Dehumanizing the Vulnerable
“Those who control language control thought, and eventually semantic corruption leads to the adulteration of thought itself.” — William Brennan, Ph.D., professor of social work in the Saint Louis University School of Social Work.1
According to Dr. William Brennan, a professor of social work in the Saint Louis University School of Social Work, and Loyola Press bestselling author of Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives, “The capacity of human beings to justify their behavior, no matter how unconscionable, appears to be limitless. When the behavior consists of harming other human beings, degrading words serve as an extraordinarily effective weapon.”2
This is part seven (7) of a seven (7) part series examining why black leadership rejects the pro-life movement, is helping to perpetrate the genocide of their own people, and what can be done to reverse this horrific reality.
THE SEMANTICS OF OPPRESSION3 [see original article site for chart]
If “truth” is the first casualty of war and “lies” repeated often enough will be embraced by the masses, then Dr. Brennan is right when he says, “The power of language to color one’s view of reality is profound.”4
The Power of “The Big Lie”
“Semantic gymnastics is an exceedingly apt term because it connotes the severe twisting and distorting of language necessary to deny fundamental scientific facts, which include the facts that human life exists before birth and that abortion kills human lives in the womb.” — William Brennan, Ph.D., professor of social work in the Saint Louis University School of Social Work.5
“What is not yet so clearly perceived is that in order to bring this about hard choices will have to be made with respect to what is to be preserved and strengthened and what is not, and that this will of necessity violate and ultimately destroy the traditional Western ethic with all that this portends.” [This is] a portion of the infamous editorial from the California Medicine editorial of 1970 entitled “A New Ethic for Medicine and Society.”6 This editorial proves that while the abortion industry denied that abortion deliberately takes the life of a innocent human being, they were pathologically lying and more than fully aware of what they were doing as they implemented a strategy they described as a “schizophrenic sort of subterfuge” to install a new ethic. However, in light of the 50 plus million lives lost since 1973, Malcolm S. M. Watts, M.D., California Medicine, appears to be prophetic.
“It will become necessary and acceptable to place relative rather than absolute values on such things as human lives, the use of scarce resources and the various elements which are to make up the quality of life or of living which is to be sought. This is quite distinctly at variance with the Judeo-Christian ethic and carries serious philosophical, social, economic, and political implications for Western society and perhaps for world society.
The process of eroding the old ethic and substituting the new has already begun. It may be seen most clearly in changing attitudes toward human abortion. In defiance of the long held Western ethic of intrinsic and equal value for every human life regardless of its stage, condition, or status, abortion is becoming accepted by society as moral, right, and even necessary. It is worth noting that this shift in public attitude has affected the churches, the laws, and public policy rather than the reverse.
Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced, it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death.
The very considerable semantic gymnastics, which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life, would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices. It is suggested that this schizophrenic sort of subterfuge is necessary because, while a new ethic is being accepted, the old one has not yet been rejected.
It seems safe to predict that the new demographic, ecological, and social realities and aspirations are so powerful that the new ethic of relative rather than of absolute and equal values will ultimately prevail as man exercises ever more certain and effective control over his numbers, and uses his always comparatively scarce resources to provide the nutrition, housing, economic support, education, and health care in such ways as to achieve his desired quality of life and living.”
Hiding Behind “Socially Impeccable Auspices”
“The term ‘nonperson’ has emerged as the most far-reaching and disastrous epithet ever invoked to devalue human life in the womb. When the United Sates Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision (1973) declared that ‘the word “person,” as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn,’ it sounded the legalized death knell for huge numbers of unborn humans.” — William Brennan, Ph.D., professor of social work in the Saint Louis University School of Social Work.7
Personhood is the final chapter in the civil rights movement and is exactly what the pro-life movement looks like victorious. Personhood is the only pro-life strategy that does not embrace exceptions.
Personhood allows the discussion to focus on life instead of death and is a powerful and effective strategy for communicating life in communities of color. In the classroom of race-based oppression, minority communities share a very painful history of lessons learned at the ultimate expense of life itself in this country.
Because we’ve “been there” … we understand what it is like not to be a person and know exactly where the term “nonperson” leads to. Personhood is rooted in truth. “Momma is with child” and only this simple truth has the power to triumphantly contend with those hiding behind socially impeccable auspices such as the pulpit, the bench or the Resolute Desk. Personhood affords us the opportunity to address how words have been used historically to justify the vilest crimes against humanity. Personhood reminds the public that malevolent and worm-wooded words fuel violent human behavior. By design, personhood replaces the lexicon of dehumanization with what Dr. Brennan calls a “nomenclature of life-affirming and exalted portrayals of all human beings despite their status, condition, stage of development, gender, race, age, or place of residence.”8
If the goal of the Fourteenth Amendment was to give legal effect to the Civil Rights Bill of 1866,9 then the goal of personhood is to give legal effect to a definition of personhood that includes all human beings, regardless of how we were procreated, from the preborn, to the senior citizen facing end-of-life decisions, to the disabled war veteran.10 Just as the U.S. Congress felt it needful to protect the fundamental rights of former slaves as United States citizens under Article IV, Sec. II of the U.S. Constitution,11 proponents and those denied personhood understand how needful it is to protect all human beings by love and by Article VI of the U.S. Constitution,12 the supreme law of the land.
If Ezekiel is right, God is looking for leaders who would build up the wall and stand before Him in the gap on behalf of the land so He would not have to destroy it (Ezekiel 22:30).13 Could it be that abortion is still legal in America and the needs of our women and children unmet because the leaders of our socially impeccable auspices are not socially impeccable themselves?
Brothers, we really need to talk.
1. William Brennan – Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1995, page 8.
2. Ibid., page ix.
3. Ibid. page 6,7.
4. Ibid. page 1.
5. Ibid. page 8.
6. “A New Ethic for Medicine and Society,” California Medicine 113 (September 1970): 68.
7. William Brennan – Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1995, p. 202.
8. Ibid., page 225.
9. Monday, April 9th, 1866: An Act to protect all Persons in the United States in their Civil Rights, and furnish the Means of their Vindication (http://bit.ly/p462hu).
10. ROE v. WADE, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). Cf. the Wisconsin abortion statute, defining “unborn child” to mean “a human being from the time of conception until it is born alive,” Wis. Stat. 940.04 (6) (1969), and the new Connecticut Statute, Pub. Act No. 1 (May 1972 special session), declaring it to be the public policy of the state and the legislative intent “to protect and preserve human life from the moment of conception.” (http://bit.ly/q6EKGn)
11. Article 4 — The States, Section 2 — State Citizens, Extradition: “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States. A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.”
12. Article 6 — Debts, Supremacy, Oaths: “All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation. This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
13. “I sought for a man among them, who should build up the wall, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.” (World English Bible)
Walter B. Hoye II is both president and founder of the Issues4life Foundation and the California Civil Rights Foundation. God used the premature birth (six months, 2.1 pounds) of his son to teach him that the fetus is a person—a living, breathing human being. In 2008, Walter and his wife, Lori, were the recipients of the 4th Annual Walk for Life West Coast’s St. Gianna Molla Award for “courage under fire” in the pro-life movement. He serves as an incredible leader for the cause of the preborn despite the personal costs, and has even been unjustly jailed for his peaceful defense of the preborn on a sidewalk outside an abortion clinic. His “Letter from the Santa Rita Jail” and California Human Rights Amendment appeal for personhood entitled “Why I Can’t Wait” are now classics. Hoye has also written a book entitled, Leadership from the Inside Out.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at: http://issues4lifefoundation.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/betrayal-trauma-7-of-7-2/.