President Barack Obama gave the commencement speech at the University of Michigan in 2010. He observed:
“If we choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own, studies suggest that we will become more polarized and set in our ways. And that will only reinforce and even deepen the political divides in this country. But if we choose to actively seek out information that challenges our assumptions and our beliefs, perhaps we can begin to understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from… if you’re someone who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in awhile. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not often be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship.”
I was reminded of these words this past week as I spoke both with passionate defenders of Planned Parenthood and with ambivalent onlookers who could not bring themselves to show any interest in the organization or its organ “donation” program.
I have been told that the videos exposing this program are deceptively edited, that the program is no different than any other organ donation program, that the organs are being used for valuable life-saving research and that they shouldn’t just go to waste. I’ve been told that Planned Parenthood provides mammograms, that they’re essential for women’s health care, and that abortion is a small percentage of what they do. I’ve been told Americans are just weary of talking about abortion and we don’t want to think about it anymore.
But out of all the people who have offered me one of these arguments/excuses I have yet to come across one who (when asked) has actually watched the videos in question. Nearly everyone reading this column already has an opinion about these videos but many (perhaps most) have not actually watched more than a few seconds of any of them. They are readily available (here, here, here and here). If you are concerned about being misled by deceptive editing I encourage you to watch the full, raw, unedited videos (here, here, here and here).
There could not be a more obvious example of the problem Obama warned against in Michigan than the raging debate over these videos with half of the country sticking their heads in the sand and refusing to actually watch them. Once you have seen them by all means watch Planned Parenthood’s response, watch the White House press secretary embarrass himself commenting on videos that he clearly hasn’t seen. But before parroting any criticisms you have read or even just deciding that you are above thinking about this topic, just watch the videos.