The media response when a bomb went off at an abortion business here in Asheville last week was predictable. It was also accurate-so far as it went-when it concluded that the bomber, whoever he may be, is a coward.
I walked around the offices this morning, just 48 hours after someone else, probably also in the dawn's early light, had furtively calculated where his device might do its worst damage, where he could drop it off without being detected himself, and how he could get away before being noticed. Not exactly the stuff of heroes.
Yesterday afternoon, I had also driven around Andrews, N.C., just 90 miles west of here, where several dozen FBI agents still hunker down week after week looking for Eric Rudolph, accused of similar cowardly acts in the abortion wars. Mr. Rudolph is suspected of having bombed abortion businesses in Alabama and Georgia, as well as setting off the terrifying device that so disrupted the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. For the last year and more, Mr. Rudolph is supposed to have been hiding out in the mountains just west of WORLD's home base. He's a folk hero in some quarters in these parts-but even folk heroes are sometimes cowards.
I'd like to think otherwise. I'd like to be able to demonstrate that both Eric Rudolph and the newest bomber (some folks around here think they're one and the same) have good moral warrant for having done the things they're charged with. I wish I could buy into the old argument that the ends justify the means-that the goal of putting the abortionists out of business is so worthy and lofty that we can do just about anything we please to bring it about. And I've raised the possibility in this column that the historic tenets of so-called Just War Theory may well be applicable to our thinking about how to conduct the abortion battle.
But Just War Theory, even if it applies here, includes no pedestals for cowards. Far better to declare the war in public, in the full light of the day, and then to wage it with our colors flying.
Yet, having acknowledged all that-and having distanced ourselves from the terrorists who suppose they can effectively fight so profound a battle anonymously-let's set the record straight at the same time about the even greater cowardice of those who launched this great conflict in the first place.
For everything about the ugly abortion business is typically bathed in cowardice.
It starts, of course, in the cowardly response to the very behavior that produced the temptation to think about something like abortion. A coward, by definition, is a person who cannot face reality. Reality says that when a man and a woman become sexually involved, a baby may be the result. Grownup and mature people consider those realities. But cowardly people can't face them; they lurk off into the night to pretend that reality doesn't exist; they sneak off to solve their problem.
They sneak off to other cowards. They go to people who hide behind euphemisms like "reproductive health," simply because they are afraid to talk in the open about what they really do. They work behind locked doors-and not just because they're afraid of people like Eric Rudolph. They worked in the dark well before the days of the terrorists.
All this is supposedly regulated by politicians and public officials who are for the most part also cowards. They have become deft at speaking out of both sides of their mouths on the issue, and at pretending to pursue absurdities like the goal of making abortion "safe, legal, and rare." They are scared of the voters on both sides of the question, and in their fear, they respond like the cowards they are.
Selected aspects of the whole scenario are then reported by a cowardly media. I say "selected aspects" because the steady media diet we're all offered conspicuously leaves out two key aspects of the story. With all the focus on the violence just outside the clinics, never is there a detailed accounting of the much more terrible violence within. And only rarely is there an accounting of the violence that happens deep in women's hearts and souls as they say a deliberate and purposeful goodbye to their own offspring. Only a cowardly media could ignore so central-and so gripping-a part of the story.
Yet the most cowardly aspect of all may be the outsized disparity between the big people and the little people. The parents who conceive the babies, the abortionists who destroy them, the politicians who aid and abet, the reporters who give one-sided accounts-all these grownups conspire against tiny victims who typically will not be permitted even to draw their first breath of life, much less use that breath to scream their protest. Only cowards would stack the deck or fix the fight in such ghastly proportions.
So of course last week's bomber is a coward. But he shouldn't be afraid near an abortion clinic. Instead, he should feel right at home.