Our Summer of Omelas

In 1973, award-winning science fiction author Ursula Le Guin published a very short story-essay titled “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” It described a dreamlike summer festival in Omelas, a beautiful city that embodies everyone’s utopia, a magical place where everyone was joyful, a place where sorrow never touched the citizens or guests. But beneath that city lay a secret: all its joy and pleasure depended on the suffering and misery of a single lonely, abused child living in a filthy basement. If that child were saved, all of Omelas would fall, its beauty and perfection lost.


The citizens of Omelas, when they reached a certain age, were taken below to view the child so that they might understand their civilization. Most rationalized the suffering, as was encouraged: the child was mentally defective anyway, it could never be happy now if taken out, it was incapable of appreciating the beauty of the world like others. Only a few could not bear the truth, but instead of removing the child and Omelas be damned, they walked away, leaving for parts unknown.

America has had a summer of Omelas. We are being shown how our society has built itself around the suffering of children about whom no one cares: babies just formed who are sacrificed for the sake of convenience and science. Mothers who are unready to become mothers (though the life in their wombs proves that decision has already been made), their partners who are unwilling to support a child emotionally or financially, women who are simply afraid or pressured into having an abortion — all seek euphemisms for the life-shattering act they are about to take: ending a pregnancy, taking care of the problem, taking care of their reproductive health. There are fifty ways and more to say it.

But there is only one truth. By turning away, we are all killing our unborn children — and not the ones that are just blobs of a few cells, but those whose body parts are large enough to be “useful” to research companies. Evicted from their mothers’ wombs, they are being left to die in the cold while technicians assure often weeping and traumatized women that the baby didn’t feel a thing, that it had no nervous system or was just a blob of tissue.


And then they are “harvested” after they have completely expired. I hope. Recent videos raise doubt.

We are ignoring all good common sense.

We are lying to ourselves.

Go read the Le Guin story linked above.

Then imagine the scenario on the next page in its place:

Every child in America, when he or she reaches a certain age, must go to an abortion clinic. There they will observe the oldest fetus aborted that day, understanding that the joy and pleasure of the mother of that child and all her friends and boyfriends and family are dependent upon that fetus’s suffering. They are told it would have been miserable if allowed to live — mentally defective, physically crippled, emotionally abandoned. It might have grown up to be a criminal, harming other people.

In its death, it is explained, is life. The parts of this fetus can be studied to save the lives of other, wanted children. Its stem cells can be harvested in an attempt to cure diseases (note: not a single fetal stem cell line has successfully treated any disease to date). Medical researchers and students can write grants to get money from foundations and the government, describing research they hope to do on this fetus. The body of this fetus can be parceled out and become jobs for dozens of other people, hundreds. It can give (empty) hope to the sick. And it can bring great wealth to the medical supply companies that “process” the body.

Its death, the children are told, is necessary and good, creating social and commercial value from a being who would have been valueless while freeing at least one woman and her partner (or whatever) from a crippling burden. In its death, two people are freed and hundreds are helped.

And then the children leave, understanding the foundation that their land is built upon, the sacrifices necessary to preserve our way of life.


This is the hollowness of our Omelas, one of the most permissive nations in the world for abortion. It needs to change.


NOTE: David Brooks of the NYT had an interesting take on Omelas — what a shame he did not follow this to the logical end.



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