The other day, Andrew Cuomo reminded me how much I miss people-watching.
Early on in this quarantine season, you would see people referencing this as an “introvert’s paradise.” First of all, don’t make assumptions; your favorite introvert may benefit from a check-in. This introvert unexpectedly misses crowds — one of the last things I would have ever thought I had a fondness for.
But think for a moment about what a day in New York City looks like. A midday walk from Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to National Review’s offices, only a few blocks away, brings encounters with all kinds of humanity. There are people carrying bags from stores many of us wouldn’t even bother walking into, knowing there’s nothing we could afford. There are people rushing. There are counterterrorism police patrolling, including in the church. There are tourists stopping in the middle of the street to take selfies. There is Tabby, who always claims that squashed gluten-free fig bars are her favorite, when that’s all I have to offer from my purse. There are men delivering catering and coffee.
Whenever you make eye contact, it’s hard not to realize this is a person with a biography, with concerns and dreams and sacrifices and joy and pain. Sometimes you can tell the pain is outweighing the joy. Other times, their joy might be contagious, even just passing by. Of course, most people are somewhere else, with headphones on or behind screens.
Pope Francis has talked about the epidemic of anesthetization. We find something to numb us because otherwise, we don’t know how to handle the drama of life. This is why one of the chief mistakes of this time is not considering religion “essential.” I’m not saying we should rush to have St. Pat’s at full capacity, but let’s at least make a statement about who we are — people whose lives are gifts, creations of a Creator.
Maybe inadvertently, the governor of New York stumbled on all of this during a recent press conference about the slow reopening of things. He asked rhetorically, “How much is a human life worth? ... That is the real discussion that no one is admitting, openly or freely. ... I say the cost of a human life, a human life is priceless. Period.”
Although we have stopped so much of our regular activity to protect vulnerable human life, what about the inconsistencies? We are learning about some grave mistakes involving nursing homes. And what about the abortion clinics that remain open? What about the fact that only last year, Cuomo expanded legal abortion in New York? Just last spring, he talked about his support for legalizing assisted suicide in the state, and New York recently legalized paid surrogacy there. While we all wish Anderson Cooper well — a new father by surrogacy — there was a coalition of pro-lifers and liberal feminists who opposed this move in the Empire State, pointing to the exploitation of women that surrogacy can make mainstream.
The Sisters of Life have their home base in New York, and their existence is about giving people confidence that their lives are priceless. You and I can’t convey that pricelessness to everyone in the world, but we can try in our everyday encounters.
During these quarantine times, the Sisters of Life continue to be approached by pregnant women who feel like they don’t have a choice — that the pressures in their lives are too great to go through with their pregnancies. This is not health care or freedom they are experiencing; it is a miserable culture of death.
Let’s start connecting some dots here, openly and freely. Thank you, Gov. Cuomo, for getting the discussion going. New York has been dubbed the “abortion capital of the world.” Let’s make a change for life. Let’s give your words meaning and transformative power.