Spirit & Life
Human Life International e-Column
Volume 05, Number 35 | Friday, September 24, 2010
Politics and the American Person
After having lived in the U.S. and then in Rome for many years, I must say that American politics intrigue me a great deal. I follow the debates and races closely, because I realize that the decisions of American voters affect not only Americans; indeed, they affect the entire world.
For example, almost two years ago a majority of American voters elected a man because he breezily promised “Hope” and “Change”, and too few thought to ask such basic questions as: Hope in whom? Or Change to what, precisely, and from what? A religious fervor seemed to overtake masses of people for whom actual religion has obviously become an afterthought, and they suspended all critical thought in order to float away on a sea of make belief hope and liberal change.
Yet such seas can be much rockier the salesman leads us to believe. This man elected by Americans seems to be on an economic kamikaze mission, he acts as if he is embarrassed to represent your nation abroad, he spurns historical American allies while indicating to the scoundrels of the world that they belong among the elite, he does not attend services on Sunday, then seems surprised that some question his commitment to his faith… truly one could go on and on about the many problems that this man presents to the nation that elected him.
But the most troubling thing one notices when paying close attention to the president’s actions is his utter disregard for the human person. It appears that every initiative he is enthusiastic about is designed to diminish the person, and increase his dependency on government to live his life for him.
That is, for those persons who are actually allowed to live their lives. We already know the staggering toll taken by legalized abortion, and we know that the current president has without qualification supported every expansion of the murderous procedure he has ever has opportunity to support. Not that he would agree that killing these tiny human beings is murder: Like many, he thinks that some human beings are persons worthy of life, and some human beings are not persons, and thus may be destroyed for any reason whatsoever.
The historical, philosophical and moral problems are ones that the president, and most other proponents of abortion refuse to confront, at least openly. If we agree that all persons should be protected and allowed to live until their natural death, then to make abortion and euthanasia legal, we have to find ways to deny the personhood of those who are not wanted.
The problem for those who buy into this bifurcation between humanity and personhood is first historical: this is exactly the formula employed by every mass murderer in history. It is the semantic of oppression, a procedure through which the groups that are targeted to be destroyed or exploited are described with traits that go from having human deficiencies to even to denying their humanity. Once this semantic takes hold, those in power go about destroying the newly-depersonalized.
The second problem is philosophical: What exactly determines why this human being should live, and this other one should not? Those who claim that the difference is one of an ability to demonstrate conscience and will or some other more or less measurable trait always ignore the fact that such traits are often transitory. I can be sentient one minute, non-sentient the next, then back to my old self. A baby starts life with very limited conscience and will and all of us run the risk of ending our lives with a diminished state of consciousness. These criteria are also notoriously subjective and subject to revision.
The undeniable fact is that those who defend the destruction of innocent human life in the form of abortion and euthanasia cannot confront the moral issues, nor can they confront the history that proves beyond a doubt the similarity between their reasoning and that of the most heinous murderers of history.
Either every human being is a person, regardless of his or her ability to demonstrate a particular trait or demonstrate their utility and convenience; or we can destroy any one at any time for any reason. One only needs time to come up with this reason and a story that will convince others to cooperate in or endorse the destruction.
But if, as we believe, every human being is a person with the right to live the life he already enjoys, up until the point of natural death, then we owe it to the weakest of our brothers and sisters to defend them, including, and perhaps especially, in law. Guaranteeing the personhood of every human being in law is crucial if we are to get beyond the back and forth of activist judges or politicians who must worry about their own position as much as they must the life of an elderly woman, or a disabled child.
In America, as in the rest of the world, politics is the art of the possible, with the goal of achieving the common good. And there are certainly some courageous politicians fighting for life. But if there is a chance to put and an end to the whole debate with constitutional language that would bind the enemies of life – even a slight chance – that is a chance that those who love life should be willing to take.
In the beautiful state of Colorado, I have learned that voters have a chance to affect such a change, to put language defining and defending every human person into the state constitution, up above the heads of judges and politicians: language that will force these leaders to either obey law respecting the life of the human person or to openly declare their hostility not only to life, but to the rule of law.
Many of us are watching with great anticipation. May the Lord of Life and His Blessed Mother guide the citizens of Colorado in truth and wisdom, and may American persons continue to move in the direction of embracing and defending the life of every human person.
Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula
Interim President, Human Life International