Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Abortion, Terror, and Clarity

This clip from yesterday's Rachel Maddow cable tee-vee show provides some salient background and context for Dr. Tiller's killer and the larger political movement in which he acted:

Maddow uses the word "terrorism" within the first seconds of the piece, and while I myself would not hesitate to apply that same word to this killer and like-minded figures within his movement, I am mindful of the truth that one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. Many of us regard this killing with horror and revulsion; others do not. This is the truth of the matter, and there are effective and ineffective ways to address ourselves to that truth.

I don't know how freedom figher versus terrorist can ever be settled absent a resolution of the underlying conflict; I do not foresee any resolution of the underlying conflict, certainly not in any near term; and so I question whether either term is anything better than obfuscatory.

The killing of Dr. Tiller was an act of terrorism under any of several credible definitions, and yet no war is being waged against it. It is plausibly labeled terrorism and yet vigorous law enforcement is the proper, albeit imperfect, remedy for it. It is terrorism by many a fair reading of the term, and yet it differs conspicuously from the terrorism the USA and other nations are fighting with military means.

The killing of Dr. Tiller succeeded in a cluster of goals of the movement that nurtured, encouraged, and fomented it: successful in stopping Dr. Tiller from continuing his work, successful at spreading fear among other doctors who still perform abortions, successful at telegraphing the mortal seriousness of the "pro-life" fringe, successful in granting a moral victory to people who have often played dupes to larger forces, and probably successful in more ways besides.

I do not report these successes happily, nor do I expect that anyone in the "pro-life" camp would seek or accept my congratulations, but it seems to me the above is clarifying and true where terms like terrorism and freedom fighter are clouding and false.

This is a good enough illustration of why I prefer to keep a good distance from "war on terror" and variants. Reality is often painful and intractable; obscuring it only makes it more so.

Note: if I am repeating points made a zillion times on a zillion blogs, my apologies. I am woefully behind on my blog-reading.


Radha said...

You may be repeating points made a zillion times on a zillion blogs, but in this matter especially, there can never be too many blogs making these same points.

Here's mine:
And this is not terrorism... just how?

Dale said...

Thanks, Radha.