Friday, November 7, 2008

My last post on the life issues, for a while

Usura slayeth the child in the womb
It stayeth the young man's courting
It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth
between the young bride and her bridegroom
They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet
at behest of usura.

- Ezra Pound, Canto 46

I'm going to try to stop talking about abortion for a while- heaven knows I've talked about it a lot already. But I'd like to make some preliminary observations first.

It's a well known truism that many people vote Republican solely because of their stance on abortion. Many people of different faiths have generally progressive views on economics, foreign policy and the environment but also believe that from very on in the developmental process, maybe even conception, the fetus is a human being deserving of life. Archbishop Chaput was this year a powerful voice in support of John McCain, urging Catholics to vote Republican and warning that pro-choice Catholic politicians risked being denied participation in the Eucharist. Often forgotten in the subsequent brouhaha is that Archbishop Chaput was in many ways a progressive. He volunteered for Robert Kennedy and Jimmy Carter's campaigns in the 1970s, believes that the government should take a bigger role in caring for those in need, and has even spoken sympathetically about Che Guevara. There are many like him, progressive Christians and members of other faiths whose consciences are deeply troubled by abortion. I know many people like that, and some of them have been driven to vote Republican on the basis of this and a few related issues that all boil down to lack of sympathy among leading Democratic candidates for the right to life of the unborn.

I sympathize with this view. Indeed, I couldn't bring myself to vote for Obama this last time around, and voted for Nader, because of Obama's support for things like the Freedom of Choice Act. (To be fair, I wanted Obama to win in spite of his pro-choice views, and had Michigan been a close race this time around I would have voted for him). However, I think this still isn't a good enough reason for voting Republican, and the results of this last election show us why.

There were pro-life ballot measures in four states this election: Michigan (stem cells), California (parental notification), Colorado (defining human life) and South Dakota (banning all abortions with rape/insect/life of the mother exceptions. All of them failed. In Michigan, and South Dakota, generally considered to be socially conservative states!! Oddly enough, gay marriage ballot measures seemed to do well....enough social conservatives turned out to ban gay marriage in California, Arizona and Florida. So how come America's supposed pro-life majority, the hidden iceberg of moderates, conservatives, and pro-life liberals, did not show up and express their respect for life?

I have no idea. While I'm happy Obama won, I'm both angry and disappointed at the voters of these four states, and especially for all of the people out there who call themselves pro-life but could not be troubled to actually put their votes where their mouths are. This wasn't requiring anyone to vote for a party they didn't like to express their support for life. This was asking them to vote on BALLOT QUESTIONS explicitly restricting abortion, and doing nothing else. Yet the voters of these four states, although they were happy to impose Christian values on homosexual couples, did not want to impose the fundamental, deal-breaking Christian value of respect for life on themselves.

This tells me, more than anything else, that at this moment in time there is no political solution to the problem of abortion in America. This abominable crime is embedded in the heart and soul of America and will not be excised until we have changed the culture, which will take many long years of trying to convince people: through words and through our own examples. On the flip side, the prize that Republican candidates always offer us, 'originalist judges' who will overturn Roe v. Wade, is a pipe dream. Anti-abortion judges will not, anytime in the near future, make it through Congress; and even if they do overturn Roe v. Wade, so what? It will immediately revert to the states, and as this last election proves, there will be hardly a single state where voters will actually vote to restrict abortion. If pro-lifers cannot even get abortion banned in South Dakota, then how the hell do they expect to get 30 or 40 states to pass such laws? And believe me, it will have to be 30 or 40; otherwise if abortion is banned in Rhode Island, women seeking abortions will simply hop a bus to New York. The Republican pro-life dream of overturning Roe v. Wade, a righteous people passing draconian pro-life laws, turning this country into a blazing fortress for justice for the unborn, is an absurd chimera. The fact is that the root of the problem today isn't the Democratic Party that supports abortion, or a Republican party that pretends to oppose it: it is that the majority of Americans today believe in a right to abortion, whatever they tell pollsters, and will not vote to revoke Roe v. Wade. The lies and temptations of Judith Jarvis Thompson and her ilk have permeated the whole fabric of society.

With that in mind, I say that pro-life progressives should no longer be tempted to vote Republican. The idea that two more originalist judges will shut down America's abortion clinics, is a bad joke, a gaudy sham, and an insult to our intelligence and our morals. The pro-life movement spent too much time shilling for the Republicans when they could have been evangelizing the gospel of life. Until and unless American culture is changed, such that an overwhelming majority of people really believe that abortion is a grievous homicide that can never be justified except under exceptional circusmtances, no pro-life legal regime has a chance of returning. And since the pro-life platform is one of the few planks in which the Republicans actually agree with historic Christian teaching and with natural reason, and since this platform is, until we can change the culture, a meaningless chimera, then it follows that the Republicans have little to offer any truly progressive pro-lifer. So please remember this in a few years. The good that the Republicans plan to do is an illusion and a dream, while the bad is very real.

Abortion is the natural outgrowth of the culture of self-expression and freedom, which is the natural outgrowth of liberal capitalism. Inasmuch as the Republican Party is the foremost defender of liberal capitalism in America today,
the cultural change that could lead to a pro-life legal regime will not happen under a Republican presidency. Obama at least recognizes, in a dim and vague way, that our obligations to others are more important than our economic rights to pursue wealth and happiness. Hopefully those around him may realize that this applies to the personal sphere as well. Let us never forget that the denial of the natural order which is so vividly expressed in abortion is deeply analogous to the denial of the natural connection between the worker and his labor. That denial, the separation of labor from reward, is at the very heart of capitalism. Modern society spat in the face of Nature and human dignity when we embraced the capitalist ethos that reduced the worker to just another factor of production. Once that denial of nature and that exaltation of the self had begun, the road was clear to Roe v. Wade. This is the hidden meaning of that prophetic and enigmatic sentence of Ezra Pound: "Usura slayeth the child in the womb." Pound was a bigot and a creep, but he also had an intense and brilliant vision of how usury, which the medieval church considered to be a sin against nature, would in time corrupt society so that all other natural connections and tendencies were obviated as well. His vision is of a society where stone churches crumble, bread loses its taste, art loses its beauty, cloth falls apart, mothers kill their children, of loveless marriages, childless families, workers without tools, farmers without animals, people without homes: all because of our denial of the natural connection between labor and reward. He was right, and until our society realizes that, we can never become a society that truly respects human life.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election results.....

Though I'm conflicted about Barack Obama, and far from enthusiastic about many aspects of the Democratic agenda, this is a great day for the United States. We have just shown that a black man can be elected to the highest office in the land. Anyone who voted for Obama, anyone who volunteered for him, anyone who worked for him, you should all be proud of yourselves. Congratulations on a job well done, and congratulations on making history. I didn't vote for Obama, I voted for Nader, but all in all I think Obama was better than McCain on most issues. So I'm hapy for you and happy for the country. You have power: please use it well.

On to ballot questions. I voted against the stem-cell ballot question in my state, of course, and was disappointed that it passed. I was even more disappointed that South Dakotans voted against a bill that would have banned most abortions in that state, and that California defeated a bill recquiring parental notification if teenagers wanted an abortion. What were people thinking? These results make me very sad, and very doubtful about the chance, in the near future, of building a culture of life in the United States.

At least we do have a strengthened Democratic majority in the House and Senate, and we can expect them to do a better job of protecting the environment, and pursuing a less belligerent foreign policy. We can only hope.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My endorsements.....

I'm feeling extremely conflicted over this election. For a variety of reasons. In general, my politics in the U.S. incline to the left. I'm very much in favor of drastic measures to cut our reliance on fossil fuels, conserve natural resources, and halt deforestation, climate change, and overfishing. The environment is the biggest issue we have faced in this country for a long time, and poses a serious threat to the survival of civilization and of many other species as well. At the same time, as a Christian I believe that abortion is a grave moral evil, and a species of homicide, which should not be legally or socially tolerated in a civilized society except in extreme circumstances (rape, incest, severe threats to the health of the mother, or when the fetus is itself terminally damaged.) Barack Obama is not a run of the mill Democrat on this issue: to put it charitably, he is very, very, very, very pro-choice. That doesn't make him a bad person- many of my friends are pro-choice, and I believe most of them are honestly and sincerely mistaken. But it raises the question of whether I want to stand up and counted in support of a man who is for essentially no restrictions on abortion whatsoever.

Although I'm not a Catholic, I agree with Archbishop Chaput's remarks that it is permissible to vote for a pro-choice candidate if and only if you are willing to explain and justify that vote, with a sincere heart, to the victims of abortion if you meet them in the afterlife. (Presumably, unborn infants, being innocent of personal sin, go straight to heaven.) I think I could justify such a vote honestly. I would not vote for Barack Obama based solely on his position on taxes, for example. Human life is more important than a difference of 5% in the top marginal tax rate. But there are other issues that do have that extreme moral weight, like the environment. More people, and more innocent children, will be killed by rising sea levels, desertifying croplands in Africa, by the collapse of the Amazon ecosystem, or by the collapse of global fisheries, than will be killed by abortion. Furthermore, the destruction of the natural environment is, in its way, just as much a crime against nature and nature's God as abortion is.

I can make that argument, and I will. But I'm not happy about it. WIth that in mind, I am hoping that you vote for Obama, for Democratic members of congress, and also for pro-life ballot initiatives in Michigan, California, South Dakota, or wherever else you may live.