Three developing stories prove just how much we permit protest and politics to decide the value of life. The spread of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Sandra Bland protests, and the move to defund Planned Parenthood speak to our willingness to let the value of life be a sardonic decision made for the benefit of agitators and political heavyweights. That’s not what the value of life is about, but it is where the Black Lives Matter movement is headed.
Black Lives Matter, especially where there’s money
Ironically, the black lives that have the most value for agitators and the media are not the innocents who die by violence. Instead, the rallying cries often support those who engage law enforcement and find out too late that challenging the police is a losing proposition. That doesn’t mean a traffic stop should end with a drawn gun. It doesn’t mean that we can justify a rush to judgment before we know the facts, either.
Black Lives Matter has grown in response to police violence judged to be racially motivated. There is more than enough violence in America to keep police occupied, but the list of Black Lives Matter’s national demands includes cutting back on military weapons to police departments and redirecting law enforcement funding to housing, education, and jobs.1 That may keep people from being arrested, but it won’t make the streets safer.
There is a tremendous amount of federal, state, and local funding already channeled to disadvantaged communities, but there are only a handful of politicized police encounters gone bad. This limits the scope of movements like Black Lives Matter without a parallel push for social reform and yes, spending.
Don’t think for a moment that agitators are the only ones who know how to hold on to a good thing when they seize it. Politicians are right behind them, like Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who has turned Black Lives Matter into charges of environmental injustice against African Americans.2,3
Systemic injustice directed against minorities has been a rallying cry for Democrats who will be reduced to arguing that equal justice means everyone has to be treated the same even though they drew their own battle lines with skin color. Equal justice is a hypocritical excuse for railroading without evidence, though, and nowhere is that more evident than the Sandra Bland protests.
Sandra Bland outrage: when equal justice discriminates
Charges of discriminatory violence may be baseless, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be made. Talking about unacceptable police violence against women and girls, Congressman Hank Johnson’s bland statement about the Sandra Bland controversy managed to skirt the fact that there is no evidence yet to indicate her death was anything but a personal decision:
The arrest and death of Sandra Bland reminds us that the fight for equal justice under law continues.4
What the aftermath of Ms. Bland’s death really proves is that if you repeat something often enough some people will believe it and others will run with it. In the hair trigger, knee-jerk racial environment that the Obama administration has cultivated, even a hint of police abuse is instantly going to be tried in the public arena. In Waller County that means death threats against individuals and institutions not charged with any wrongdoing.
Agitators don’t always worry about the consequences of their actions any more than they consider that equal justice means equal justice, not justice drawn along the same racial boundaries they are working so hard to tear down. This problem isn’t confined to the left. Sometimes the moral compass of the right slips, too.
Planned Parenthood protests: when placing value on life crosses the line
Here’s the conundrum. Conservatives charge that scores of minorities are murdered in abortion clinics, but we don’t want to pay for the kind of social spending that Black Lives Matter demands any more than we want to fund a bottomless welfare state. That’s a problem with no solution.
Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry charged:
Planned Parenthood was founded in racism, profits from the pain of abortion, and remains a façade for terrible actions. The gruesome organ harvesting revelation should finally awaken us to the reality of this taxpayer-funded organization.5
The problem is that there are lots of questions about what Planned Parenthood did or didn’t do and some of the media being circulated in support of defunding the organization is also gruesome and irresponsibly displayed, and calls the morality of the right’s take on the value of life into question. If what Planned Parenthood did is illegal there are laws to deal with it, just like there are laws to deal with what did or didn’t happen to Sandra Bland in Texas. Conservatives can’t have it both ways, especially when our damnation of Obama’s unlawful executive actions has taken center stage in the fight between right and left.
Should arguments over abortion and the value of unborn life manifest as a political stunt doomed to fail? The Republican Party has been down the defunding path enough times to know that it ends with giving in, like the recent failure to block Homeland Security funding because of immigration policy. The newest effort to get rid of Boehner might stiffen the GOP’s spine, but until that happens talking tough and engaging in political hijinks to defund Planned Parenthood will inevitably backfire and turn into another damning embarrassment for conservatives who won’t stay the course.
Does life have value outside of politics?
What a sad question to ask. Those demanding that Black Lives Matter have adopted the same racial bias that they have accused society of cultivating. Protests over a traffic stop and tragic suicide in Texas have passed judgment and segued to death threats, an ironic twist given that this is supposed to be about how much life matters. Conservatives furious over the loss of unborn lives have to reconcile their justifiable refusal to support those lives. The rush to judgment before Planned Parenthood’s guilt is proved is also taking place outside of the same legal system we accuse the left of ignoring.
That, my friends, is the current state of discourse on the value of life in America. Life does have value outside of politics and protest, but in the absence of a monetary or policy payoff it would be difficult to say whether that value is something agitators and politicians understand.