The Real Writer's Code of Conduct 

To the editors:

What exactly is Mildred Taylor's "A Day in New York" [June 19] supposed to be about? "About 50 inches too long," a smart-ass might say, but smart-ass remarks are generally as detrimental to the abortion "dialogue" as is the flaming rhetoric of both the "prolife" and "prochoice" factions.

Then what are we to make of Ms. Taylor's nauseating little venture into paranoid self-loathing? She's getting an abortion--mustn't be prolife. Her rips into two assisting doctors (one genuinely sympathetic) and a Planned Parenthood staffer who's only doing her job tell us Ms. Taylor isn't exactly prochoice. And when the rips continue, rips into her boyfriend, other women getting abortions, and countless other designated nonpersons, the sheer toxicity of Ms. Taylor's venom moves me to wonder about the possible presence of fangs in her mouth.

No, Ms. Taylor isn't quite out to defend either side of the abortion debate. She seems to hate humanity too much to be taking any sort of stand either way. Rather, she barrages us with extreme detail after extreme detail (e.g., the blood running down her leg) and a self-pitying, self-hating tone that tries to wrench sympathy out of us like a carpenter yanking old nails out of a two-by-four.

Withholding necessary information (the date of the incident), jumping to vicious conclusions about other characters in the article, posing extreme details to force audience involvement--these are marks of a dishonest, cheating writer. Unfortunately, this is the same kind of crap too many people misinterpret as "powerful" or "moving" or "gutsy." Perhaps Ms. Taylor would defend herself against my charges by saying that she did indeed feel paranoid and angry at the time, and that these are legitimate, honest emotions. Perhaps. But a real writer, when he/she finds hate in his soul, goes deeper, to the human center of that hate, the center where love is found as well. And from that point, the real writer can truthfully describe such negative emotions as hate, anger, and paranoia, but without the whiny, manipulative, self-pitying masturbation displayed by Ms. Taylor. Her own final gesture of forgiveness, preceded as it is by five pages of bile, reeks of phoniness.

With all of the distortion, manipulation, and out-and-out lies issuing from both prolifers and prochoicers, the abortion debate now needs clear thinking as much as it ever did. Articles such as Ms. Taylor's don't open minds, or deepen the impact of words--they restrict us with their selfishness. My own feelings on abortion would have to be lumped in with the "prolife" people, but I have my reservations. I don't like to be classified, and if Ms. Taylor has read this far, she's probably got me tied up and pigeonholed by now. But Ms. Taylor and others like her might be surprised to find that my brand of "prolife" is also opposed to the nuclear buildup, destruction of the environment, and current U.S. policies in Central America.

If the abortion debate is to reach any meaningful conclusions, we need to broaden our minds and start communicating thoughtfully and sympathetically with each other. We need to get beyond the cruel-hearted tunnel vision that runs rampant through Ms. Taylor's article. And with that article in mind, we need to realize that shoddy thought and bad writing are as antilife as the most coldhearted, vacuum-wielding abortionist, or the most self-righteous, bomb-wielding antiabortion radical.

Bernard Hyland



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