I was not expecting to give the president a standing ovation Tuesday night.
I have been a lukewarm supporter at best, and many conservatives have been angered by my occasional criticism. In some cases, as when I marched myself down to the airport to protest his Muslim ban, I’ve been a vocal critic. In others, as when he fired Jeff Sessions, I just shook my head at his poor judgment. I’m neither a #NeverTrumper nor afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome, classes of people who are milling around our country like the Walking Dead, filled with animus for the man. But you will never catch me in one of those red baseball caps, either.
So there was no expectation for me, especially after a destructive federal government shutdown, of passionate agreement on anything.
The beginning of his State of the Union last week went as I thought it would, eloquent phrases written by someone else, interspersed with moving personal stories embodied by the people invited as presidential guests. The image that touched me the most was of the octogenarian survivor of Dachau, saluting the nonagenarian veteran who had helped liberate the camp. I sobbed.
But then, out of the blue, Trump said this:
“To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb. Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children - born and unborn - are made in the holy image of God.”
I pressed the instant rewind button on the remote, because I couldn’t believe I’d heard those words. When it dawned on me that the president of the United States had actually referred to unborn children and not fetuses, and mentioned “fundamental truth” and “God” in the same sentence, I got lightheaded.
But the best was yet to come when he said, “lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and their dreams with the world.”
By that point all I could do was jump off of the couch and scream “THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT,” scaring the neighbors and both of my Black Labs. Trump broke the polite “Gentlewoman’s Agreement” not to call abortion by its more pedantic yet appropriate term: infanticide. The president, while not using the exact word, had come closer than even Ronald Reagan to describing what is permitted by the New York law, and what would have been permitted in Virginia, Vermont, Nevada and a number of other states, as the murder of a barely born child.
I have been begged by both pro-life and moderately pro-choice friends not to be so in-your-face about my opposition to abortion, particularly the more socially acceptable procedures that occur when the pregnancy is in its earliest “clump of cells” stages. Even when they agree that late-term abortions are gruesome and horrifically tragic, they have advised me not to offend people who don’t share my beliefs. I’ve tried to listen to them, even though it’s very hard.
I even went so far as to invite someone to debate the issue with me on my radio show the other night. Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent, and he had written a column criticizing my own criticism of Andrew Cuomo. He found my words to be judgmental, and didn’t think I had any right to question the governor’s Catholicism.
We had a very civil, even friendly conversation about our differences, but those differences became extremely clear when I posed the following hypothetical: What if a woman with a viable, healthy baby finds out in the ninth month that her husband is cheating on her, and becomes suicidal if she has to bear his child. Under New York law, she could likely get a mental health waiver and an abortion. Joshua felt that the mother’s life outweighed the baby’s.
Obviously, I think the baby’s right far outweighs the mother’s. If she is suicidal, sedate her, deliver the child and then give him to someone who wants to love a baby. There is no gray here, just the comfort of black and white.
Joshua and I, after an initial bit of resistance, were able to make political and moral peace.
This country is not able to do the same, and instead of pretending that it can or even should, Trump spoke for those of us who believe that Ralph Northam and Andrew Cuomo and the white-clad ladies of the Democratic Party support - in extreme cases - a barbaric act.
Kudos to the president, for speaking truth to cowards.
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.