To my fellow liberals and progressives:
Leave it alone.
You don’t need to lie about Rick Santorum. The truth of him is bad enough.
In the past two days I’ve had two debates on the topic of Rick Santorum’s wife who lost their child. Both started with the manner in which said infant came into this world followed by judging the mourning process that followed.
I’ve seen liberals all over the blogosphere and elsewhere insist that the Mrs. Santorum had an abortion, and a “partial birth abortion” at that. First of all, to hear allegedly pro-choice liberals use the words “partial birth abortion” – a term that does not exist in any medical dictionary – stops me cold. Dammit. Do NOT adopt their language! Secondly, while Rick Santorum may appear to have no compassion for people other than those just like him, where is ours?
Let’s be clear, the Santorums lost a child they wanted very, very much. From what I understand of the story, at a routine ultrasound a fatal defect was found in the fetus. The family had three choices: abort the infant immediately, as it was going to die shortly after birth anyway; let the pregnancy go to term and still have dead infant within hours of delivery; try a risky intrauterine surgery to correct the defect and hope for the best. The Santorums chose option three. However, within days of what appeared to have been a successful fetal surgery the fetus developed a raging infection and Mrs. Santorum’s body went into pre-term labor to expel it. The infection could not be controlled and threatened not only the child but Mrs. Santorum’s life as well. Still, the Santorums asked the doctors to stop her contractions with drugs. The doctors refused and made it clear to the Santorums that if they proceeded down that path they would not have a live baby, they would have a dead baby and a dead mother. At that point the Santorums relented and in order to clear her body of the source of the infection, the doctors administered pitocin to speed up the labor that was already in progress.
Having had a first trimester miscarriage, and knowing the pain I felt, I cannot imagine the Santorums grief. I remember at the time, after I felt that bit of “tissue” slip from my uterus and then having to retrieve it for the doctors before I headed to the hospital, I wanted to look and look at this clump to see if I could see any form of a human being. I didn’t. But I wanted to. And yet I mourned the loss.
Which brings me to point number two.
Who the hell are you to judge how anyone chooses to mourn their loved ones? As many of you know, the Santorums chose to bring little Gabriel home so that their children could hold him and say good-bye. The chorus of EEEWWWW!! from the left has been astonishing.
As I wrote to one person who insisted that the Santorums were committing child abuse by inflicting their dead child’s body on their other living children (literally comparing it to subjecting them to the horrors of war and slaughterhouses):
Santorum is not fit to be president for so many, many things. How he and his wife chose to mourn their dead infant is not high on the list. Actually, it’s more honest to face death. It’s part of life and we as a society are far too squeamish about it. Quick! Whisk that dead body away! Don’t let anyone see it! It’s not natural! Except that it is. We are all going to die. Some of us sooner than others.
As one other person in the debate put it:
It is more healthy to interact with a deceased infant than to whisk it away. I’m sure the 18 month old had no concept of what was going on at all and that it wasn’t traumatic for him because his siblings were participating, too. I think if I had my kids geared up for a new sibling and we talked daily about the impending birth and the new baby that would be coming, that I would give them the opportunity for closure, too. Taking it home and singing to it seems weird, but thinking about young kids — home is a safe place and it probably would be the best place to do that with the children. I know it was probably also part of their indoctrination to make sure they create a generation of pro-lifers and while I find that reprehensible; my pro-choice self doesn’t see anything wrong with what he did to mourn the loss of a child they very much wanted to have.
Mxxxx, your own terror and denial of death makes you assume it is the same for others. Humans have brought home their dead, washed them, dressed them and buried them throughout human history up until the past century or so. You assume it was “forced” or traumatizing. You display the same horror of the natural world as people who think watching an animal slaughtered is traumatic and should never been seen by children. Since the Santorums are apparently not terrified nor in denial of death (perhaps seeing it as a part of life) their children have not been contaminated with that baggage.
There are a fair amount of families that do hold and mourn their preemies who are stillborn or die within a few minutes of birth. Go to You Tube, if you don’t believe me. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it isn’t the horrific thing many want to make it out to be. For them it is closure. Leave it be.
Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in The Atlantic:
I have no idea what I would do if, God forbid, we found ourselves in the situation the Santorums found themselves in. It doesn’t strike me as particularly odd that he would bring home the stillborn baby. In my tradition, the body of a loved one is never supposed to be left alone, from death until burial, so the idea that the body should be surrounded by loved ones, in the hospital, home, or funeral home, is not strange to me at all. I also have no idea what the grief would do to me (I never want to find out, obviously), and I think, as a matter of decency and humility, that people who have just lost a child should be given, simultaneously, a wide berth and unjudgmental support.
So leave it be. You only make yourselves look like heartless assholes.
Now, go read to Shakesville and read Melissa’s excellent piece on Rick Santorum. Snippet:
If you hate Rick Santorum’s antagonistic brand of bullying fuckery, dishing out more of the same ultimately only maintains the culture in which a person of his position and influence can get away with that shit.
Point is: Bullying him back isn’t even effective, irrespective of its right- or wrongness.
Which brings me to Dan Savage’s “Campaign for ‘santorum’ neologism,” as Wikipedia so delicately describes it.
[ . . . ]
Now there are lots and lots of jokes about Santorum that play on Savage’s appropriation of his name, most of them thinly-veiled homoerotic innuendo, natch. There have been several of them in comments over the last two days.
This is an impulse I understand. My archives are filled with things that now violate my own commenting policy; it can be pretty embarrassing to live a life of learning in a public way. But the truth is, it’s not a good impulse, even if one that intimately resonates.
The truth is, bullying begets bullying. And Dan Savage’s campaign to make Santorum’s family name synonymous with something “gross” is some real bullying shit.
And then there’s this: Dan Savage does not speak for all gay men—and among that diverse community, there are gay men (and their allies) who consider it objectionable, and deeply counterproductive, to treat as “gross” something that is central to gay male sexuality.
(Which is not to suggest that gay men are the only people who have anal sex, or that all gay men have anal sex, but the campaign was designed by a gay man specifically to embarrass Rick Santorum for saying something homophobic about gay men, so the context here is pretty evident.)
Suffice it to say I am unconvinced that responding to a homophobic bully with homophobic bullying is an efficacious strategy to reduce homophobia or bullying.
Seriously, do you think either of us get any pleasure in having to defend the vile Rick Santorum?