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Nat Hentoff: Resquiescat in Pace

 

 

Nat Hentoff has died at the age of 91.  Hentoff was a life-long liberal who actually believed in things that liberals purport to believe in:  freedom of speech, civil liberties and tolerance.  He was a committed pro-lifer which in his social circles was akin to supporting cannibalism.  Hentoff didn’t care.  Throughout his life he did what he thought right, consequences to him be hanged.

Here is a column he wrote on my birthday in 1989:

 

Planned Parenthood recently assembled 13 distinguished civil rights leaders so that they might express their scorn for the notion that there is any moral connection between the Operation Rescue demonstrations “and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.”

The leaders — including Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Julian Bond, John Jacob, Mary King and Roger Wilkins — deplored the pro-lifers’ “protests to deny Americans their constitutional right to freedom of choice. They want the Constitution rewritten.” And in the unkindest cut of all, these leaders — once themselves demonstrators against laws they considered profoundly unjust — compared the nonviolent Operation Rescue workers to “the segregationists who fought desperately to block black Americans from access to their rights.”

Actually, however, a more accurate analogy would link these pro-lifers to the civil rights workers of the 19th century, the Abolitionists, who would not be deterred from their goal of ensuring equal rights for all human beings in this land. They believed, as these 13 civil rights leaders later did, that social change comes only after social upheaval.

What the Abolitionists were opposing was the rule of law — ultimately underlined by the Supreme Court in its Dred Scott decision — that people of African descent, whether free or slaves, had “never been regarded as a part of the people or citizens of the State.” They had no rights whatever. They were the property of their owners, no more. The Abolitionists did indeed want the Constitution rewritten.

Now, the pro-lifers, aware that the Supreme Court has declared itself in error before, are protesting the holding in Roe v. Wade that “the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.” Although that decision also spoke of a time when the fetus becomes viable and then may be protected by the state, in fact we have abortion on demand.

As Justice Harry Blackmun said in Doe v. Bolton — decided on the same day as Roe v. Wade — the mother’s health is paramount, and that includes, among other things, “physical, emotional, psychological, familial” factors. Abortions can be obtained for these reasons, and more.

So, like the slave, the fetus is property and its owner can dispose of it. Increasingly, for instance, women are undergoing prenatal testing to find out the gender of the developing human being inside them. If it’s the wrong sex, it is aborted.

Pro-lifers who maintain the fetus should have equal protection under the law are not limited to those driven by religious convictions. There is the biological fact that after conception, a being has been formed with unique human characteristics. He or she, if allowed to survive, will be unlike anyone born before. From their point of view, therefore, pro-lifers are engaged in a massive civil rights movement. In 16 years, after all, there have been some 20 million abortions.

Some pro-lifers, like some of the abolitionists, feel that nonviolence, however direct, is insufficient. They are of the order of John Brown. As noted by James McPherson in “Battle Cry of Freedom,” Brown stalked out of a meeting of the New England Antislavery Society, grumbling, “Talk! Talk! Talk! That will never free the slaves. What is needed is action — action!”

Those relatively few — and invariably isolated — pro-lifers who follow John Brown’s flag are surely not in the tradition of Martin Luther King, and the 13 civil rights leaders have reason to keep them at a far distance. But Operation Rescue, and similar demonstrations, are not violent. Entrances are blocked, and so they were in some nonviolent civil rights demonstrations. There is shouting, some of it not very civil, back and forth across the lines, but so there was in the 1960s.

The only actual violence connected with Operation Rescue has been inflicted by the police, most viciously, in Atlanta where one of the Planned Parenthood’s 13 civil rights leaders is mayor. A member of the Atlanta City Council, Josea Williams — himself a close associate of Martin Luther King — has said: “We who were the leaders of the movement in the ’50s and ’60s are now political leaders. And we are doing the same thing to demonstrators that George Wallace and Bull Connor did to us.”

Hentoff was an atheist.  However, I hope that when he came before God for his Particular Judgment hundreds of millions of little character witnesses successfully pleaded his cause.

 

32

Free Speech for Me But Not For Thee

 

My favorite liberal, Nat Hentoff, takes aim at the campus brownshirts seeking to eradicate free speech:

Hostility to the exercise of free speech on American college campuses is nothing new. But what happened at Yale University, the University of Missouri and other colleges over the past two weeks is something new and frightening. The suppression of speech in academia has begun to spiral out of control.

Nicholas Christakis is a professor at Yale who lives with his wife in a student residence hall on campus. An internationally renowned physician and sociologist, Dr. Christakis was surrounded by dozens of angry students who showered him with curses and threats. Dr. Christakis’ offense? He refused to publicly apologize for his wife’s email that defended free speech and urged tolerance of offensive Halloween costumes.

Greg Lukianoff, the President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), was on the Yale campus to attend a free speech symposium and witnessed the incident. In the video Lukianoff posted on FIRE’s website, Christakis appears on the verge of being physically assaulted.

“Nicholas addressed the crowd for more than an hour, even after it became clear that nothing short of begging for forgiveness would satisfy them,” Lukianoff wrote in The Washington Post. “I’ve witnessed some intense campus disputes during my 14 years fighting for free speech, but nothing like this.”

The next evening — at a William F. Buckley, Jr. Program conference on free speech that had been planned months in advance — Greg Lukianoff’s speech was interrupted by a student who rushed the podium, shouting, before he was dragged out of the building by campus police. Attendees then braved a gauntlet of angry Yale students who cursed and ridiculed them. The Yale Daily News reported that “several attendees were spat on as they left.”

At the University of Missouri, a student photographer freelancing for ESPN was confronted by a mob of angry anti-racism protesters who tried to eject him from the public commons area where they had gathered. After he refused to leave, the students begin a coordinated effort to both psychologically and physically intimidate the reporter into leaving.

The protesters subjected him to intense ridicule, sometimes chanting in unison, as they gradually forced him backwards. They then began to falsely accuse the reporter of the very conduct that they themselves were directing against him.

MU’s student body vice president later tried to justify the students’ self-imposed restrictions on the press during an interview on MSNBC. She suggested that the First Amendment “creates a hostile and unsafe learning environment.” Continue Reading

17

Nat Hentoff on the Death Panels

Obama Fear

Nat Hentoff has always been my favorite Leftist atheist.  A strong pro-lifer in a New York milieu where pro-lifers are regarded with less tolerance than cannibals, Nat Hentoff is a man of the Left who always has been a strongly independent voice and mind.  In an article today, which is here, Hentoff confesses to being scared of the Obama administration:

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5

Nat Hentoff takes President Obama to task

Nat Hentoff’s characteristically blunt and ‘no b.s.’ columns used to be one of chief attractions of the Village Voice, before they made the foolish mistake of letting him go. Politically he’s not one you can apply a label to — in 2003 he supported the removal of Saddam Hussein’s murderous dictatorship on humanitarian grounds, but as a supporter of the First Amendment and civil liberties, harshly criticized the more excessive measures taken by the Bush administration.

Unapologetically pro-life, he is a staunch opponent of the death penalty and abortion (the latter apparently causing some tension with his liberal colleagues at the Voice) and vigorously opposed the court-ordered murder of Terry Schiavo.

Not surprisingly, he established a rapport with the feisty John Cardinal O’Connor, about whom he wrote an appreciative biography.

A self-described “member of the Proud and Ancient Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists,” he is also one who might merit the attribution: “on the side of the angels.”

Now, he takes aim at President Obama’s faux-support for “dialogue” at Notre Dame:

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