instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Strawberries at Christmas

I read a short story once -- by Damon Runyon, I think; one of his schmaltzy ones -- in which a woman tells a would-be suitor that she'll go out with him (or was it marry him? stories like this simplify things) if he brings her fresh strawberries on Christmas.

Nowadays, that doesn't seem like such a tall order, but in the story the difficulty of the task in 1930s New York City literally went without saying. I think the man wound up spending all his money to have a bunch of strawberries brought up by train from Florida.

All for naught, as it turned out, since when he showed up at her door with the strawberries, she was engaged to someone else. Turns out she was just messing with him. Merry Christmas, fellah.

Like I said, schmaltzy.

That story (really, that fragment of a memory of a story) comes to mind now as I read some of the commentary on the controversy stirred up by Nancy Pelosi's invocation of St. Augustine in defense of her gravely evil political program.

The question, "When does ensoulment occur?" is interesting, philosophically and historically.

But it seems to me that a lot of pro-abortion people say, "Tell me when ensoulment occurs," in the same spirit that the girl in the story said, "Bring me strawberries at Christmas." You can go off and put together the historically most complete and philosophically most unassailable answer you like, but when you bring it to them you'll find they were just messing with you. They will tell you, as Nancy Pelosi herself said immediately after burning herself on the flame of St. Augustine, "The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose."

Moreover, it isn't just pro-abortion people who will send you chasing after strawberries at Christmas. Anti-anti-abortion folks, too -- whose chief contributions to the public debate are criticism of and opposition to pro-life arguments -- will often insist on the necessity of settling fundamental philosophical questions first, despite the facts that (a) they aren't the sort of questions that ever really get settled, and (b) as a practical matter nobody cares what the answers are anyway.