At the end of Camelot, a despondent King Arthur, on the eve of a terrible battle he is loathe to fight, encounters a cheerful young boy bent on joining his majesty’s forces for the fray.
Arthur is impressed with the boy’s moxy, but “Suppose,” he asks, “they kill you?”
“Then I shall be dead, Milord,” the boy allows. “But I don't intend to be dead. I intend to be a knight.”
The remembrance of that conversation came one recent afternoon on the heels of two reports. One was the latest publication of the American Freshman Survey, which has been taking the pulse of the nation’s newest college students since 1966. Over nine million students have taken that survey, in the course of a crowded near-half-century, but none of them felt as confident of themselves and their dreams as the current crop.
To a significantly higher degree than ever before, according to those compiling the survey, this year’s freshmen describe themselves as “above average” in terms of their academic prowess, their driving ambition, their math skills, and their general sense of being—like Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way.”
In short, these young people, like King Arthur’s boy before them, are eager and ready to wade into whatever the world has waiting, with every intention of winning whatever passes for knighthood in our very unCamelot culture.
These oh-so-confident freshmen, of course, have one distinct advantage, going in: no one killed them.
Which brings to mind the second report of that recent afternoon: the one that announced Planned Parenthood’s latest recordbreaking financial success. The organization says, with not a little pride, that it accomplished the execution of 334,000 babies in 2011—the most ever in a single year. Between 2009 and 2011, the group killed close to a million.
And they made a handsome profit at this ugly business, securing nearly $1.2 billion in revenue in 2010 alone—more than $542 million (a little less than half) of it from government funding. That government funding has increased by 167 percent over the last 10 years.
Many will protest that Planned Parenthood does a lot more than kill babies, or even facilitate the killing of babies (they gave out nearly one-and-a-half million “emergency contraception kits” in 2010). They also screen for cancer … though screenings are down 29 percent. And they make abortion referrals … 2,300 that same banner year (about 145 per abortion).
Put another way, Planned Parenthood—a favorite of this president and his administration and his party—finds children to be worth more dead than alive. And the government, aggressively supporting that position, has effectively put a bounty on children in the womb.
So, 40 years after Roe v. Wade, college freshmen can indeed take confidence from knowing they survived the increasingly long odds that face a baby conceived in America today. They made it out of the womb alive.
One can’t help wondering about all those who didn’t. Those nearly 56 million small wonders who never came to fruition. You take approximately 17.2 percent of our population out of the equation, you change things. You change a lot of things. Our science, our culture, our music, art, and sports … our politics. You make an irreplacable dent in the leadership pool.
And you damage, irreparably, the soul of a nation that knows better. Americans can argue all we want about a “woman’s right to choose.” But we don’t extend to her the right to turn thumbs down on the life of any human being outside of the womb. Legally, we can order her not to drink and drive, not to smoke, not to drink soda pop in a restaurant, not to kill herself. But we’re supposed to stop short of forbidding her to kill another human being as long as that one is on the other side of her abdominal wall.
Forty years of judicial protection for abortion has fostered much more than the death of so many innocents. However unwillingly, however quietly, it has fostered the tacit acknowledgement, by too many of us, that children only matter when the government says they do ... that life only has meaning when the government says it does ... that the protections of our government extend not to our babies, but to those who would destroy them—and be rewarded richly for doing so.
“Who was that?” asks King Arthur’s friend Pellinore, as the curtain comes down on Camelot, and he watches a young boy run off with the king’s beloved sword into an uncertain future.
“One of what we all are, Pelly,” the king replies. “Less than a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea. But it seems that some of the drops sparkle, Pelly. Some of them do sparkle! Run, boy! Run, boy! Runnnnn! Oh, run, my boy.”
In truth, as every eager freshman knows … they all sparkle. It’s only that, today, in this “land of the free,” so many never get the chance to run.