Sunday, September 13, 2009

Two deaths, well, three

1. The Death of Norman Borlaug. Borlaug invented modern high-yield agriculture and has probably saved more lives in poverty-stricken countries than any other person in recent history. As Radley Balko put it "If one way of measuring a life is by the number of other lives a man saved or bettered, Borlaug was certainly one of the greatest human beings who ever lived."

2. The murder of abortion clinic protestor James Poullion, by Harlan James Drake, a guy who went around murdering people he didn't like. Because, you know, if a guy waving signs with fetuses on them in front of a high school pisses you off, the obvious thing to do is murder him in front of said high school.

I didn't say anything about the death of George Tiller because there wasn't much to say and the political footballishness of the treatment of his death bothered me. I feel the same way about James Poullion. Yes, killing a protestor because of his beliefs is wrong. Killing the other guy that Harlan James Drake killed is also wrong. Harlan James Drake has now tried to kill himself. Make that three wrongs. A third guy who pissed Harlan James Drake off has moved out of town because he was found to have been on Drake's enemies list and the next in line for murdering. Four wrongs.

There are stacks of wrongs and there's no right here and it never even makes any sense.

The anti-abortion movement is all "we condemned killing people for their beliefs, now you should condemn it too" which makes more sense than most aspects of this story, but is still sort of ridiculous. I think we're all against killing people for their beliefs, at least as far as press releases are concerned.

Because, like most people, I read a story and what jumps out at me best are things I believed already, I'm left with the following overall impressions:

1. Norman Borlaug spent his life making discoveries, feeding the hungry and helping the poor.
2. George Tiller spent his life helping desperate women and ending the lives of unwanted fetuses.
3. James Poullion spent his life waving signs at high school students.

I don't think the lesson to be learned here is a political one. If anything, it is an anti-political one.

Next time you're thinking about insulting people into do what you want or demanding that the government or any other large organization help somebody else out, why not do something for other people yourself instead?


Ps. Please note what Jess has to say in the comments about Dr. George Tiller.


Jess said...

I know this is not exactly on your topic, but on Tiller, just a clarification: he did not simply "end the lives of unwanted fetuses," as you say -- he performed late term abortions for pregnancies found to have severe or fatal birth defects discovered too late for standard interventions (in other words, fetuses that would not live past a few moments or hours after birth, if they even made it that far), for women whose fetuses had already died in utero but had not miscarried, and for women for whom carrying a fetus to term would mean at the very least "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" -- a requirement under Kansas state law for late term abortion.

This was not about "unwanted" fetuses in most cases -- many of these pregnancies were most wanted and cherished until things went horribly wrong medically.

PG said...

James Poullion spent his life waving signs at high school students.

Technically, he spent at least part of his life waving signs at an auto dealership calling the people who worked there baby-killers because the dealership had donated money to pro-choice candidates.

Pouillon was a polarizing figure in Owosso, a town of 15,000 best known as the birthplace of 1948 Republican presidential candidate Thomas Dewey. While inhaling oxygen from a small tank, he could usually be seen with his anti-abortion signs outside schools, the library, city hall, even football games.
"His dedication to his cause was unprecedented," said Tony Young, who tangled with Pouillon during protests outside his car dealership.
The county's chief assistant prosecutor, Sara Edwards, said there didn't appear to be a "triggering event" but Pouillon's presence outside the school seemed to aggravate Drake. It was "the fact that he was outside the high school with his signs in front of children going to school," she said. ...
Pouillon protested for years in front of Tony Young's car dealership, Young Chevrolet Cadillac, holding up anti-abortion slogans and graphic photos. The Michigan Court of Appeals in 1997 struck down a preliminary injunction restricting the protests and he continued until about five years ago.
"This is a guy who put himself out there every day ... for a cause he believed in, and (he) took a hell of a lot of abuse," said lawyer Michael Gildner, who represented Pouillon in a case that reached the federal appeals court. "It angered people, upset people on occasion. That's what free speech is all about."

kimc said...

"His dedication to his cause was unprecedented," said Tony Young,....

Does this sound like anyone we know?

hafidha sofia said...

I believe Norman Borlaug is credited with saving the lives of between 500 million and 1 billion people ... more than any in recorded history.

Except Jesus, of course.