VIRGINIA BEACH, VA—In his tremendous novel War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy observes that some men “choose their opinions like their clothes—according to fashion.” He adds that no matter how derivative their views are, such men may hold those views with all the passion of partisans.
How true. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people parrot clichés as if they were voicing their own hard-won, independent convictions. In college, I had more than one professor whose political ideas seemed to have been culled from the bumper stickers in an academic parking lot. (They weren’t grateful when I pointed this out.)
A free mind is a rarity, really. I was reminded of this sad truth by the news that Notre Dame University plans to award an honorary degree to Barack Obama this spring. The ostensible meaning of this gesture is that a Catholic university plans to honor our first black president. Seems simple, no? But another way to look at it is this: A nominally Catholic university is honoring America’s foremost apostle of abortion.
The devil must be cackling. As the great French poet Charles Baudelaire put it: “Satan’s cleverest wile is to make us think he doesn’t exist.” Most educated people nowadays assume he doesn’t exist, which makes them easy prey for him.
Obama is a clever fellow. He realized some time ago that if he wanted to be the first black American president, his best bet was to seek the nomination of the Democratic Party; and in order to do that, he would have to be pro-abortion.
Now of course most blacks don’t like abortion. They know, or at least sense, its reality: white abortionists getting rich killing nonwhite babies. The profits are so big because the overhead is so low. Aborting a child requires very little medical skill, and most doctors won’t do it. Yet this aspect is rarely discussed. To hear liberals talk about it, you could get the impression that abortion is just an abstract matter of individual rights, or “choice.” But back here on earth, its net result is to depress the nonwhite population in this country. Some of its supporters also argue that it depresses the crime rate too, but they seldom refer to the racial angle, at least in public.
So our first black president got where he is by taking a profoundly antiblack position in order to gain the favor of liberals in his party. After all, liberals don’t call the killing of the unborn “racism” or “genocide”; they don’t even call it “killing.”
In any case, when it comes to abortion, Obama’s conscience seems to be quite untroubled. He makes no concessions to the humanity of the unborn, even if they survive attempts to destroy them in the womb.
When I was young, not a single American politician would endorse legal abortion; the subject almost never came up in public. But as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in an incoherent majority opinion, that all laws in all 50 states restricting abortion were in violation of the Constitution, public opinion began to conform to the new fashion. Millions of people seemed to change their deepest convictions in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.
To be sure, politicians, especially Catholics, often professed to be “personally opposed” to abortion while voting to promote it, but that was a transparent fig leaf; in practice it meant nothing. The phrase “personally opposed” must have warmed many an abortionist’s heart.
Someone has suggested that Notre Dame, which is named after Our Lady, cease calling itself a Catholic university. It is about as Catholic as, say, Ted Kennedy.
Which reminds me: I am so old I can remember when some people feared that the pope would control America through the Kennedy clan. They stopped worrying about that some time ago. No pope can control even the Kennedys.
Most people, like animals, are at home in their environment and don’t question it; they merely conform to its pressures, including the pressure of circumambient opinion. They accept what they suppose are the prevalent beliefs and attitudes without question. As far as they are concerned, fashion is virtual truth. Public opinion may be defined as what people think other people are thinking.
Tolstoy would understand.
Joe Sobran is an author and a syndicated columnist. See his latest writings at http://www.fgfbooks.com/
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