Saturday, November 8, 2008

Liberty and Death

I've been thinking about this for a few days, but there's lots of it that I'm still mulling over. Bear with me. Maybe I'll even make sense at some point.

Historically, both for the Church and the secular perspective of the United States, liberty has always been something connected with the notion of life. [On a side note, since most folks who read this probably don't cipher the philosophical notions of freedom and liberty, I'm sticking with the everyday usages which have them as pretty much the same thing and I think the basic point I'm making will still apply regardless of the potential conflicts between false "Enlightenment" ideas and those of the Church.] The Declaration talks about inalienable rights like life and liberty (endowed by the Creator, no less). Patrick Henry linked liberty with life when he proposed death as the alternative to living under tyranny. Augustine's instruction on liberty was to "Love, and do what thou wilt" in his Sermon on 1 John. Pope Leo XIII called liberty the "highest of natural endowments" on which the power of all his actions in life rested. There was also an interest in protecting the rights of others, albeit the limits on such protections would have made for disagreements.

This isn't to say that death didn't enter the picture (eg- choosing martyrdom). It just wasn't the emphasis.

The prevailing view seems to have rejected the close association of these concepts, or is at least rapidly swinging in that direction. Liberty is now understood primarily in terms of death.

For some time now, it has been common to hear assisted-suicide advocates to treat their cause as one that allows "death on your own terms." This is sort of what I'm talking about. The ultimate expression of one's liberty now has less and less to do with living. It has more to do with destroying one's own life or the life of another.

Consider the Freedom of Choice Act. This legislation would elevate abortion to a "fundamental right" (clearly one not endowed by the Creator). Not only would Sen. Obama sign this legislation, he appreciates it so much that it would be "the first thing" he'd do as President. The destruction of life in the womb has taken on an almost apocalyptic significance for those who justify the "right" to take such an action. Don't believe me? Read Justice Blackmun's dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and tell me if I'm exaggerating:

Three years ago, in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, four Members of this Court appeared poised to "cast into darkness the hopes and visions of every woman in this country" who had come to believe that the Constitution guaranteed her the right to reproductive choice. All that remained between the promise of Roe and the darkness of the plurality was a single, flickering flame. Decisions since Webster gave little reason to hope that this flame would cast much light. . . And I fear for the darkness as four Justices anxiously await the single vote necessary to extinguish the light.

This is the kind of language I'd expect from Tim LaHaye about the coming of the AntiChrist. Here we have an example of how the ultimate exercise of one's freedom has become defined by the ability to destroy the life of another. Considering that FOCA envisions the test for any restriction to be "viability" as specifically discussed in Roe v. Wade (yet admitted as a rather worthless standard by the plurality in the Casey opinion), we will have accomplished the amazing feat of making life a completely arbitrary determination.

The same arguments were used in Washington for Initiative 1000 and really any other assisted suicide law. The murder of self is touted as the greatest freedom one can exhibit. The life of the individual is no longer regarded by himself or others as something with a completely objective value. Due to ____________ circumstances, the life in question is now somehow diminished and of such lesser value than pre-___________ life, that extermination is appropriate. The height of freedom is not the ability to transcend whatever fills in the blank. It is cast instead as the willingness to succumb to it.

These are just a couple of examples. You could make much the same point about the stem cell proposition in Michigan. I do not know how this paradigm shift took place. Death, for oneself or others, has now come to signify liberty. This is a far cry from inalienable rights endowed by a Creator, unless we are to turn Jefferson's words on their head and say that death is the true right granted by God.

Maybe I am making some leaps here that I shouldn't. I'll admit that this sort of just popped in my head Wednesday morning whilst in the shower. I do know that I have seen a remarkable (r)evolution in this nation's thinking over my brief life span. It does not appear to be for the better.

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