Anyone walk through the Diag on Monday? I unfortunately did. For those of you that were lucky enough to have classes that avoided a walk through the Diag, I will enlighten you briefly as to what you missed. The University of Michigan’s Students for Life group hosted the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s Genocide Awareness Project. This exhibit consisted of extremely large (we’re talking larger than human) photos of aborted fetuses. In addition, there were photos of the genocide in Darfur, the lynching of African Americans, and of Holocaust victims. Why were these additional photos displayed? The project is attempting to show how abortion is analogous to genocide. I would call these images graphic, horrific, and appalling, but these are all understatements. Take a look at some reactions to the exhibit.
This whole semester we have asked ourselves, what is democracy? We have said that democracy is often characterized by a lot of citizen involvement in government, a sharing of power in the different governmental institutions, the ability to voice one’s opinion through elections and voting, and the breaking up of dangerous factions. In particular, we studied two ways of looking at democracy. The first is from a Civic Republican view which stresses the importance of compromise, the community, and the common good. On the other hand, Classic Liberalism is much more individualistic, innovative, and against altruism. A Classic Liberal is primarily concerned with protecting his individual rights.
Protecting individual rights… This is what crossed my mind when I saw the Genocide Awareness Project. Part of what we hold sacred in the U.S. is our freedom of religion, speech, and press, all written out in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although the freedom of “choice” isn’t spelled out in the Constitution, I find it inherently acceptable to conclude that individuals also have the freedom to possess some type of control over the decisions in their own lives. Although I don’t see myself as a staunch Classic Liberal, I certainly value my individual rights. I’m not trying to make a case for or against abortion, but rather I’m saying that as a U.S. citizen, I feel I am entitled to making my own choices.
I have a few problems with the photos exhibited in the Diag Monday. First, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform should be extremely grateful for the individual rights written out in the First Amendment. There is no way such obscene photos can be displayed publicly in countries lacking such liberal freedom of expression laws as the U.S. does. That being said, I fully respect their opinion. They are free to express their beliefs, but they should also respect my beliefs. If they are trying to convince people that abortion is wrong, there is a right way of doing it. This exhibit was the wrong way. It didn’t respect others’ values, and it offended a lot of people. Overall, it hurt more than it helped.
Freedom of speech is definitely a virtue of the U.S. democracy. However, so is the freedom to have control over one’s own choices. Individual values and beliefs should be respected. This exhibit was way out of line.