I have a large box truck with five-foot by ten-foot pictures of aborted babies on both sides. When I feel disgusted at my own passivity in the face of abortion I drive it up and down Highway 401, across the top of Toronto.
I don’t know who will see these pictures of these dead babies on a given day. Of the thousands of people who pass by there will be a number of children. When I see them, their parents often shield their eyes. I feel a little bit sick when this happens. My wife and I have children, and we are aware of the assault on their innocence. I understand their parents’ contempt for me. Many pro-lifers agree with these critics.
There will also be lots of mothers and fathers and grandparents who have aborted their own children. Unlike slavery which was always visible, abortions are compartmentalized and hidden, blocked out and buried. These people have been living their lives and are now driving along, mildly attentive, listening to music, daydreaming, sorting through the business of their lives. Then they are suddenly, shockingly, fleetingly confronted with a picture of a dead baby, like their dead baby. I don’t know what happens to them.
Then there is everyone else.
Advertisers employ experts and spend huge amounts of money assessing their markets; packaging, targeting and managing their messages. Ads seen within the comfort and security of our own homes, heard on radio and imagined in the mind’s eye, or inserted onto the collective nervous system of our computer screens carefully calibrate tempo and intensity, provocation and consolation.
What sort of receptivity is to be found inside of the sleek hard skin of a car?
The road belongs to the autonomous, self-interested, aggressive agent, encased within a missile, travelling at high speeds alongside of – but separate – from others doing the same.
Inside a car on a highway would seem to be the least receptive, the least opportune context to promote the sorrow, compassion and other-directed selflessness which mark the transition from pro-abortion to anti-abortion. Clearly I should take my truck off the road.
So runs the most compelling counter-argument I put to myself. I wish I could be more convincing because I would much rather not spend my time, money and the gentle best wishes of strangers on such an errand.
But I do know that those pictures on my truck are of two human beings who were killed by abortion. We would all rather forget them, but they deserve to be remembered. And alongside of these two there are millions of other babies who have been killed by abortion in Canada. I know that truth has its own rights. I know that it is the hiddeness, the invisibility of abortion which gives it cover to continue.
I also know that it was pictures of aborted babies which I saw as a child which galvanized my opposition to abortion. Parents do have rights over when and where their children are to learn certain hard lessons, but even this right is not absolute. Not even families with young children have the right to blithely proceed, oblivious to the 100,000 abortions a year in Canada.
Not so long ago children were raised on stark depictions of good and evil. Little Red Ridinghood’s grandmother was eaten by a wolf who wanted to do the same to the child.
Hansel and Gretel were abandoned by their father and stepmother in the woods and had to throw the witch into the fire or be eaten themselves. Children see good and evil more clearly than we do. Furthermore, pro-life Christians should be wary of the scorpion’s tail.
Their own objections to the public display of graphic abortion pictures could be used to censor the crosses on their churches or the crucifixes around their necks.
Advertisers compete to create desires and measure their success in the sales of products which are constantly being re-branded, re-pitched. But recasting our understanding of abortion is not like creating or scratching a passing itch. There is no painless transition from maintaining that abortion should be legal to recognizing that abortion is murder. That transition requires clear and unequivocal evidence strongly presented. It is going to awaken fierce self-defensive resistance which may include an initial offensive revolt against the message and the messenger.
There is no good place or bad place to be confronted with the fact that you have been indifferent to, supported or committed murder.
Joe Bissonnette teaches religion at Assumption College School in Brantford, Ont., and is a member of Show the Truth. STT paid for the signs on the truck and STT’s director Rosemary Connell also has a truck.