The sanctity of life is a flip-flop on both wings
It always has been a funny old world. Just lately I reckon
it's getting funnier. And I mean funny as in peculiar, not funny as in ha ha.
It has never ceased to astound me how easily we humans can
deceive ourselves and how readily we can rationalise even the most blatant
inconsistencies in our thinking and/or behaviour.
That came home to me again the other day when I received an
email from a mate of mine in Chicago. Apropos of a discussion we had been having
about the retiring Illinois Governor's decision to commute the death sentences
of 156 inmates, he wrote:
"The American right wing and the American left wing [and
this applies to the left and right anywhere] are politically at odds over
everything, but nowhere as contradictorily as on the matter of death. The right
advocates the death penalty but hates abortion; the left loves abortion but
hates the death penalty.
"Neither side seems to see the schizophrenia of these
positions: If they respect the sanctity and dignity of life, and they posit
their thinking on the sanctity and dignity of life, how can they flip-flop so
much on these fundamental issues? Either all life is sacred or no life is
sacred. How do we pick and choose?
"As I get older the gift of life seems ever so much more
sacred and God-given. If I thought the death penalty had a deterrent effect I
would probably favour it; if I thought all abortion was good I would probably
favour that, too. But I can't in good conscience favour either because both have
been so misused by well-intentioned but wrong-headed miscreants."
Of whom President George W. Bush must be a prime example. A
couple of Sundays ago he talked to a big pro-life rally about the importance of
the sanctity of life. Only a few days later he talked about raining down 300 or
400 missiles a day on Iraq and its mostly innocent citizenry.
Yet my friend's dissertation presents me with a dilemma
because while I, too, abhor abortion and consider it to be murder most foul of
humanity's most helpless, I have no compunction in supporting the invasion of
Iraq to rid the world of the brutal and bestial Saddam Hussein.
So I intend conveniently to file that one away for future
reference and instead take another look at the action of former Governor George
Ryan in commuting the sentences of his state's entire death-row population.
Said this newspaper in an editorial: "Mr Ryan's moral
strength in standing up for what he believed should not be underestimated. In a
country where 70 per cent of people continue to support the death penalty, and
the White House disregards international disapproval of executions, stepping
blithely into retirement would have been the comfortable course."
Not true, unfortunately. Reports my friend in Chicago:
"Governor Ryan is probably going to prison for fraud and corruption
scandals that have ruined his tenure in the Statehouse and precluded him from
running for re-election. This includes the hideous death by fire of seven young
children from the same family in an infamous 'bribes for a licence' driver's
"A lot of citizens of this state say cynically that
Governor Ryan did this so that when he goes to prison - as he surely will - he
will not have to become a 'bad man's boyfriend'.
"The irony of the thing is that a crook is now the
darling of the liberals and bleeding hearts, and may receive the Nobel Peace
Prize while residing in an Illinois jail."
My friend has a few things to say, too, about the American
justice system that could well be prophetic for this country in the immediate
future. He writes:
"Jail is a race issue - 80 per cent of all our criminals
in prison are African-Americans. America has increasingly become a two-tiered
society of haves and have-nots. This has created a huge, perpetual underclass
based on education, nutrition, race poverty and a hopelessness that is almost
"But it is also a permissive society in which everyone
is portrayed as a victim not responsible for his or her own actions.
"Jail time is good time for criminals. They get a nice
place to sleep, three meals a day, unlimited use of exercise equipment, colour
television and probably the first decent medical care they have ever had.
"They get to network with gangs and gang members.
"They get sodomised, brutalised, crushed and defeated,
and then are released onto an innocent society - innocent as in terms of 'look
the other way'.
"More than two million Americans are in jails of one
kind or another. Prisons are the middle-American growth industry; they represent
America at its worst and they represent jobs and political patronage.
"New prisons are being built all over Illinois and
America. They sprout up everywhere in their razor-wired, surreal splendour,
looking like slave compounds from Mars ... "
There has to be a lesson there somewhere.
Used by permission NZ Herald