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The Joyful, Charitable, Invisible March for Life

Recently my wife and our two teenage sons made the trek to the frozen swamp known as Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life, which meant, among other things, that for the better part of last week, I got to play Mr. Mom to the youngest three Greene kids.

I am happy to report that all of the children entrusted to my care survived. In fact, while Mom and the big boys were gone we actually managed to be fairly productive, in a dad-is-temporarily-running-the-show kind of way.

First, we discovered a really fun park in our area, which we had never been to before, one that features a play structure of such impressive height and size that it’s a wonder it got built. As an aside, I have noticed that, at least in our neck of the woods, there are a number of newer parks which boast playground and climbing structures that - by virtue of their size and creative geometries - are a genuine challenge to conquer.

In an era of encasing children in more safety equipment for their recreational activities than the astronauts had for the moon landing, it continues to surprise me that these play structures are getting approved and built, but I’m glad that they are. It allows kids the opportunity to push their limits a bit, and try something mildly dangerous – although, if they fall, the playgrounders of today land on a super-spongy rubber playground surface, instead of the parking-lot grade asphalt on which the playgrounds of my youth were situated.

In addition to discovering this delightful new park, we also managed to invent a new mythical creature – the Hookabee – based on the lyrics of a Vacation Bible School song (true story!). We determined that a Hookabee was something of a big, loud ape-like creature that pops out at you unexpectedly, and then chases you around the house trying to carry you off (you’ll never guess who got to play the role of the Hookabee).

The kids each came up with some artistic renderings of what this newly minted cryptid might look like, and I must say they were pretty great. What’s more, our ten-year-old son is strongly considering having a Hookabee appear as a character in his almost world-famous comic strip, Ambrose the Rooster. Stay tuned for further developments.

But back to Becky and the boys. While we were playing board games, dodging Hookabees, or clambering up towering play structures in the warm Arizona sun, they were braving the winter wilds of our nation’s capital in support of the cause of the unborn.

For those of you who have never been, the annual March for Life is the largest and longest running annual human rights rally in the world! It was launched by Catholic pro-life pioneer Nellie Gray in 1974, on the first anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, and has been held every year since. It routinely draws upward of 100,000 pro-lifers from every corner of the country, and even some international guests, as well. There have been years where the estimated attendance has been as high as 500,000. That was the estimated attendance the year I went.

I had the opportunity to attend back when I was a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville in the early 90s. It was a tremendous experience. What I remember most, besides the huge encouragement I took in the fact that there were so many pro-lifers willing to travel, gather, and march in support of the unborn, was the truly joyful, charitable character of the pro-life marchers, and the stark contrast between the pro-life attendees and the various pro-choice groups that dotted the route to shout profanities and slander at us.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure if you looked you could have found the occasional nasty pro-life supporter at the event, but my experience of my fellow life-defenders was 100% positive. The entire March everyone was praying, singing, laughing and enjoying one another’s company. You would have thought it was some kind of massive celebration, which, of course, it was: a celebration of the gift of life, of the dignity of all human persons, of the love and mercy of God for the women who have chosen abortion, and of the gift of seeing and knowing the truth that, as Horton the Elephant said of the Whos, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

My March for Life experience was also one of my first real-time encounters with the reality of the blatant media bias in our country.

In spite of having half-a-million people show up and take to the streets of DC, marching peacefully for a cause, the March for Life was virtually invisible in the media. Outside of the niche religious or politically conservative media outlets that reported on the event, you would have to do some serious searching to find any mention of it whatsoever. For most of the major media outlets, if they gave it any coverage at all, their coverage was both buried on the back pages, and featured a severely stinted narrative – referring to the peaceful pro-life marchers as “anti-abortion activists” and downplaying the numbers in almost comical fashion. Up to that point I hadn’t realized just how ideologically driven the media in the US had become.

So, almost thirty years later I was eager to hear how it went for my wife and teenage sons. As it turns out, the March for Life is still just as wonderful, still just as vibrant - even two years after the end of Roe vs. Wade - and still just as invisible to the mainstream media.

While my March for Life experience consisted of just the day of the march, itself, and a couple quick stops at the nearby monuments, Becky and the boys took three days to get the full March for Life experience, and returned to Arizona inspired by what they encountered there.

Our crew attended the pro-life Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, then the pre-march rally, the march, itself, and the all-day pro-life summit the day after the March. They also managed to rendezvous with friends and other local AZ Catholic pro-life groups, as well.

One of the highlights for all three of them was the Holocaust Museum. What stuck with them especially was the obvious connection between the holocaust the Nazis perpetrated against the Jews (and Catholics), and the holocaust of abortion in our time. They saw up close and personal how closely Hitler’s holocaust enabling propaganda - that Jews were a subclass of humanity not worthy of human rights - is echoed in the propaganda used by the pro-choice movement and its supporters to prop up legalized abortion in the United States. Having shared that sobering experience, they marched with the confidence that, someday, history will look back on this era of the legalized killing of the innocent unborn with the same shock and shame with which we view the Nazi’s “final solution.”

In addition to what the Greene delegation learned on the trip, they came back with stories of belting out Latin hymns with their buddies and praying all 20 mysteries of the rosary as they marched, shouting out an impromptu litany of saints with students from two Catholic universities, running into Abby Johnson and Mayra Rodriguez at the airport, and even getting interviewed by CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network).

A blessed good time was had by all, even my SoCal native wife - for whom any temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit counts as “way too cold” – who bravely soldiered on through the freezing cold and snow.

In the end, they made memories with their friends and their family, they made an impression on their fellow marchers, and they made a difference by being part of this joyful, charitable, all-but-invisible movement to carry on the good fight for the value, dignity, and human rights of the unborn.

I have no doubt they will do it again next year, hopefully with even more Arizona Catholics joining them (hint, hint).

That is, of course, if the Hookabees don’t get them first.

God bless,

Steve