow, that's really offensive and arrogant." And then I think to myself, hm... Should I counter their offensive argument by being offensive myself? Should my response be to walk up to one of the people holding these placards and start fondling their genitalia? Because, in my mind, if they're arguing against a woman's right to choose how to deal with her own body, and by extension, they're arguing that no one should have the right to choose how to deal with their own bodies. Thus, my fondling their genitalia is a reasonable result of that argument.

Or perhaps I should fondle my own genitalia. Since they're presenting me with offensive images, should I respond with my own offensive display?

But when it comes down to it, any response will not work. These are people who believe that by shoving their beliefs in my face, they can force me to change my mind. Unfortunately, I'm pretty stubborn. If someone presents me with a reasonable argument, I am much more likely to give it serious thought than if they were to start shouting at me. And while the people who are displaying these placards aren't shouting (in fact, they're all but silent, unless they are approached), they are presenting the visual equivalent of a loud, vicious, and accusatory diatribe.

If I respond by arguing back, I am validating the form and style of their display by giving it credence. In addition, the looks on many of the faces of the people holding the signs suggest that they are hoping for an argument, to give them a way to vent their anger. . If I perform some lewd or offensive gesture in return, I am both proving that I am no better than they are, and am giving them ammunition to use against me, in the form of "Look! See! That's just what we'd expect from someone who disagrees with us." And by ignoring them, I allow them to believe that their argument is valid, and justifiable, and effective.

How does one counteract an aggressive display like that, in a way that they cannot then turn to their advantage?

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greenman

May 2009

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