March for Life Puts Focus on Uncomfortable Truth, Not Where Distractors Want It To Be

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My old bones ache from an uncomfortable bus ride and I’m still catching up on my sleep. But I’ve rarely been more inspired.

The March for Life will do that for you.

Unless, of course, you pay attention to distractions.

Like, what did Ben Shapiro say about wanting to keep Hitler alive?

And why did those pro-Trump kids harass that elderly Native American?

Never mind the focus of last Friday:  an annual declaration that all human life is valued and must be protected, especially the most innocent and indefensible.

Shapiro, by the way, was brilliant as the featured speaker, articulating the message of the movement:

“America’s story is an incredible story. It’s the story of a shining ideal, pursued over the centuries. … America was founded on the promise of God-given rights, chief among them the rights to life and liberty. Now, while America imperfectly fulfilled that promise, we always moved forward to the perfection of that promise … only one group was left behind. That group had once been the most prized possession of a great and moral people:  its children … then something happened. We decided to erase them.”

The only media mention I read about Shapiro was from a podcast he did before his speech, with his comment taken out of context:  “No pro-life person on earth would kill Baby Hitler.”

Shapiro was arguing a point that pro-abortion people make, that abortion lowers the crime rate (not an oft-used argument, but I’ve heard it). Shapiro was saying that you don’t end someone’s life on the basis that they might someday be a criminal. “Baby Hitler wasn’t Hitler,” Shapiro said. “Adult Hitler was Hitler. Baby Hitler was a baby.”

I get Shapiro’s point, but it would have been better to avoid a Hitler reference, because it gave people a distraction they wanted. Of course, they would have found another way to deflect the real argument.

People who do not want to think about abortion – the ending of a human life – need distraction.

I found little mention of the March for Life in the media, until the blowup over the Covington (Kentucky) Catholic (all-boys) high school students, accused of racism after the March. A brief, edited video showed the boys, almost all white, jumping up and down, chanting, seemingly surrounding a group of Native Americans, led by an elder drumming way. The Twitter-shaming and condemnation was swift from all sides. Officials at the school and the Diocese of Covington were quick – too quick – with condemnation, heartfelt apologies, and assurances of a thorough investigation and (possible) expulsions.

Shouldn’t the apologies and condemnations come after the thorough investigations?

More video evidence has emerged. The students were already jumping up and down and apparently doing a school cheer – to drown out vile taunts from another group (a sect called the Black Hebrews) – when the Native American group arrived, walking right up to the students. The elder, Nathan Phillips, approached a student, Nick Sandmann, and began drumming in front of his face.

Sandmann’s facial expression – a smile? Smirk? – brought out the body-language experts, all ready to throw stones.

But the more video evidence that reached the public brought several apologies from those who condemned the kids on Twitter, especially from the conservative side. (A long video, recorded by the sect, is full of vulgarities from the sect’s leader for the first hour or so. Phillips enters around the 1:12 mark. A shorter video shows Phillips and his drum confronting the student; which also has one or two students doing a lame tomahawk chop, and a few chanting along. Most of the students, frankly, look confused.) There is no evidence of chants of “Build the Wall,” as Phillips said he heard.

New stories, including one by Robby Suave, detailed how the media “mischaracterized” the initial video. Sandmann later issued his own statement, which included:

“[Phillips] approached me, coming inches within my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face …

“I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or any other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protesters, and when the second group approached I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults attempting to provoke teenagers.”

Eventually, a more-thorough story will emerge. But condemnation has already taken place. It was a prime target for media attention – a story putting Trump-supporting, pro-life Catholics in a bad light. One newspaper’s account of the incident linked “related stories” to previous headlines on the sex-abuse scandal. Related?

But even Catholics could not keep from condemning the Catholic kids, as well as the March for life. Father Daniel Horan, a Franciscan who teaches theology in Chicago, tweeted:

Judgment and stereotypes delivered. Thank you, Father.

I will let my bishop know he is not a true pro-lifer. He marched with our group of mostly-high school students from the Diocese of Portland, Maine. For some, their “goofing off” entailed a 20-hour bus ride each way, with a tight schedule featuring little sleep, two Masses (one with Cardinal Sean O’Malley and youth from the Archdiocese of Boston) and ending with adoration and confession, with the bus leaving at 8 p.m..

During that time, kids and chaperones fortified their beliefs about the dignity of all life; especially life that has no voice – except for those who speak up for them. The message of life is a message of truth. If you don’t want to face the truth, our culture is happy to distract you.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.