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Display should be respected

| Thursday, October 14, 2004

There are very few issues that can polarize any conversation anywhere in the country as quickly as abortion. The topic falls in with politics, religion and comparing salaries as one that is often not considered polite or productive to talk about. Considering how controversial the issue is, the vandalism of a display of 1,200 crosses staked out on South Quad in protest of abortion is perhaps not surprising. The Cemetery of the Innocents illustrates something that cannot be as powerfully conveyed in words as in imagery – that widespread abortion may be a form of mass murder.

If abortion is in fact murder that is not promoted but certainly not prohibited by United States law, it is difficult to say that a three-day display on a field at a university is too strong a response. The display may be unsettling, but it is also hard to argue that a few days of discomfort are too much to ask in considering the kind of problem that is being addressed.

If the purpose of a protest is to force people to think, the Cemetery of the Innocents has certainly achieved its goal. In a society where abortion is contested but still legal, and often relegated to the realm of issues which are left untouched, the display at least succeeds in disturbing the complacency of those who have given up on considering the issue.

People may object to the display for many reasons. Students may not believe abortion is wrong, not think the government can legislate on the issue, think the display is disrespectful, doubt the intentions of the people behind it or simply not think it is the most effective way to protest abortion.

Whatever reasons people may have for objecting to the display, vandalizing it is not the answer. Not only is this illegal, it is an ineffective way of countering any argument espoused by Right to Life. The people who destroyed the display may have had valid reasons to dislike it, but those reasons are no clearer now than if the crosses had remained standing.

Students would do better to examine why the display evokes such strong emotions that people feel the need to destroy it. The issues surrounding abortion are numerous and they are serious, and they will not be solved by anything that can be displayed or destroyed in a small part of a small campus. Many people who support the Cemetery of the Innocents may not be considering all the pertinent social problems that surround abortion, but the fact that Right to Life is creating a peaceful protest against a potentially serious problem should be respected. Furthermore, students should respect the fact that strong feelings reflect a strong need for dialogue. Neither complacency nor conflict will solve any of the problems surrounding abortion. The crosses are a call for every student, whether they support abortion or not, to consider issues of poverty, equality, life and liberty that surround abortion and what the best way to approach these issues might be.