Cultural Revolutions

What We Are

Susan Smith, confessed murderess of her own children, tells us a great deal about what is going on in a society where too many children growing up in broken homes are exposed to violence and even murder.

What kind of mother would kill her own children? According to the press, the case of Susan Smith is horrible but "not unusual." Obviously, such murders are statistically very unusual, and they are usually committed by women who are mentally defective and morally degraded. Nonetheless, the press continues to describe Mrs. Smith as "one of us," a woman subject to a temptation we all face.

Because Smith laid down the red herring of a black abductor in order to mislead the police, a ruse that was exposed m a few days but which gave the press the opportunity to concentrate on the issue of racism, the Smith murders have been compared with the O.J. Simpson trial, but the really relevant parallel is Paul J. Hill, the Florida pro-life activist who shot and killed an abortionist and his bodyguard and wounded the bodyguard's wife. Forbidden to pursue a defense of justifiable homicide, Hill has been convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Both the Smith and Hill cases have aroused public anger, but the obvious connection has escaped the pundits' attention. Hill dramatized through illegal violence his outrage at a greater violence: the routinization of baby-killing, instituted by doctors who...

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