Friday, February 18, 2011

A distinction without a difference

I wrote this some time ago.

I'm not saying that it is in any way more relevant now to anything or anyone whatsoever than it was before.

"I'm not pro-abortion. I'm pro-choice!" How many times have pro-life advocates come across this indignant exclamation? Vian has here presented the quintessential "liberal Catholic" position (perhaps not unconnected to the secular humanist position), that the best, highest, most moral stance is that there must never, under any circumstances be "confrontation." There is no greater evil than to take an "ideological position." Peace in our time, and at any cost.

It sounds fine, to some, when we are talking about abortion, a subject upon which there is much moral disagreement. But try changing the discussion just a little. Imagine for a moment we are talking about moral evils upon which there is no dispute. Can there be a non-confrontational position on genocide? Imagine for a moment the editor of the Vatican's newspaper praising Barack Obama for his non-confrontational stand on slavery. On rape. On wife battery.

When a person says, "I'm pro-choice," he is trying to find a middle point between two things that are simply opposed, an obvious intellectual squirm.

But let us examine the "pro-choice" assertion. Say a person were to tell you that he is "pro-choice" on slavery. He would say, with a noble lift of the brow perhaps, "I don't like slavery. I don't feel it is right for me to own another human being. But I also don't believe that it is my right to impose my personal beliefs on another. I believe in personal choice. It is between a man and his god whether he should own a slave".

It is obvious, isn't it? The thing chosen must be moral before the concept of being "pro-choice" can also be moral. For Vian to say that Barack Obama is merely "pro-choice," and to imply that this is a position superior to the "ideological" pro-life stand, he is, first, kowtowing to the abortion industry who invented the slogan to soothe troubled consciences, and second, but most importantly, he is saying that abortion is a moral thing to choose.

In championing the pro-life position, we simply say that between life and death, there is no third thing. You are either alive or you are not. Abortion kills or it does not. It is morally permissible or it is not. There are simply some things that do not admit of a "neutral" third position. Between these two opposed possibilities, there can only be "confrontation," distasteful as that may be to some sensibilities.

In fact, Obama's (and presumably Vian's) ideological ancestors did actually make precisely that argument about slavery.

Something that is not, for obvious reasons, widely admitted these days is that it was the Democrats who argued for the continued existence of legal slavery in the Union. I am ready to be corrected by my American readers, but was it not exactly opposition to slavery upon which the Republican party was founded?

The Lincoln/Douglas debates are still famous (among the segment of the US population still interested in reading books) because in it, the Democrat candidate for the presidency, Stephen Douglas, argued that slavery should remain legal on the same principle that would later be used to defend a woman's "choice" to kill her child.

He said, in a nutshell, that while he would not own slaves, and it should not be something that right-thinking people should want, there is no way to judge a man's personal beliefs and to legislate against slavery would be an unjust imposition of the state in his personal affairs. Or an imposition of the federal law into state law, if I recall it correctly.

Douglas proposed "peace in our time" on slavery and lost.

And it is often conveniently forgotten that Lincoln was the Republican candidate.

Not sure how it would go today, however.

You see, slavery was a deeply "divisive" issue, (as our Democrat/liberal Catholic friends would say today)...

"Uniformity in the local laws and institutions of the different States is neither possible or desirable. If uniformity had been adopted when the Government was established, it must inevitably have been the uniformity of slavery everywhere, or else the uniformity of negro citizenship and negro equality everywhere..."

So, if I were, purely hypothetically, examining the pro-choice vs. pro-abortion issue in, say for argument's sake, a civil court, I might ask the self-described personally-opposed-but, "pro-choice" person, "What choice, exactly, are you defending?"

If the person answered, "The choice to have an abortion," I might then be inclined to ask, "But isn't this the thing you have just said you are against?"

"Oh yes, of course, abortion is terrible."

"Why is it terrible?"

"Well...err...ummm...Well, it's, ahhh,