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Ignoring the deeper texture

Letter to the Editor | Friday, October 14, 2005

Many of the important moral issues of our day are embedded in a complex dynamic of competing ethical forces and weights that revolve around questions of fact, faith, reason, interpretation and conscience, in a broadly and spiritually human sense. Moral issues are also wide in compass. Just in the context of human life for instance, they range from abortion, to the death penalty, to war, to self defense, to the quality of life of the young and the poor. This, in brief, was my understanding of the essential point that Dean Mark Roche made in the New Yord Times op-ed piece of a year ago.

This brings me to the recent op-ed contribution in the defense of the right to life by Anthony J. Lauinger in The Observer of Wednesday, Oct. 12, “Of Ray Siegfried, Mark Roche and the child we once were.” Any cogent appeal that grows out of a sense of passion, conviction, insight, fairness and informed reason deserves respect and evaluation. Most unfortunately, Lauinger’s effort fell short of this standard. Unable to resist the temptation to take aim at Dean Roche’s reflection, he zeros in on a single sentence, “Those who view abortion as the most significant issue in this campaign may well want to supplement their abstract desire for moral rectitude with a more realistic focus on how best to ensure that fewer abortions take place… and pulls the trigger on “abstract desire for moral rectitude.” What Lauinger engages in is a quintessential example of a general and troublesome development in our country. It is a virus that has infected our civic and political discourse. It is visible in the media daily, and is a practice embedded in the “sound bite” and the “photo op.” It consists of taking a differentiated discussion on a topic, narrowing in on a sentence and a phrase, spilling bile on a single frame, and ignoring or misunderstanding the deeper texture. This is precisely what this defender of the good and the just does in his piece and the large bold “Mark Roche” of its title.

Alexander Hahnprofessor MathematicsOct. 13