Sunday, December 28, 2008

David Brinkley Wholly Innocent

It is rare enough when you hear pro-life sentiments from a prominent newsman, even a dead one. So it is worthy of note. Here is a passage from the late ABC and NBC news anchor David Brinkley in the section of his memoirs about growing up in the South. He sheds some interesting personal light on the topic.
“Mama was forty-two years old when I was born in 1920. At that time, among her women friends in the small-town South, it was thought to be hardly decent for a married woman to be pregnant at the age of forty-two. Slightly scandalous, in fact, and seen as the product of lascivious behavior unseemly for a woman her age. Word reached Mama that her women friends, all members of her St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, were saying out of her hearing that by her age married women were expected to be finished with having babies. Given that she was born in 1879, just fourteen years after the Civil War and the murder of Abraham Lincoln, her friends' disapproval probably was a medical remnant surviving from the early nineteenth century, when the average life span was shorter, when babies were delivered by midwives or by the family doctor who arrived in a one-horse carriage carrying a small black bag and calling for hot water and towels, when childbirth was hazardous and infections frequent and sometimes fatal. And in the early practice of medicine it was known that mothers older than forty or so often had problem babies. For that or some other reasons unknown to me, my mother's women friends—gray-haired, thin-lipped, cold-eyed and waspish—all thought she had committed a sin. While saying nothing to her directly, they made sure she heard about what was being said at St. Andrew's gatherings, leaving her to suffer the painful knowledge that there was ugly gossip behind her back. Cruelty in the service of the Lord. When Mama, a Presbyterian, married my father, an Episcopalian, these were the same women who privately denounced it as a "mixed marriage." My sisters told me later she cried uncontrollably when I was born because I was a terrible embarrassment to her. I had made her the victim of gossip. I was not wanted. I now believe that for every day of my life at home with her, every time she looked at me, when she could not avoid looking at me, I reminded her of the agony and suffering that came with me when I was born. I regret her suffering, but I must say I am thankful that abortion was not available at that time in that place. If it had been, I would not be here.”
Brinkley sets the reader up with what seems like a standard trope about the religious hypocrisy of certain church goers. (Although like the decent man he was, he seems to make excuses for the narrowness of their views.) He then delivers the politically incorrect zinger in his typical non-philosophical style. I’m just a small town boy from North Carolina, an unwanted child by the way, who’s glad he made it across the wire before they legalized abortion and zapped me. As long time viewers, familiar with Brinkley’s style of commentary on politics and government will note, it is typically understated, but on the mark.

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