Last week the Human Life Foundation (publisher of the Human Life Review) held its annual Great Defender of Life Dinner. As always, it was a scintillating event, with the bright lights of the national pro-life movement circulating around the room, talking with anyone and everyone.
This year, it was an especially magical evening. Magical because if you forgot about current events, and focused only on the two honorees, you could pretend you were in a world where the democratic process worked, and popular culture was not poisonous.
The two honorees were Rubén Díaz, Sr. and Micheal Flaherty (no, I didn’t spell Flaherty’s first name wrong, and yes, his mother is from Ireland).
Politics is downstream of culture, and Flaherty is a creative hero because of his significant contribution to improving popular culture, particularly for youth, through movies and children’s fiction, achieved through skillful professionalism and business acumen.
Walden Pond Press, a co-venture of HarperCollins and Walden Media—the production company Flaherty co-founded, in 2001—aims its ten or so books per year at readers aged 8-12. Walden Media has made 34 movies with no R ratings. Most of them have been successful, some amazingly so. Almost all of them are about overcoming problems in a positive way. Think: Amazing Grace, The Chronicles of Narnia, Charlotte’s Web, or, most recently, The Giver.
Flaherty’s films don’t preach. He makes movies that entertain, provoke thought, and show the rewards of knowledge and virtue. Time was, children’s literature did that—but when Walt Disney bowdlerized a children’s classic about compassion and trusting God, turning it into a movie glorifying the rewards of disobedience against authority (Pollyanna), he led the way to separating “fun” from the teaching of “virtue” in kid culture.
Flaherty, on the other hand, as the Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn remarked in his introduction, “is a man who has literally transformed the injunction to love our neighbors as ourselves into art.”
Rubén Díaz, Sr. is a political hero: a man who acts on principle—which makes him rare today. The fact that he is pro-life and a Democrat also makes him an endangered species (fortunately, he’s a good politician, so he wins re-election handily enough).
Díaz has represented the 32nd District (South Bronx) in the New York State Senate since 2002.
On his Senate homepage, press releases are in Spanish as well as English. That reflects both the man and his district: He was born in Puerto Rico, and is an ordained minister. He pastors at Christian Community Neighborhood Church.
Thus far, he could be any Democrat in a heavily Latino district.
Senator Reverend Díaz is a key opponent of abortion expansion in New York State. Thanks to his courage in helping to build a rare bipartisan pro-life coalition with Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos, New York has not yet declared total Open Season on the unborn.
Since 2008, Democrats in Albany have tried unsuccessfully to pass a Reproductive Health Care Act that would decriminalize late-term abortions. Díaz says it would “open the door for legalized partial birth abortion in New York State.”
But it gets worse: This proposal would do what no other state has done: It would authorize non-doctors—such as midwives, pharmacists, or nurses—to perform abortions. “As you can see,” said Díaz as he accepted the Great Defender of Life award, “instead of protecting women’s lives, what they are doing is putting women’s lives at risk.”
In 2013, riding high on the success of his gay-marriage victory, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced the Women’s Equality Act, comprehensive legislation addressing several women’s issues, including human trafficking, the minimum wage, housing discrimination, domestic abuse, and, oh yes, abortion expansion. Thanks to the bipartisan coalition Díaz helped forge, the Women’s Equality Act was eventually split into 10 separate parts, with the abortion plank—a backdoor attempt to pass the Reproductive Health Care Act—going nowhere.
As Díaz spoke, political reality intruded. But his peroration restored a bit of the magic, because it harkened back to a better era:
“We have to start electing and supporting those pro-life individuals regardless of their political affiliation,” Díaz said. “We should do it. We could do it. We must do it. Let’s keep up the fight! Do not give up!”
Now, what would be truly magical would be if there were more pro-life Democrats like Rubén Díaz. . . and more publishers and filmmakers like Micheal Flaherty.
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Connie Marshner is a commentator and researcher on life and family issues in the Washington, D.C., area.