A Pro-Life Character:
A Banquet Speech, a Biography, a Narrative, or a Study for a Future Pro-life Novel

Jeff J. Koloze
Reproduced with Permission

Events over which I had some control certainly constitute markers in my academic and professional life: presenting my first paper at a conference; publishing the first paper in conference proceedings; having a first poem published; seeing my name on the web; presenting my first paper before UFL; signing the permission form for my first book chapter; obtaining a full-time position in affirmative-action America. However, nothing in the past can compare with tonight. I am honored simply to be here, with workers in the academic field, who labor in classrooms, fighting the good fight against anti-lifeism. I recall other banquets where more notable speakers who have much higher credentials gave us their wisdom and inspired us to meet their challenges. We have had some fine banquet speakers. Now, however (or should it be "moreover"?), you have me. What can I possibly say that would rank with the esteemed wisdom of finer scholars and more noteworthy activists in the movement? Oh well, I intend to enjoy this banquet speech. After all, the last time I had such a captive audience was my English class at the women's prison in Cleveland.

I am new to being a doctor, a professor, someone who purports to be expert in a field of inquiry not only for the betterment of the children of God, but also for the increase in his state teachers' retirement fund. I am still fitting into my new costume with the label "Ph.D.". I have always been arrogant (just ask the wife of a former best friend of mine), so lording it over my students and others should come naturally to me, but, still, it's difficult to think that I must be professional, that I must be a scholar, that I have something to say to my world that no one else has said before. Scripture says that there is nothing new under the sun, so how can the arrogance of being a professor counter that? I would not want to have you think that I am heterodox. (Besides, isn't it Saint Paul who writes that we should use whatever is good within the culture for the glory of God?) Anyway, I think I found something that no one else has said before, my specialty, and I attribute the inspiration of my life's work to University Faculty for Life. More on that later. For now, even though this is my banquet speech, or biography, or narrative, or study for a future pro-life novel, please feel free to identify yourself with the use of every first-person singular pronoun you will hear. When you hear a first-person plural pronoun, think of yourself and your husband/wife/friend/companion/fellow religious/live-in lover/boy toy/girl toy/whatever.

I was fertilized sometime in October 1958. How's that for a pro-life version of David Copperfield? (And I thought that my love for what Saul Bellow calls the genuine cold of Canada began after my honeymoon! I was created with a love for the autumn winds crushing American airspace from my beloved Canada!) The little boy who would become Jeffrey James Andrew Koloze was born 6 July 1959 to parents who would divorce a few years later. (No wonder I feel for the fatherless students I have -- I'm one of them!) My heritage is Polish (Koloze, which should be Kolodziej) and Italian (technically, Marchesano, my grandmother's surname being Fiorentini). I lived on the east side of Cleveland, during a time when that district was changing from a white neighborhood to an African-American one. I lived in the best of all possible worlds (no, Voltaire; you were wrong; 'twasn't France or Portugal, but Cleveland, Ohio that can boast that title). Yes, East 93 and Union was the conjunction of the best of all possible worlds for the little kid that I am -- ah, I'm sorry -- was...ah, that's right...was.

I lived with my maternal grandmother, my mother, and two aunts in the family home at 9314 Gibson Avenue. What treasured memories from my boyhood! Getting robbed twice (or was it three times?) on my paper route. Having our house assaulted numerous times: a bullet coming through a kitchen window, another bullet coming through the front room (what some people call the "living room") wall, a brick or piece of concrete (my memory blurs here) crashing through my upstairs bedroom window -- ah, yes! Those were some of the delightful memories of the last white family living in an all-black neighborhood! I attended Woodland Hills Elementary School, then Saint Catherine's Elementary School, and Central Catholic High School for one month before transferring to Benedictine High School (the home of champions, where those who had biceps ruled over those who had brains).

But I advance too quickly in this banquet speech, or biography, or narrative, or study for a future pro-life novel (perhaps the only one which shall read "By Jeff Koloze" on the title page). While I was an eighth grader at Saint Catherine's, the disaster of American history which brings us together as activists in academia and which has affected the world occurred. Two days after we buried my mother, who was killed crossing a street, the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy.

Had that international disaster not occurred, I would have kept writing letters to companies about pollution (that was a big deal for teenagers then). Had that disaster not occurred, I would not have met my wife, Joan, at Cleveland Right to Life's pro-life conference in 1978. Had that disaster not occurred, we would not have had our children, for I was one of the fortunate men who knew that his children would be safe in the womb of a woman who refused to adopt the lie that the right to reproduction is solely a woman's choice. Had that disaster not occurred, I would not have pursued studies in English, thinking that using rhetoric and literature could help to advance the pro-life movement. I guess that I should thank the seven justices who voted for the killing of the unborn, for they have helped me see how I could use the life that God gave me. Uh...where is the Supreme Court building from here? Thanks, guys!

The 1970s were wonderful years for right-to-lifers. Well, at least they were for me. Pro-lifers may have been embryonic during the 1960s, but we were born in the 1970s, and we were quickly learning not only to spread our wings but also to feel our power. Like Gogol's overcoat, we were born out of the disaster that consigned millions of the unborn to their death. We were abused, yet we kept fighting. I remember working as a teenager with Cleveland Right to Life, lobbying congressional representatives on the Hyde Amendment. What fun it was to work for something definitive and that was so aggressive in its common sense. (Being a right-to-lifer living in the decadence of the United States, I, of course, like the rhetorical feature paradox, so you may find many more sentences like the preceding in this banquet speech, or biography, or narrative, or study for a future pro-life novel.)

Some of the faces of activists from that decade (Clem Bennett, Margaret Mass, Pat Pichler) are gone now, but the work in which they mentored the young people who flocked to the pro-life movement in the 1970s thrilled me with passion for Right to Life. What else could be better than mimeographing newsletters, or holding a bake sale for your local right-to-life affiliate, or meeting with an anti-life congressman at a Baptist church, or marching in a parade, or picketing an abortion clinic, or activating a phone chain, or having the thrill of being elected to a position on the Cleveland Right to Life board, or meeting a young woman who had the same interests as you did at a pro-life conference (this event occurring a month after I prayed for a girlfriend -- hey, prayer works!), or speaking before school groups, or rejoicing over a legislative win, or hearing Dr. Willke speak, or -- the summation of that entire first decade in which the killing of the unborn was made legal in the United States -- working for and witnessing to something that you know is major pro-life history: the landslide victory of the first pro-life president, Ronald Reagan?

What glorious years! Marriage in 1981 was a double joy, for we were getting married when the United States seemed like it was on the safe track towards reaffirming Jefferson's revolutionary words of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (Little did we know then how the twentieth-century's version of the adulterous Anna Karenina, the anti-life side of the true feminist movement, would throw herself onto the tracks, trying to derail the success of the pro-life movement! Yes, as you can see, I like not only paradox, but also mixed metaphors for this banquet speech, or biography, or narrative, or study for a future pro-life novel.) The 1980s were thrilling, as Joan and I put ourselves at the disposal of the pro-life movement. We dedicated ourselves to a married life of pro-life activism.

And were we active! We worked diligently in the 1980s, trying to build the structure of our local organization, especially coordinating its efforts with the magnificent organization called Ohio Right to Life. I remember doing voter identification surveys at phone banks, passing out more political literature than ever before, telephone surveying huge territories in targeted districts. We had coffees at our houses to promote pro-life candidates. Joan and I raised substantial money for the Cleveland Right to Life Political Action Committee. Whatever Ohio Right to Life wanted to do, we were eager to enact. Like the old joke (when your boss says "Jump", the proper response is "How high?"), we willingly did whatever we were instructed to do because we loved our movement. We would sacrifice ourselves for love of our unborn, our handicapped newborn, and our elderly brothers and sisters. We did this, we did that, and we had fun. We met our friends, and a necessary condition of friendship for me was being pro-life. (Why would I waste my pro-life time with someone who is anti-life?) Moreover, while doing the three-pronged pro-life work of education, legislation, and political action, we raised our children: Greg was born in 1982, Mary and Ann were born in 1984, and Tony was born in 1985. I'm struggling to find the right term to describe how we felt by the end of the 1980s. Ecstatic? Enraptured? Exhilarated? Joyous?

Or were we anxious? Tired? Exhausted? Joan and I had some tragedies even then, in those glorious years of early marriage. We lost two unborn children by miscarriage, Michael or Elizabeth in 1987 and then Patrick in 1988. We suffered through those times. Even the pro-life movement seemed to be suffering. I recall the dissensions in the Cleveland area and on the state level regarding whether we were doing effective work. "Effective"? Why and when did that become a consideration? There was pro-life work to do, so do it! Yeah, yeah, you might have some personality problem with some pro-life leader, but put that aside and just do the work.

I'm certain that our evangelical Christian and extreme conservative Catholic pro-life friends thought that they were helping the movement by encouraging people to become more activist, to picket more, to flood the courts with cases of illegal activity. I didn't see it that way. I saw the late 1980s and early 1990s as years of dissension, of resentment and competition between opposing pro-life viewpoints, of attitude problems between pro-life leaders that were not corrected in time. The pro-life movement became one giant pissing match.

We know that good argumentation depends on logos and a proper mixture of pathos, presented by someone with unimpeachable ethos. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, I could not convince my friends in the movement that the logos factor of certain statements that they proclaimed as truth were illogical and that the pathos offered by some was extremist. Moreover, to compound my inability to persuade what I considered were some wayward people, my own ethos was suspect, for I was a Willke follower, someone who supported Ohio Right to Life and the National Right to Life Committee, someone who wanted to pursue traditional pro-life strategies. (Years later, in a casual conversation, someone asked me where I had been, saying that he hadn't seen me in a while. After I responded, he uttered a phrase which has stayed with me like a finely worded, memorable passage of literature: "Oh, I should have realized that you would have been a victim of that bloodbath." Oops, sorry: there I go again! Let's return to the present tense -- or, perhaps more accurately, the tense present of this biography, or narrative, or study for a future pro-life novel.) And so, by the early 1990s, activists in our little neck of the proverbial woods were bombarded with often derisive questions like, "Was Willke's philosophy of gradualism sufficient to see the movement through to victory?" "How could any pro-life group claim that we were on the road to victory when millions of babies were dying every day?" "Should one give allegiance only to one pro-life group?" "Who made the National Right to Life Committee God?"

I hated 1992. The adjective to describe its beginning is "bad", and the summer slouched not to Bethlehem, but to the comparative form of the adjective, "worse", as I listened to commentators talk about the declining political fortunes of President Bush. The conflicts which erupted at abortion clinics around the country may have liberated a certain number of the unborn who would have otherwise been killed. The abortion clinic protests which were broadcast in glorious media bias also persuaded Americans to vote for what was passed off as a compromise between pro-lifers who were perceived as strident and anti-lifers who were perceived as sensible.

The resulting disaster which occurred on election night in November 1992 began eight long years of an anti-life winter. How I hoped that it would have only been a four-year winter. The day on which Clinton took office, I began a pc journal, which was meant to document what occurred during the occupation of the White House. I long since abandoned that journal; in fact, I deleted it, because it made me even more depressed to know that I lived yet one more day in an occupied country. What little did I know, how naïve could I have been, to think that the four years would not become an eight-year Siberia!

I wanted to beat the crap out of anti-lifers who gloated over the victory of their personal Satan. I knew then what rage was. Unfortunately, we pro-lifers had to be nice. Unless you're Eminem, who has the courage to say just what he freakin' feels like saying, it's politically inappropriate for a pro-lifer to express his or her rage, lest anti-lifers say something ridiculously ad hominem like, "There! We told you so! They say they're peaceful and loving, but the truth will out! They're full of hatred and intolerance and...and...RAGE!" How could we pro-lifers express our anger against that person who could so deviously smile his way into the White House? How could we bear to live in a country that voted for such evil people? How could we survive four years of Clinton? Not even the wonderful victories in 1994 allayed my distress: the United States had an anti-lifer in the White House. The country was occupied by anti-life forces as surely as my homelands were occupied -- Italy by the Fascists during World War II, Poland by the Soviet Union after the war. Then and only then could I understand the horrors that my people experienced. As a boy, I wondered what it would have been like living in Italy under the Fascists and what it would have been like living under a Communist regime. In the 1990s, I did not have to wonder; I was experiencing occupation firsthand. The disaster of Clinton made me rethink many things: devotion to the pro-life movement; patriotic allegiance; and, finally, how to spend the rest of my life.

In a way I owe a lot to Clinton, my brother in Christ (the person for whom I should pray like I should pray for other terrorists like Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden). If it were not for Clinton, I would not have suffered at the hands of Cleveland Right to Life board members who wanted to get rid of all of us old timers, as though we were personally responsible for Clinton's election, as though Willke's policies throughout the formative years of the pro-life movement were somehow wrong. I held leadership positions in Cleveland Right to Life for years (since the 1970s). I decided that the best way to encourage my pro-life brothers and sisters during the Clinton occupation was to manifest my enthusiasm for pro-life work by running for the presidency of the organization. Unfortunately, I was despised by some board members who knew much better than I how to do right-to-life work (after all, Willke was wrong, and anyone who followed him was obviously old-fashioned, passé, and useless for a new generation of the movement). I think I lost the election for president of Cleveland Right to Life by one vote.

Where does one go when one has been rejected even by one's peers? Wait a minute. "One's"? Why do I write in third person? I was rejected. They did not want me. I was deemed superfluous, old, useless, of no value to the movement. Moreover, I was rejected by people who I thought were friends, workers in the vineyard, collaborators in the greatest civil rights movement in the world. I believe that I felt the hurt of that rejection for...a couple of days. After all, there were other pro-life groups. If Cleveland Right to Life didn't want me any more, then there would always be...University Faculty for Life.

Isn't it great that UFL exists for rejects like me? And you? And you? How rejected we all are, how much we are like the unborn, the handicapped newborn, and the elderly! In the opinion of those in power, we are the radicals, perhaps even the dregs, of academia. We are, of course, called such names because calling people names is the only defense that people who are in power either unjustly or immorally have. Much more personally, if it were not for UFL, then my journey, my pilgrimage, through the academic slough of despond would have been a waste of time. By the mid 1990s Joan and I had all our children, and we were raising them as best we could in Goosetown, one of the immigrant Polish neighborhoods in Cleveland. Early in my married life, I had decided, once I obtained my bachelor's degree from John Carroll University in 1983, to pursue my master's degree expressly to use it for advancing the pro-life movement.

But what could I write that would help the right-to-life movement? Everybody else had a talent to give to the movement, and I just had writing. I knew nothing about major donor fundraising like some did on the Ohio Right to Life board and staff. While I knew some things about politics, elections to state and federal offices were won without my influence. I was a Little Drummer Boy in his mid-thirties, tapping on a ridiculously small drum, while others who had greater gifts were using ghetto blasters. The only thing that I could do was write, and, being a young man who, as Aristotle says, was full of heat and energy, I was vain enough to think that my writing would greatly help the right-to-life movement. Yes! I, the grandchild of immigrants, would lead people to a new pro-life literary vision! I would storm about like Yermolai Alexeyevich Lopakhin, the grandson of serfs, as he announces to the dead wood of the landed aristocracy in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard that the magnificent cherry orchard of the pro-life literary world was mine! Mine! Aha!

Then another unexpected event happened. Americans, or, rather, some Americans, a plurality of Americans (again), voted for Clinton again. How could this be? Didn't they know how bad he was on the life issues? Didn't they hear what we were saying with all of our newsletters and pamphlets and Silent Screams and the political victories -- yes, the massive political upheaval of 1994? Didn't they care that they elected someone again for another four years of an anti-life nightmare? Ah, fatal question! It would have been better if it were left unasked. For, once it was answered that Americans did not care, then I, too, could ask whether I should care. In 1996 I began teaching at Kent State University (you know the place: Kant read, Kant write, Kent State). I assigned Frederick Douglass' essay "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" which argues that American independence meant nothing for an entire class of people kept in slavery. I updated Douglass' question to ask myself what the Fourth of July means to the unborn child, the handicapped newborn, and the elderly, and so I questioned my own patriotism. As the United States meant nothing to the people subjugated by slavery, so, too, the United States which subjugated not only my people yet unborn but also those born with challenges and those about to be born into eternal life...I leave it to you to supply the last element of the comparison. I know, with my mind, that I should amend the syllogism for the faulty logic of the proportion, but my heart speaks otherwise.

The 1996 elections disillusioned me greatly; I felt as though the country in which I had spent my then thirty-seven years had abandoned not only the unborn, but me as well. In December 1996, while on retreat at Mount Carmel Monastery in my beloved Niagara Falls, with snow swirling around the eucharistic chapel in which I sought refuge from my patriotic doubt, I decided that I would not care that much about the country if Americans themselves didn't care about their country. How easy it was to distance myself; how easily the third-person plural possessive pronoun can be used! I felt like those millions of African-American men who, supposedly, have shown how they signed out of what they perceived as white culture by adopting the counterculture of drugs, crime, violence, and rap. I had never thought that I would be as disaffected as the hippies of the 1960s or African-American youth of the 1980s and 1990s, but I did. I learned only then, a short six years ago, what some of you who are more mature right-to-lifers have known for decades. I remember talking with an elderly man who did magnificent voter survey work from his home. He gladly took lists and lists and lists of registered voters, looked up phone numbers, called the voters, and returned lists and lists and lists of pro-life respondents that we could then input into our computers. A veteran, he told me how disenchanted, how disgusted he felt to know that the country he had fought for, the country that he had risked his life for, was now killing babies. I never forgot the look of pain in that man's face. It is worthy of being depicted not only in the mind of God, but also in a banquet speech, a biography, a narrative, or a study for a future pro-life novel.

Now, please know that, according to the Secretary of State's affirmation in my passport, I still am in possession of citizenship of the United States (please note the tortured verbosity). Yes, I still vote, and I, of course, vote pro-life. (After all, what happens in the United States affects the world, and I wouldn't want anti-lifers to continue to damage my brothers and sisters in other countries.) However, my patriotic heart is in exile elsewhere. True, Canada may be worse off in terms of development of a pro-life movement, but Canada is Canada. No other country in the world can claim such history, such loving people, such beauty, such literature, such inviting cold. I have fallen in love with Niagara Falls, which, while it is the back door to the United States, is the front door to the huge land called Canada. I have fallen in love with Toronto's Chinatowns. I have fallen in love with Ottawa's Parliament Hill. I have fallen in love with Montreal's Saint Joseph's Oratory. I have yet to fall in love with the Maritime and Western provinces. How can "the rockets' red glare/ the bombs bursting in air" compare with "God keep our land/ glorious and free/ O Canada, we stand on guard for thee"?

There were other significant results when I returned from that retreat at Mount Carmel. I decided that obtaining a full-time position at a college or university did not matter any more. Although I had been adjunct faculty since 1989, I was earning enough money not only to support my family, but also to fill my state teachers' retirement account quite nicely (thank you, Ohio taxpayers). But there's more to life than just making money. I knew that I had to contribute something to the world, this beautiful world that God permitted me to visit for a while, which anti-lifers have stormed through like Nazi soldiers on their rampages through my European homeland. Who would listen to what I would have to say for the right-to-life movement? What could I do to advance the pro-life movement in my own field? What could I...

To answer that incomplete question, I need to use in medias res in this banquet speech, or biography, or narrative, or study for a future pro-life novel. Early in my doctorate course work, a strongly anti-life professor at Kant read, Kant write, Kent State taught literary theory. I enrolled in the course because I thought it would be interesting. It was interesting and challenging, and it identified a major gap in literary research. English professors can consider literature using a variety of perspectives. Biographical, deconstruction, feminist, formalist, Marxist, masculinist, New Historicist, queer, and reader-response criticisms are just a few. However, no theorist either comprehensively or adequately covered pro-life concerns. Why not? I read more. I challenged my professor. I got angry. (You know how my Italian temper wanted to manifest itself before. Rage, baby, RAGE!) The resolution of my anger was accomplished in a few sentences of simple structure. I saw the announcement for the UFL conference at Marquette. I submitted a paper idea. It was accepted. Not as grand as Caesar's compound sentence of three-independent clauses consisting of one words, but just as effective. Thus, in 1995, my life's work was revealed to me, not as dramatically as Saul on the road to Damascus, but it was revealed. (Remember, I like mixed metaphors and similes.)

Since then, I have strived to investigate the areas where a right-to-life perspective can help us, our students, and our society see that the established literary theoretical perspectives lack an important feature: determining the merits of a work from a right-to-life perspective. My initial effort to accomplish this goal, the paper given at Marquette titled "Right to Life in Literary Theory: the Silence Screams", argues that contemporary literary theory could be used to advance pro-life interpretations of literature as much as anti-lifers use theories to advance anti-life interpretations. At the 1996 UFL conference here at Georgetown, I presented "Breaking the Linguistic Permafrost of Current American Anti-Life Fiction: A Guide for Students of Literature" which was designed to suggest ways that we could help our students reinterpret literature from a pro-life perspective. In 1997, at the conference in Baltimore, I offered "Principles of American Life: an Archaeology of the Virus of Negation of Inalienable Rights and Its Antidote in American Literature", which discussed two ideas: first, the inherent idea in American literature that some lives were not to be protected and, second, the power of the Declaration of Independence as a vehicle for affirming the first civil right to life. In Toronto in 1998 I investigated problems with student writing on abortion in my own classes. I wanted to know how students face this issue when they are called upon to write about it, and "Resolution of a Controversial Issue in the Writing Class: Daedalus Software, Discussion, and Collaborative Writing on Abortion" was born. The title of my 1999 paper presented at the UFL conference in Chicago is self-explanatory: "Adolescent Fiction on Abortion: Developing a Paradigm and Pedagogic Responses from Literature Spanning Three Decades".

The papers for the most recent years discuss, as the titles suggest, various aspects of the right-to-life literary canon. The 2000 paper, presented here at Georgetown, was titled "Bizarre Fiction on the Right-to-Life Issues" and concerned representative abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia novels. The 2001 paper presented in Philadelphia concerned "European Abortion Novels: Documenting a Fidelity to the Milieu". This paper, three months before the killings in the World Trade Center, asked whether a disaster would have to occur to force Americans to be faithful to their historical roots. I hope that I do not have the gift of prophecy. "Academic Perceptions of Abortion: a Review of Humanities Scholarship Produced Within the Academy" was the title of the paper presented at Ave Maria College last year. Finally, this year's paper here at Georgetown discussed "Abortion and Rap Music: a Literary Study of the Lyrics of Representative Rap Songs".

I don't know yet what I would like to offer for next year's conference -- maybe a study of poetry, maybe a study of drama, maybe a study using cultural criticism of the rhetoric of anti- and pro-life internet sites. I find such studies fascinating -- in the etymological sense, for, when I consider what else must be written to expand the pro-life canon, my eyes widen with excitement, not because of caffeine, but because of academic interest. Of course, I write other materials on andragogy and general literature topics for other conferences, but I feel engaged in the work I submit here, for UFL conferences. These papers for UFL are my favorite professional children. I am proud of them. I hope that they bring merit to our purposes.

I further hope that the excitement runs at least until retirement. Twelve years from now. You know, I'm forty-three, and I'm tired already. I'm tired of correcting papers. I'm tired of suggesting that students fix the same old errors (subject-verb agreement, punctuation for sentence structure, hyperbatonic constructions, etc.). In fact, I'm tired of other mistakes that I'm called upon to fix, too. I'm tired of listening to people come to me with their problems (how do ministers, priests, and rabbis tolerate it?). Sometimes, I think I have a sign on my forehead, reading "Tell me your problems; I WANT to hear them".

Moreover, I must confess that I'm tired of the reasons why there is a right-to-life movement. I'm tired of hearing that yet another young mother is pregnant with an untimely pregnancy and may consider killing her child. I'm tired of hearing that yet another father wants to abandon his girlfriend/lover/wife/mistress/whatever and wouldn't mind if his girlfriend/lover/wife/mistress/whatever wants to have an abortion. I'm tired of affirming what should be self-evident, that handicapped newborns have a right to life and that the elderly have a right to food, water, and having their lives protected by law. I'm tired of the controversy; I'm tired of fighting; I'm tired of knowing that I must constantly be an ambassador for the right-to-life movement in the classroom.

I'm tired. I want to retire. And I want my retirement to be a series of prepositional phrases and present participles. In twelve years I am sitting in Victoria Park, Niagara Falls, in early summer, or in the middle of autumn, sitting on my favorite folding chair, with a rosary in my right hand and a cup of double espresso in my left, reading a book of nineteenth-century fiction resting on my lap, looking at the falls -- both American and Canadian -- and just enjoying life. To enjoy life! However, I know that I can't retire just yet. I have academic and pro-life work to do, articles and books and essays and poems to write, words to give my students, and words to leave with you -- specifically, one word, then a word-and-a-half, and finally a second word.

First word: learn to be a comedian (a necessary apposition being one who makes fun of him- or herself or one who does not place him- or herself higher than others) for the right-to-life movement.

I'm at the point, not necessarily in my career, but in my life where I don't give a flyin' freak about what people think. I have my two homes and the required American standard of four cars, internet access, and email addresses for everyone in the family (I'm surprised that the cat doesn't have email). In some respects Joan and I do not fit the American nightmare -- ah, I mean, dream, the American dream: Joan is my loving wife of twenty-two years, and we have not 2.7, but four living and loving children. We have our cute little kitty Marie, and a beta fish named (appropriately gender-free) Alphabeta. Finally, I will receive funds when I retire to my Niagara paradise from the Federal Employees Retirement System, the Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio, Social Security, and the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio. Joan and I have our annuities and IRAs, which, although recently depreciated, will be...ah...helpful. (Please remember that the current exchange rate for dollars US into dollars Canadian is nice and fat.)

Anyway, while there are times to be serious, there are many more times when one can be comical. We pro-lifers especially must find the humor that remains in the ruins that anti-lifers have left for us. True, anti-lifers kill people, unborn ones and born ones. What humor can be found in that? Why, here's something. Laugh at anti-life stupidity for adopting some of the most ridiculous positions to dehumanize people. "The fetus is not a person" should rank right up there as a joke along with "Did you hear that Communist Hungary planned to have a navy?" Ridicule works, folks. Our students know it; otherwise, they wouldn't like rap music so much. And when you have them laugh with you, then you have moved them away from anti-life thinking. I know, I know: we should love our enemies, and I am, of course, saying that we should love our enemies. It's their words that can be attacked as viciously as they attack people who should be their brothers and sisters.

The second word -- no, wait! (I also happen to like the ancient rhetorical feature of correctio. I always thought, from my master's studies at Cleveland State, that seeming to correct oneself in front of one's audience works to reinforce not only the idea which is corrected, but also the idea that is the correction. How cool is that?) We can't advance to the second word just yet, because, as I mentioned two conferences ago, I like my stories to end happy. Oh, sorry...this is not a story; it's a banquet speech, or biography, or narrative or study for a future pro-life novel.

Word-and-a-half: prepare for the coming Dies Irae -- not from the Lord Himself, not from us, but from the anti-lifers. Sometimes, I feel like Hester Prynne, looking into the eyes of her dying lover, Arthur Dimmesdale. "Thou lookest far into eternity, with those bright dying eyes! Then tell me what thou seest?" He tells her to hush. While I made some conjectures about right-to-life fiction in the paper I presented in 2000, I cannot read far into the literary future; I cannot determine the trajectory of American fiction regarding the life issues. Perhaps our future will be heavenly. The right to life will be restored, and everybody will see the errors of his or her ways and become pro-life.

Perhaps our future will be hellish. It may already have been prophesied as such by two literary giants. When she wrote "A Good Man Is Hard to Find", Flannery O'Connor may not have had any idea that her words could be applicable for a time when mothers would have the legal right to kill their unborn children, but how prophetic, how accurately she could anticipate the America after her death! The Misfit, the escaped convict in the short story, affirms two propositions that denote the cultural bases of the United States today. "Jesus thown everything off balance", the Misfit says. We in the right-to-life movement know what America's successful secularization has brought us: millions of abortions, changing attitudes about the rights of the handicapped newborn, and elderly citizens who have completely swallowed the bait that euthanasia will guarantee that they will not be a burden to their children. The Misfit further proclaims that, if Jesus did not raise the dead, then "it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can -- by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness". Do I need to elaborate on meanness? When the nearly-autobiographical persona in one of Eminem's songs not only sings about slitting his girlfriend's throat, but screams "Bleed, bitch, bleed!" as he stuffs her body in the trunk of his car, then I must ask, how can the culture descend any lower?

The Polish in me, that part of my genetic composition which somehow recalls the invasions and subjugations that Poland has experienced in the course of her millennia, tells me that deeper tragedy is possible. Think of it: what do anti-lifers have in mind when they write the novels that they do? Why can some anti-life authors like Margaret Atwood or Sue Robinson speak so freely about being violent against right-to-lifers? What subconscious desires lay in their novels? I mean, does an anti-life author write about vicious actions against pro-lifers hoping that people would become so angry at us that they would kill us all? Why would an apparently famous ethicist like Peter Singer argue that an animal is more valuable than a human being? Has the life of such an ethicist been so deprived of love? Why would writers like Richard Lamm liken the elderly to useless eaters as Hitler did to other targets of his genocide? If the government of the United States were once again in anti-life control, what better way to protect national security against us domestic terrorists who are fetus, defective neonate, and useless eater lovers than to make sure we're protected -- for our own good, of course -- within the walls of resettlement centers? That threat alone should be sufficient warning that we are still not safe. If the nightmare that we lived through in the 1990s taught us anything, it is that, now that we are awake, we must be ever vigilant, like the wise virgins, and not fall again into the sleep of anti-life death like the foolish ones.

The second literary prophet is, of course, Walker Percy. One has only to read The Thanatos Syndrome to know that Father Smith's epideictic at the novel's conclusion is a literary warning for us as we fight euthanasia. Chastizing his audience's false sense of tenderness, Father Smith argues, "'My brothers, let me tell you where tenderness leads.... To the gas chambers. On with the jets!" (361)

Depressed by this vision of a future hell on earth? Wondering how to break out of the prison house of such a dire prophecy? You're ready for... ...the second word: pray for...heartburn -- not the kind that one gets from overeating, but divine heartburn, the sense of the divine which makes our hearts burn with passion for the good. In short, pray for Emmaus.

I want to retire. I want to sit in Victoria Park in Niagara Falls -- oh, sorry; I already said that. If I did think for a moment that my life is done, that I could retire, that I could just sit back at a fancy banquet and say, "I've done all I could. I've written all I could. I've taught all I could. Now, don't bother me because I'm retired. I'm sitting in Victoria Park in Niagara Falls...", if I did think that I could say this, then I believe that Emmaus would jolt me into a reality which has in its future either a vision of glory or a vision of hell on earth.

If I am injudicious in citing Christian scripture before this nonsectarian group, then please do two things: forgive my ignorance and furnish me with a comparable example in Islam or Judaism or Wicca where I could find a narrative of equal power. Scripture records simply that there were "two of them" who were on their way to Emmaus. Please note the importance of community, even if the membership -- ah, sorry; my mistake -- even if the number of people in the community equals a mere two. Please also note the direction of their movement; they were on their way out of Jerusalem. They could not understand the amazing things that had happened there. Jesus appeared to them, but "they were restrained from recognizing him". The "two of them" were apparently fascinated by the discourse, the teaching, the correction, the professorial dialogue of the stranger walking with them (and I think it would be safe to presume that it could not have been any of the pablum that passes for knowledge in some of our universities). The "two of them" encourage the stranger to stay with them, and they sit down and eat (we Italians love this part -- mangiamo!).

Then, epiphany! "When he had seated himself with them to eat, he took bread, pronounced the blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him; whereupon he vanished from their sight". We know the end of the narrative ("they got up immediately and returned to Jerusalem"), but I want to focus on the action immediately before this conclusion to the narrative. "They said to one another, 'Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?'"

Granted, if this were a logical argument course, the backing (in the sense of the word that the Toulmin model uses it) would be inappropriate, but, remember, you are as much a captive audience as my students in the women's prison were. What a command the narrative event of Emmaus is for us! Since I cannot read what the future will be for us, I leave you a series of questions; remember, too, that you are to think of yourself when hearing the first-person pronouns. For the service of the pro-life movement, am I like Jeremiah, who grew weary holding the message in and had to speak even though he thought he was not worthy? Am I like "the two of them" who could not contain within themselves what they had seen and heard before going to the apostles in Jerusalem? Can I affirm in the same language as "the two of them" that I show my passion for right-to-life in the classroom, in my writing, in my speaking, in my donating to political action committees? Would my students say that my teaching, my enthusiasm for the movement, my writing, my speaking, my life has such an effect on them that their only possible reply would match the language of "the two of them"? If I answer no to any portion of these questions, I ask a final question: what can we do to help each other so that we can exclaim at the end of our lives, "yes, Lord, were not our hearts burning inside us for love of the right-to-life movement?"