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Join or DieViewers of the popular HBO miniseries John Adams will recognize this cartoon from the opening credits of that series and naturally will associate it with the Revolutionary War, assuming that failure to join will result in death at the hands of the British.

In fact, this cartoon first appeared in the early 1750’s – in Ben Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette.  The colonies were being warned not against the British, but against the French, the point being that without concerted defensive efforts (both in terms of troops and money), they would be conquered one by one by the French Canadians and their Indian allies.

I mention this because today is the anniversary of the start of the Seven Years’ War in 1756, with Britain’s formal declaration of war against France.  (Fighting had already broken out on the North American frontier in 1754 when young George Washington of the Virginia Militia led an attack on a French party 40 miles or so from modern Pittsburgh and, a few days later, got his clock cleaned at nearby Fort Necessity.)

For some reason or other, Franz von Suppe’s Poet & Peasant Overture has been rattling round my brain all morning.

I distinctly remember seeing the Looney Toons cartoon performance of this piece when I was a little boy.  It was my first exposure to the work and I never forgot it:

I still think of the chicken laying her eggs every time I hear that particular passage of the piece.

Thus the forming of Young Robbo’s artistic sensibilities.

I certainly think this latest Gallup poll indicating a majority of Americans are “pro-life” for the first time is good news. 

I also think Gallup’s theory that the swing might have its roots in a reaction against the pro-abortion enthusiasm of the new administration is legitimate.   (The shift seems to be primarily among what I suspect are Country Club Republicans.)  Most of the people I know who would consider themselves somewhere in the middle on the issue are nonetheless uncomfortable about abortion, and certainly radical over-reach like the threatened enactment of the Freedom of Choice Act would be enough to send them skittering in the other direction.

On the other hand, I wonder if a high-profile news story on, say, a drive for an anti-abortion Constitutional Amendment, or even on some nut going around and bombing abortion clinics might well send these same middle-grounders headed in the other direction.  It would be interesting to go back and see if there’s any correlation between such stories and poll shifts.

While my sense is that the Right to Life movement is steadily growing, its growth is still fairly slow and I would hesitate to read this poll in isolation as any real indicator of tectonic shift.  There are clear pro- and anti-abortion positions, but it strikes me that a lot of people -perhaps even most – are still in that uncomfortable, uneasy middle ground.  That’s okay, though.  One must remember that well into the Civil War, even many northerners thought the Abolitionists a bunch of noisy crack-pots.


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May 2009