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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Never underestimate a political foe

When I read Amanda Marcotte's question on RH Reality Check
“How on earth could one of the most powerful political movements in the nation collectively be unable to string two thoughts together in any type of coherent form?”
I thought for a moment that she would be refreshingly self-critical. But alas. All she can add to the conversation about reproductive rights is that the anti-choice people don't think. How is that helpful?

Of course anti-choice people think. And they think real hard. How else can such a minority have been so successful? That is the more important question.

There are are two intellectual traditions that suggest another way of thinking. One is better known and suggests that all people interpret the world according to frames they have in their minds. George Lakoff is the one person I know best and he has tried to make frame analysis useful for progressives in his book Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives. Since anti-choice activists have a very different frame, they literally see the world differently than Amanda and I do. But that is no reason to suggest that they don't think. Worse, it is completely useless to suggest that they don't think. They think perhaps harder than we do, for they know that being right and getting it right are two different things. I am bothered by smug progressives who simply think that being right ought to be enough.

Of course, I would betray my own discipline of anthropology, were I not to suggest that we have a country with very different cultures. For the current purpose, proposing to think in terms of culture is not that different than talking in terms of frames. With one notable difference. The culture concept invites the consideration of a broader spectrum of emotions and cognitions than frame analysis. Anthropologists also take religion more seriously and understand its fundamental importance to people's lives.

Let's also recognize that the anti-choice movement is not anti-sex per se. That again is too simplistic. They often suggest that good sex is important. However, good sex for them means intercourse between a man and a woman in the context of marriage. That is where we disagree. For me, sex can be many things between all kinds of people as long as they consent and achieve pleasure. Anti-choice people have orgasms. Women too. They don't mind other people having orgasms either, as long as they are married. That fits within their frame.

Underestimating such a phenomenal political foe as the anti-choice movement is the last think to do.

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