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Monday, June 12, 2006

a black preacher, nat hentoff, and an unanswered question

Nat Hentoff from his column today:
...The boy's spontaneous insistence on the primacy of life also reminded me of a powerful pro-life speaker and writer who, many years ago, helped me become a pro-lifer. He was a preacher, a black preacher. He said: "There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of a higher order than the right to life.

"That," he continued, "was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore out of your right to be concerned." This passionate reverend used to warn: "Don't let the pro-choicers convince you that a fetus isn't a human being. That's how the whites dehumanized us... The first step was to distort the image of us as human beings in order to justify what they wanted to do and not even feel they'd done anything wrong."

That preacher was the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Later, he decided to run for the presidency, and it was a credible campaign that many found inspiring in its focus on what still had to be done on civil rights. But Mr. Jackson had by now become "pro-choice," much to the appreciation of most of those in the liberal base.

The last time I saw Mr. Jackson was years later, on a train from Washington to New York. I told him of a man nominated, but not yet confirmed, to a seat on a federal circuit court of appeals. This candidate was a strong supporter of capital punishment which both Mr. Jackson and I oppose, since it involves the irreversible taking of a human life by the state.

I asked Mr. Jackson if he would hold a press conference in Washington, criticizing the nomination, and he said he would. The reverend was true to his word; the press conference took place; but that nominee was confirmed to the federal circuit court. However, I appreciated Mr. Jackson's effort.

On that train, I also told Mr. Jackson that I'd been quoting in articles and in talks with various groups from his compelling pro-life statements. I asked him if he'd had any second thoughts on his reversal of those views.

Usually quick to respond to any challenge that he is not consistent in his positions, Mr. Jackson paused, and seemed somewhat disquieted at my question. Then he said to me, "I'll get back to you on that." I still patiently await what he has to say...

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