Selzer and Bellinger

In the January 1976 issue of Esquire magazine is an article by Dr. Richard Selzer titled What I Saw at the Abortion, (the doctor observed, the man saw). As I kept reading Othering by Charles K. Bellinger I kept wondering had he ever read it. It is not listed in the book’s Bibliography, so it’s probable that he has not. I think that unfortunate.

The verb othering is a somewhat new academic term for old-time prejudice or discrimination. The title is what drew me to the book because I am interested in why people are prejudiced.  Interestingly, the book is sub-titled The Original Sin of Humanity which also spurred my interest. So, I anticipated an examination of why we have been and continue to be biased towards those unlike our tribe.

However, what I read is an argument against abortion, and Bellinger seems to confuse abortion with culture wars, those mindless topics so popular with certain politicians and their voters. On page 121 he writes, “In this book I am placing so much emphasis on abortion because it is a key element in the culture wars that  has great potential to transform American  society for the better.” On the same page he writes, “In my view, we are in a situation that is parallel to the debate over slavery before the Civil War.” I think him wrong on both accounts, especially since our differences over abortion have become political thanks to our reliance on the judicial system to resolve certain questions.

Long ago as an undergraduate, I “discovered” the use of long quotations for research papers. A good one, centered and singled spaced, took up space. In reading Othering, I felt like I was reading a sophomoric paper because Bellinger constantly used an array of lengthy quotations from various authors to, in his view, help prove his point. I regret that a good editor did  not remove most of them because they take away from his argument.

In 1967 I prevented an abortion and in 1971 I paid for one. I think that gives me some credence on the topic, and I agree with Selzer. However, it is not a political or legal choice, but a moral one. Such books as Othering will do little to change minds.

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