I’m not talking about things that are bad but widely acknowledged to be bad like, murder or the Dallas Cowboys. And I’m not talking about things that I’m confident are bad but as to which I grudgingly acknowledge that marginally reasonable minds could differ, like mayonnaise or light beer. I’m talking about things that allegedly smart people in allegedly polite company seem to have no problem with but that are completely morally indefensible.
Peter Singer. This guy is a philosophy professor at Princeton who advocates killing infants with disabilities. Seriously. I’m not sure this guy is on anyone’s radar outside the black-turtleneck-and-tweed world and the disability rights world, but now you know: Princeton has on its faculty a professor who favors infanticide for disabled kids, largely based on his utilitarian approach which is based, in turn, on the sound philosophical principle that upper class white guys with tenure can judge the quality of life experienced by the rest of the world and make life and death decisions based on that judgment. I’m all for academic freedom and the First Amendment, and I don’t advocate that this guy be fired or punished for these absurd views. I’m just wondering why on earth he’s taken seriously. It’s like Princeton deciding to hire a Holocaust denier or “intelligent design” advocate — or really someone who offered a principled, philosophical defense of slavery. I would defend any of those hires in the name of academic freedom, but I really think that many more people would join me in puzzlement as to why the hell such a person has a chair at Princeton.
The Tomahawk Chop. Atlanta Braves fans spend a large part of each game making gestures designed to mimic a tomahawk and humming a tune designed to mimic what antediluvian Hollywood thought was Native American music. This is just gross racial mockery.* I have to confess (sorry, Bruce) that I feel the same way about “Redskins.” I don’t have a problem in general with Native American team names — Braves, Indians, Seminoles — because there are plenty of other groups-of-people names: Padres, Vikings, Patriots, Mariners, Royals, Twins, Pirates, Rangers, Canucks, Canadiens, Packers, Texans, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Raiders, Senators, Kings, Celtics, Cavaliers, Trail Blazers, Warriors. And, um, Wizards? But “Redskins” is an epithet, not a generic group-of-people name. Sorry.**
Flying the Confederate flag. What part of treason is unclear to these folks? Seriously. I love the fact that throughout the south “United We Stand” bumper stickers are pasted side-by-side with the stars & bars. Again, I have no problem, as a First Amendment matter, with flying whatever flag you want. Just don’t asked to be taken seriously when you display the Confederate flag and question other people’s patriotism.
“Free Mumia.” Give the man a fair trial, but damn, it sure looks like he shot a cop. Let’s not free him til we’ve tried him fairly and he’s been acquitted.
This is a very very partial list. Feel free to share your contributions in the comments! (Really! I LOVE comments!)
* I always loved that Jane Fonda, during her Ted Turner period, could regularly be found in the Braves’ audience chopping away. For you conservatives who hate her for being a liberal, the joke’s on you: she’s just another shallow celebrity looking for attention — and you give it to her!
** I predict that this will engender more brotherly ire than all my liberal political rantings put together.
Amy and I differ on our pro-life/pro-choice stances, but even I (pro-choice) believe that Singer goes too far in his statements about infanticide. Not that Wikipedia always gets things right, but in case you haven’t read about him, here’s a link to WikiP’s Singer entry on Abortion, Euthanasia, and Infanticide:
While I would agree that the mother’s choice to abort takes precedence at the very least in the first (and maybe second) trimester, I cannot agree with the statement that “newborns similarly lack the essential characteristics of personhood—”rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness”—and therefore “killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living.”” (quote is from the above-mentioned WikiP article)
Does he believe that the murder of infant girls (solely because they are girls) throughout parts of Asia is OK? What about the rights of the boys of that generation who find, 20 to 40 years later, that there are insufficient numbers of women for them to marry? How does this affect them personally and society as a whole? Is it healthy for the society–beyond the obvious fact that it’s morally wrong to murder infant girls? Maybe we should take it one step further back. The male in the sexual union is responsible for the sex of the fetus. Shall we start murdering adult males because they consistently father infant girls?
The whole thing (post birth) is a slippery slope, and I understand (though do not always agree with) those who say that the whole thing post conception is a slippery slope.
I don’t fault Singer for raising the issues that he discusses. Societies need to think about these things–that’s what philosophers are for. Whether you agree with Singer or disagree with him, he makes you think. He helps you sharpen your own position.
In the meantime, I personally will continue to believe that abortion in the first trimester is a decision to be made by the woman, her physician, and (where there’s a loving, stable relationship) the presumptive father. Beyond the first trimester, things get a bit sticky, even for me.
How do you handle, for example, a Tay-Sachs fetus in the 7th (or even 9th) month of the pregnancy? If the child is born, it will live a brief and pain-filled life. Is no life better than that life? I don’t have an answer, but the question is worth asking.
How do you handle the toxemic pregnant woman (in her 6th or 7th month or otherwise pre-viability for the fetus), who already has a couple of kids at home who need her and who will die if the fetus is not aborted?
Technology allows us to save ever tinier babies–but at great cost over perhaps the entire lifetime of that individual–and certainly during the first 6 weeks to 6 months in neo-natal intensive care. Should cost be a consideration? It’s not (just) a cost to the parents. Whether they have health insurance or not, the cost is spread among all of us in one way or another. Is this the way we want society’s scare resources to be spent?
Again, these are huge questions that our society most often chooses either to sweep under the rug or to engage in outraged shouting matches with one another. I don’t have definitive answers, and probably you (all of you reading this) don’t either, but we have to keep asking the questions and looking inside ourselves for answers that are at least honest for our personal moral codes.
I did not know about Peter Singer and his beliefs but I’m not surprised. When, eventually, Andy was diagnosed as worthless, we were told to forget him and have another baby or adopt. At that time I was horrified at the advice. This is/was our son with built in talents and lots of love to give and receive. Murdering our children happens in subtle ways….no or lousy services, parental and financial exhaustion and more. But these facts are not loud enough to meet the light of day. Thank you Amy, for this blog. I have way more to say. Don’t understand the confederate flag either. Oh well.
And another thing…Do I have to be pro life or pro choice. Can I be pro civilized? (more on that later). And I thought the 2 big choices in politics were R or D. Do I now have to declare liberal or progressive or right wing or tea party? It is all too much for me. If I get the energy, I will write about an abortion that we, as nursing students, were forced to watch. However, I don’t think I can re-live it. Sign me, “Confused in Parker”.
OK, Sis – I’m usually very patient with your liberal sensitivities, but now you’re messing with my football team. I had such high hopes for this blog when you started by equating murder and the Dallas Cowboys as Bad with a Capital B. But, then you had to take a gratuitous pot shot at my Redskins who, name and all, are Good, with a Capital G!