A powerful message
By Kathryn Jean Lopez, Editor
National Review Online
June 29, 2005
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
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
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
"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.
(c) 2005, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.
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