Several items in the news last week caught my attention: flags, particularly of the Confederate (or even marginally Confederate) variety continue to cause angst across the country; children as young as 15 may seek gender reassignment surgery in Oregon (which will pay for it) without parental permission; Planned Parenthood, it seems, has been selling (or perhaps simply supplying) body parts from aborted babies to biotech companies for research and whatever else biotech companies do with body parts.
I’ve been writing reflections for a long time now. It is only recently that I realized a mistake I made in reflection writing at the very beginning – they are saved by date, not by topic. Lately I have saved them by topic, and that will allow me to search more efficiently in the future, hopefully to prevent me from repeating myself, but that will come later. For now, I just have to say that what I am about to reflect upon, I may well have reflected upon before, so don’t stop me if you’ve heard this before.
What these three issues – flags, fifteen-year-olds, and fetuses – share is the strategy that I have come to call WAKS. Now I am the first to admit that I did not listen to every presentation about these three issues, but the interviews I heard and the reports I read defending flag abolition, radical surgery, and body parts sales were all deeply rooted in WAKS.
WAKS is the acronym formed from the general assumption that We All Know Someone. We all know someone who has been victimized by racial prejudice and, therefore, the flag must go. We all know someone who has struggled with sexuality issues and, therefore, teenagers should be allowed to choose. We all know someone who needs a life saving medical procedure and, therefore, it makes sense to recycle body parts that would otherwise be wasted.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not minimizing the seriousness of any of these issues, but if the best defense that can be mounted for them is WAKS, then we can – and most likely will – make procedural errors of epic proportions. We run the risk of re-writing history for the wrong reason. We run the risk of allowing young people to subject themselves to life-altering, irreversible mutilation by opting for a permanent solution to what might, in fact, be a temporary problem. We run the risk of further devaluing human life if we cheer the by-products of abortion and fail to grieve for the donor.
You see, WAKS is emotional reasoning, and for the record, it crosses political lines. It asks us to make generalities based on a specific. It wants us to look beyond the ethical, the moral, the Godly, the eternal, and even the practical implications of an action. It wants us to move ahead, evidence to the contrary be damned.
At the end of the day, WAKS is anecdotal, and the plural of anecdote is not data.