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Chasing Our Tail

February 1, 2020 (600 words)

At last month’s Golden Globe Awards (January 6) the actress Michelle Williams won a prize and caused a stir with her acceptance speech. By way of full disclosure, I am partial to this actress for her moving performance in the 2016 theatrical release, Manchester by the Sea.

This speech was unusual and I thought rather exceptional, for how careful and deliberate it was. In the course of her remarks Ms. Williams offers a tribute to a women’s right to choose, specifically “when to have my children, and with whom.” She is grateful for living in a country where such choice is permitted.

The actress goes on to acknowledge how important this is, “since as every mother knows, the scales must and will always tilt toward our children.”

She also admits her choices might not be the same as other women’s, but notes how lucky we are to live in a country where we are all free – free to live according to our own particular faith, and pray to whatever god we believe in.

She ends her speech by invoking the names of her two children and saying “I can’t wait to come home to you.”

All in all it’s a lovely, heartfelt speech by a very sincere woman, even if I happen to disagree with the philosophy that underlies Ms. Williams’ most cherished assumptions.

The pro-life community has reacted predictably, by condemning the actress for the way she implies she has had an abortion, and feels no remorse. It also abhorred the applause the speech elicited from the audience of Hollywood types.

While these well-intentioned pro-lifers may be “my people,” I am nevertheless disappointed by what I consider to be a rather knee-jerk reaction that displays no appreciation whatsoever for the nuance of the situation.

What? When it comes to abortion there is no such things as nuance, I can hear all my friends and acquaintances saying.

Well, sorry folks, I beg to differ. The damning reports I have read of this speech give no berth to the manner in which it was delivered, and avoid the sections that don’t fit the desired, dreaded narrative.

By focusing on the repugnant ideology behind a portion of Ms. Williams’ remarks, it’s just way too easy to convey the impression that what we have here is a callous monster. With the cheering crowd also too easily condemned as wicked enablers.

We should, in fact, be thanking Michelle Williams for shining a spotlight on why our society now finds itself at such a dire crossroads.

This talented actress is 100% correct that we all get to believe in whatever faith we choose, and pray to whatever god we believe in. This sort of personal autonomy is what our country is built on.

Also escaping the notice of her pro-life critics is how the actress closes her speech with what I consider to be a positively incandescent observation: “Women should vote their self-interest. That’s what men have been doing for a long time.”

Again, she is spot on with this remark. The pursuit of self-interest goes hand-in-hand with personal autonomy, and together these principles form the bedrock of American society and drive all our actions.

Why then should any of us be surprised when half the population – committed to the very same principles we all hold so dear – decides to comport themselves and conduct their affairs in a way we object to vociferously?

To my respected pro-life brethren, I am not debating moral equivalencies with you. I am asking you to open your eyes and recognize the ultimate source of the problem.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
February 1, 2020

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