‘What’s It All About, Alfie?’

By DOTTY CRONAN | Oct 05, 2016

“Is it just for the moment we live?” The closer we get to the most pathetic election in my 56 years of voting, the more persistently the lyrics from the 1960s movie “Alfie” echo in my brain.

When I watched this movie over 40 years ago, as a young mother of three, I was appalled by the subject matter: a young womanizing man who leads a totally selfish life; everything and everyone was used for his own gratification, especially women (single or married). The way Lewis Gilbert, the director, had actor Michael Caine look directly into the camera  as he whispered his pick-up lines into the ear of his latest “bird” was as disturbing as it was intended to be. He treated his conquests with disrespect and, when speaking into the camera, refers to each one as “it.”

“Alfie” was the first film to receive the “suggested for mature audiences” classification by the Motion Picture Association of America. Evidently, “Alfie” has never departed from my psyche.

Every four years I run into the same quandary: promises of social justice and gun control from the Democrats sound great; the right to abortion on demand (even for teenagers) does not. Promises of lower taxes and rights of the unborn by the Republicans sound wonderful; the right of every lunatic in the country to bear arms, including assault rifles, does not. Party lines are never crossed – no negotiations for our stiff-necked politicians.

Since I can’t get the “Alfie” story out of my head, it’s become apparent to me that abortion has become my primary concern. If this country can turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering it sees in its destitute homeless, its feeble elderly and its massacred schoolchildren, how can it possibly find the conscience to care about its unseen children in their mothers’ wombs? How can well-off expectant mothers allow material possessions to take precedence over their own flesh and blood? How can such a wealthy country allow rampant poverty (one of the main reasons for abortion)?

“What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie? Are we meant to take more than we give?” Inevitably, one of Alfie’s “its” becomes pregnant. He coyly allows her to carry and deliver the baby, while living in his apartment and scrubbing the floors, until she can put the baby up for adoption. All the while he continues wining, dining and bedding every “it” that catches his eye. Mother and child eventually move on to a better life with a better man.

“If only fools are kind, Alfie, then I guess it’s wise to be cruel.” The story gets worse, but not unbelievable from what I hear about real-life scenarios. After a bout with tuberculosis, Alfie leaves the sanitarium and proceeds to bed the wife of his “best friend,” who remains hospitalized. When the poor love-starved woman informs Alfie she is pregnant from their one encounter, he decides this baby must be aborted because he does not “want to hurt Harry.” Incredible! 

The abortion scene that follows is something I will never forget. Total torment is etched into the face and body of Lily as she twists the tear-soaked hankie in her trembling hands while waiting for the doctor. Her face contorts with the overwhelming shame of betraying her husband, her three children and the child in her womb. It’s a scene played out all over our country every day. There are different names and different scenarios, but the same trauma is caused by the taking of a human life.

Alfie’s doctor arrives at the apartment, receives his money, gets the process started and leaves. So does Alfie. He leaves Lily all alone to abort their baby. The close-up of Alfie’s face when he returns and stares in horror at the aborted, three-month fetus in the bowl is something I wish everyone would see, especially those considering abortion. His disbelief wells up in his red-rimmed eyes and runs down his quivering face.

“I don’t know what I expected to see, not a perfectly formed human being,” he snivels. “It must have had some life.

“‘You murdered him,’ I said to myself,” he later laments to one of his buddies.

 Yes, Alfie, you did.

I suppose that in the 1960s a man or woman could claim to not know what a developing fetus looks like, but not in the 21st century. “Fetal development” can be Googled instantaneously online. The University of Maryland Medical Center describes what Alfie would have seen.

Weeks 11-14: “Baby’s face is well-formed. Limbs are long and thin. Nails appear on fingers and toes. Your little one can now make a fist. Tooth buds appear for the baby teeth. Genitals appear.”

As Alfie described, the fetus is “a perfectly formed human being.”

So, since it’s now obvious that abortion is my primary concern, it seems apparent I should be voting Republican. But then there’s that other deadly issue of gun control. A political party that wants to protect unborn children yet refuses to protect schoolchildren from lunatics with guns infuriates me. As does a political party that wants to stop the slaughter of schoolchildren yet puts no limits on the slaughter of the unborn.

What’s it all about?

Dotty Cronan lives in Forked River, N.J.


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