The “Elena posters” are the newest tactic of Harvard Right to Life. They feature a little fetus saying, “Oh, HI! I was just celebrating all my organs and me being 56 days alive!” I am not a fan.
Here is my main problem with the posters: they don’t advertise anything. They don’t draw attention to a rally, or to a speaker, or to any kind of event; they are simply a statement of political belief. They don’t even say, “Feel enthusiastic about the pro-life cause? Come to the Harvard Right to Life meeting at so-and-so time.” They seek to cause anger, not excitement. In doing so, they reveal their antagonistic purpose, implicitly admitting that their primary function is to irritate pro-choice supporters on campus.
This kind of purposeless aggression, as far as I am concerned, is fine in the realm of the Yard. Really, that is a very public space and I have seen some rather odd things advertised out there. But within the Houses, this is a hurtful and unproductive way of expressing opinions.
Abortion is a heart issue, not a head issue. Two people, faced with the exact same arguments, but with different inner notions of religion and sexual liberation, are going to react in exactly opposite ways. And a prominent theme, it seems, is that each side always ends up considering the other one barbaric. This debate is one that usually occurs in a realm ungoverned by reason.
Likewise, it is simply a statement of anger to express your ideas in the way of the “Elena Posters.” The appropriate analogy is if someone posted, “Hate Bush” (or more aptly, “You’re WRONG!”) signs on my front door. The trouble again: it’s unnecessarily divisive. Instead of looking for any kind of common ground, this deliberately flattens an intensely painful and complicated issue. It also happens to misrepresent the pro-choice members of this campus as bloodthirsty baby killers.
The posters are offensive not because they say, “I wish no one would have an abortion, let’s see how we can make that possible.” They’re offensive because they draw the false distinction, “Either you’re with the right-wing loonies, or you’re with the murderers.” I know that national politicians encourage us to chant our “yays” or “nays” on certain sensitive issues, and define ourselves by those simple opinions. But I think that as a community of students, each as vulnerable and thoughtful as the next, that’s a trend we ought to eschew.
Alexandra N. Atiya ’06, a Crimson news editor, is a history concentrator in Leverett House.