Things that make me happy

My Junior year at Augustana, the Right to Life group released t-shirts with the Dr. Seuss quote “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” which was the first time I’d ever seen that quotation (or honestly, anything Seussian) used to endorse the anti-abortion movement. I’ve cringed every time I’ve seen the line since then, even in clearly apolitical places, since it has been co-opted by the anti-abortion movement. And throughout this, I’ve wondered if, for all his activism which stands as liberal even by today’s standards, Theodor Seuss Geisel was a pro-life nut.

On a whim, and in anticipation of another glib post on abortion, I did a quick search for the good doctor on Wikipedia, and look what I found:

Horton Hears a Who! is said to be a response to the atomic bomb. Additionally, the line from the book “A person is a person, no matter how small” has been used as rhetoric against abortion rights. However, Seuss threatened to sue an anti-abortion group for their use of the phrase. His widow, who is also strongly pro-choice, has reiterated these criticisms. A lawsuit was filed in Canada in 2001 on this issue.

Ah, sweet vindication. And about the atomic bomb, no less. Once again, pro-life nutballs trade real human lives for undeveloped cell clusters. Or, to put it another way:

A person’s a person, no matter how small,
But fetuses simply aren’t persons at all.

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16 Responses to Things that make me happy

  1. Marian says:

    Right…….And neither are “Negros” …….Love the double standard.

  2. Doubting Tom says:

    Um…what double-standard? The one you just invented? If you can’t see a difference between “lump of barely-differentiated tissues that doesn’t yet have anything resembling brain function” and “person,” then I really pity you. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Jimmy_Blue says:

    Wow.Now there is an interesting insight into the mind of your average pro-lifer.Marian, why is it you immediately associate ‘negro’ with ‘not a person’? Even if in a ridiculously stupid and nonsensical argument.I mean, wow.

  4. Look, Seuss did not mean the book to be taken as an anti-abortion statement, so it is wrong to do so. Period. I do however take issue with people calling anti-abortion people crazies and nut jobs. I have no problem with people defending a stance on merit but implying people are racist without reason and calling them stupid just makes it look like you have no foundation for your opinion. People view life in term of a relationship to someone living. If you are born then you have began a relationship with someone living (ur parents etc.). If you look like someone who is born then people value your life because you remind people of someone who is born. People do not want to have to deal with killing someone so they interpret science in a way that makes them sleep well at night, drawing imaginary gray lines defining when a cluster of cells becomes a person. People should not necessarily feel bad about taking away the potential for a fetus to develop into a person but understand that the world’s definition of a person is based on his/her relationship w/ the outside world, not his/her development.

  5. Jimmy_Blue says:

    Mr Dean:I have no problem with people defending a stance on merit but implying people are racist without reason and calling them stupid just makes it look like you have no foundation for your opinion. Hey, it was Marian who linked ‘Negros’ and ‘not a person’, not us. How many people really (in common usage) refer to black people, or African Americans, or people of colour as “Negros” nowadays? Except of course…Please re-read what was said though. I said the argument she was attempting to make was stupid and nonsensical, not her.She gave no justification for a comparison to ‘negros’, she gave no explanation for what double standard there was. In fact, she gave nothing but a stupid and nonsensical statement.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “Look, Seuss did not mean the book to be taken as an anti-abortion statement, so it is wrong to do so.”Oh really? I always thought art was meant to be interpreted by the person seeing the work. So I have to view something the way the author intended it or I’m doing something wrong. I didn’t know that. There seems to be a bit of a reversal, here. The problem is that you want to discriminate against the anti-abortionist interpretation because it differs with your and apparently the author’s view. They have a perfect right to use it as their slogan as far as I know. I doubt his suing went anywhere. Can you imagine what a mess that would make. You can’t use what I said unless you use it the way I meant it to be used. Why not just loosen up and realize they have a right to their opinion the same as you do.

  7. Akusai says:

    Oh really? I always thought art was meant to be interpreted by the person seeing the work.Under postmodernist schools of art criticism, yes. Under others, no.So I have to view something the way the author intended it or I’m doing something wrong.Pretty much, yeah. If I write a novel that, for example, has a clearly anti-religion message, and you somehow twist my words to support a religious viewpoint, then you’re wrong. Full stop. I wrote it. I decide what it’s about. Not you.Guernica is not about the glory of war, no matter how somebody twists their words to justify such a statement. It is about the horrors of war and death. That’s what it is about. If you say it is about breeding butterflies, you’re wrong.If some goofy postmodern artist creates a work with an intentionally ambiguous meaning and urges those regarding the piece to come away with their own interpretations, that’s one thing. When someone has a specific, stated point in their art, it is just plain wrong to say that the art is about something else.Atlas Shrugged is not about how wonderful communism is and how we should all give of ourselves to each other. Conversely, The Jungle is not about the wonders of capitalism and how nice sweatshops and child labor are.And neither of them are about cooking spaghetti.There are pieces of art and literature that are not rooted in the postmodernist schools of criticism and that mean what they mean, plain and simple. To apply postmodern criticism to, say, a modernist piece seems to me a category error. When a piece clearly has an intended point, how can you possibly justify saying that any interpretation is okay without tortorous logic and sophomoric subjectivism?Why not just loosen up and realize they have a right to their opinion the same as you do.Why not stop being a douche and realize that some opinions are wrong?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Who are you to judge if someone’s opinion is wrong? Weeks One through Four of a FeusOvulation occurs – The time is right; now you just need this egg to be fertilized! Conception occurs – Did you know that during your pregnancy that your uterus will increase its capacity by 1000 times?! Gender is determined – Immediately upon fertilization your little one is set as a boy or a girl. Ladies, this is one that you can’t take credit for since it is up to the sperm to determine the sex of your baby. Sperm carries either a “X” (girl) chromosome or a “Y” (boy) chromosome. (*Hint:* You will have to hold off on picking out the pink or blue until at least the second trimester when the gender will be visible via ultrasound.) Implantation – Some spotting (also known as implantation bleeding) may occur about 10 – 14 days after conception. You may believe you are starting your period but generally this bleeding is extremely light and lasts only a day or so. Neural tube forms – It will develop into the nervous system (Brain, spinal cord, hair, and skin). Already your baby has the foundation for thought, senses, feeling, and more! Heart and primitive circulatory system rapidly form – While still in its beginning stages, this is the very life support system that will carry your child throughout his or her life. If you can’t accept that this is a human, i feel sorry for you. The reason the pro-choice argument is not a good one is because it is purely based on selfishness. Women do not want to have to take responibilty for something that they did, and therefore cannot admit that the fetus is in fact a living human.

  9. Doubting Tom says:

    Anonymous #1: Oh really? I always thought art was meant to be interpreted by the person seeing the work. So I have to view something the way the author intended it or I’m doing something wrong.Literature is a conversation between the author and the reader; both parties have different interpretations of the text, and neither one is necessarily “right.” When Ray Bradbury recently came out and said that Fahrenheit 451 wasn’t about censorship, it was about the evils of television, he was (in part) wrong. It’s about both; it’s also about the importance of personal communication, the value of standing for one’s convictions, the way that people can affect one another indirectly, how marriages can become cold and lifeless, and so forth. Bradbury’s interpretation doesn’t invalidate anyone else’s interpretations. What it does do is provide another element of context for the book. It’s important to consider any piece of literature in the context of the time period in which it was written; it’s also important to consider the author’s opinion about the work. The problem is that you want to discriminate against the anti-abortionist interpretation because it differs with your and apparently the author’s view. They have a perfect right to use it as their slogan as far as I know.And here, there’s a problem. A couple, actually. First, especially with recent authors like Dr. Seuss, whose works are governed by their estates, there’s the matter of copyright. You might be fine in quoting Seuss out loud to support your position, but when you put it on merchandise that you’re going to sell, you’re running into a variety of legal issues. The Seuss estate has the proprietary rights to Seuss’s works, which gives them the legal ability to determine who can use them on merchandise and how. Note that this post was originally about how I see the phrase popping up on pro-life merchandise. Somehow, I doubt they’ve gotten the licensing rights. Fair use runs into a different problem, more moral than legal. When you use that quote without attribution, you’re plagiarizing. When you use it with attribution, you’re basically quote-mining, suggesting that Seuss agreed with your position when he didn’t. It’s basically the same as when Christians cite Einstein’s “God doesn’t play dice with the universe” to claim that he believed in a personal theistic God. Every time we hear that, we have to trot out the link to his essay where he says that it’s a lie what you heard about his religious beliefs, and how he was a Spinoza-style deist or pantheist. And here’s where the division between author and text becomes muddy. No one would say “well, my interpretation of what Einstein said is just as valid as his;” why isn’t the same true for literary authorship? I’ve already laid out my position on that matter–the “conversation” bit–so I can’t say I’m entirely on one side or another, but when the author flat-out says that your interpretation is against the spirit of the writing, that ought to make it tougher to justify your use of it. Why not just loosen up and realize they have a right to their opinion the same as you do.They have a right to their opinion. They don’t have the right to make merchandise based on that opinion. And some opinions, this one included, are demonstrably wrong, on at least some level. Anonymous #2: Who are you to judge if someone’s opinion is wrong?Um, what? First, everyone has the right to judge whether or not someone else’s opinion is wrong. Are you saying that only special people can disagree with one another? Second, just because it’s an opinion doesn’t mean it isn’t objectively wrong. It may be my opinion that the sky is full of invisible pink unicorns, and you can’t tell me I’m wrong, because it’s just my opinion and I have a right to my opinion! Bull.Did you know that during your pregnancy that your uterus will increase its capacity by 1000 times?!Gosh, I hope not, considering that I don’t have a uterus. Gender is determined – Immediately upon fertilization your little one is set as a boy or a girl.Well, not entirely. Gender is more than just physical sex, there’s a psychological and hormonal component too (the latter being especially important). Besides the simple matter of transsexuals, if the embryo doesn’t get the right hormonal doses at the right time, it might end up intersexed or otherwise of indeterminate gender. I’m not sure where double-X males and XY-females fall on this continuum, except that it further complicates what you present as a black-and-white matter. Already your baby has the foundation for thought, senses, feeling, and more!Note that word “foundation.” That’s because nothing resembling a complex nervous system is present until much later in the fetus’s growth. It isn’t until week 26 that the nervous system is developed enough to even start taking control of some bodily functions. If you can’t accept that this is a human, i feel sorry for you.I never said that it wasn’t human. It’s human from before the egg is fertilized, as human as a skin cell or a cancerous tumor. I dispute the claim that it’s alive (in the sense that we use the term when talking about humans and other macroscopic organisms) and that it’s a person (personhood indicating a degree of self-awareness). The reason the pro-choice argument is not a good one is because it is purely based on selfishness. Women do not want to have to take responibilty for something that they did, and therefore cannot admit that the fetus is in fact a living human.The reason that your critique is completely idiotic is that it is purely based on a strawman. You do not want to have to argue against any of the real pro-reproductive rights arguments, and therefore cannot admit that you’re railing against an easy target invented by the anti-abortion crowd. The “woman who just doesn’t want to take responsibility for her actions” is kind of like the “angry militant nihilistic atheist who wants to ban the Bible and kill all the believers.” Sure, they may exist, but they’re not the majority. In fact, the majority of women (~60% in each of these cases) who get abortions are in their 20s, mothers to one or more children, unmarried, and “economically disadvantaged.” But I’m sure they just didn’t want to take responsibility for their actions, what with having children already and no man around taking responsibility for his actions.Why is it that the “pro-life” arguments so often boil down to either misogyny, unsubstantiated religious claims, logical fallacies, or all three?

  10. Akusai says:

    Earlier this week they put an anti-abortion circular inside Purdue’s student newspaper. It was laughable and blatantly misogynistic. It said that abortion is not even allowable in cases of rape and incest, and it didn’t allow you to take responsibility for your actions by using any form of birth control.So…religion and misogyny. It’s not about the child so much as it is controlling women and hatred of sex. This shit pisses me off to no end.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It’s about respecting sex and not killing a child becuase you don’t want to pay the consequences for having “fun”

  12. Doubting Tom says:

    Perhaps that’s the case for you, Anonny, but you haven’t exactly laid out your position. I can say that it is most certainly not the case with the vast majority of the anti-abortion crowd. If their position were about respecting sex and making people take responsibility for their “fun,” then they’d advocate contraceptives, and they wouldn’t be against the use of abortion in cases of rape and incest, or in cases where the mother’s health is at risk. There’s no “fun” in rape; there’s no “fun” in ectopic pregnancy.But no, most of the anti-abortion crowd is about controlling other people’s sex lives and legislating a view of life that is unsupported by the evidence–namely, one which puts some absolute premium on humans, recognizes the asinine concept of the “soul,” and sees the mother as little more than an incubator for more people to add to our overcrowded little sphere. Incidentally, while you’re assigning all this great respect to sex, maybe you could respect the giant chasm which exists between a 10-week-old fetus (90% of abortions are done by week 12 of pregnancy–week 10 of fetal development) that doesn’t have functioning nervous or respiratory systems or an audible heartbeat, and a “child.”I will never understand the mindset of people who care deeply about you right up until you’re born, at which point you no longer matter.

  13. Akusai says:

    What does it mean to “respect sex?” Sex is an act. I don’t “respect jogging.” I might respect certain people who jog (or perform any other act) but how can one respect the act itself, in the abstract?Hell, I’d argue that if we did go around respecting acts in the abstract, sex is one of those least deserving of respect. It’s goofy as hell.I’d also argue that the authoritarian sexually repressed segment of society should just shut the fuck up and stop trying to make other people’s decisions for them. If somebody wants to have some fun (and yes, it is fun, and no, fun is not wrong) and has foresight enough to use some form of birth control because they do not want to suffer unforeseen consequences are responsible, then what business is it of anybody else’s?There is nothing special about sex. Nothing sacred. Nothing worth “saving” or “protecting.” People have been having it for millions of years now and they’re going to keep having it for millions of years. The dictates of some ancient book or the repressed conscience of an anti-sex advocate will never change that.

  14. Jon M says:

    This type of pro-life argument necessarily requires you to believe that not only does god exist, but that he takes an active role in this world. But it’s a limited role, because he maintains a tight control over human reproduction, but will do nothing to make sure the newborn child has the resources it needs to survive. Isn’t it interesting how the pro-life movement has created a god in their own image?

  15. Wikinite says:

    Gender is determined – Immediately upon fertilization your little one is set as a boy or a girl.Well, not entirely. Gender is more than just physical sex, there’s a psychological and hormonal component too (the latter being especially important). Besides the simple matter of transsexuals, if the embryo doesn’t get the right hormonal doses at the right time, it might end up intersexed or otherwise of indeterminate gender. I’m not sure where double-X males and XY-females fall on this continuum, except that it further complicates what you present as a black-and-white matter. Just to follow up on this, Gender is a social construct based on sex, sexuality, and roles in their society. It refers to how individuals view themselves and how they are viewed by society. For example, a girl is a different gender than a women due to the different sexual priviledges. Unfortunately, the classification isn’t hard and fast, which is why it can be hard to fit specific lifestlyes and phenotypes into neat little slots. But you are essentially correct, Gender is the socio-psychological perspective about an individual based on phenotypical sexual characteristics and social roles. The chormosonal sex limits the subset of genders a fetus may become, but it doesn’t explicitly drop them into a category.

  16. Doubting Tom says:

    So to summarize: biologically, psychologically, and sociologically, gender is not a binary, from-the-moment-of-conception category. As usual, reality tends to break our attempts to easily classify it.

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