David's Response: "Modern Day Holocaust"

David said: in last week's post: "Modern Day Holocaust"...

[my emphases added at points I found particularly impactful - thanks David!]

You actually hit on the note of controversy that comes with calling the Nazi genocide of the Jews, The Holocaust. Most Europeans actually call it the Shoah, which means disaster or conflagration. That is another conversation, though. Your objection, though, actually proves my point further about the inappropriateness of "abortion as Holocaust." To whom are these "abortions" being offered to? Also, it wasn't a definition I offered, but the actual meaning of the actual word Holocaust, not the connotation it now unfortunately carries of mass slaughter.

"Holocaust" might have come to mean what Dictionary.com says it does, but that doesn't make it necessarily correct, right, just, or ethical. There are many Jewish scholars who are angered by the appropriation of a unique, unprecedented (horrible) experience to every injustice in the world. If you want to talk about language, perhaps we should talk about the overuse of the trope rather than its appropriateness.

If everything bad is a holocaust, then it makes us truly forget the unspeakable evil that was The Holocaust. What is it that they say about people who forget (or water down) history?

People who refer to abortion as a holocaust are directly trying to link abortion to the slaughter of the Jews by the Nazis, as a way of maximizing the issue as one of unspeakable horror. They aren't speaking of holocaust in a general way, but in a very specific way, that is false and inaccurate.

My point is that it isn't a valid comparison; it's an invidious comparison that totalizes and appropriates the suffering of a distinct people during a distinct period of time.

Noting that different words carry different meanings isn't the same thing as confronting the misuse, dangerous and unjust the meaning of words. Unfortunately, the language of justice sometimes requires us to make our own judgments, and this - I think - is one of those.

To speak about abortion as a holocaust is about as far as one can get from the "language of justice concerning human life." This is what it look likes to consider perspectives outside of white, Christian-centric America, as you implore us to. Sometimes, it involves making a judgment call and not hedging.

Click here to read the post and discussion string David is commenting on.

2 comments:

James said...

I have really been enjoying this discussion,as much as you can enjoy the topic. I spent most of my life being relatively uninformed about the issue of abortion and I have really only recently really started to examine what I think in a more critical way. The problem that I keep running into is that it is very hard to talk about abortion. There is no such thing as a perfect analogy. Given enough scrutiny all analogies will ultimately break down but that does not mean that we should not use them. David made the statement that "If everything bad is a holocaust, then it makes us truly forget the unspeakable evil that was The Holocaust". I agree that if the holocaust is used to describe "everything bad" it demeans the unspeakable horror that really did occur but this was not talking about everything bad. It was not about a mugging problem or corporate greed it was a direct statement about abortion. But what about the unspeakable horror that is abortion? The numbers of abortions that are performed each year in the US are staggering, when you add in the rest of the globe the picture only gets bleaker. I think that people tend to use the Holocaust as an analogy because it is one of the only atrocities that even comes close to describing the ongoing horror that is abortion. While it may not be a perfect analogy, I don't think that using this particular analogy in this very specific context is that damning.

Peter said...

James,
I think I ultimately feel like I understand why conservatives use "holocaust" for abortion, because I came from there. I get it.

But I'm gonna go out on a dangerous limb here: part of the atrocity of The Holocaust was not JUST the loss of human life. Millions of humans die every day for natural reasons. It was the torturous, degrading, dehumanizing, ruthless, perverse and sadistic treatment of the Jewish prisoners before they were killed, and as they were killed, that informs the term "Holocaust."

Question: do aborted fetuses "suffer?"

Forget late term abortions. Well, I don't really mean "forget them." I think late term abortion is atrocious, and I would openly support a ban on late term abortions while still advocating pro-choice.

But do aborted fetuses suffer? Say, "first trimester" (I'm not a parent, or an expert on the legislative issue of abortion - so that time-span is arbitrary for me; may be a poor guideline).

I'm not sure their suffering could be scientifically argued, at least for quite some time into the gestation period.

If not, is "holocaust" still appropriate.

That's a hard thing to do emotionally, for someone who is pro-life: to hold to abortion as wrong, even if there isn't suffering. But I think it could be done. In fact, it should be able to be done quite easily on principle.

And obviously, there isn't suffering in the case of adult euthanasia.

Thoughts? I'm just shooting from the hip, here...

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