Friday, August 12, 2011

On Protests and Freedoms (And A Bit of a Rant)

Tonight's Facebook Status:

 Pro-lifers, I understand you feel strongly about abortion, but thanks to you, my five-year old son is upset and weepy, having seen your HUGE, horrifyingly graphic signs. 

Having spent a happy day at the beach, we were cruising home happily chatting. Traffic slowed at the lights and then suddenly we became a reluctantly captive audience to your silent protest, stuck as we were with nowhere to go.
I am. absolutely. furious.
 Ensuing Wall Discussion:
AR: I am a Pro Lifer, but my child seeing one of those signs would make me LIVID! Poor sweet Matthew :( :hugs:
PMA:  ‎:(
NS:  Poor sweet boy.
AF: Poor Matthew. People don't think do they??

LM: Oh gosh, so sorry for Matthew and you, mama. Big hugs.

JMK: We pass a weekly protest by my house and they only hold up an ultrasound pic. I am thankful that its only that. Im sorry Liz and Im sorry for Matthew, they stole a bit of his innoncence and Im sorry for that.

RP: :( Gaaaaaah!

RTG: amen sister.

Belly: I don't mind a peaceful protest every now and again. People have strong beliefs and I admire those who stand up for them. What I DON"T admire - nor appreciate - is having those beliefs shoved at me and my children, who are blameless, clueless and should NOT have to be subjected to images like the ones we saw.

Luke still cries at certain Loony Tunes. The images EVERYWHERE at a four-way intersection were 8 feet tall and completely unavoidable. Thank GOD Luke was asleep. Now only his brother can close his FIVE YEAR OLD eyes to those images as he goes to sleep tonight.

LR: These folks claim to care about children and families and yet are perfectly fine traumatizing children and families. They have no sense of irony, decency or common sense. Fundamentalists make me so ashamed to be a Christian, sometimes.

Belly: Sigh. And therein lies the rub, LR. To identify yourself as a Christian man - and in my humble opinion you personally embody some of the best qualities of a true and sincere Christian - you risk aligning yourself w/ groups such as these, whose focus is so scarily intense, they've blocked out any thought to WHO might see those signs. No sense of irony or decency is absolutely right.

Too bad my SON was on the receiving end of their lack of both.

LR: Very kind of you to say, Belly, but i'm not so devout that i'm above calling these people a bunch of really choice names right to their faces.

Heh ... "choice" ...

‎Belly: *Snickers* 
 If Mark weren't sleeping for night shift, I'd haul ass back up there to give them a piece of my mind. Yep. Seems I *can* be *that* woman, if the situation warrants. Just call me Mama Bear...

AC: Such poor taste. Sorry you guys had to see that filth.

LMc: I drove past that too Liz - there were kids holding those signs! They were massive and I did everything I could to avoid looking at them. As a mother, and one who would never abort her baby, I do not need to look at a graphic image like that of a dead was unbelievable and made me want to cry. I guess that is the reaction they are looking for, but I was upset seeing it, I can't imagine if my kids were with me...poor Matthew!! I am pro choice for many reasons, but still very pro life in my own mind...the thought of abortion sickens me. I don't mind a protest like you said, but not something like that, that was like nothing I've ever seen before!
Belly: Is this a NORMAL thing for Belleville?!?? I've never seen anything like it and those images dropped my stomach to the floor. Pro-choice does NOT mean ANTI-LIFE and it infuriates me that people would use such tactics to make their point.

Matthew is fine now - nothing a little grilled cheese and Treehouse can't cure, really, but I am still agitated. I saw the kids holding signs and am incredulous that their parents would expect/encourage it.

Protecting the innocent, indeed.

LAL: I've seen them before - lining Dundas Street right around the Bay Bridge. I wonder if there is something law wise that covers the graphic nature of the pictures. I certainly don't want to get into the debate of their right to protest but there must be something to speak to content of the images.Displaying a picture of a Sunshine girl in a workplace can be considered sexual harassment. That's tame in comparison to this so surely there must be some recourse?
Belly: Am, naturally, drafting a letter right now. Their location was well-chosen, traffic-wise. Also, w/Ribfest this weekend, lots of people are travelling down 62 to Zwicks. IS there not a rule about this sort of thing? The protest was peaceful - I saw no law enforcement or the like. Saw a lot of stunned looks on the faces of the drivers around me, but no confrontation or anything, so I suppose that speaks well of the Friendly City's tolerance and support of freedom to speak/protest etc.

LMc: I have never seen anything like this in Belleville before...or anywhere for that matter. I hear stories of crazy the horrible one at Heath Ledger's funeral, but I never thought I'd see hat kind of thing here!

That's what upset me Liz...protest if you must, but don't force somebody to look at something in that manner. I could tried hard not to look, but I didn't have much choice!

LAL: Yep, I think that's the issue. We all understand the value and importance of freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest. But the images are akin to an assault and we DO have laws that support that concept. Let me know the outcome of your letter writing.

Belly: Totally blogging this thread, if that's OK w/ everyone. Will not use your full names, just initials.

LAL: Blog away your Royal Blogness.

LMc: No problem:)

LP: They shoot doctors who perform abortions, right? Maybe it's time to even the score. 

Belly: Well, I don't think that's the answer, either. No, it's NOT the answer. To do so would be hypocritical and wrong. But I see your point.

WB: I totally agree! I found those posters so upsetting and unnecessary!

SL: I've seen them doing the same thing in Toronto. Corner of Bayview and Eglinton if I remember correctly. It's completely inappropriate. I think most people don't react because they're too stunned at the fact that these morons are doing what they're doing. It does nothing for their cause - just angers people and if anything it deepens the resolve of pro-choicers. I don't understand fanatical fundamentalists of any kind. They are just plain dangerous...just ask Norway.

So there you have it - how to get a Belly Mama completely riled up on sunny summer's day. 

Was this a rant, a conversation, a sermon or a complaint? What do you think? 


  1. Sorry Matthew had to see that! It's very upsetting when our children are exposed to images and words they shouldn't see. My 2nd child learned to read at a very young age and we were sitting behind a car at a stoplight when my preschooler read a vulgar bumper sticker out loud. I was so upset, but at least he didn't understand what he read.

    Freedom of speech is so important but I wish we could figure out a better way to protect our children from those things that are potentially upsetting to them and too mature for them to handle.

  2. Coming from the land of Phelps, and protests, and the like, I have to remember to come back to this. If I forget dear Belly, please remind me.

  3. People are so busy shoving their beliefs and agendas down everyone's throats they become blind to the trauma it could cause someone. Whether it is a young child or a person who has lost a baby or *gasp* even a woman who has had an abortion herself. In my opinion these protests do nothing to further the pro-life cause at all. Poor taste indeed.

  4. Annie, you're so right about freedom of speech - and how hard it is to both honour the need for it and still protect our children. I don't know what the answer is.

    Rebecca, do come back - would love to read your thoughts!

    Lisa - poor taste is right. And by jarring people w/ horrible photos, it serves mostly to alienate and anger them, not draw inspire conversations.


  5. A well deserved rant! And the thing is I am sure plenty of women who have had abortions and have had to deal with that guilt and remorse for YEARS have to look at those billboards. )-: That's not very nice. I'm sorry for you and your kiddos!


  6. Thanks, Kathryn. And you make an important point - how long should someone suffer, having made the difficult decision to abort in the first place?

    And what gives someone ELSE the right to expose my children to such vivid, disturbing images? I should have at LEAST been given the opportunity to weave AWAY from the demonstration.

    Thanks for popping by! :)

  7. Liz:

    In graduate school, while immersed in my very feminist studies, I started to think that anyone who was educated HAD to be pro-choice. It was who I was surrounded with every day. It seemed obvious. Smart people (folks with higher degrees) were obviously pro-choice. Duh. Done.

    When I landed my first (real) job teaching English as a Second Language, I worked with a teacher who I loved. Kathy was smart, generous, kind, and warm-hearted. She treated every child equally. She arranged the desks in neighborhoods and talked about community responsibilities. She was awesome.

    One Sunday, a protest was planned at Planned Parenthood. Some notorious pastors from the South were a-comin' and -- our professors suggested -- it was our duty to make sure that women could obtain safe, legal abortions (as is their legal right) without getting hassled or made to feel horrible about it.

    So I went.

    It was pandemonium. People lined up on both sides of the street. On both sides of the issue. I didn't like the things the Pro-Choice people were chanting, so I bought some duct tape at the CVS across the street and duct-taped my mouth closed.

    Point is, I didn't want to be associated with what Pro-Choicers were ranting about. And at the end of the day, I was left with this strange feeling that the whole thing was much ado about nothing. I wasn't sure I had helped accomplish very much. I felt a little bit like a pawn in someone else's chess game.

    The next day, I went into class and mentioned to Kathy that I had been at the protest. I was proud. I was sure she would be proud, too. She looked at me and said, "I guess we were on different sides of the street that day." It was the first time I actually realized that intelligent people -- really intelligent people -- could be on the "other" side of the issue.

    I felt like an idiot. Honestly, Kathy was strongly pro-life (I should have known) and the rest of the year was strained. But she taught me to never make assumptions about people's political views.

    The picture of me with my mouth duct-taped shut ended up published in LIFE magazine. I have it somewhere. The caption said something like 'a woman tapes her mouth closed to represent the silent majority of women who favor safe, legal abortion.' No one ever asked me why I had duct-taped my mouth. Truth was, I was offended by what people on the Pro-Choice side were chanting and I wanted to symbolically separate myself from it. It would have been nice to have had an opportunity to express that. But no one asked for my story. The reporters, too, were just looking for a story, a picture.

    So I guess I'd just say, there is insensitive on all sides of this issue.

  8. Wow, Renee. Thanks for this reminder - that all is not as it seems, for any issue. I'd love to see the LIFE photo, though I'm incensed that it ran w/o your permission and explanation.

    Insensitivies do indeed permeate this particular issue which is doubly sad, since it should be the one we treat most respectfully.