At first, I was merely amused. Shortly, I was decidedly appalled.
I was reading an article
about some goings-on at Baylor University, in the Waco Tribune-Herald,
November 1, 2001. Some students were objecting to the prominent
placement, in a well-traveled area, of a display featuring larger-than-life
pictures of aborted fetuses.
Baylor student Erin Connors, president of the campus organization
that was responsible for bringing the two-day display to the school,
said, I feel like were just presenting the truth and
the facts.... This is reality. Were not trying to hide that.
Another Baylor student, a female junior, made a complaint that
really caught my eye. To spare her further embarrassment, I will
refrain from telling you her name. Besides, I have a feeling she
is not alone; so, to avoid getting personal, lets just call
her Missy Baylor.
I believe, said Missy Baylor, that if you cant
avoid (seeing or hearing) something, that is oppressive.
I laughed aloud, and said to myself, Is that what passes for
oppression on college campuses these days?
I went on with my websurfing, and immediately came upon an article
in the London Times, dated the same day, about an Afghan
man identified only as Karimullah, in his mid-twenties. He was jailed
by the Taliban in 1999 for having served with the mujahedin for
the Northern Alliance.
One day, after about 12 weeks of imprisonment, Karimullah was taken
from his cell and driven to a stadium where thousands of people
were assembled. About a dozen mullahs sat in a row in the middle
of the field, and he was placed on the ground before them.
Seven doctors approached me, he told the reporter.
They wore grey uniforms, surgical masks and gloves. I could
see one was crying. They injected me. After five minutes my body
was numb though I was still conscious. Then they put clamps on my
hand and foot and began to cut them off with special saws. There
was no pain but I could see what they were doing.
In five minutes, his left foot and right hand had become spare
He knows no reason for the public spectacle of his brutal treatment,
though rumors have reached him that a wealthy man had paid the mullahs
to substitute Karimullah to undergo the punishment required for
his own crimes.
He was hospitalized for a while, then released to go home. At the
sight of him thus maimed, his mother collapsed; already in poor
health, she died a few hours later of a heart attack.
And... and... can you believe it? Missy Baylor thinks
she is oppressed when she has to walk past a display,
for two days, that might actually make her think about something
she would rather ignore.
Juxtaposing in my mind the stories of Karimullah and Missy Baylor,
which I had read one after the other, my amusement at her attitude
changed: this young woman has a life of convenience, privilege,
and luxury of which many perhaps most people around
the world can only dream.
No, her attitude isnt amusing: its appalling.
Most people alive on the Earth today would consider Missy Baylor
a child of immense privilege. Radio, television, newspapers, magazines,
and computers can bring her the latest news from around the world,
with little or no effort on her part, and with little or no official
censorship; libraries, housing the accumulated wisdom of centuries,
are free (or practically so) for her use; medical treatment
to heal, not to harm is surely available to her without much
more trouble than the making of a phone call, whether for minor
complaints or for life-saving surgery; she may engage in the free
exchange of ideas, and take part in the daily criticism of government
and officials at all levels, that would bring swift perhaps
deadly reprisal in many nations of today, let alone those
of former ages.
Indeed, most absolute monarchs of centuries past with the
power of life or death at their command could not have imagined
as luxuries the ordinary conveniences Missy Baylor takes for granted
daily. Artificial light at the flick of a switch, any time of day
or night; waste flushed away at the touch of a handle; hot water
in a few moments at the twist of a knob; fresh fruits and vegetables
available year-round at a market which may be a few blocks away,
to be reached in minutes by walking, or a few miles away, to be
reached in minutes by driving or riding.
Even today, hundreds of millions of men, women, and children around
the world can only dream about the simple facts and ordinary realities
of daily life in a civilization of technology, in a society of free
assembly, movement, and expression.
No cosmic coincidence has arranged that such a life of convenience,
privilege, and luxury exists among men most typically in those nations
where freedom of assembly, movement, and expression have reigned
longest and most assuredly.
Missy Baylor ought to kiss the ground she walks on the land
of a nation whose society is founded on the Judeo-Christian value
of the dignity of the person and on the Anglo-American
value of the rule of law. Without those values, and the
society built upon them, her life of convenience, privilege, and
luxury would be impossible. For evidence, merely look to the realities
of daily life where those values never took root or did not bear
Yes, Missy Baylor ought to kiss the ground she walks on
especially now that we have learned to our sorrow that the ground
we walk on can be turned into a gaping inferno of death, without
warning: malicious men, with no thought of the dignity of the
person or the rule of law, are learning to use our
immense privileges and daily conveniences against us.
America: Land of the Oppressed? May all the citizens of the world
some day be so fortunate as to be as oppressed as Missy Baylor.
I think that I might know of a man far away who just may have been
willing to give a hand or a foot to be able to live as she does
but he no longer has any to spare.
(I have more to say about folks like Missy Baylor, and values like
the dignity of the person and the rule of law,
but I can wait until another View.)
One can readily believe that the very same students who objected
to that display of larger-than-life pictures of aborted fetuses
on the campus of Baylor University would have defended nay,
trumpeted! a similar display of realistic pictures of what,
for instance, enslaved Africans might have looked like during the
Middle Passage across the Atlantic to America in the 18th Century.
Those pictures would not, of course, actually be real, as the larger-than-life
pictures of aborted fetuses were real. But one can easily
believe that words like truth and fact and historical
reality would come roaring from the students lips towards
anybody who might object to displaying such a depiction of slavery
with a jabbing retort (accusation, really) that we should
not try to shield ourselves from that sorry history. A history of
which nobody denies the truth, and for which nobody now living is