The Void of Reason

It’s official.  Having read President Obama’s comments to the Planned Parenthood gala, I now know Leon Kass’ “wisdom of repugnance.”  

If you missed it, the President gave a twelve minute speech at the abortion giant’s annual gala, and finished with, "Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you."


There are so many things wrong with this, but let’s focus on the fact that it doesn’t make any sense.  On this, pro-lifers and pro-choicers should agree.


First, Planned Parenthood.  It is the nation’s largest abortion business.  Abortion provides more of its revenues than any other product or service.  It slices, stabs, chemical burns and vacuums humans to death for $500-$900 a head.


Now God.  Certainly, God is opposed to the cruel termination and destruction of His creation.  No God would bless man’s arrogation of His role as he who gives and he who takes away.  In fact, very early on God strongly registered His displeasure with man’s presumption that he might “be like God, knowing good and evil.”  For these and other reasons no major religion has ever blessed abortion.  But on Friday, April 26, President Obama did.


And just to cover all the bases, we can also agree that a thinking atheist wouldn’t invoke God.  Without a belief in God and creation, one would not say “God bless.”  


Therefore, given Planned Parenthood’s business, God’s favorable view of his own work as good and the thinking atheist clarification, Barack Obama’s statement of blessing makes no sense. 


The President’s nonsense brings to mind Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil,” a phrase she coined fifty years ago after attending the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.  Arendt was commenting not just on the commonality of evil, but on its signature lack of depth and mental effort.  


Arendt’s observations of evil’s thoughtlessness are recounted in an article by Alessandra Stoppa entitled Journey Into the Heart of Nothingness.  The author recalls Eichman’s vapid final words before being hanged, in which he both rejected eternal life and vowed “we shall all meet again.”  More nonsense.  Stoppa elaborates:


‘Evil is banal because it has no root,’ wrote Arendt….  Banality is, therefore, this ‘absence of thought.’  It was not that Eichmann was stupid.  He was thoughtless, ‘something by no means identical to stupidity.’  The evil of which Arendt speaks is ‘distance from reality’ – from oneself, first of all.  It is a void of reason, caused by a lack of relationship with facts.


Arendt’s comments about evil caused a stir, particularly because she observed Eichmann to be “neither demoniac nor monstrous.”  He was aware of the consequences of his actions.  He was not mentally ill.  His evil was frustrating because it had no identifiable root, nothing on which to affix blame other than a fallen nature that was apparently common.  As Arendt later said, “Only good is radical.”


Eichmann’s banality was simply his being “out of the habit of thinking” and having an “incapacity to let himself be interrogated by the facts.”  He lived in the superficial and used innocuous words to empty reality of its meaning – executions were “mercy deaths” and “medical questions.”  It was easy and lazy to see death camps as medical research facilities.  (It is interesting that Eichmann’s “medical questions” (today’s “healthcare”) was a useful obfuscation; as if the presence of sterilized instruments, a lab coat or scrubs could validate a monstrous act.)


Eichmann’s thoughtless linguistic fictions were the mechanism by which Nazism achieved its humanity-denying distance and requisite alienation.  Nazis gave us “terminate, liquidate and evacuate” for murder; “cleansing” for killing; “bacillus” for Jew; and, “resettlement” for death camp.  Loading Zyklon B poison gas pellets from the roofs of Auschwitz gas chambers was antiseptically procedural, but it was antiseptically procedural murder.  On a related note, Gosnell’s dirty late term abortion operation is a disgrace, but Tiller’s antiseptically clean late term abortion clinic was deemed model healthcare for women.


Abortion ideologues have likewise given us the fictions of "potential human being," "product of conception," "pre-embryo," "fetus," "fetal tissue," "fetal matter," "medical waste," "garbage," "parasite" and “punishment” for baby and human.    One abortion doctor described an abortion as a "defense mechanism …against the local invasion …and deleterious effects of the parasite."  Like Eichmann, they are aware of the results of their actions.  They are not mentally ill.


Pope Benedict once commented that “the world is suffering from a lack of thought.” In her disturbing observations of Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt concurred.  In fact, our failure to think and the banality of evil are on display in the disconnect between revulsion at Gosnell, who induced labor and then killed, and the continued defense of so many others who kill first.  The Gosnell trial has exposed abortion’s failure of logic and reliance on the non-sequitur of human outside the womb but inhuman inside it.


What we, as politically-obligated citizens and a nation, do with that obvious non-sequitur will determine if we are just common and unthinking, or radically good.  In a void of reason, we can invoke God’s blessing on abortion and pretend Planned Parenthood does mammograms; or we can let ourselves be interrogated by the facts, bear witness and tip the scale.  If we refuse to think, we are as common as the many Germans who did the same in Eichmann’s era.


This first appeared at and is reprinted with permission.

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