Friday, March 11, 2011

"Echoes of the Holocaust" Presentation

So yes, I thought I'd do a write-up of how it went. Trigger Warning for discussion about genocide.

It was offensive. There is not even any debate. Images of the Holocaust, Rwandan genocide, and diverse other gross human rights violations were show freely without restraint or trigger warning. I tried to keep a record but after eleven I stopped, it was just disturbing. As I'm sure will surprise you, images of these kinds of things were on screen while the presentation continued orally, a classic aspect of emotional manipulation. This happened multiple times, and was obviously a measured tactic. I even brought that up at the end of the presentation, and Stephanie Gray didn't deny it.

Well, let me try and start from the beginning, because I know I'm going to leave stuff out. I sat on one of the benches nearby from about two hours before it was scheduled to start, reading a book. The pro-life group and the presenter trickled in, with a curious habit of leaving the room every so often, looking for...something. Possibly protestors, possibly attendees. The security guard did arrive, though. Neither arrived until much closer to the start time of six o'clock. I spoke with my friend Alex who was out of town but also offended by this presentation, and then was greeted by someone I knew who was going to the presentation, and asked if I was. I responded that I was there for the protest rather then the presentation.

That sparked two debate/discussions with members of the pro-life group, both relatively respectful, though clearly coming from very different sides. I informed them of the rumour that the 'Canadian Institute for Bio-Ethical Reform' passed the pictures of pro-choice protesters it's known for taking onto groups that are willing to use violence. They seemed a bit troubled, but brushed it off as a rumour.

Soon enough, the protestors started to arrive, mostly from the Jewish Student Association, with signs and their message that the use of the Holocaust was innapropriate and anti-semetic. A few pro-choicers were there as well, besides me, and we held signs and made it clear our point of view.

When the presentation started, several of us went inside, to see just what they were going to do and say, and how offensive it would be.

They claimed human life starts at conception, and pointed out that an egg and a sperm cell each have only twenty three chromosomes. (When I pointed out later that her words could be interpreted as not considered people with chromosomal abnormalities, like the picture of a child with Downs Syndrome she reluctantly agreed, clarified, rephrased her point not to include that, and moved on.) When the sperm and egg combine, they create a "whole" human. (I decided not to ask if that meant any human cell with 46 chromosomes was a whole human.)

She showed a few images from a book titled "Dos/Don'ts of Parenting." I'll update the blog after Monday on whether or not I could figure out if they had the rights to those pictures. Similarily, they played a very long clip from the CNN documentary 'Scream Bloody Murder' and I'll try and find out the same thing.

She told an anecdote about how a woman looked at an image of what they claimed was an eleven-week abortion. not getting into it, but I doubt it was what they claim. And apparently she told the woman that this eleven-week fetus was in the first trimester where most abortions happen. And that's true...except this fetus they showed is at the very cusp of that. It's misrepresentation of the facts. And when this woman showed distress over not having known that 'they looked like that' they didn't bother to clarify that this was a late first-term abortion. But then again, that might require intellectual honesty.

Several extremely offensive quotes were said, again without trigger warnings, to make a point about 'depersonalisation.' Something that could be done with 'Nazis called Jewish people parasites, and so do pro-choicers,' was done with the actual quotes from Hitler and high-ranking Nazis. It was unneccesary. It was disrespectful.

And the points she made about consent, just dismissed the concept of consenting to a pregnancy, it made me want to scream. She took a well-constructed paragraph about how consenting to a pregnancy is vital and blew it off as 'it's implying the fetus is not an innocent little baby.'

She made the point about African-Americans having a large percentage of abortions, even showed that damn poster they used. And no, there wasn't a word said about what caused a situation where so many women in a first world country were having unwanted pregnancies. No, just 'black babies are dying, therefore abortion is racist.' Not said outright, of course, but implied. I'll say one thing, she's a decent speaker, and implies a lot. Kept pretending to almost-cry though, and it was really obvious.

And when she made the point about how tax dollars went to abortion, and that Canada doesn't allow US-style abortion protesting, I wanted to hug my country. And then she asked how we would feel if homosexuals were being rounded up and killed in medical facilities. I almost broke my pen.

And this point she made about the numbers, about how many abortions happen and how she's never heard of numbers like that...something tells me that back in the day, when death in childbirth/from pregnancy was common even in developed countries, those numbers rivaled it.

Then it was over, and three people stepped up to speak.

First was the guy I knew, the pro-lifer. Here's what he said, paraphrased. "I just want to make clear that we don't think women who have abortions are monsters. They're really a kind of victim. It's my fault, really, I'm the metaphorical Hitler, because I should have done more to make them not need to make that decision. These women are victims. And really, the women on the pro-choice side are angry because they've probably had abortions, or known someone who had an abortion, and what we say feels like a personal assault on them. But they're victims, and it's our fault for not helping more." And Stephanie Gray nodded and agreed and repeated aspects of this point.

Then an older Jewish gentleman stood up, and here was his point, paraphrased. "This is wrong. Using the Holocaust like this is wrong. Pro-choice, pro-life, I don't care, this is not how things should be done. You could have made this presentation about how abortion is like murder-I wouldn't care. But you used images of the Holocaust." And Stephanie Gray changed the subject, tried to get him to say what his personal beliefs were, looked dismissive of him when he spoke, and ended up cutting him off for the next person, who shook his hand and apologized for him having to deal with all this.

How do I know that? The next person was me! I made lots of points, I can't even remember everything I said to properly paraphrase it. Basically "We are not victims. Do not call us victims, do not feel sorry for not helping us-what we do is our choice, not yours, and it's our responsiblity. It's rude, offensive, and condesceding. And for the record, I've never had an abortion, and if anyone I personally known had one, they haven't seen fit to disclose it to me. I'm angry because this is offensive. You are appropriating images you have no right to use, no right to compare for your own political reasons. You are appropriating a horrible, very emotional event. Oh, and as a bisexual, the comparison to rounding up and killing homosexuals was offensive. Members of my community are actually being killed, it's not just a metaphor. And that sign that's on your website, the 'insanity of choice' that's ableist and also personally offensive." We argued a bit, I made points about not being able to define personhood by human dna, because what if there were sentient aliens, (she laughed, even though I made clear it was a thought experiment, which she had referenced earlier,) I pointed out that a fetus isn't innocent because it can't be guilty, I pointed out that every pregnancy carries a risk of death, I made points about self-defence, and I would have argued more, though she refused to actually answer questions, kept rephrasing them and making them about what she wanted to talk about.

Except she cut me off and said that she was sorry, but they had to finish up. I found out later that it was seven forty five (the meeting was scheduled until eight) and we could have kept the room until eleven. Interesting that she refused to go on fifteen minutes more.

It was This group has NO RIGHT to use images of the Holocaust for their own political gain. None at all. This presentation was offensive, appropriative, and was just absolutely wrong.

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