Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Life Examined

The March was, as usual, a joyful experience. The cause uniting the tens of thousands of demonstrators who converge on Washington annually to commemorate this violent anniversary is a somber one, but the atmosphere on the Hill during the days leading up to the March is electric.

First of all, there are clergy everywhere. Religious brothers and sisters, diocesan priests, bishops and archbishops, Orthodox priests, Protestant ministers and chaplains... the Metro is a bit like an ecclesial costume party (and if there are prizes for best-dressed, I'm voting for the CFRs!). Add to the mix thousands of babies. Babies everywhere, on shoulders and in strollers, hanging out in pubs on parent's hips and riding in wagons... Finally, throw in a few thousand college students, decked out in all their hooded-sweatshirt finery- it's one of the oddest demographics you'll ever see.

Fitting, though, that the majority of Marchers is made up of the very composite that is most passionately engaged in the pro-life movement: abortion survivors, (read: babies carried to term), high-school and college aged students, and clergy. These are not the only groups passionately engaged in the battle for life, but they're certainly the loudest. Especially that youngest group...

I was waiting at a Metro stop after the March where I observed a family which included 4 representatives from this younger demographic. While we waited for our train, I witnessed an exchange that struck me with particular poignancy. It was, if you will permit a bit of drama, an excellent metaphor for the larger situation at hand.

The mother of the 4, obviously spent from a day of activity and activism in a bustling metropolis with multiple children under the age of 5, was pushing a double stroller with twin occupants, while dad handled the two independently-mobile units. The entire family, judging by their costuming, was outfitted for a day of winter revelry, clad in ski pants, snow boots and gloves (it was freezing!), and both parents looked pretty spent. As the train rushed towards the platform, mom pulled the stroller back further from the edge and threw a hand over the nearest toddler, warning him to stay back. As the train slowed, the inevitable crush of humanity lurched towards the opening doors, and while dad ventured forward with his charges, mom struggled momentarily to achieve forward motion. The stroller's wheels were caught on the lip of the safety lights that edge the subway platform, and as impatient passengers streamed by her on either side, she struggled to free the stroller, crying out in a slightly-panicky voice "John, don't leave me!"

Dad had already boarded the train, though, so mom was on her own. Pushing forward, she finally freed the wheel and was able to make forward progress, though not until one of the girls in my group shouted to the surrounding crowd, "let the stroller through!" She made it onto the train, and the entire thing was probably no more than a 15 second ordeal, but it struck me with incredible force.

A woman on her own, concerned for the safety of her children, with little or no support from her partner nor the general population, fighting against a tide of popular indifference... ( I warned you about the drama) Could anything be better-representative of the plight of mothers in this country?

These people where strangers, and this analogy is in no way reflective of their particular situation, nor is it a critique on their parenting abilities: far from it! I was just so moved by the entire exchange, though, and perhaps being immersed in pro-life culture for the past few days has left me especially susceptible to dramatic metaphor....

But as far as rallying-cries go (and in an election year, they do go further), this might not be a bad one for our side to adopt: let the stroller through.

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