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Dear Ben Carson, Please Stop Comparing Everything You Don't Like To Slavery

Dr. Ben Carson gestures during a news conference during a campaign stop, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Lakewood, Colo. The Republican candidate for president has compared both the Affordable Care Act and abortion to slavery. (David Zalubowski/ AP)
Dr. Ben Carson gestures during a news conference during a campaign stop, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Lakewood, Colo. The Republican candidate for president has compared both the Affordable Care Act and abortion to slavery. (David Zalubowski/ AP)
This article is more than 4 years old.

Ben Carson is spewing so much nonsense, I’ve taken to wearing a plastic raincoat whenever he opens his mouth. As in his disingenuous denial of his relationship to the shady nutritional supplement company, Mannatech. As in his 2013 observation, “You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”

His “I think” gives me pause. Does he?

His recent comment on "Meet the Press," comparing women seeking abortions to slave owners makes me feel that the answer is a definite no. Here he is explaining why he insists that even women who are victims of rape or incest should not be allowed abortions:

Think about this... during slavery — and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say but I’m saying it — during slavery, a lot of slave-owners thought they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave, anything that they chose. And what if the abolitionists had said, "I don’t believe in slavery but you guys do whatever you want"? Where would be?

Is slavery the only historical reference he possesses?

By all accounts, Dr. Carson was an outstanding neurosurgeon, but I’m quite certain he understands nothing about slavery, women or Obamacare — for starters. Were the country not wobbling slightly off the rails, any candidate comparing women seeking abortions to murderous and raping slaveowners would be out of the game in an instant.

By all accounts, Dr. Carson was an outstanding neurosurgeon, but I’m quite certain he understands nothing about slavery, women or Obamacare...

Instead, his rhetoric delights his base and ups his poll numbers. He’s currently the leader of the pack. And what a pack.

I know I would be wise to roll my eyes and wait quietly until his moment passes. But Carson's analogies are deeply destructive. They erase American history and deny the reality of people’s suffering. (As he also did when he implied that the victims of the Roseberg, Oregon, killer were killed because they were not carrying. “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me.”) Each time Ben Carson babbles this bile, he snuffs out a few more of the vital distinctions on which a functioning democracy rests.

Facts matter. In baseball and football we use instant video to decide close calls because we know the games rest on determining exactly what happened in a given moment now over. And analogies matter. A sports commentator would get fired immediately if he said, “DeflateGate is as bad as slavery.”

Unfortunately, facts and fair analogies are inconvenient to demagogues and ideologues. But personal fantasies are a poor substitute for knowledge. If you are running for president it is simply unconscionable to compare Obamacare — health care legislation that has improved care delivery, saved lives and eased suffering — with an institution that killed several million people and intentionally tortured many more.

Unfortunately, facts and fair analogies are inconvenient to demagogues and ideologues.

It is even more egregious to suggest that women who scour their consciences to try to decide which difficult choice to make — women who can only be fully equal and autonomous citizens if they have a right to decide for themselves whether they can carry an unwanted pregnancy to term — are like killer slave-owners. In Carson’s schema, the male rapist has the right to have his sperm implanted and grown in his female victim’s womb; the fetus has the rights of a living baby, but the woman has not a single right? Who is the slave, who the enslaver here?

Perhaps Dr. Carson has been too busy to reread the Constitution or the Bill of Rights? Maybe it is time to institute an MCAS type history and public policy exam that every presidential candidate has to take and pass before he or she is allowed to enter a primary?

Short of that, we can hope the doctor's unintended gift to the nation will be to demonstrate exactly why we should not choose a neurosurgeon inexperienced in governing as president — any more than we would choose an excellent elected leader who never went to medical school as our surgeon.

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Janna Malamud Smith Cognoscenti contributor
Janna Malamud Smith is a psychotherapist and writer.

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