I cannot bring myself to join those rubbing their hands with glee over the public shaming of Jesse Jackson over his “love child” — a child he fathered in adultery.
As one who has had critical things to say about Jackson in the past, I can understand the impulse. But I prefer see a pro-life meaning in these events.
Jesse Jackson and his mistress could easily have aborted this child. No doubt, they were both distressed by the discovery of the pregnancy. It is perhaps unreasonable to compare the position of two highly skilled professionals with that of a couple of desperate teenagers.
Yet, precisely because of Jackson's position in the public eye, the temptation to rid himself of a potentially embarrassing situation through abortion must have been enormous. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Jackson to wipe his hands of the whole situation, by paying his mistress off, pressuring her to have an abortion. Men do it all the time.
The pro-life wing of the conservative world needs to support Jesse at exactly this moment on exactly this point. This is the time for reconciliation: not the phony reconciliation that tries to manufacture some imaginary middle ground between good and evil, or between truth and falsehood. Genuine reconciliation reaches across human divisions to endorse the elements of goodness and truth on the other side. She did the right thing by bringing the child to term. He has done the right thing in supporting her and the child. He has done plenty wrong, of course. But that should not blind us to the fact that they might have swept this child away as inconvenient or even impossible. Instead, they welcomed her into life.
You might ask: Why should we reach out to Jesse Jackson? Think of all the trouble he has given conservatives by painting them at the slightest provocation as the image of Bull Conner. He has a long and unsavory alliance with the most radical pro-abortion extremists, the people who have never seen an abortion they didn't like.
The practical reason to reach out to Jackson is that the African-American community contains large pockets of pro-life sympathy.
Although blacks have large numbers of abortions, black women nonetheless carry many babies to term that their white counterparts would abort. Many blacks feel themselves targeted by the more unsavory elements of the population-control crowd. A study came out a few years ago claiming that legalized abortion had reduced the crime rate since babies statistically more likely to become criminals were also statistically more likely to have been aborted. Black Americans read the subtext: Abort black babies, prevent crime. Black America was aghast. Properly so, in my view.
Moreover, black Americans have proven culturally resistant to birth control — in spite of concerted efforts to make birth control information and methods readily available to the black community. Contraception workers have expressed frustration at attitudes within the black community. Many young black couples hesitate to use contraception, because they think that using it indicates that there is some problem in the relationship. They equate contraception with a lack of trust inside the relationship.
Guess what? This is not so far from the most robust form of the pro-life position, namely the Catholic variety. The Catholic Church teaches that keeping each marital sexual act open to new life enhances the communication and intimacy between the partners. There is a pro-life intuition within the black community. This reckless generosity toward new life unites the pro-life community at large, and large chunks of the African-American community.
Of course, the Catholic Church insists that marriage is the only proper context for sexual activity. This is the biggest gap between the Church and the behavior of the black community (actually the behavior of most of modern America). American culture at large has accepted the Planned Parenthood definition of responsible sex as any sex between consenting adults — as long as a condom is used. The Catholic Church defines responsible sex as getting married and staying married.
Ask yourself this question: Which definition would be more helpful for the black community to adopt for itself, the Planned Parenthood view or the Catholic view? Surely there is no doubt that the black community as a whole would be far better off adopting the Catholic view that getting married and staying married is the context for safe and responsible sex. It is frivolous at this point in history to claim that all would be well if only the black community had greater access to birth control information and technology. The efforts that have already been made are so substantial that the only greater “access” that is possible is compulsion.
There is no obvious reason that the efforts for black advancement have to be linked with the sexual revolution. Where is it written in stone that ethnic minorities must be in political alliance with the pro-abortion extremists? The link between these two issues is strictly functional. The black community and the lifestyle revolution have both been staging grounds from which the radical left can launch its broadsides against American society and its values.
Jesse Jackson has been one of the links in that chain. The radical left has been useful to Jesse because it provides the most effective ideology for accumulating political power ever devised. What if the black community were as closely aligned with pro-life Christian churches as it now is with the Nation of Islam? What would American political life look like had the black vote split as sharply as the Catholic vote?
This scandal has revealed that Jesse Jackson values the well-being of a little girl more than political power. He doesn't know it yet, but he is no longer a man of the left. Let's help him figure it out. Write to Rev. Jackson to tell him you are praying for him to fully embrace the pro-life position that he already intuitively holds. Send your letters to Rev. Jesse Jackson, c/o the Rainbow-Push Coalition, 930 East 50th Street, Chicago, IL 60615-2702.
Jennifer Roback Morse, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution welcomes e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.