I don’t get the message

Last week, Queen’s Alive President Zuza Kurzawa was arrested on the University of Ottawa campus along with five Carleton students under the Trespass to Property Act.

Kurzawa was participating in a “Genocide Awareness Program” (GAP) that includes displays that compare aborted fetuses to victims of ethnic genocide.

The GAP project is organized by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, an American anti-abortion group. It places images of aborted fetuses next to victims of genocide in Rwanda, Darfur, Yugoslavia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Pearl Harbour, the World Trade Center, the Oklahoma City bombing and the racist lynch mobs of 19th century America.

I’m not going to argue about the abortion issue itself. I’m not interested in condemning anyone’s opinions, and I do believe that groups like these have the right to disseminate their message. But I think these kind of tactics are misguided and may even be counter-productive. Certainly it was their tactics, not their message, which the University of Ottawa saw to be incompatible with their image as a place of learning.

Nobody likes extremism. The Tea Party, the Black Bloc, Al-Qaeda and the like are all nuisances. Any message they have is lost in their childish actions. They prevent any moderate, thoughtful people from participating in their discussion because people are so off-put. Instead, they have to rely on indoctrination.

I’ll bet a lot of anti-abortion groups wonder why they see so many sour faces when holding up signs comparing hard-working doctors to officers of the Third Reich. It’s an insult to reason and intelligence. With the variety of horrific motivations that produced the images used by the GAP, it’s difficult to follow their message. It’s insulting to anyone who has considered abortion to be lumped in with racism and hatred.

Nobody wants to pick up a flyer with those images on it. It’s why people mock the poorly-printed warning labels on cigarettes. The images are so far removed from what people consider reasonable that they react with disgust rather than reflection.

A university campus is supposed to be a place of dignity and discourse, not shock tactics. I’m not surprised that the University of Ottawa’s administration responded the way that they did. As an institution of learning, the University has an image and a reputation to protect. The protestors were given a place to display their signs, but they chose to disobey and demonstrate elsewhere. In order to protect their image—and their students’ stomachs—the administration uninvited the group from protesting. I don’t blame them.

How do anti-abortion groups expect to bring their issues to discussion by turning so many people away immediately? I hope that Queen’s Alive will think a little harder when planning their next action on this campus. I’ve got no appetite for stomach-churning methods.

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