I go to a Catholic college. This week at my Catholic college is "Pro-Life Week" (or as I like to call it "Preaching to the Choir Week" or "What Separation Between Church and State? Week"). It's an entire week of campus-wide emotional appeals involving t-shirts with pictures of transluscent fetuses on them, posters about how every unwanted child will magically be wanted once it's put up for adoption, and a cemetary of tiny crosses placed in the field usually reserved for games of Ultimate Frisbee.
They do this every year and every year the fundie Catholics at the school nod their heads and smile as they walk through the embryo museum marveling at how much that gelatenous blob looks like a person. Meanwhile, those radicals on campus like myself who believe that women are people too and should have basic rights shake our heads and try to choke back the vomit gurguling in our throats.
This year, a handful of students decided to do something about it. They didn't put mini wire hangers on all the mini crosses like I suggested (By the way, if all the mini markers for the dead babies are crosses does that mean they're assuming that all the dead babies were Christian? What about the little Jewish embryos? Shouldn't there also be mini Stars of David or mini crescents for the Muslim babies? That doesn't really seem fair.) Instead, a couple of my friends set up a dignified, silent protest wherein we all stood around the mini cemetary holding pro-choice signs. Dignified signs too, they said things like "Proud Catholic for Choice" and "Keep Abortion Legal" and "The Government has no Right to Legislate Morals." They really did a great job. I suggested that we give a sign to the statue of "the virgin" Mary which stands behind the field of mini crosses. Specifically I wanted to have her hold a "I wish I could have had an abortion" sign. [Note: I was totally kidding about that. I don't think Mary would have wanted an abortion. Point of fact I don't think 'Mary' even existed.]
I got there at about 9:15 this morning. Cold as Hell. A bunch of folks had already been out there for twenty minutes or so in the cold, wet and dark. Frankly, it felt great. It was nice to be doing something . . . even if that something was being quiet and innert. We intended it to be a silent protest so that there could be no screaming matches. We talked to each other and people who came up and struck nice, rational conversations, but we weren't there to fight with anyone. And for the most part, we didn't have to. Many people (especially faculty and staff) waved, gave thumbs up or cheered as they drove by. I was really impressed by the support we got. Even some people from the anti-choice group came over and thanked us for staging our protest in such a great way. That was really awesome and I sincerely hope we've opened doors to real discourse on campus.
Of course, there were the people who referred to us as "Those Goddamn Pro-Choice people" (which I wasn't really hurt by, but some of the religious folks in the group seemed to feel the sting a bit) and a couple of people who called us all "Baby Killers." I guess they thought we were actually performing abortions right there on their field of mini crosses . . . which would have been an interesting choice, but probably not a great way of generating dialogue. We also had a group of girls come over and pray really loudly in front of the Mary statue. I briefly considered going over to them and praying loudly to Zeus, that he might smite the unbelievers with his wicked cool thunderbolts, but ultimately I decided not to. Mostly because one of the prayer warriors was a co-worker of mine and I figured it'd be awkward enough already.
The most exciting part of the day, though, was fairly early in the morning when we had our only completely irrational screamer. She had driven by a couple of times and I guess the third time was the charm because she slammed on her brakes, hopped out of her car, leaving the door open and stood in the middle of the street screaming at us. She was upset because we were staging our protest right in front of "Touchdown Mary" (which just makes it sound oh, so scared). I walked over and handed her one of our prepared statements (our plan for dealing with unruly) she told me that she didn't want anything from us people, she didn't want to hear it. So, we tried to explain that we weren't protesting Mary we were protesting the mini cemetary that they had put in front of Mary. If they had put up their mini crosses elsewhere we would be elsewhere.
She didn't want to hear it. She was ashamed for us.
I said, "M'am, will you please calm down." "Don't call me m'am!" she hollered, the very breath of Hell expelled from her mouth. "I'm sorry, I don't know your name. What is your name?" I call people m'am and sir all the time. I work in retail, it's what I do. Should I have said "Hey, lady calm the fuck down"? Probably. But I didn't and I didn't mean to offend her with 'm'am.' Of course once I knew it upset her my stupid brain wouldn't let my mouth stop saying it. But what the hell, it's not like I was going to lose any more points with her so it didn't really matter.
She foamed at the mouth for a while. Some non-sense about how the Blessed Touchdown Virgin would disapprove and how could we do this on a Catholic Campus, Jesus hates us, statues are magical, protests are evil blah blah blah. She finished by saying "I am ashamed for you all" [can you really be ashamed for someone else? I really think it's purely a personal thing but anyway . . .] "and I will pray for you all!" Bev, my fellow heathen and I both called out "Please don't!" and as she headed back to her car I said "But you do whatever you feel like you gotta do." Once in her car she called at me "Oh, real mature, muttering things at me as I walk away." I hadn't muttered but sometimes balls of rage work as effective earplugs so I called back to her "I didn't mean to mutter. I said 'Please don't pray for me, but you do whatever you feel like you have to do." She damned me again or something and then drove off to continue her rant elsewhere on campus.
I can't wait for the next protest.