The ongoing celebration of Barack Obama's existence on earth has spawned another near miracle.
The new president has brought together two formerly intractable and unrelenting foes: the pro-Lifers and pro-Choicers. (It still takes me a second to remember which group is which when I read those more PR- and crowd-friendly labels for people who oppose abortion vs. those who support it as an option. But I'll stick with the program so I'm not accused of nuance neglect.)
And it happened right here in San Francisco over the weekend.
Staying safely out of the crowd count debate, the Chronicle's Bob Egelko reported that "thousands of opponents of abortion" marched here Saturday in the annual Roe v. Wade anniversary Walk for Life, along with a "smaller" group -- "a few hundred," the story says -- of counter demonstrators.
Despite a preemptive strike by Chronicle columnist Chuck Nevius, who urged San Franciscans, presumably pro-choice to a person, to ignore the marchers, there was the usual placard clash and a few other relatively mild exchanges between the two groups along the City's waterfront demonstration route. But the Walk For Life folks had a new approach to add to the standard gruesome photos of bloody fetuses, part of a shock campaign tactic dating back to Roe v. Wade.
Right there, toward the front of the march, was a woman with a dramatically rendered sign that said: "This child's future is a broken home. His single mother will struggle to raise him. Despite the odds...He will become president of the United States."
Then at the bottom: "Life...Imagine the potential."
And there you have it.
Yes, I get that the poster is a tactic, making the same point pro-lifers have always made that abortions might be x-ing out future great people. But Mr. Obama is portrayed as one of those great people. This despite the fact that the president made these marchers and like-minded people furious last Friday when he repealed an existing ban on US funding for foreign family planning groups offering abortion services.
Still, there was pro-lifer Carol Jinista of South Sacramento, a cancer patient in a wheelchair who the Chronicle story quoted as saying this would be her last march because her illness was terminal, carrying a sign that said, "Obama's Mama Chose Life for the Prez." And Ms. Jinista went beyond the printed rhetoric. The last election, she said, was "a historic moment."
She was joined in that view by counter demonstrator Patricia Jameson, who said in the same story that she had been pro-life until she was raped and had an abortion. "Many of the anti-abortion marchers probably voted for Obama and oppose war," she said. "It's important that we figure out how to get together."
On the Barack Obama existential thing, it seems like maybe some people already have.
A cheer all around for reasonable coexistence, unlike some of last year's more provocative march exchanges, in the Obama era.
Still the country remains ever split, according to the latest Gallup poll from May of last year -- 50 percent of Americans sampled were pro-choice and 44 percent were pro-life. Of course there are debates even on the stats, with a poll sponsored by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops stating that 82 percent of US adults think abortion should be illegal or have "limited legality," says the Conference's Deidre McQuade.
Though let's consider Gallup, which may have a less, uh, acute perspective than the Bishops and assume the 50-44 split is fairly accurate. That's at least one reason why Mayor Gavin Newsom wasn't joining this year's pro-choice counter demonstrators, as he's done in the past. He's running for governor in a state with enough of that 44 percent in areas outside the Bay Area to populate the much larger pro-life march this weekend.
Of course Mr. Newsom may have been elsewhere anyway, like Davos or Gstaad or wherever the more fortunate accumulate.
But once again, after the recent tepid Newsweek story about him compared with the countless exultant covers on Barack Obama, the Mayor is left only to sigh and wonder how the President does that magic that he does.
To see what you may have missed, SFist has an excellent gallery of the event, and for more great photos, with a small lack of balance in the otherwise pretty funny captions, check out SFCitizen. "Is this a sisterhood forged under adverse conditions in scary, dangerous San Francisco, the modern-day Gomorrah?" they write below one shot of a line of young women leading the march. "It's possible the ride up from Bakersfield in a decrepit 15-passenger church van with a too-short wheelbase presented a greater danger.."