Multitalented entertainer Nick Cannon has just completed an interesting hat trick.
He landed a show on MTV this fall, Nick Cannon Presents Wild 'N Out. In the April GQ he told guys "Five ways to sex up your style." In cyberspace, he's being celebrated on "pro-life" e-mail lists.
That combination doesn't exactly happen everyday.
Cannon's new music video "Can I Live?" tells a tale that's very different from a gangsta's paradise of dirty dancing and booty calls that Cannon may be sandwiched in between on MTV or BET. In the song, the hip-hop pop star tells his life story — or at least the beginning of it and his mom's close call with abortion.
Cannon, 24, appears in the video as a ghost (or an angel, if you prefer) and sings, "Mommy, I don't like this clinic. Hopefully you'll make the right decision, and don't go through with the knife decision."
A scared teen, his mother was on a gurney — that's how close the call was — but got up, and, at least in the video version, ran.
He points out to his mother something she got on some level, or she wouldn't have gotten up: "That's a life inside you, look at your tummy. What is becoming Ma, I am Oprah bound. You can tell he's a star from the Ultrasound."
The video images tell a stirring, gripping story regardless of where you fall in the abortion debate.
Abortion is an intimately, intensely emotional decision, complete with intense fear, doubt, and pain. According to typical hype, the mother views what she's aborting as little more than a clump of cells. But consider one young mother who, recently discussing her late-term abortion told a reporter: "For the love of God, the last thing I wanted to do was to murder my own child." Don't try to tell me she thought she was making a casual lifestyle choice to eliminate a parasite.
But the Cannon song also speaks to something beyond the abortion debate. There's always conversation now and again — at least in my dorky circles — about how conservatives can have a voice in Hollywood. "Can they?" is the question.
Groups start up. Books are written. Just this month The Hollywood Reporter published a piece titled "Right fights back" about Republicans in Hollywood who are producing political documentaries — to counter the likes of Fahrenheit 9/11, and make clear there are many more non-Alec Baldwin-type voices in Tinseltown than you might think (there are, by the way).
But, you know what? As much as a political junkie like me might enjoy a conservative alternative to a Michael Moore screed beating him at the box office, I'm not holding my breath. But that's all right because Nick Cannon has found the answer. And it's much better than a well-meaning ideologue's low-budget documentary.
"Can I Live?" speaks to something very fundamental (whether intentionally or not). Nick Cannon wanted to send a supportive word out to scared teen mothers, a grateful word to those "strong women" who choose life. He didn't have to start a "Rappers for Life." He didn't have to be heavy handed or compose a political rant. He's just offering an honest story, as he does what he does. That's how you send a message people will listen to.
I love to retell the story of Senator Rick Santorum's (R., Pa.) "C-SPAN Miracle." It happened one late evening in 1998, as he spoke in a near-empty Senate chamber talking about partial-birth abortion — even though he knew President Clinton was going to veto the prohibition bill he was arguing for. It was a wasted night so far as the senator knew — that is, until he heard from a couple who were, in fact, flipping with the remote, hit C-SPAN, and, to make a long story short: She didn't have the abortion she had scheduled, unbeknownst to her boyfriend, the next day. They have a child today and are grateful to the Pennsylvania senator for their child.
On an online message board off Cannon's website (where you can watch the video, by the way), one woman wrote, "I have spent years trying to make the same point you made in minutes."
Nick Cannon will never know how many late-night debates or changes of heart he'll prompt when someone is surfing and runs into "Can I Live?" but at least one mother is already grateful to Nick Cannon. With a scheduled abortion a few days away, she called the Rachel's Vineyard help hotline (877-HOPE-4-ME). After many conversations, a counselor sent her a link to the video.
According to Theresa Burke, founder of the abortion-healing group, the mother's reaction was, "Well, now I know I can't do it." It's a tough road, but this mother, relays Burke, saw "the gift and value of human life" this "survivor" sings about in "Can I Live?" Instead of the abortion, she went for an ultrasound, and saw her twins.
Maybe Cannon will have a cameo in their video 24 years from now.
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