by Steve Miller
copyright © 1996, Electric Nevada
|Reno's Pro-Life Andy Anderson -- as the first part of this two-part series reported -- is a man so earnest for his cause that nine years ago he legally changed his name, and so ardent for that cause, he had tattooed on the back of his hands the words "God is Pro Life."|
| If you
want to begin to understand his earnestness and ardency
-- which have brought him warm hand-addressed cards and
letters from Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, and the Pope's
secretary, in behalf of the Pontiff -- it helps if you go
back in time, almost 70 years.
Back to the early part of 1927, when the father he would never know deserted his mother, his older brother and himself -- before he was even born.
Then to 1930-31, when his mother died young, leaving him, a three-year-old, and his six-year-old brother wards of his grandmother and grandfather in Savannah, Georgia.
And then to 1932, when the grandfather also died, leaving the widowed, poor, grandmother to rear the boys alone.
You also need consider what else fate had in store for the youngest Anderson boy, then named "Charles F. Anderson. "
One eye never developed. It not only gave him blurry, deficient, vision, but its muscles were wayward. It was an eye, he says, that "used to play hide and seek behind my nose."
The other kids, naturally, called him "cross-eyes."
And there were his ears -- large and sticking prominently out from the sides of his head. So he was also called "Dumbo the elephant."
Finally, there was the general cast of his other features, some of which would lead people to suspect Indian blood, or something that -- in Savanna, Georgia -- could have been seen as even worse.
A cross-eyed, Dumbo-eared, no-father, no-mother little boy who didn't look quite 'white,' growing up amid the attitudes of the deep South in the 1930s and '40s.
But what may be most interesting about all these factoids, is simply that someone else has to assemble them -- out of bits and pieces to be found in Anderson's narratives regarding other topics, and other, later, times in his life.
Because Pro-Life Andy Anderson doesn't see his early life in these terms. He sees it, now, in the context of an immense and amazing good fortune, given from the hand of a beneficent God.
"I've got a lot to be grateful for," is a sentence that recurs often in his speech. Another is, "God amazes me."
For example, led by his older brother, and out of the sight of Anderson's aging grandmother, as a boy he started getting in trouble early.
"I was a juvenile delinquent growing up," says Anderson, adding that often he would get caught, while his brother, who had put him up to it, would not.
Eventually he was being interned, he says, in Savannah's equivalent of Reno's Wittenberg Hall. But about the third time he was in what he calls "juvenile jail," something fateful happened.
"A friend of mine -- I don't know who she knew or what the system was -- had me transferred to a Catholic orphanage, 'cause she was afraid the 'big boys' would teach me to be worse than I already was.
"And I was on the way. I was learning things that I wouldn't want to even repeat now."
Anderson explains that his religious background, up to then, had been motley: his mother had been a Baptist, his grandmother was an Episcopalian, and the two boys, for some reason, had attended services with the Presbyterians.
"So when I went to the Catholic orphanage," he says, "I learned about the Catholic religion, and I didn't give up anything good and true that I had, I just added on to what I had.
"I was very fortunate that being a bad boy [had put] me into good company."
If he hadn't been put the home -- St. Joseph's Orphanage, in Wassaw, Georgia, outside of Savannah -- says Anderson, he probably would be in prison by now.
"Because the nuns taught me love and kindness and told me that 'No matter of what the world says about you, or thinks about you, God loves you.' So, I might be the homeliest person in the world, but it's what I am on the inside that counts."
The nuns' words -- and actions -- fell like rain on a dry, parched plain.
Because the homely young Anderson -- before being placed in St. Joseph's -- had been developing attitudes toward his fellow man that Americans in the 1990s have come to see all too often.
Since "coloreds" were required to sit in the back of Savannah buses, for example, Anderson would get aboard a bus and seat himself in the very last row still unoccupied, in front of any blacks already seated on the bus.
Because colored people weren't allowed to sit in front of whites, any blacks who now got on the bus had to stand, holding the strap.
It was a malevolent, petty thing for the homely boy to do. But it was the kind of "satisfactions" he was exploring at the time. Looking up at the standing blacks, he will tell you now, he would silently gloat in the sense of power and control that discomforting others was giving him.
So for the boy who now found himself in the orphanage, hearing that for even "the homeliest person in the world" it's "what I am on the inside that counts," was a saving message in more ways than one. And the clincher was the caring way the nuns treated him.
So it was then that Anderson began to take religion seriously. He was just 11 years old.
The first event that really put him on the anti-abortion path, he says, was a couple of years later. Becoming a teenager, he was transferred to a Catholic vocational school back in Savannah, his hometown.
"I got into some books there, and I read about this woman called Margaret Sanger. The word 'abortion' didn't even exist in my vocabulary back then, but this woman wanted to have birth control to get rid of the Jews, the Italian immigrants and the Negroes, which she said were 'the weeds on the face of the earth.'"
Anderson, by that time, had received instruction in Catholic birth control doctrine, of course, but Sanger's eugenics ideology, he says, came as a personal shock.
It seemed something leveled directly against his very own existence. Not only did he look like an eugenicist's case argument, but fate had essentially left him to grow up like a weed.
"There was something about this woman that just scared me -- she was so evil in her plans," he says today, pointing out that Margaret Sanger, who went on to found the Planned Parenthood organization for similar reasons, also advocated various Hitlerian doctrines, such as sterilizing "genetically inferior races," segregating "morons, misfits and [the] maladjusted," and rehabilitative concentration camps for inferior Blacks, Hispanics, poor whites and Catholics.
So at about 13 or 14 years of age, Anderson felt called upon to write out one of his first rhymes, the name of which was Birth Control:
There's a woman whose name is Margaret Sanger.
What she does is a shame; I think we should hang her; ("I had to make it rhyme, anyway," he says.) She's killing our nation with her birth-control plan;
To stop procreation every day that she can;
The way thing's are going, she's doing her job well;
If her plans keep going, things will soon be pell-mell;
It should be unlawful for her and her gabies
To set us off of having any babies.
Where would our nation be if babies were not born;
Chop the family tree and we will be forlorn.
"I hadn't even had a date with a girl yet," says Anderson, "and I'm writing something like this."
It was "because there was something about her that impressed me that if she would succeed, a children-less future would really happen."
The whole issue hit him almost like a prophetic call, he says, and he wasn't even, at that time, "aware of the monstrosity of the abortion part."
"I thought it was just a matter of keeping babies from being conceived in the first place -- what we call 'birth control.' Then later, they came out with the abortion business, because, she said, it was too early to talk about abortion 'cause that would scare people away."
When World War II broke out, Anderson was in the Catholic orphanage; two years later he was allowed to go back home to live.
He got a part time job at a grocery store, went to school, and helped take care of his grandmother, who was living on a pension.
When he was 17, wanting to follow his older brother into the war, Anderson lied about his age and tried to volunteer for the draft.
However, he failed his eye test.
Then, as soon as he really did turn 18, he registered for the draft a second time, and was turned down once more.
"So that was in '44," says Anderson. "I was still going to high school -- a commercial high school, to learn how to use a typewriter and stuff like that."
But he still wanted to join up, and so soon Anderson was again talking to people on the draft board .
"I said, 'Look, the war's over, [it was then 1945] and I can relieve somebody else, even if I sit behind a desk and all.
"So they made arrangements for me to report for the third time to Fort McPherson, Georgia, to take my physical.
"I was so sure that this time I was going to get in because, why would they send me when I had been turned down two times before?
"I quit school, I quit my part-time job, I told my friends goodbye, and ... went to Fort McPherson, in Atlanta, Georgia, and for the third time I took the physical.
"They turned me down for the third time. I was devastated.
"I said, 'Dear Lord, what am I gonna do?' I mean, the Lord's got a sense of humor -- he likes to kind of play with us for a while.
"So they gave me my train ticket to go back to Savannah, Ga., from Atlanta. But I didn't use it. I stayed in the barracks overnight, and slept in one of the empty bunks there.
"I said, 'I've got to see someone, I've got to do something. I can't go back.'
Anderson went over to the chapel.
"And I knelt down, in front of our Lord, and his blessed mother, and I had tears streaming on my face."
He prayed to God, says Anderson, that "if for some reason or another it's going to bad for my soul, no matter how much I want to get in, don't let me get in." Finally, in assent to whatever God's will turned out to be, he ended the prayer.
"So I went ahead and wiped my eyes and got up and left the chapel," he says.
"And I got out the door and I was in a little hallway and I hear a voice say, 'What's the matter, young man?'
"And I turned to my right where this door was open, and there [was] a chaplain sitting behind his desk, and I guess he saw me being
this upset. So I went ahead and told
"I was in a nursery, and
remember this old model T Ford, with my grandfather
behind the wheel...
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