Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Innocence, Murder, and Gary Johnson

There has been an 800 pound gorilla in the room when it comes to my discussions of politics. It's not so much noticeable from the Left, but my acquaintances on the Right notice it big-time.
  1. I vocally express the opinion that Abortion is murder; 
  2. I vocally support Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for President;
  3. Gary Johnson is unabashedly pro-Choice.
"How is it possible," I am asked, "that you can support this man for President."

Well, I'll tell you, but I'm going to get to it in my typically circuitous fashion.

That's the title of an excellent blog post by L. Jagi Lamplighter. Click the title to read it. I'll quickly summarize that in it, she recounts that she, as a Christian, opposes abortion; but that since her decision was the result of religious belief, she felt that she must support choice in deference to the First Amendment. An atheist friend of hers offered her a view of abortion that she had not considered. It is murder, for the purpose of convenience or expense rather than self-defense or the defense of others. He then asked, if that is OK, then why can't we murder our senile old grandparents rather than endure the inconvenience and expense of caring for them in their old age?

I had a similar question asked of me today. Upon sharing Lamplighter's post, I was asked if this line of thinking apply to the death penalty as well? Perhaps this was intended as a "gotcha" for the mean old right-winger who would presumably like nothing better than to kill off the criminals, but frankly I find Gandalf's admonition to Frodo to be compelling: "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends." So my answer was "Should it not?"

And though I will not print my friend's name here in deference to his privacy, I will give you his response verbatim, because there is quite a lot packed into this short statement:
"There are so many easy ways to solve the abortion issue but too many groups on both sides are invested in fighting it that it will never be solved. We have forgotten how to compromise in this country."
I believe each of these three sentences carries a misconception: 1. This issue has easy solutions; 2. People are invested in fighting it; and 3. We've forgotten how to compromise. And this led us into the nature of compromise, and it will ultimately lead us back to my choice for President.

In the course of this conversation I pointed out that one form of compromise that has been discarded is to stop believing everything is the job of the Federal government. Murder itself is not a Federal offense unless committed on Federal land or against a Federal official. Some things... and particularly those things that are controversial... are best left to be decided closer to the People. That leaves open the opportunity for people to "vote with their feet", to join physically with like-minded individuals and be governed according to their local community standards. This is something that a central government cannot solve. Any attempt breeds dissent, as we've seen so often in the news.

I went on to say, "I can't help but observe that this is not a word that can be applied to the subject of death. Would you propose to half-kill someone? It's dead or not-dead." He suggested making abortion illegal but having the Right compromise on sex education ("so that children and young adults can make responsible decisions about sex") and agree to free birth control for all. I suspect he perceived this as another gotcha, because he concluded, "but both sides are unwilling to concede anything."

Now, I don't know about you, Reader, but I'm confident that I could talk any Pro-Life conservative in America into accepting those terms, Christian or not. An end to the murder of innocent children in exchange for the price of some free condoms? And sex education which, if it is to be responsible at all, must necessarily point out that a pregnancy means carrying a child to term?

I agreed immediately. But I wasn't sure he did. Obviously he thought it could never be acceptable instead of the being the slam-dunk it is. So I asked him outright if the Right agreed to every term he listed, did he think it would be acceptable to the Left?

Well, of course it wouldn't, because... and I'm going to make this as fair as possible again with a direct quote:
"Nothing is going to fly because, as I said before, no one is willing to compromise. We as a nation founded on compromise have forgotten how to do that. Your recent response proves that. Instead of discounting my argument why don't you offer a counter proposal? You can't because you are unwilling to compromise."
This is despite the fact that I had just acceded to every term he listed; despite the fact that I'm sure any conservative Christian would do the same given only a short explanation; and had already offered a counter-proposal of my own, that of leaving this issue at the level of the individual States.

This isn't limited to this guy, whom I have counted as a friend for many years (and still do!). Nor is he in any way disingenuous or evil. He does not recognize the heinous act of abortion as a heinous act. He believes sincerely that he is advocating Good. And he sincerely does not recognize the many compromises that have been made as compromises. He did not recognize a thing when it was laid before him on a silver platter.

Understand that my main point in what's to follow is not to declare "this side is right, that side is wrong," though I leave you with no doubt as to where my sympathies lie. Rather, it's to point out that this is a difficult issue on which the religious Right is not nearly so illogical and unbending as you on the Left may believe; and there are solid stone walls where you don't think they exist. If you've read Lamplighter's blog post, or even my summary, you know that it was the religious woman who was the pro-choicer, and the atheist who was not... and both were on purely rational grounds.

My friend alluded to the founding of our country in compromise. The fact is unassailable that this nation was founded in large part on the notion that there are rights that are unalienable... that cannot be compromised; that cannot be abridged. They structured the Federal government to be small and limited in scope, thereby allowing the People to make their own decisions in these matters, both for themselves and their communities. And though the right to Life was one of those unalienable rights specifically mentioned by the Founders, today's compromisers would have that read "unless it's inconvenient". I shared Lamplighter's blog because it puts the difficulty of this position in sharp relief.

And as to the matter of "compromise" and what we have forgotten... let's not lose sight of the form taken by the compromises of our Founders. Non-Federal control of Abortion is a huge compromise for those who believe that abortion is murder. It is as big a compromise as allowing slave-owning states was for the idealistic Founders. And it is hardest on those morally predisposed toward Life, just as it Slavery was morally hardest to accept for those predisposed toward Liberty. People berate our Founders because of their "hypocrisy" in allowing the slave trade. This is pure nonsense. They made a very hard decision to accept the best compromise they could negotiate.

Remember the arguments for Slavery... getting rid of it would be inconvenient: an expensive hardship. Slavery was a pro-choice argument: not pro-choice for the victims, of course... they had no say in the matter. But it was pro-choice for those who were privileged to make the choices. Today's abortionists make all the same noises. How might we think of them in a hundred years?

Let's hear no more nonsense about forgetting how to compromise. Local control is exactly the form of compromise that our Founders would and did choose.


Now... back to Gary Johnson. Where does all of this rumination get me? Well, let's see...

Gary Johnson is a Libertarian. You can argue whether he's a "good" one or a "bad" one, but I think these things can be set aside for a moment. I think that at this moment in time it's more important to break the two-party stranglehold on government than it is to worry about the purity of your candidate's ideology. Once that has been done even once, even by a mediocre Libertarian, it will be easier to elect another, better Libertarian in the next election.

His positions are the correct ones far more often than not. For instance, the illegal Mexican population in the United States has been shrinking. And we can grant work visas and tax people without making them citizens. This is far more rational than trying to net 11 million hardworking people and build a billion-dollar wall with the money they send home to their poor families (money that won't exist when you catch them. See the funding problem?). And our country's drug laws have incarcerated millions of Americans who might otherwise be working and paying taxes. And for what? To control a substance that's less dangerous than the beer you can buy at a gas station.

Yes, we disagree on Abortion. But Libertarians can disagree... it's part of being Libertarian. And this is an honest disagreement. Yes, he's pro-choice. But as you will have read in Lamplighter's piece, that does not necessarily make a person pro-death. He's pro-choice on rational Libertarian grounds, just as I am pro-Life on rational Libertarian grounds. He is defending individual choice. I subscribe to the view that the non-aggression principle would have me defend defenseless innocents, of which none are more defenseless or innocent than the unborn. (I've blogged about this previously here, and here, among others)

Gary Johnson will not make it worse.  As a Libertarian, he's more likely to listen to opposing views and take them into account. And he really can't screw it up. Abortion is already legal. Partial-birth abortions are already performed. And changing this on a national level by sheer force of will is beyond the ability of a President. Selecting a new Supreme Court Justice is important for sure, but depending upon this to overturn Abortion on a national level is... well... less likely to succeed than Gary Johnson's Presidential bid. But what is more likely to succeed is returning more power to the States in respect of the Tenth Amendment. In the end, this is more generally beneficial than the abortion litmus test alone.

Remember the Founders' compromise on Slavery. If they had held out for the purity of their vision, there would be no United States of America as we know it. Instead, they took a longer view. In the Constitution they explicitly put off any action against the Slave Trade until 1808, at which point they quickly banned the importation of slaves. But it took many more decades and a Civil War to rid us of this immoral institution. I believe we can rid ourselves of another immoral institution without a war, but it will require that we adopt a long-term vision as did the Founders. What's broken here far more than our country's laws is its heart. There is no "easy" fix for that.

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