November 09, 2008


No, I'm not suing for peace with Obama, our new President Elect, as if I think we've lost and have only some kind of surrender as hope for survival. I'm not here to engage in hyperbole about the situation Catholics are in with the government being run by modern liberals. Assessing the situation of faithful Catholics and the action they should take in this situation is something I hope to do thoroughly soon, but I have a different object in mind at the moment, a particular detail that I think I've found more or less how to address.

I am prompted rather by reading some discussion at the diary of a former atheist formerly known as Et Tu?, where a post on dehumanization sparked some response from some pro-choice people (among lots of response from readers in general). I made the realization suddenly that the stereotyping that occurs in national politics, along with the focus on legal aspects and away from the whole issue, was causing a good deal of misunderstanding about what pro-lifers and many, perhaps most, of pro-choicers actually believe.

I'm also aware that though we must be honest about the acts we believe are evil it is very tricky business to persuade people, whose intrinsic dignity we must respect, who have commited or supported those acts or even who merely are in disagreement with us concerning the morality of the acts or, in more cases than we realize, concerning the approach we should take to overcoming them. Some have objected to the saying "hate the sin, love the sinner" because one cannot love the person as a sinner, so a less simplistic approach to the matter seems necessary to achieve the needed balance of judgement of evil and upholding of the person's intrinsic good in spite of the evil they may have done or may be inclined to do or support. It seems to me that we must simultaneously condemn the evil act, help the conscience of the individual to judge it truly without forcing the judgement on them, and uphold the person as basically good and worth forgiving (although forgiveness does not itself revoke all consequences or punishment) while nonetheless bringing them to see that to be good they must reject this evil act. I know, very paradoxical.

Put more practically but still oriented toward truth, we need to bring people to the truth about evil but actually accusing them tends to turn them off and shut them away instead.

The point I mean to get at here is that I want to set forth ground rules by which honest discussion between people of different opinions on abortion can actually happen, minimizing the damage both of flawed preconceptions of the other's position and of speaking against the other himself or herself in ones right zeal to speak against the evil.

In short, I propose a "truce" of sorts to the culture war as wrongful dogfights, such as will enable us to better achieve the real purpose of the so-called culture war: that of bringing people fully to the truth and to respect for life.

The first draft of my proposed peace treaty, or whatever you wish to think of it as (maybe a social contract?), specifically on the matter of abortion is as follows. I would appreciate feedback on it and suggestions for names for it and for some of the more reference-needing particulars within it. I will attempt to keep this briefer than most arguments themselves, but will make sure it covers the grounds thoroughly so that it may proportionally save time for those in debate because of the already established grounds of discussion.

[draft one]

Note on the Organization of these Terms

Due to the lengthy nature of a thorough grounding such as this, these terms have been divided into three sections.

Section A is about the use of the terms themselves. Section B contains general principles of the terms. Section C contains particular details.

It is hoped that this will aid clarity and efficiency of use of these terms; for example, because the idea of the general terms and of how to use these terms should for the most part become as universal as the terms themselves so that in specific copies they may be glanced over and only the particulars need be checked in detail; further specifics of how this division should be helpful will be mentioned in the explanations in Section A.

Section A

1) The following guidelines or terms of discussion may be referenced and agreed to before discussion of abortion between those who appear to largely disagree. If these grounds are agreed upon, they shall be held to as much as possible. If these grounds are not agreed upon in the beginning, they cannot be used as a phariseeical afterthought. The discussors will have to take what they can get without them if they are not agreed upon. Should they be agreed upon part way through a discussion, any points prior in the same discussion that may be violations of these grounds are to be considered out of the discussion.

1a) As these guidelines may be improved or elaborated on by individuals, those using them as grounds in their discussion should ensure, to whatever extent is reasonable, that they are referencing a copy or set of these guidelines that will not change.

1b) Specific changes made to details of the guidelines may also be agreed upon on a case-by-case basis within the discussion and separate from the guidelines referenced.

1c) It is to the benefit of those using these terms, as per the Note in their beginning, to lean toward minimal modification of the first two Sections.

1d) If in the course of a consideration of point 2 below an offense that can be clearly shown against Section B is not covered in Section C, it may be for the best to make an addition to Section C for said offence.

2) If during the discussion someone feels that these grounds have been violated, they may respectfully point out so with the following conditions.

2a) The accused shall be given a chance to either acknowledge his violation and apologize or else to defend by reasonable explanation why his apparent breach is not so but rather an honest assessment.

2b) Should the retraction and apology or explanation in defense by the accused be reasonably adequate, the matter is to be left behind unless it come up again of its own accord.

2c) Should the offended decide that the apology or defense is not reasonable, or should none be made, the offended is free to consider the discussion under these terms closed.

2d) It is to be noted that more concern should be given to violations that can be pointed out through Section C, the particulars, than only through Section B, the very general principles, due to the difficult nature of arguing in vague fuzzy terms. However, see point 1d.

3) Violations of these terms that occured in other discussions, rather than having occured in the same discussion and been dealt with as outlined in point 2, are not to be used as ad hominem bludgeons. Bad arguments that would have been such violations had these terms been in effect in the discussions in which they took place are similarly to be overlooked for the sake of sticking to the issue at hand rather than the character of others involved.

3a) It may come to pass that one uses or proposes these terms who has at times spoken less hospitably, has said or done such as would have been a violation of them. They may have had many different reasons for doing so, e.g. aiming their comments or points to be made at those who already agree that abortionists are practically baby-killers, brevity (it is so much faster to just apply labels, isn't it?) or simply having failed in patience. As such, and given that one purpose of these terms is to prevent human failings from getting in the way of attempts to aid understanding of truth, even these are to be overlooked in the interest of sticking to the issue itself.

Section B

4) Those engaged in this discussion shall strive not to make assumptions about the position or character of the other(s).

5) The actions or words of those not engaged in discussion are not to be projected onto those engaged in it. Guilt by association is off limits.

6) The words given to you should be understood as they are meant by the one who speaks them to you.

6a) Note that this point does not prohibit discussion of the accuracy of the words used in debate, nor of how they could be misconstrued.

7) Should there be confusion or lack of understanding during the debate/discussion, all involved should endeavor to step back and explain what they are trying to say and make sure the other(s) understand as much before moving on to what they think of what the other(s) say or questioning whether that ought logically lead to another thing.

8) A position or explanation from either side shall not be dismissed as ridiculous, stupid, etc. Rather an explanation of why it does not follow or why it should not be held shall be given, with all previous points put into effect in making sure the point one is critiquing is properly understood and said understanding agreed upon by both before the critique is made.

9) It is to be mutually acknowledged that both sides have real reason to fear oppression. On the one hand, there are anti-abortion radicals (although far off from the love that drives the real pro-life movement) who have enacted violence against abortionists, threatened women who procure abortions, etc., and even besides that many women turn to abortion out of great need that has to be addressed somehow. On the other, despite the argument that "nobody is forcing you to have an abortion," it has happened that some public schools have favored teaching the benefits of abortion without allowing speakers against it, and governments have been known to try to regulate alternatives to public school, and furthermore it has happened that under modern medicinal insurance payment for help other than a practice believed by some to be immoral has been denied, financially forcing some to choose between evil and probable economic ruin, and there has long been controversy concerning those in medical practice who do not wish to participate in what they believe to be grave evil. All this is just for example.

9a) Whether one position or another has more reason to fear oppression is not a helpful argument, and shall not be allowed to distract from more important points.

9b) It is preferable rather to discuss ways that those who hold mutually opposing positions can help prevent the other from being oppressed or harmed.

10) Those engaged in discussion shall endeavor to reference human beings in terms that describe them as such and avoid degrading them with name-calling or euphemisms.

Section C

11) As per points 4, 5 and 6, those who call themselves pro-choice are not to be called pro-abortion without first establishing that they would agree to being called such; they may, after all, really believe simply that it should not be an illegal choice even if they do not believe it is a good choice.

12) Similarly, those who call themselves pro-life are not to be called anti-abortion without first establishing that they would agree to being called such; for the most part pro-life people oppose abortion because of their belief about the right to life.

13) As per point 10, an abortion practitioner is not to be derided as a baby-killer, nor are pro-choice politicians, etc.

14) As per point 10, what is formed by a mother and father inside the mother's womb is to be called a baby unless it can be proven not to be or unless the distinction between stages of development and not the baby itself is under discussion.

15) As per point 4 (also 5 and 6), when confronted with a pro-choice person a pro-life person shall endeavor to find out what this person thinks of abortion morally, whether they believe in endeavoring to minimize it through methods other than legal action, why they believe so, etc.

16) Similarly, it shall not be assumed that a pro-life person would have everyone who ever was not stringently pro-life jailed for life, or any other such nonsense, but rather it is to be respectfully asked how they would deal with the issue legally.

17) As per points 4 and 5, the motives of pro-choice people are to be understood as what they say they are, not assumed to be greed, hatred of children, etc.

18) As per points 4 and 5, the motives of pro-life people shall be understood as those they explain, not assumed to be out of some kind of sex-controlling cult craziness or some other such unrealistic, even if less extreme, view.

19) Should a pro-choice person raise concerns about women who have abortions, women for whom abortion seems necessary for whatever reason, etc., how as a society to deal with these concerns is to be addressed.

20) Similarly, should a pro-life person raise concerns such as are in point 9 or about the harm done to women or families by abortion, these concerns are to be considered honestly and measures to deal with them are to be discussed.


Suggestions? Criticisms (fair ones that is)? Anything incomprehensible? Any way to shorten long parts without leaving anything out?



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