Those who run the Komen foundation, and make a mighty good thing of it, too, sound confused in the worst way: morally confused.
Formally dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer, Susan G. Komen for the Cure (R) has also been funding -- of all unrelated things -- the nation's largest provider, merchandiser and defender of abortions: Planned Parenthood.
The pink-ribbon people finally decided to cut off Planned Parenthood when that well-financed outfit came under congressional scrutiny for the way it handles its money.
The result was an outcry from Planned Parenthood and well-heeled company. A rhetorical donnybrook ensued. The social media went into a tizzy, as they regularly do. Pro-lifers upped their contributions to the Race for the Cure, while anti-lifers (excuse me, pro-choicers) threatened to stop theirs and finance Planned Parenthood instead. Money changed hands, or at least pledges to one nonprofit or the other did.
Then came the course correction. The Komen foundation announced it wouldn't be cutting off Planned Parenthood's water after all. Although just what it would be doing in the future wasn't entirely clear.
What a mess. And it's still unresolved. It's not easy trying to stay neutral between right and wrong. No wonder Dante gave those who manage to bring it off their own special circle in hell or vicinity thereof.
Come to think, the execs at the Komen foundation aren't confused at all. They know what they're after: the money. And whichever side of this raucous debate can provide more of it, or withhold more of it, can be assured of the Komen foundation's undying support. For the moment. Until a higher bid is made.
The succession of awkwardnesses in the Komen foundation's changing public stances and shifting explanations for them was only to be expected. It happens with organizations that have never really thought through first questions, like whether to cooperate with evil, to what extent, and at what cost, at least in dollars and cents. (The value of an organization's soul, if it has one, has yet to be calculated.)
The same phenomenon can be observed in the kind of people who wind up either ignoring moral questions or trying to minimize them. Hey, abortion is only a small percentage of Planned Parenthood's total activities, even if it represents a lot of the organization's income. And only a small percentage of the Komen foundation's funds goes to Planned Parenthood, even if it's a lot of money.
Nonprofits can be highly profitable in this country. Talk about doing well by doing good: Komen's CEO, Nancy Brinker, draws maybe half a million a year out of the charity's pot -- $459,406 in 2010, to be exact. Charity pays, at least for those who run one.
No question about it, Ms. Brinker directs a highly successful enterprise. And she may be worth every penny, even if she really screwed up this little matter and 24-hour sensation. But who cares about a moral scruple or two if the money keeps rolling in?
In a different era, when the infamous Supreme Court decision that divided the nation wasn't Roe v. Wade but Dred Scott, there were also those who thought the moral issue could be ignored, maybe indefinitely with any luck.
The Komen foundation's successive rationales bring to mind those genteel antebellum types who would say that of course they were opposed to human slavery but, then again, the Peculiar Institution was essential to the Southern economy and the nation's. And, really, it was all a peripheral issue that should not distract from the important things. Like keeping things as comfortable and accepted as they are. Why make trouble? Conscience is so inconvenient.
Now we're told that destroying the most innocent and vulnerable, the least of these, shouldn't be cause for such concern. How many babies in total does Planned Parenthood do away with every year anyway -- a few hundred thousand? Big deal.
It does so year in, year out, with the generous help of outfits like the Komen foundation and the federal government. Why make a fuss about it? Abortions are only a sideline at Planned Parenthood anyway, except maybe when it comes to its bottom line. Nine out of 10 pregnant women who enter a Planned Parenthood clinic get an abortion, according to its annual report for 2010. So what? Couldn't we all just look the other way?
This is the morally confused point any collective endeavor, public or private, may reach when, far from being concerned about doing the right thing, the overriding concern becomes how to keep the cash flowing in, the payroll met, the wheels grinding, the staff filled.
The best guide to what's going on here, confusing as it may seem to the poor observer who has to keep watching the Komen foundation change its mind, is the same principle that's so useful when it comes to figuring out politics: Follow the money.
The important consideration becomes not right and wrong, but ... Public Relations! And here we have a textbook example of Dale Carnegie in reverse: a lesson in how to lose friends and alienate people.
Right now, the Komen foundation and Planned Parenthood deserve the kind of PR problem both have so richly earned. For just a moment the frilly curtains have parted, the pretty pink ribbon untied, and we the people can see just where our money is going. It's not a pretty sight. Indeed, it's about as wholesome and uplifting as what goes on at your average abortion mill.
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