Friday, February 08, 2008

Fair-Minded Words

You don't have to adjust your blog categories to list this as an Obama fan site. Just wanted to post these words. I don't care who said them, they're a breath of fresh air. And good advice for many of us. Emphasis on the "me" part of "us."


"So let me end with just one other interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:

"Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you."

The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be "totalizing." His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.

But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose." The doctor went on to write:

"I sense that you have a strong sense of justice...and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason...Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded....You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others...I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words."

Fair-minded words.

So I looked at my website and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.

Re-reading the doctor's letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own - a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me."

Full Speech

4 comments:

Elizabeth said...

This is a great post. I'm reposting over at ELB. Thanks! I really enjoy reading your blog. I was rereading some of your older posts the other day and found them very moving - I sent them on to a family I know where the young girl has cancer. I know they will gain strength (hope, sanity...? something...) from your wise and raw words. Much peace, E

ms. kitty said...

This is yet another reason why I am coming to feel hopeful about Obama, LE, his ability to include every American in his vision.

Comrade Kevin said...

Yes, we all have convictions, some deeper than other, and we all are seeking a desire to tap into morality and have it guide us. Furthermore, we all want to believe in something good for a change and not study cynicism no more.

h sofia said...

Amazing that he found time to respond.