EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - As I was walking up and down College Ave. at Rutgers on Thursday, I couldn't help but notice the anti-abortion activists scattered along the street, standing on the sidewalk, some of them displaying billboards of---guess what? Supposedly aborted fetuses, showing in stomach-turning, graphically dismembered detail.
There's probably a less civil, more infuriating way of getting your pro-life point across, but, in thinking about it at this late hour, I can't imagine it. Heck, I glimpsed their truck: even their truck had a huge picture of a bloody aborted fetus on it. Not exactly what I wanted to see that morning.
According to Friday's issue of the Daily Targum, these activists were part of a travelling group of activists called Repent America, a group that has apparently rallied at other universities and even high schools trying to spread their message.
What's their message? It sure ain't simply about abortion and the sanctity of human life even at the beginning of conception. No, they had to bring God into this.
"God is angry with the wicked every day," said a banner I read as I walked down College Ave. on Thursday. Supposedly that's a quote from Psalms 7:11. Maybe it's just because I'm agnostic at heart (not atheistic; I guess maybe, deep down, I hope there really is a God), but I couldn't help but groan at this. These kind of people---again??? It isn't enough to simply bring up the touchy subject of abortion and whether it's murder or not---an issue that surely deserves to be wrestled with---but they also have to use people's acceptance of abortion as some kind of proof that most of the population is going to hell, that we're all sinning, etc.? Repent America is going to show us all the light? Please.
Later in the day---at around 4 p.m.---I was walking down College Ave. again to get to a class, and what had started out as a few people handing out flyers and holding banners suddenly had grown into a real gathering in front of Brower Commons. Not only were the members of Repent America there trying to spread their save-our-souls message---"there's a reason we're anti-homosexual," I heard one of the speakers say; I didn't really stick around to hear the rest---but another group of counter-protestors stood right next to the Repent America people and protested their protest.
Again, according to Friday's Daily Targum, some of the counter-protestors shouted "racists, sexists, anti-gay, fascists, bigots, go away!" and "Fascists out, this is our community!" As if in response to those cries, Jim Deferio, a member of Repent America, was quoted at the end of the article saying, "We came out here to have rational dialogue about an important subject....A lot of our opposition wasn't open to rational dialogue."
I would agree with Mr. Deferio, except...what are we dealing with here? Religion---not exactly the most rational of subjects on which to try to start a "rational dialogue," it seems to me.
Look, of course they have the right to organize and rally. First Amendment, freedom of speech---absolutely no dispute there. But really, what were they expecting? Stepping onto a mostly liberal university such as this and loudly preaching pretty conservative, ultra-religious stuff, pulling no punches, suggesting that we're all godless sinners? Not exactly paving the way toward the most rational, levelheaded kind of discussion, especially with that bullhorn Mr. Deferio was seen holding in the photo published in Friday's Targum.
And what was with those gory aborted fetuses? That, to my mind, was the most unnecessarily confrontational touch of all. I suppose there's a crude kind of power to the use of such pictures, putting front and center their implicit belief that life really does begin at conception. Still, do they really think punting those images in our face is going to really make us think twice about our beliefs? Personally, it just made me think how crude and insensitive these people really were. Not only that: some of these Repent America members actually handed out pamphlets that tried to defend the use of their photos. ("The American Holocaust Photo Display" is what their pamphlet is titled---how's that for subtlety!)
I don't think I would necessarily have joined those counter-protestors, but could one blame them? No, Mr. Deferio, perhaps they didn't show themselves to be open to rational dialogue. But I don't think you and your group showed yourselves to be open to equally rational dialogue, either. Your images speak louder than your words.