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Once More unto the Breach

September 4, 2020 (754 words)

Here we go again. With another presidential election looming partisans of all stripes are once more treating us to raw, visceral appeals designed to by-pass logic and reason.

There are the social conservatives, who loudly condemn Democrats as morally reprehensible for supporting reproductive choice and marriage equality. The conservatives are convinced such stances are a betrayal of our country’s Christian roots. They refuse to recognize these trends for what they truly are: an inevitable evolution of the Enlightenment version of “freedom” and “liberty” and “the pursuit of happiness” that inspired our most famous Founders.

These same religiously-motivated citizens continue to insist there is no issue before the voters that takes precedent over defending human life from inception to natural death. Even though abortion is still an elective procedure rather than a political mandate, and is in any event still not on the ballot.

Failing to consider abortion in its full economic context – how privileged women choose abortion as an expression of their “economic freedom,” how under-privileged woman are constrained by “economic injustice” into opting for abortion – is the fatal flaw in the pro-life movement as presently constituted.

The last part of “from inception to natural death” started as a reference to the euthanasia movement, as well as being a reference to the “death squads” we used to hear so much about, which we were told would casually discard the weak if left unchecked.

But an entirely different end-of-life problem has emerged, quite apart from the euthanasia movement, or the worry over so-called death squads.

What constitutes “natural death” is getting harder to decipher, as advances in treatment of so many previously terminal conditions blur the line beyond recognition. Our medical pros are only too happy to employ their entire bag of sophisticated procedures, pulling out all the stops in an attempt to keep our elderly loved ones around long after they should have been allowed to shuffle off this mortal coil to meet their maker.

Fiscal conservatives, meanwhile, are ramping up their objections to the dreaded “welfare state” policy proscriptions of their political foes, those wayward souls who are known to promote some really wacky ideas.

Such as healthcare being a basic human right that should not be left exposed to the vagaries of the for-profit marketplace. As any self-respecting conservative will tell you, only an irresponsible liberal or a wild-eyed socialist could support such an un-American position.

Any version of “Medicare for All” would throw a wrench into our best-in-class healthcare system, and violate the sacred principle of “choosing our own doctors.” Not to mention eliminating the thriving competition fiscal conservatives assure us now exists between the various privately-owned (i.e. corporate–owned) health insurance companies.

All this claptrap cuts both ways, of course. Liberals are just as inane in much of what they have to say about the competition.

Heaven knows there is plenty to criticize about the way President Trump has conducted himself in office, and the way his administration has chosen to conduct the nation’s business. But too much of the criticism we are hearing is unfortunately on the same sophomoric level as the commander-in-chief’s typical tweet.

The erstwhile Kamala Harris, for instance, at the beginning of her first public speech as Joe Biden’s running mate, was given to say: “The president’s mismanagement of the pandemic has plunged us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

This is the sort of broad characterization that should make even Trump’s harshest critics blush. Does anyone really think there was a single undisputed “right way” to handle a once-every-hundred-years catastrophe of worldwide proportions? Does anyone really think this pandemic was NOT going to cripple important segments of the economy?

At the Democratic National Convention, featured speaker Michelle Obama was in her best get-out-the-vote mode when she intoned: “…if you think it can’t get any worse, it can… and it will.” She was described in the aftermath of this appearance as “the most effective communicator in the Democratic Party today.”

These days being an effective communicator means getting people to act on their feelings, without subjecting those feelings to any rational analysis.

It’s too bad, really. The majority of Ms. Obama’s address, and Ms. Harris’ first speech as the VP nominee, was well-written and well-delivered. I don’t mind pointed political jabs, since after all they come with the territory. I just wish the partisans of all stripes would appeal to a slightly higher order of thinking than what one is prone to find in the average high school football cheering section.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr
September 4, 2020

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