My family and I drove out to rural Wisconsin today to check out the Fermentation Festival, specifically to see the art installations on local farmland, otherwise known as the Farm/Art DTour. The tour is an hour driving loop from Reedsburg through LaValle, Ironton, and Lime Ridge and features huge art installations by local artists and residents.
As we were approaching the start of the loop, we passed through Reedsburg, driving down Route 33 (Main St,) and we came upon a dozen or so protesters holding up lettered signs stating their anti-abortion, right-to-life beliefs. Adults, little kids and even littler kids were holding up their signs, stationed there, no doubt, to catch the hundreds of cars that would travel down that road on their way to the 50 mile driving loop of the art festival.
OK, protesters- no biggie for us. I’m not anti-abortion, but I actually thought: kudos to their group-someone must have been thinking ahead in planning to be on such a visible route.
We drove further on and came to the intersection where Main St meets Route K- the beginning of the art loop- and on this corner there were additional pro-life protesters. It took me a minute to register what they were holding, but given that we had to slow down for the turn, my whole family got a clear view of their signs: full-blown photographs of aborted fetuses. Blood, guts, gore all poster-sized and being held up by middle-aged women on the corner of the street, three feet from our van.
“What are those yucky pictures?” my 3-year-old says from the back seat. I tell him to close his eyes and then I try to block his view.
I was appalled, not by the philosophy of these right-to-lifers, but because I spend hours each week wondering and plotting how I’m going to protect my children from images of violence and bloodshed that saturate mass media. And here on the corner were people claiming to be advocates for protecting the lives of children, and they were purposely displaying visually violent images on a route specifically designed for families with children of all ages to pass through.
“You need to put those signs away! There are children in this car!” I yelled to them from our mini-van. And I caught one woman shaking her head saying, “No, No, NO.”
I imagine they were seeking some kind of moral justice by planting those images in the atmosphere for all to see, going for shock and gross-out tactics that might work on adults. Or maybe wanting to get a conversation started or to get people thinking about their beliefs? Whatever their intention, all it did for me was piss me off.
I was incensed. If I had been walking by, I may have destroyed the signs.
Do you have a right to protest? Yes. Do you have a right to expose my kids to graphic, grotesque images intentionally and without warning when I spend my life protecting them from that? No. I’m sorry, but you don’t. We haven’t even met, and you’ve disrespected me and my family by taking it upon yourself to throw the images our way without my permission.
In seeking your purpose, trying to shine light on the rights of children to live and be well-cared for, you chose to willfully expose children to disturbing, R-rated photographs. Basically, you destroyed the exact same philosophy you were demonstrating for. You’ve proven yourself unworthy of having a chance to even speak out. And you haven’t shocked me, scared me, or made me think or re-examine my own philosophy. The only thing you’ve done is infuriate me. Because my kids are in the back of the car and my three-year-old is saying he doesn’t want to see those yucky pictures.
So let me help you, at this point, by teaching you what most middle-schoolers know before they reach high school. When you’re trying to make a point, don’t use images that are so horrific that people immediately turn away from you and won’t listen to your message. Don’t argue for life if you don’t care about my kids’ lives. And don’t try to use shocking, scary images on a demographic that is out for a joyful family outing. People like me won’t listen to what you have to say. And you will never win anything except more people who don’t care to listen to what you’re saying.
And, by the way, I’m not mad at people who get or give abortions. They are not throwing scary images in my kids’ faces.