Monday, April 24, 2006

Condom-nation Versus the Army of God

Today the Army of God invaded my campus. Armed with giant photographs of aborted fetuses juxtaposed with those of murdered Jews, blacks, Cambodians, and Rwandans, these culture warriors sought to redefine choice as murder and abortion as genocide. While they also passed out a large pamphlet explaining why they were right, they knew better than to rely on rational argument. Theater is what counts and their posters were good theater.

The Army of God faced off against an ad hoc group of students with slogans written on their bellies who shrilly chanted, “This is what democracy looks like; this is what democracy sounds like.” I assume they meant that their bellies and chants were what democracy looks and sounds like, but the truth is that for this to be a real democracy you need competing theatrics. So the Army of God was the necessary antagonist in this drama.

Politics is theater, and the Army of God had the better theater. When the news cameras come to film the event, the calm and pictorially armed Army of God will make the antics of the students look silly.

I raised this with some of the students who asked me to I join their protest. I refused. It would blur the drama. The Army of God had no students on their side, just some older adults who used their First Amendment Rights to get on campus. The student protest should be just that, a student protest. But I did make a suggestion.

You need to have a better theater when the cameras arrive, I told them. Go get condoms and distribute them to students right after they get the pamphlet from the Army of God. Don’t attack the Army directly. Agree with them that abortion is not our first line of defense against unwanted pregnancy. Abstinence and condom use could make abortion very rare. The Army of God hates condoms, and handing them out while piggy-backing on their message would be a brilliant move, and work better for the news crews who would have to talk to you about safe sex rather than slogans on bellies.

I offered to pay for a couple of cases of condoms, but the students thought the infirmary would make them available for free. I left before the delegation sent to get the condoms returned. I hope they can pull this off. The key to changing minds in this country is theater, and that would be great theater.


Emmet said...

That chant, the awful "This is what democracy looks like", originated at the Seattle World Trade Organization protest. I've hated since the first moment I heard it there. That wasn't what democracy looked like. That was what it looks like when the first stages of democratic engagement fail, but the society--for the time being at least--is still open and relatively free. I've never heard that chant used while seeing anything truly democratic.


Frenchsheepdog said...

The only thing better than passing out condoms would be passing out condoms that say "The Army of God Hates Condoms" on the wrapper. I think it's a great brand name.