Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Whose life is it anyway? [Jay]

In light of some of the conversation about the purity of the movement being the primary focus even if it means rejecting legislation or policy that will save lives now, I thought the following text from the James Oakes book The Radical and the Republican was appropriate. In writing about Frederick Douglass, Oakes says:

By early 1862 there was no disagreement between Lincoln and Douglass over whether slavery should be abolished. The issue was how. For all his talk of violent slave insurrection - and he talked a lot about it after Harper’s Ferry - Douglass actually endorsed all paths to emancipation. He was a flexible dogmatist. The goal mattered much more than the means of achieving it. Twenty years earlier, when his own freedom was at stake, Douglass had backed a proposal by his English friends to purchase his liberty from the man who technically owned him, thus making it possible for Douglass to return safely to America. Righteous abolitionist cried foul, but Douglass cared more about securing freedom than securing freedom in the purest way. (Page 170)

The final sentence struck me as applicable to the debate of purity of the cause versus saving as many lives as we can. The purists found the idea of purchasing the freedom of Douglass from his “technical owner” an admission of the legitimacy of that ownership. That is all well and good that they passionately felt that way, but it was Douglass’s freedom that was at issue. And Douglass wanted to be free however that could be accomplished.

It is also well and good to feel so passionately about the pursuit of legal recognition of the sanctity of human life that we refuse to compromise on our moral message and position. It is another thing when we let our moral position create an unnecessary climate where more people that are “not us” are being killed. I appreciate the concept of the purity of our cause. I just think that the unborn probably share Mr. Douglass’s perspective. Save as many as we can when we can because they would rather have their life than die for MY principled stand.

I post this with all due respect to those who disagree and their zeal for this issue.

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