“She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate progress. And in the hush that had fallen suddenly upon the whole sorrowful land, the immense wilderness, the colossal body of the fecund and mysterious life seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it had been looking at the image of its own tenebrous and passionate soul.”
-Joseph Conrad, HEART OF DARKNESS
The National Interest has recently published a fascinating article drawing on the lessons of the war between Athens and Sparta as an illustration for the need of unity in order to avoid a political civil war between “red and blue America.” Drawing on the writings of Thucydides, the author suggests that tenuous fault-lines lying beneath the surface of our political foundation that “may not withstand future stress and pressure” the same way that internal conflicts in Greek society fell victim to the Peloponnesian War.
The author writes:
The thirty-year-long Peloponnesian War did not start overnight. Greek casus belli intensified gradually over a fifty-year span as selfish agendas became acceptable through the slow creep of greed, pride and suspicion. Ironically, the very peace Athenians and Spartans secured against Persia enabled the widening of attitudes. Tragically, Greek divergence metastasized into open conflict and, ultimately, mutual ruin. A key message of Thucydidean history is that without mutual effort for unity, a people of common heritage but different perspectives will develop oppositional interests over time. This was the case with Athens and Sparta and is occurring in “blue” and “red” segments of America’s populace.
While several roads can be taken leaving the above content—e.g. the discussion of immigration in comparison to Sparta’s / “red state’s” distrust of foreigners and emphasis on the Second Amendment as an extension of military might—the one recently becoming a major issue is the Women’s March and their comparable affinity for pro-choice ideology to Sparta’s “excellent” laws (also: Twelve Tables IV.1).
I write this in my article connecting Sparta’s instrumentality with our own American system that embeds base morality under the guise of pragmatic principles:
When Lycurgus returned from his travels, he envisioned that the knowledge he had gained would allow him to create a new Sparta, built on a new set of constitutions. Among the new beliefs was the notion of encouraging pregnant women to strive for physical fitness during their pregnancy in an effort to develop a strong seed. Newborns who failed to meet the standards of health and vigor were rumored to be disposed; raising them was seen as a disservice to the public interest. In this obsession to develop “fine breeding,” Lycurgus left no room for common notions of fidelity and sought to view children as products of the commonwealth. It was an odd form of selective inequality bent on serving the common good instead of respecting human dignity. While Sparta was a culture linked to the idea of instrumentalism—the use of law towards social reform—our contemporary form of government in many ways bears all the markings of that ancient culture.
The Women’s March—to take place on Saturday—has rightfully been criticized (see, e.g. here and here) as a partisan ploy for agenda pushing by Progressives (to say nothing about the fact that the event is heavily funded by billionaire George Soros [see especially this post publication research from Asra Nomani], notorious for funding other protests pushing progressive agendas under the veil of social justice).
The Women’s March organizers have made little effort to remain non-partisan, going so far as to remove pro-life groups and issuing statements ensuring the focus remains politically monolithic.
Ironically, modern feminists have also become a shadow of the legacy of the 1920s feminist movement, led by suffragists like Susan B. Anthony, who likely would lose her invitation to attend the march for holding views at odds with the organizers (a bit like having the Million Man March while excluding the likes of Alveda King—a woman presumably also not welcome at the Woman’s March for holding a pro-life position).
Others who joined Anthony held similar sentiments. Writing in the Washington Post, board members of the Susan B. Anthony museum and family members of Anthony’s, explained:
It is not hard to imagine that these early feminists and suffragists, Anthony among them, were opposed to the most fundamental human abuse: degrading another human being by claiming to own and destroy it. In her autobiography, Elizabeth Blackwell, a suffragist and the first U.S. female doctor, went into medicine to denounce abortionists: “Women who carried on this shocking trade seemed to me a horror,” she wrote. “It was an utter degradation of what might and should become a noble position for women.” Another suffragist physician, Charlotte Denman Lozier, said, “We are sure most women physicians will lend their influence and their aid to shield their sex from the foulest wrong committed against it,” that is, abortion. In her famous 1875 talk on social purity, Anthony condemned abortion as a consequence of liquor consumption.
Recently—as is customary for post-truth-based feminists clinging to the notions of victimhood (here, layered and seemingly unaware of it)—Emma-Kate Symons in her New York Times article complains that the Women’s March has generated disunity due, not on its stated exclusionary rhetoric, but based on a host of issues, most interestingly, religion.
Feminism in the Trump era needs to reclaim its universalist core, realizing that conservative religious modesty culture, like the binary hyper-sexualized image of women, seemingly favored by the incoming president, is doing us no favors.
It is certainly advantageous that modern-day feminists espousing pro-choice rhetoric cling away from any adherence to religion—especially Christianity—and embrace “enlightened” based thinking as a logical extension of the unconscionable pedigree offered ideology. For this, we should rejoice. However, with the present generation moving through college, pro-choice rhetoric has become en vogue on many campuses at the expense of critical thinking on the issue. Carrie Lukas writes:
Just as the Women’s Centers on nearly every university campus in America provide an entirely liberal vision of women’s issues and marginalize any student with conservative leanings, these march organizers felt free to call it “The Women’s March on Washington,” not “progressive women” even though that’s what it is in fact, and leave out conservatives or anyone with different perspectives. They can rest safe in the knowledge that the sympathetic press would never challenge their presumption to speak for all women.
If we return to the article on Thucydides, we can see how this issue corresponds with earlier concerns. The author makes two important points that in the area of abortion disputation serves to illustrate how this issue is only going to further divide the country.
First, he suggests that fear is an underlying factor driving this division. While the pro-choice side is rightfully fearful that their respective “rights” will be taken away, those on the side of life can have no remedy in the dialogue of compromise. Musing over the global dangers we face in 2017, the words from Jean-Marie Guéhenno are equally applicable here:
Even in peaceful societies, the politics of fear is leading to dangerous polarization and demagoguery.
To be clear, if the logic of the pro-life movement is taken seriously, there remains no compromise when it comes to the killing of innocent life. This is not primarily a tactic to “vilify women” (as the Canadian court recently said), but it is also not an attempt to avoid the surfacing of shame that is rightfully attached to those who in the past sought to dehumanize others. What this means is that pro-choicers will fall further into their respective entrenchments, cast rhetorical stones over the walls of their respective echo chambers, and continue using whatever means available to insulate themselves from meaningful dialogue. As a result, we will see increasing divisions, tensions, and (i fear) violence. I image that the pro-choice community will not face defeat gracefully. Driven by fear, they will lash out.
Second, the author talks about the change in position that yields to increased leverage for those on the Right now that the President-elect is presumptively in favor of curbing the effects of Roe. The author goes on to make the comparison with Greece:
In ancient Greece, Athens’ rivals reciprocated their unyielding forcefulness when fortunes reversed, raising the stakes for both contestants. Today, “red” and “blue” populations share these perspectives as both recent victor and vanquished.
With Trump likely to establish a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, and with the high volume of pro-life issues already surfacing within the states, this issue is not going away.
While both sides of the aisle disagree with many of the antics and policies of the incoming President, it is on the issue of abortion that I envision the stirring of seismic activity that may very well create a break down in our political order. I am moved by the legacy of Susan B. Anthony and early feminists who “were progressive and independent,” who “did not oppose abortion because they were conditioned to, but because they believed every human life has inherent and equal value, no matter their age, skin color or sex.”
Women, in the words of Joseph Conrad, who were “magnificent.”
Women, in the words of Proverbs 31, dressed in “strength and dignity.”
Women, in the words of the writer of Hebrews, “the world is not worthy of.”