"That you may ruminate"

…On Ineffective Protest.

Posted by Steve on September 28, 2008

A short distance from the Capitol Building, around the corner of Independence and New Jersey, an R1-1 has had two other signs affixed to its back. The first is black with white lettering that reads, “BUSH CAUSED [something]”. I’m not sure what that [something] is, because the word was (when I saw it, and presumably still is) covered by the second sign, which is a red piece of tape with black lettering. The result is the utterly nonsensical “BUSH CAUSED LIFE”.

Yes, the second “sign” only became a sign after it was attached to the other sign on the back of the official R1-1 sign. It began, though, as something a little different. Namely, it began as inept symbolism by an anti-abortion protestor.

See, while I was walking in front of the Supreme Court Building, I saw two people at the bottom of the steps up to the courthouse, facing the building and wearing the same thing: red tape over their mouths, the word “LIFE” in black letters. I recalled seeing the same thing before, in a movie. If you’ve seen the documentary Jesus Camp, you may recall it as well: the scene where the kids line up in front of the Supreme Court Building with their mouths taped shut, the tape red and bearing “LIFE” in black letters. Now, had I not seen that movie before, I’m not sure I would’ve known that those two people standing in front of the Supreme Court were opposed to abortion.

Allow me to explain why.

Here’s the thing: taping someone’s mouth shut is something I associate with hostage-taking. Tape over someone’s mouth gags them, it smothers them, and most of all, it binds them. So, when I see someone with their mouth taped shut, I see a victim. And, of course, when I see a word like “LIFE” on an object like tape over someone’s mouth, I read that as a political cartoon-style label. In short, when I see people standing with tape over their mouths and something written on that tape, I interpret that as those people saying, “Just as this tape binds me, gags me, and smothers me, my people have been bound, gagged, and oppressed by what is written on this tape.”

So, the way I see it, a piece of tape saying “LIFE” put over your mouth is obvious visual symbolism for making a statement to the effect of, “The ‘pro-life’ movement’s cause would so totally oppress and dominate women that it would silence them and hold them in bondage.”

So, doesn’t strike me as effective symbolism for anti-abortion protest. Whatever the intended meaning’s supposed to be, I don’t think it gets across.

Oh, and an R1-1? That’s the

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