How mysteriously familiar the following may sound. Certain key words have been deleted in the interest of articulating the profound similiarities:
When urged. . . to support the . . . petitions in the House, [he] responded, "Altho I feel the force of many of your remarks, I can not embrace the idea to which they lead." When pressed to explain the dispcrepancy bewteen his hypothetical position and his actual dedication to self-imposed paralysis, he tended to offer several different anasers. Sometimes it was a matter of his . . . constituents: "Those from whom I derive my public station," he explained, "are know by me to be greatly interested in that species of property, and to view the matter in that light."
All through you knew that it wasn't the person who speaks today. But who is the speaker?
The excerpt comes from Joseph Ellis's magnificent study Founding Brothers (p. 113-114 in the trade paperback edition) and the speaker is James Madison. Of course, the subject is slavery.
When Madison and his generation refused to deal with the problem of slavery they simply left a pot on to boil. That pot would eventually erupt into one of the saddest and most divisive struggles in the history of our nation--a war that lasted a little over four years, but the implications and emanations of which survive until the present day.
For those that argue that it is legitimate to allow evil to continue to exist in deference to a majority opinion or out of service to one's constituents, this should provide lesson enough on where that path leads. When such fundamental moral conflicts simmer, the end result is either what we know to be right, or the potential for a great deal more wrong.
Our present debate may take as long to erupt, it may never erupt in this fashion; however, it does tear at the fabric of society.
For those who argue that we should not pass laws that impose our own vision of morality on others, I think it's important to point out that nearly all laws impose someone's vision of morality upon us. If we do not struggle to try to keep that line clearly defined, the laws that will pass will land us in the same world as people in the Netherlands now face. We start with euthanasia upon request and we end with euthanasia at the request of another. A variant of the slippery slide argument I realize.
However, support of a candidate who supports what is unquestionably a moral evil derived from an immoral license tends to dull our senses to what is truly evil. To say that we will vote for so and so and then work to change this stand is like so many women who move from one abusive relationship to another. In each they have great hope for changing the person they knew when they entered the relationship. The sad reality is that it happens all too seldom.
It is unlikely that we will change either the people or the parties that back them. Many have already said, and I agree, that the only recourse is not to participate in one of those two parties, but either to find some other party that represents our interests or start a party that would do so.
The problem with this last suggestion is that given the diversity of opinion just within St. Blogs on any number of non-religious issues, what would be the unifying principle other than pro-life? Perhaps that is enough. But is Pro-life also pro-gun-control? Is it economically conservative or liberal? Is there a prefential option for the poor or "medical spending accounts" as a solution to the problem of no health insurance? What is the face of pro-life once you move beyond that issue? Is that issue in itself enough to form a party? Would the internicine divisions allow it to be effective in any way?
I think the issue is strong enough to form a party. But would it end up being like the Women's Christian Temperance League? Would it work toward an end that society ultimately could not tolerate for one reason or another? Would this one issue group push us toward the new version of the nineteenth and twenty first(?) amendments?
I don't know the answer. But it all comes back to the rhetoric that has been with us since the beginning. "Personally, I find it morally repugnant; however, who am I to force my morality upon others?" Leadership is more than making laws, it is showing the way to live. If you don't feel qualified to speak on moral points and to point the way for a people lost in themselves, then perhaps you should consider another profession.