Some Atrocities are Worse than Others | Mary Beth Bonacci

Some Atrocities are Worse than Others | Mary Beth Bonacci

The Gulag was worse than Gitmo. And abortion is worse than just about anything in America today.

Guantanamo Bay is the new Gulag.

So says the Secretary General of Amnesty International, a woman named Irene Khan, comparing the Soviet Union's labor and extermination camps to the U.S. prison for Al-Quada detainees. Never mind, of course, that residents of the Gulag were placed there for "crimes" such as growing too much grain or refusing to sleep with Soviet officials, while Guantanamo (or "Gitmo") is populated with militants waging war against America.

Never mind that millions were starved to death in the Gulag, while the United States not only feeds the inhabitants of Gitmo but also provides them with food that meets the strict requirements of their religion. Never mind that, while millions died in the Gulag for the simple "crime" of professing their faith, the U.S. provides the detainees at Gitmo their own copies of the Koran, the same "sacred" document that many of them used to justify their violence against the U.S.

And, of course, never mind that literally every story I've seen about the alleged "abuses" at Gitmo, when probed, turns out not to be abuse at all. (For instance, the "desecration" of the Koran, which turned out to be a case of a prison guard inadvertently relieving himself too close to an air duct. The prisoner whose Koran was "desecrated" immediately received a new uniform and a new copy of the Koran. Try that in the Gulag.)

William Schultz of Amnesty International USA, in backing off the story, said that the comparison wasn't intended to be "literal" but that certain similarities existed.

Yeah, like the fact that both the Gulag and Gitmo were located on planet Earth.

This is not generally a political column, and I'm not writing one today. But Schultz's comment goes to the heart of what I see as a larger problem in the world — and in the Church. People make comparisons that make no sense, and then they build entire belief systems around those comparisons.

Let's take, for instance, the abortion issue. I wrote a series of columns about that subject last fall, and received an avalanche of mail — much of it angry. The thing is, not one person attempted to defend abortion. Instead, they adopted what I call the "Yeah, but . . ." position. "Sure abortion is bad. But what about . . ." You can insert any issue into the sentence. The unemployed, the uninsured, the homeless — anything to steer the topic away from abortion.

So what about them? And what do they have to do with abortion?

I'm not in favor of homelessness, or joblessness, or any other "-lessness." Nor do I, contrary to what Howard Dean may say, want children to go to bed hungry at night. I work to rectify the injustices I see in the world, to the extent that I am able.

But when it comes to injustice, nothing going on in this country comes close to the abomination which is abortion.

Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt summarized the problem in a nutshell when he said, "scale matters." There is a difference between Gulag and Gitmo. There is a difference between losing your job and losing your life. There is even a difference between one person unjustly losing his life and 45 million people unjustly losing their lives. Both may be bad, but one is a whole lot worse than the other.

45 million innocent unborn Americans have lost their lives since 1973.

And those lives have been lost in particularly brutal ways. They were torn limb from limb. They were burned. Their skulls were pierced with scissors and their brains were sucked out. And it all took place in the clean, sterile environment of our medical centers. It was legally sanctioned, and happened for no other reason than that those lives were inconvenient to us.

Who could dare to compare that to a round of layoffs?

As I said, many of the "yeah, but . . ." people I hear from are angry. I suspect that not a few of them are angry because they have personally been involved with an abortion somehow. They don't acknowledge the horror of abortion because they can't bear to acknowledge the horror of abortion. So they change the subject — to anything and everything else they can find.

That's understandable. Not constructive, but understandable. Each of those 45 million abortions represents a mother who was violated — whose child died violently inside her own body. It represents a father, grandparents — an entire extended family who will never see that child in this life.

We have a whole lot of walking wounded here. And many of them are using their anger as a shield to protect themselves from facing the unfaceable.

But we do ourselves no favor when we refuse to face reality. We deny God the opportunity to forgive and restore us. And we deny our nation the opportunity to face and address our deepest problems.

It's quite simple: anyone who says that Gitmo is the Gulag of our times doesn't understand the Gulag. And anyone who says, "Sure, abortion is bad, but . . ." doesn't really understand abortion.

Because some things are worse than others.

Scale matters.

(This article was originally published on June 6, 2005.)

Ignatius Press books by Mary Beth Bonacci:

Mary Beth Bonacci is internationally known for her talks and writings about love, chastity, and sexuality. Since 1986 she has spoken to tens of thousands of young people, including 75,000 people in 1993 at World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado. She appears frequently on radio and television programs, including several appearances on MTV.

Mary Beth has written two books, We're on a Mission from God and Real Love, and also writes a regular, syndicated column for various publications. She has developed numerous videos, including her brand-newest video series, also entitled Real Love. Her video Sex and Love: What's a Teenager to Do? was awarded the 1996 Crown Award for Best Youth Curriculum.

Mary Beth holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from the University of San Francisco, and a master's degree in Theology of Marriage and Family from the John Paul II Institute at Lateran University. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate in Communications from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and is listed in Outstanding Young Women of America for 1997.

Visit Mary Beth and Real Love Incorporated online here.