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Why Barbara Boxer Doesn’t Deserve Niceness

Two years ago I blogged about how I don’t value “being nice” very much. Like any other behavior, it has a time and a place, but it’s neither good nor bad in and of itself.

Elevating niceness can be the cause of great harm. So often we don’t want to hear “negative” things or “unpleasant” things — and by closing ourselves to those things, we allow them to perpetuate. We sometimes enable bad and evil things in the name of “being nice.”

A number of years ago, when a bill banning partial birth abortion was up for vote and big news, a close friend and I were discussing the issue. She didn’t know what it was, so I told her about the procedure. She got mad at me. She couldn’t believe I would describe such horrible things out loud. It made her uncomfortable and squeamish and upset. And it was terrible that I had made her feel that way.

Here’s partial birth abortion in a nutshell: the live baby is about 80 percent delivered, feet first, until a portion of the skull is exposed. Then the skull is punctured and collapsed as its contents are sucked out.

I agree with my friend. Partial birth abortion is gruesome and troubling. But it’s far more troubling to me to let it happen to real live babies than to hear about it. But in the name of something akin to “looking on the bright side,” some are willing to ignore heinous acts done to real, helpless babies so they don’t have to be upset by hearing about it.

Because we don’t want to be grossed out or think about icky things, we sometimes acquiesse to the likes of Barbara Boxer, likely one of the most evil — not to mention illogical — legislators ever elected in our country.

[For the record, below is the quote at 7:00 over which Boxer claims Parliamentary Inquiry at 8:21 to declare that she did not substantively make the statement.

Santorum: What you’re suggesting then is that if the baby’s toe is inside the mother, you can, you can in fact kill that baby.

Boxer: Absolutely not.]

Of course there is a time and a place for being nice. Sometimes it’s genuine, sometimes it’s not.

I’m very, very polite to wait staff, service workers, medical personnel, etc. That’s genuine. I’ve been there and know they are often mistreated and looked down upon. I value what they do very much and try to be respectful and polite when dealing with them.

When I get good service somewhere, I almost always find a manager to “tattle” on the employee. The surprise which with this is met indicates to me that compliments are few  and far between. If we’ll speak up about bad service, we should probably make the effort to compliment good service.

I’m very polite to strangers or passersby. I genuinely value the idea of spreading goodwill whenever possible.

I’m very polite to people who do a kind deed. It’s completely heartfelt but, come on, it’s easy to be nice to people who are nice to you.

On the other hand, I’m sometimes nice for expediency.

We homeschool and I have very little patience for the idiocy and that goes on in schools — not to mention blatantly malicious behavior. One of my daughters takes a few classes at a local school that employs a teacher who is a little tyrant. He is a poor example to students (cursing to appear cool, etc.) and uses his position of power to elevate some kids and beat up on others. (He’s a dweebish sort of guy, who was likely picked on in school, and this power play seems his way to make things right.) But I have no power there. I have confronted the man a couple of times, but doing so invariably hurts my daughter in the end. He has shown that he will not be reasonable and fair minded — not to mention he doesn’t have even a modest grasp of math principles (he’s not a math teacher, but one of our disagreements was over a very simple statistic that he couldn’t wrap his head around) — and that he will target kids of parents who question his authority. We have found it better just to avoid him as much as possible and live with his attacks than try to make things right.

There are other times when I might not feel nice about something, but responding negatively simply isn’t appropriate. Maybe it’s the time, maybe it’s the place, maybe it’s just none of my business. So I’m nice in spite of my feelings. It may not be genuine, but it’s still the right course. Acting on our feelings isn’t some kind of moral mandate.

Being nice isn’t a moral mandate either. There are many times — hopefully most times in our days — where niceness makes the world a better place, genuine or feigned. But there are times when standing up firmly and forcefully in the face of evil and harm is the better choice.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Oregonian February 22, 2011, 2:49 pm

    you are finally back. i’m so glad. been a long winter with out mm.

    i like the thoughts here. standing up for yourself isn’t usually seen as nice, and it shouldn’t always be nice.

    lots of kids get beat up because parents and teachers are so busy being “nice.”

  • Aaron February 22, 2011, 3:53 pm

    You say Barbara Boxer is evil and illogical but you offer no evidence to back up your claim other than a snippet of back-and-forth discussion between her and former senator Rick Santorum, a pro-life advocate, who was obviously trying to trap her into saying something she did not want to say. Why is this an issue? Wasn’t partial-birth abortion banned in 2003? If you want to argue partial-birth abortion, do it. Was it done for fun, for convenience or for some kind of medical necessity? Were you opposed to it under any and all circumstances? If you are against abortion, which I assume you are, please explain to us how LDS mothers would be able to follow the dictates of their conscience within the guidelines of the church which permits abortion under certain circumstances that are well known to us. Those who are anti-abortion in this country would offer us no leeway whatsoever. They are opposed to abortion under any circumstances, which means no LDS mother could have an abortion under any circumstances regardless of what the church has to say on the subject. You need to be a little more forthcoming here and a little less snarky.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 22, 2011, 5:03 pm

    Aaron, thanks for stopping by. I suggest that Boxer’s public record is more than ample evidence for both points, but for the context of this post, this nearly 11-minute “snippet” more than demonstrates the point on both counts.

    You’ll note that the post isn’t arguing partial-birth abortion. (Hint: read entire post.) It’s about the idea that being nice is a good thing. Being “nice” to someone who is perpetuating evil, isn’t good. Boxer is a prime example. Notice how you characterize Santorum. He is “trapping her”—by asking her to clarify when she thinks it’s OK to stab a baby in the skull. (And let’s note that she does think it’s OK.) The big old meanie!

    Being “nice” to someone who supports collapsing skulls of babies while holding them in the birth canal—instead of holding them to explain their positions—isn’t a good thing and perpetuates the evil.

    To be clear, I’m not a “never, ever abortion” person. I’ve been incredibly forthcoming about that, as I’ve been posting here for over eight years with numerous such discussions, but nice assumption on your part. That aside, partial-birth abortion is beyond the pale. It’s appalling. It’s abhorrent. And those who support and perpetuate it are evil.

    So, I’m snarky. Yea, I know. But at least I don’t stab babies in the skull and suck their brains into the sink. But, whatever. I can see why you’d be angry at me and not Boxer and her ilk. It’s terrible that I’m not nicer about the whole thing.

  • ParisHilton February 22, 2011, 5:18 pm

    My first time posting here. 😀

    I don’t know why Aaron got so hooked up on abortion. No one can defend partial birth abortion. It’s so obviously evil. So let’s move on. How do you respond to evil stuff? That’s the question.

  • MonMon February 22, 2011, 6:02 pm

    I didn’t think about this before because I think we are taught to be nice. But it’s can’t always be good. When I was a kid, my dad was pretty cruel, but people in the neighborhood didn’t want to seem like they were “meddling.”

    So while they sat back and looked the other way, I took it in the shorts. Until I moved out on my 18th birthday.

  • DavidH February 22, 2011, 7:46 pm

    3 Nephi 11:29-30

  • Alison Moore Smith February 22, 2011, 8:57 pm

    David, I’m pretty sure lack of contention doesn’t require one to be nice. Even so, if someone drops by your house to stab your kids in the skull, you won’t “contend” with them, based on that scripture? Instead you’ll invite them in for tea and crumpets and then call the kids down to the den? Let me know how that works out.

    See, I have this radical idea that when people are promoting sucking baby’s brains out, that it’s OK to stand up and say it’s evil.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 22, 2011, 9:11 pm

    We all know that Captain Moroni and his happy band passed out daisies and Coca Cola.

    Oh, wait, he tore off his shirt, made the Title of Liberty, rounded up the kings’ men, and had 4,000 killed.

    But I’m pretty sure he’s of the devil, too.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Help to SleepMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith February 22, 2011, 9:16 pm

    David, since I know you and think well of you (in spite of your liberal tilt), I have to sincerely ask why you would imply that allowing partially delivered babies to have their skulls punctured and their brains vacuumed out should be tolerated — and agreeable pleasantries extended to the promoters of such vile behavior — based on that scripture?

  • MonMon February 24, 2011, 12:29 pm

    I just read the response from DavidH. I’d be willing to bet my house that he’s a liberal. This is such a typical, liberal, knee-jerk response and it makes absolutely no sense at all.

    I’m sorry if I’m not being nice (haha but I guess Allison won’t be upset about that) but it makes me so angry when people try to use scripture to justify such evil things.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 24, 2011, 1:59 pm

    MonMon, let’s just say your house is safe. 😉

  • MoFemMom February 27, 2011, 9:45 am

    “No one can defend partial birth abortion?” Really? I will. Because I’ve actually taked with some of the providers about it. It happens extremely rarely and is never – NEVER – performed on a healthy fetus. It is a method only considered when the fetus is severely malformed and will not survive, or is already dead. Have a little more faith in your fellow women.
    Also, Barbara Boxer rocks. Evil? No.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 27, 2011, 2:18 pm

    MoFemMom, an anonymous comment isn’t exactly the defense I was talking about, but I’ll be happy to address your points:

    • Abortion providers who make money from sucking out baby brains have a conflict of interest in the discussion.
    • Claiming that something happens “extremely rarely” (by any definition) isn’t a defense of the behavior. I bet you’ve never — NEVER — had your eyes plucked out with tweezers. So I guess you’re OK with me doing that tomorrow?
    • If the baby “is severely malformed and will not survive, or is already dead,” why do we need to pierce it’s skull and suck it’s brains into a sink? Why not just let the head come out and see what happens?
    • According to Ron Fitzsimmons (the executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers (hint: not some radical anti-woman group that thinks babies are people, too)) estimated that partial birth abortion was used 3,000 to 5,000 times annually.  “In the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along.” I realize in your world 3,000–5,000 is “extremely rare,” but I’m guessing the babies wish the number were a tad lower.
    • Show more faith in women who advocate poking holes in their baby’s heads and suck the innards out? Um, no. “Trust, but verified.” But, hey, I suppose we should have had more faith in fellow Nazis when they marched people off to the gas chamber, too. Golly, so untrusting of us!

    In your world one of the foremost proponents of brutalizing babies “rocks.” Lovely. Really.

  • Kerry February 27, 2011, 10:02 pm

    Allison, I just want to say that I notice that none of the other authors here have said anything at all. That probably makes me feel worse than anything. Just like you said, people don’t want to talk about things that aren’t nice, so they just ignore probably the most evil things in our whole society and so they continue to happen.

  • serry February 28, 2011, 7:14 am

    I hope the “mo” in “MoFemMom” isn’t for “Mormon.” Geesh.

    So she’s going to defend partially delivering a baby, keeping it’s head inside, and brutally killing it . . . because she’s talked to people who do it?

    I’m sure if she talked to serial killers, she’d realize they are just nice people that only murder extremely rarely, too.

    It’s bad enough that our culture isn’t in an uproar over something so evil, but when Mormon women (I’m assuming here – I really hope the assumption is wrong) will speak up in defense of this I have no hope for the future.

  • pandora February 28, 2011, 11:10 am


  • Janiel Miller February 28, 2011, 12:58 pm

    Oh, I don’t think the other authors not commenting on this story is necessarily a sign that they don’t want to discuss things that aren’t nice. Busyness, more likely–same reason there hasn’t been a lot of writing going on here either.

    That said, I was a bit confused as to the ultimate point of the post. Is it a a post on whether there are times when it’s okay not to be nice, a statement against partial-birth abortion , or a commentary on whether or not people like to talk about ugly things? Or all three?

    For me it’s pretty easy (and these are simply my views. No one has to agree):
    a) I can’t imagine any health situation wherein a mother’s life would be saved by completely delivering her baby, save the last inch, then killing it. Don’t think that helps her.
    b) I disagree with killing babies–which is what abortion is in my view; calling the baby a “fetus” doesn’t change that for me–due to their illness or imperfect formation. The Romans did that. Surely we’ve advanced beyond ancient Rome. How callous to kill a baby because it isn’t perfect.
    b part 2) If the baby is dead, it’s a moot point.
    c) I don’t know Barbara Boxer personally. Ergo, I can’t comment on her relative evilness of heart. But I certainly don’t like a lot of what she stands for or says.
    d) Are there situations where it’s okay to not be nice? For me, it depends on what you mean by not being nice. Disagreeing vocally? Yeah, there’s definitely a time and place for that. If our forefathers hadn’t disagreed vocally we wouldn’t be here. Attacking–ad hominem or otherwise–and generally getting in someone’s face? No, I don’t think there are any circumstances that justify that. And I am not naive. Returning in kind means lowering yourself to someone else’s bad behavior. I don’t like to give my spirit over to anger. Done it. Never benefitted from it. Never solved anything by it. It’s not what God models for us, and I no longer believe it’s okay. If I can manage to hear it, the Spirit can answer evil far better than I can. And it can tell me how to do it. But I can’t be angry and expect to hear the Spirit.
    e) Do people not like to talk about ugly things? Well, yeah. They’re ugly. Life is hard enough. We don’t like to let more ugly in than we have to. That’s pretty human. It’s also sometimes blind and not healthy, but I try not to judge anyone for it. I lived in Germany, and saw so many death camps that I’ve GOT it. It’s memorized. In my soul. I don’t need to see Schindler’s List or anything else like it to want to make sure the world doesn’t go that way again. Are there some people who might see my reaction and think me shallow or childish? Probably. But they don’t know me, nor do they know the reason for my reaction. And that’s okay with me.

    In short, is there evil in the world? Yep. Should people talk about it? Yep–with the Spirit. Is there a place for not being nice? For me, only if that place also involves the Spirit. If I get mad, others just get mad and I’ve never seen good come out of it. Is partial birth abortion defensible? Never heard an argument that made me feel it is necessary and isn’t obscene.

    Ultimately, I try not to judge, and try to have the Spirit–especially in situations that matter, like our freedoms, beliefs, my personal rights, my children and family. Can I fight for right without being angry? Yes I can.

    I may have just repeated what Alison was saying. If so, then there you have it in another person’s words. If not, there you have it in another person’s words.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 28, 2011, 2:22 pm

    Janiel, thanks for your insights. Sorry that my post wasn’t more clear. Here is the point, in a nutshell (from the second paragraph):

    Elevating niceness can be the cause of great harm. So often we don’t want to hear “negative” things or “unpleasant” things — and by closing ourselves to those things, we allow them to perpetuate. We sometimes enable bad and evil things in the name of “being nice.”

    The rest was just discussion of that idea.

    Being “nice” means allowing really evil things to happen because we don’t want to be “negative” or hear icky stuff or say anything “bad” about anyone or anything.
    We might be nice out of genuine concern or expediency, but it still has it’s place.
    Nice is neither good nor bad itself, but is depending on how it the outcome.

    A bit of response to your points:

    (a) Spot on.

    (b) Not only do I see no ethical justification for killing imperfect babies, but no medical ones, either.

    (c) If we can label behavior kind, we can also label if unkind. If not, then the former isn’t logical. If an act is evil, then knowingly condoning the act is evil. We may differ on how we rank evil, but in my mind there are few things more evil than intentionally murdering the most innocent in our society for convenience.

    (d) If disagreeing vocally is as “unnice” as we get, Captain Moroni is in a heap of trouble. 🙂

    Dealing with a situation without being “nice” doesn’t equate to being angry, out of control, or even “returning in kind.” Maybe that’s the misunderstanding? Being nice is being: pleasant, agreeable, amusing, delightful. None of which seem appropriate responses for baby killing. Or child molestation. Or a heap of other things.

    As I said, I’m generally pretty happy and pleasant and respectful (in real life, at least). But smiling and nodding when really bad stuff happens — or plugging our ears and screaming “la la la la” seems an unrighteous response to me.

  • Janiel Miller February 28, 2011, 4:54 pm

    Nicely clarified. Sounds like I just misunderstood how you meant “nice.” And I probably misunderstood it because “being nice” seems like the wrong phrase for choosing not to stand up against evil.

    I suppose I hadn’t thought of being careful, non-offending, and “nice” as stepping stones to allowing bad things to happen. Probably because my goal is to be nice, or non-offensive AS I stand up for whatever is right. I don’t consider niceness something that would inhibit doing what is right, because that’s not what it does for me. And I guess, though I said above that I am not, I AM naive. I assumed people wouldn’t let being nice get in the way of stopping evil. Ergo, I thought this was a discussion of whether or not it’s right to be not-nice (rude, angry, unkind) in any circumstance.

    Yep. It’s a scary thing, watching my brain at work. 🙂

    PS – I doubt we rank evil very differently. Experience has taught me not to judge the perpetrator, however, since I don’t know their heart or what leads them to do what they do. I can, however, rank or evaluate a deed. And there’s some mind blowing stuff going on in the world.

    Also, I have no problem disagreeing vocally. I do it all the time. My main point was that when I’ve done it without the Spirit I can count on difficulty ensuing, to one degree or another. But then, since I seem to have misunderstood your point, this is moot.

    As for Captain Moroni – dude pretty much rocked. And I think he disagreed vocally AND actively while following the Spirit. Even when he spoke forcefully in his letter to Pahoran, he never went on a personal attack. He just said he would go all Title of Liberty and whomp on the Chief Judge if he was committing treason. I am down with that.

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