Sorry, no animated GIFs for this one. I want to take a moment to step back from reading the book to discuss a few things.
This review series isn’t going as I expected, which I suppose is what happens when you set out to review a book before you’ve read anything but the book jacket. The initial plan was to write this series mainly as an experiment to get practice writing this style of book review with something that I knew I could get at least some mileage out of. Even though the book is about clinic protesters, I really didn’t even want to go into discussing the abortion issue because it’s a political wedge issue designed to get people to vote for politicians who are acting against their best interests, and it’s a fight I don’t want to have.
What I’ve gotten from this experiment though, is a book that’s time warped me back to a formative period in my own history that I still don’t quite know how to process.
I was twelve when David Gunn was murdered. This was early 1993 and news traveled a lot slower in those days. I didn’t know when I stepped in front of a bank of news cameras and microphones that day in Tallahassee to argue that the pro-life movement was peaceful that it had turned deadly earlier that morning. Wendy Wright had gotten word but she sent me out in front of the cameras anyway, even though she knew everything I had planned to say was now a lie.
I wasn’t quite fourteen the day I was standing in front of an abortion clinic handing out literature when two clinic escorts came over and started screaming at me about two people being killed in Pensacola. I had no idea what they were talking about but soon learned that Paul Hill had decided to make his rhetoric a reality that day and two people were dead as a result.
May 2009, I’m living in Vietnam and news travels faster to the other side of the planet than it did the two hundred miles between Pensacola and Tallahassee sixteen years before. I see the news online that George Tiller was murdered as he served as an usher at his church and I read on in horror as I realize that I recognize the names of his killer’s associates, who are running their mouths to the press; people I’d met in my past life as a teenage activist.
The ‘90s were a terrible time, and because the story has never been written, few people know just how close the anti-abortion movement came to a point of no return. My skin crawls just thinking about it, but if a few key moments had tipped in the other direction it would have gotten bad, terrifyingly bad. I’ve made no secret that I don’t like Flip Benham, but the one thing I have to give him credit for is that he pulled the movement back from the brink. That’s another story for another day though.
People have written books and blogs about leaving cults, leaving fundamentalism, doing a 180 on their political beliefs, but there is no template for how to write about watching a movement become radicalized around you, watching it walk right up to the point of no return before everything splintered.
Guilt By Association is such a hard book for me to read because it’s transported me back to that time while telling a story that I know is complete bullshit. It’s a world where none of it happened, where we didn’t almost wind up with a full blown terrorist movement. In the book’s world, it’s just overzealous clinic staffers going overboard in trumping up evidence for an injunction and it goes horribly wrong.
We can talk all we want about how the pro-life movement should be pacifist and non-violent, and about how even in the worst part of the ‘90s most people were non-violent, but that doesn’t erase the reality of what happened. It was bad, and it’s a time I never want to see repeated.
I’m going to take a few days break and then carry on because I finish what I start, but this book has given me way more than I bargained for going in.
I should have just written a series making fun of Fifty Shades of Grey like a normal person.