What does your hat say about you?

Tennessee Hat


by Nicole W. Cooley

At the Shenandoah Valley Soap Box Derby, a complete stranger asked, “Did you go to Tennessee?”

He seemed really excited about my orange Tennessee hat.  I hated to disappoint him, but “No, my boss did.”

Furrowed eyebrows.

I continued, “I am a pro-life activist.  We travel all over the country with our Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), and I always get a hat from each campus.”

Who knew a simple baseball cap could spark a conversation about abortion with a complete stranger?

… he carefully dismantled each [fallacy] in a patient way, not acting superior, but as if he were merely suggesting another way to look at it.

I’ve been a collector all my life.  I collected Longaberger baskets for years.  I still buy a new basket on occasion, but at over 200 baskets, I’m pretty satisfied there.

As a child, I collected rocks from the different places we lived.  We were a military family that traveled all over the world, so I have lots of rocks, including some neat limestone from England and large round rocks from a beach in Scotland.

But of all my collections, my current one is the most meaningful to me.  You see, every hat has a story.

At the University of Tennessee, I spoke at length with a student who used to be pro-life, but changed her mind in college.  Veteran pro-life apologist Mick Hunt took the lead.  I call him “the philosopher” because he’s great at talking with students who are wrestling with higher-level questions.  Her struggles centered around “bodily autonomy” arguments like the “famous violinist” who could be saved by an unwilling kidney donor.  We sat on the grassy knoll across from the display for over an hour.

Mick gently explained how a mother’s relationship to her own child is different from a person being forced to offer his kidney to a complete stranger.  I took note of his probing questions to specifically identify the fallacies in her thinking.  I also saw how he carefully dismantled each one in a patient way, not acting superior, but as if he were merely suggesting another way to look at it.

I’m not sure if that young lady is pro-life today or not. But, I do know she must have wrestled with the things we talked about for some time.  Most people are not solidly pro-life without having first wrestled a bit.

For most people, being pro-life or pro-abortion is a continuum; few are truly 100% pro-life or pro-abortion.  Most get hung up somewhere along the line because of those pesky “exceptions” to the rules.  They struggle with the idea of telling a rape victim she should carry to term or with preventing abortion in the case of fetal abnormalities.  That’s why GAP is such a great tool for college campuses.  We help students wrestle with the hard questions.  We challenge the status quo of their own opinions.  We put pebbles in their shoes and force them to think.

After watching Mick Hunt at work, I vowed to be ready next time.  I went home and studied the bodily autonomy arguments in depth.  At the next GAP, I would be ready to plant a few pebbles of my own.

Nicole Cooley is a CBR project director and a new FAB contributor.  This is the first in a series of “hat blogs” about memorable conversations gleaned from her experiences with GAP.

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