Brandon Ferdig asks us to look at the critics of Susan B. Komen and understand the point at which fear can cause harm.
Love and fear. It always boils down to these two. Does a war-monger act the way he does because he loves and wants to protect his family and country or because he fears and hates the enemy? Does the bleeding-heart seek spending for the poor because he wants to help the needy or because he’s insecure and wants to feel important?
Of course it’s a blend of both. Sometimes, when it’s the fear that tips the scale, a negative outcome results. Love is always what is shown and touted, but beneath it lay the truer, darker motivation.
The recent uproar over the Susan G Komen Foundation’s decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood has less to do with helping women; and nothing to do with fighting breast cancer. That’s right. I am not talking about Komen; I’m talking about the critics of Komen.
Their cries are believed benevolent, but their underlying cause and main motivator is fear, and evidence is in the fact that the results they seek are destructive and harmful.
I’m pro-choice. I don’t have a political ax to grind. But I do want to call out those millions for their enormous and largely unchallenged response to Komen’s initial decision to withdraw their funding, because their fear is going unchecked, causing harm, and we ought to use this as opportunity to grow.
[Note: In the wake of the uproar, Komen has since reversed their decision and restored the funding for the rest of 2012.]
It may seem odd to suggest that the critics want to do harm, but their actions are understandable given the context: The Susan G Komen Foundation has become, over the last several years, perhaps the most recognizable charity in America. With their walks and kitsch, they’re everywhere. But criticism toward the organization had grown over their weight and political clout. They challenged other charities for using the phrase “for the cure”, attempting to handicap those who want to do good and giving an impression that control and power are more important than helping people.
Its Right wing political leanings struck a similar chord, as to many, the political Right stands for the exploitation of people—not helping them. This concern, this fear of the exploitation of the little guy is extraordinarily strong in many Americans. It’s evidently insanely strong in those who would participate in the outcry against Komen.
Then, the Susan G Komen Foundation did something that completely stirred the hornet’s nest. They, in the eyes of many, attacked an incredibly beloved institution which helps the poor and stands as a symbol for all good done to those in need—Planned Parenthood. Komen, due to that Right-wing political influence, decided to withdraw their funding. As a result, we’ve probably all been Facebook wall-peppered with comments scorning Komen’s decision. Heck, entire media outlets such as the Huffington Post have led with this agenda. To these critics, this is just another way the Right and their politics are harming those in need.
Now, let’s look at this with fresh eyes. Isolate this act by Komen as well as the calls coming from the critics. It’s a different story when we look at the situation as is.
First, let’s get a taste of what the critics are saying. Here are two internet comments particular to this issue but not atypical in the least bit. I chose two comments following an article from the countless I could have picked with similar sentiment. Read them just as they are.
Puke on Pink.
Political. Reactionary. Oppressive.
Koman(sic) may have started out with one purpose, but now it is corrupted, biased, and the “leaders” are making out just fine as the 1%.
“May God have Mercy on their souls,” but they are Far Right, so that is not possible.
This gentleman emits the extraordinary fear I mentioned above, that the little guy is getting squashed by a leviathan out to get them. It’s not that big business, politics, etc. don’t harm people; the point is that this concern has reached damaging levels like an overprotective mom never letting her kids leave the house. This fear is being churned and perpetuated on message boards across the Internet, caricaturizing Komen, and inspiring this vicious backlash.
I have shredded all my Komen address labels. All my pink tupperware and water bottles are in the recycling bin. All my Komen shirts are in the trash. I spent 3 hours yesterday calling and emailing many of their corporate sponsors and telling them that I would not support their products as long as they were associated with this organization.
This boycott is easy. Just look for the pink ribbon.
The goal sought by this woman, by many, many others in this movement is to destroy a cancer-fighting organization. She probably isn’t conscious of where her fear is taking her, so it isn’t a malicious thing, but the hand of fear is clearly in charge when the result of your motivation is to handicap the effort to stop breast cancer. She mentions nothing about taking her money elsewhere, because the main motivator here is not love—it’s not about finding an alternative to keep the fight of cancer alive. It is in seeing a threat (Komen) destroyed.
Countless comments show how normal a life underwritten by fear can be. (Heck, America has its own unique streak of extreme fear in her citizens—on the right and left. Frankly, I think it’s how the Republican and Democratic parties are best defined.)
Now it’s time to mention the elephant in the room: while these critics wish to see the end of a foundation trying to save lives, they side ever closer to an organization that literally works to end them.
I know, I know, many will take great exception to this. But pro-choice or not, it’s not up for debate that the organization that these critics hold as their symbol for helping the poor, the entity that pacifies their fear of people being exploited, also happens to be the one that terminates pregnancies, ending the lives inside mothers by the hundreds of thousands per year. This is just fact. Yes, Planned Parenthood spends only 3% of their resources on abortions, but we shouldn’t fall prey to rationalizing this away and sweeping it under the rug. To an alien looking down it would be comically ironic that the all the critics of Komen wish to see an abortion provider rise and a cancer-fighting foundation fall.
This attachment, this iron-grip support of Planned Parenthood, is the other side of this coin. It’s another manifestation of this extraordinary fear. It’s not that Planned Parenthood doesn’t do a lot of good. They do. (It’s also not the case that Komen is perfect. I find their lawsuits disgusting, their salaries exorbitant, and their political ties unnecessary.) But judging by the reaction we’ve seen, one would think that Komen was actually trying to harm Planned Parenthood. Again, to just look at this one act, all Komen did was seek to distance themselves from a controversial organization. Komen had provided a bunch of money to Planned Parenthood throughout the years, but had decided to fight cancer by other means. This makes sense as their focus of stopping cancer shouldn’t be distracted by the abortion debate.
Komen’s de-funding—making a completely rational choice with their own money—has been interpretwisted into an attack. To the critics this was a representational attack that aroused their deepest fears of right vs. wrong, David and Goliath, scrambling logic and sending them into a state from which the destruction of the Susan G. Komen Foundation was sought.
That’s fear for ya.
The critics have lost track of all this in the milieu of their emotions.
They’ve also completely lost track of the fact that abortions are bad.
And even in the hours since Komen reversed its decision and restored the funding to Planned Parenthood, the critics continue to seek out ways to slander Komen, to label them corrupt, to list comment after comment saying “the damage has been done”. There’s no appeasement, no forgiveness when you’ve hit a nerve this deep.
Again, I’ll say this has little to do with helping people.
There’s great benefit in understanding and explaining the anger, words, and actions from the critics, but it’s a mistake to call what they call for anything other than what it is. In fact, if we justify their cries with fear-based rhetoric, it interferes with the ability to see the harm advocated. History is polluted with examples of fear getting the best of people and terrible things happening as a result. But though more subtle and nuanced, this recent outcry is still an example of fear being in charge just the same.
So I ask the critics to cool it. Don’t lose track of all the Susan G Komen Foundation has done to bring awareness to a terrible, deadly disease called cancer. That’s the killer we should be up in arms about—not $700,000 dollars!
Love and fear. The critics of Komen seem to have let fear run their minds and hearts.
This scenario has exposed an incredible amount of fear. It’s an interesting example of how fast fear can spread with the Internet; but it can also be a testament to how the Internet can allow our deepest fears to see the light of day. Now exposed, this is a wonderful opportunity for the critics to have it evaporate and leave behind a more thoughtful person.
If you didn’t like the Komen decision, offer a new place to support. Figure out how else you can help. Ask: is more harm or good being done with your decisions?
Lead with love. Lead with life.