Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tantalus and Carhart: On the Utility of Greek Mythology

One of the mortal sons of Zeus, Tantalus, grieved the gods by slaying Pelops,  his son, roasting him, and serving him up at a feast for the gods.  When his crime had been discovered, Demeter had already consumed his shoulder.

The gods restored Pelops to life, created a shoulder of marble for the portion consumed, and meted out a terrifying punishment to Tantalus for his twin crimes of testing the gods and murdering his son.

Tantalus was condemned to stand forever in a pool of water, under the shade of fruited boughs.  Whenever he bent down to slake his thirst, the waters of the pool retreated from reach.  Whenever he reached above to take of the fruit-laden boughs, the branches arched upward taking their fruits from his reach.

 Thus he gave to our language, through its Grecian roots, that word, tantalize, which bespeaks the unsatisfiable hunger or thirst.  In the long view, Tantalus' punishment seems well drawn and fair.  Tempt and test the gods.  Do so by the murdering of your own son.  In return, be tormented with unquenchable thirst and gnawing hunger, forever.

And so to this day's news, brought to you by our modern Tantalus, Doctor Leroy Carhart, America's "pre-eminent" provider of late term child snuffing.  Thanks to the unique, undercover, investigative reporting of Live Action, we learn that Dr. Carhart likens his medical practice to that of a cannibalistic kitchen magician:

When a Live Action investigator, who is 26 weeks pregnant, asks about what happens to the baby during the procedure, Dr. Carhart responds:
Dr. Carhart: It gets soft – like, mushy – so you push it through.
Woman: So what makes the baby “mushy”?
Dr. Carhart: The fact that it’s not alive for 2 or 3 days.
Woman: Oh. So I’ll have a dead baby in me?
Dr. Carhart: For 3 days, yeah… It’s like putting meat in a crock pot, okay? … It gets softer. It doesn’t get infected or–
Woman: OK, so the dead baby in me is like meat in a crock pot.
Dr. Carhart: Pretty much, yeah … in a slow cooker.
What an imaginative fellow, what a worker in words.  "It's like putting meat in a crock pot, okay?"

Carhart's manner of expression is not new.  In the early 1980's, as part of depositions related to a lawsuit in which I was a defendant, abortionists Takey Crist and Paul Williams acknowledged that they or other abortionists relied on euphemisms such as "tissue," "conceptus," and "products of conception" to describe the child in utero.  There was a particular euphemism they acknowledged that is so akin to Carhart's that it bears special remark.  Drs. Crist and Williams acknowledged the use of the phrase "gobbet of meat" to describe those little ones killed in abortions.

What is it about men in whose hearts murder is born that they would tempt the gods, or the God?  What is it about men in whose hearts compassion dies aborning that they would make meat of men?  This then is the neat work of the Tantalus myth.  It warns us away from such inexplicable, such unjustifiable, evils.  It makes the eternal estate of those that defy the gods and that bloody their hands with the blood of our children too terrifying to contemplate.