Voters, non-voters and fanatics

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A paranoid anti-choicer aware of columnist Russell Wangersky’s own view of abortion might be tempted suspiciously to interpret his column Feb. 22 (“If you’re a non-voter, you’re part of the problem), which urges everyone to vote so that fervent “special interests” will not take over the country by dominating a low turnout of voters, as attempting to scare the pro-abortion crowd into tolerating the status quo of irresponsible or dishonest government rather than let a government gain power which would restrict abortions.

Such an interpretation might be even more likely if the paranoid anti-choicer were to reflect on the actual number of “special interests” currently prominent in Canadian politics.

Some objections

Some may object to my having here called them “pro-abortion.” They may say, as some often do, that no one is “pro-abortion” in the sense of actually desiring to kill unborn humans, but that sometimes there are circumstances which make an abortion necessary.

In reply, perhaps I may submit similarly that those homicidal maniacs who actually want to kill other adult humans are relatively few, but sometimes there are circumstances in which justice makes capital punishment necessary?

Or does that suggestion just make me just another savagely bloodthirsty extremist right-winger, because sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander? (The real reason advocates of capital punishment are more evidently “eager” to prevail than most of the “pro-choice” admit to being, might be that it is normal for humans to be eager for justice.)

There is another phrase often used in this context to which I myself am inclined to object: the phrase “unwanted pregnancy”; I feel almost certain that it is not the pregnancy itself which troubles an expectant mother when she is troubled, but rather some other circumstance truly unfortunate or even wrong which itself is not amenable to a remedy as easy (in the physical sense) as killing a baby.

Colin Burke

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Recent comments

  • Colin Burke
    March 13, 2014 - 09:42

    Mr. Power, how is what I suggested in any way confusing? If you are indeed convinced you are indeed a thoroughly decent person, then obviously you need no religion of any kind to forgive you for anything. On the other hand, a person who knows he has never acted contrary to what he deems a valid standard of conduct ought to be himself aware of his own righteousness without needing Mark Twain, Carl Sagan, H.G. Wells, and Isaac Asimov to convince him of it. Or do these experts in moral science simply preach standards by which anyone at all can deem himself a thoroughly decent person, much in the manner of Mr. Morrison's deeming himself saved?

  • Colin Burke
    March 11, 2014 - 10:52

    You seem confused, Mr. Power. What I really suggested was that you believe that all your own deeds are pure, and you did not deny it. If you think all your deeds are pure, then C.S. Lewis said Christianity has nothing to say to you. However, I suggest it says instead, "I have much more to say to you, but you cannot bear it now." If not all your deeds are pure, I would prefer to feel your faults are due to original sin instead of believing that you invented impurity all by yourself and for yourself especially. You seem to keep dodging such questions by quoting misrepresentations of actual Catholic teachings, one of which is that the Genesis narrative need not be taken literally word for word. It ought, however, to be taken seriously, just not literally.

    • Ed Power
      March 12, 2014 - 04:51

      I can assure you, Mr. Burke, that any confusion that exists is entirely on your part. I do not need an imaginary deity or some other type of magical creature to browbeat or frighten me into being a decent person. That one would require the presence of such a fear-inducing motivator to terrified into decent behaviour is actually quite frightening. It says far more about the thin veneer of civilization that religious belief imposes upon it adherents than the absence of any belief in the "Divine" does. I don't know what Catholic school or school system you were indoctrinated in, but the Bible as the "literal Word of God" was taught in my mine and enforced at the end of the strap. Rote memorization of Cathecism and physical punishment if it were misremembered or questioned. An age-old recipe for a well-rounded education.

  • Colin Burke
    March 08, 2014 - 08:11

    Mr. Power, I submit that you believe you are not a spiritually impure sinner, because you believe that no one is such. But if everyone's deeds are pure, does it matter very much whether we learn that by indoctrination from religious teachers or from 19th century American humorists? And how do you reconcile saying that religions teach us that we are spiritually impure sinners with your saying earlier that they taught us all our deeds are pure? Yes, indeed, it seems "Any stigma will do to beat a dogma."

    • Ed Power
      March 10, 2014 - 12:19

      You seem confused, Mr. Burke. I didn't say that religion "taught us all our deeds are pure", I said that it is easy to justify any atrocity committed against someone else when it is deemed to be your "God's will" that they be tortured or killed. As Bishop Arnaud Amalric said of the unfortunate innocents who would be slaughtered alongside the Cathar "heretics" at the siege of Beziers, "Kill them all. For the Lord knoweth them that are His". The same justification is used by many religions around the world today to maim, torture and kill those they perceive to be - or are deemed by their religious leaders to be - heretics, infidels or blasphemers. As to the concept of sin, my RC indoctrination taught me that I was sinful in nature, impure of thought and stained with "Original Sin". According to this scenario, the consumption of a piece of fruit by a woman who had been chatting with a talking snake in a magic garden resulted in me being born - some 6000 years later, according to Bishop Ussher's version of history - pre-doomed to "Eternal Damnation" for this poor woman's actions. Quite the concept, isn't it, doomed before leaving the womb? Nothing that a sprinkle of magic water, the proper incantations and a lifetime begging forgiveness for someone else's deed can't cure. To quote that aforementioned atheistic 19th century humourist, "Alas! those good old days are gone, when a murderer could wipe the stain from his name and soothe his trouble to sleep simply by getting out his blocks and mortar and building an addition to a church".

  • Herb Morrison
    March 04, 2014 - 20:47

    Mr Power, the fact that you are a self- proclaimed Athieist, combined with your obvious ignorance of even the most basic Principles of Christian Doctrine i.e. the the fact that Christians, myself included are spiritually impure sinners who, by God's Grace; because of our Faith in God and in Jesus as Saviour Lord are assured that God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit will provide us with Spiritual cleansing, in this world and eternal Spiritual life in Heaven, following our physical death. However, since you have obviously choosen, as is your right, according to Christ's teachings, not to believe ithe truth contained in the Scripture in general, and in the New Testament in particular, in my humaness I am inclined to conclude that any attempt to explain my Faith to you is about as futile an exercise as telling as telling a hair-raising story to a bald-headed man.

    • Ed Power
      March 06, 2014 - 15:12

      I too, Mr. Morrison, received a large dose of Christian indoctrination from the time I was born, mine at the hands of my parents and the RC church. Believe it or not, my mother, and a few close relatives, were sure that they had a future priest on their hands. Unfortunately, for them at least, the indoctrination didn't take. Not even a stint as an altar boy was enough to overcome my atheistic tendencies. I blame it on the public library system and people like Mark Twain, HG Wells, Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov who taught me that I, contrary to your belief and that of my RC indoctrinators, am not a "spiritually impure sinner". That concept, like that of god/gods/devils/demons and other magical creatures, is purely a manmade one. I outgrew the need to be " scared straight" when I was old enough to think for myself. Marx was correct when he observed that religion was the opiate of the people. What better way to sedate the masses from the degradation, starvation and poverty of their lives than the promise of an everlasting life in a mystical paradise where the "Chosen People" can finally put one over on the kings and nobility who kept them in misery and enforced bondage. The Roman emperors practiced much the same scam, albeit on a far smaller scale, with the elaborate games they staged in the Coliseum. "Panem et Circenses" - Bread and the Games - as the Roman poet Juvenal described them. As for the "truth contained in the Scripture", I would suggest that one can find as much wisdom and moral guidance in the works of the Greek fabulist, Aesop. His writings pre-date much of the Hebrew fables, are not (mostly) plagiarized from Sumerian and other older sources and are much more entertaining. Given the choice between education and indoctrination, I will choose the former over the latter.

  • Ed Power
    March 04, 2014 - 12:18

    I would suggest, Mr. Morrison, that many of the followers of the thousands of gods and religions that mankind has "blessed" this planet with - including the Abrahamic ones - are probably the least qualified to offer moral guidance to others. Their past actions over many centuries, and their actions of the present around the globe, are hardly the stuff of moral superiority. But then, the followers of these religions all believe or believed their actions to be pure because their god(s) told them so. And so it continues....

    • Colin Burke
      March 04, 2014 - 15:59

      I suggest, Mr. Power, that not all Catholics, at least, believe our actions to be pure because our God has told us so: rather we, if we are orthodox Catholics, believe we need God's forgiveness because even unaided human reason makes it clear that very many of our actions are exceedingly far from pure; since you are not religious, of course, that absolves all your own actions from any sort of taint?

  • Herb Morrison
    March 03, 2014 - 15:14

    The debate recorded above, proves, beyond any reasonable doubt, that; because we are imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world, whenever an issue arises, which challenges our personal perception of what constitutes either moral behaviour or immoral behaviour; despite our attempts to “take the hi8gher road,” if you will, more often than not; the only option that we mere mortals have when deciding whether or not abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, are, within the context of a given situation justifiable is to decide which form of action constitutes the lesser of two or more evils. Spin doctoring, similar to that engaged in by Misers Burke, Delaney, and Power does nothing to alter the reality that our concept of what constitutes morally appropriate behaviour always reflects our human imperfection and lack of divinity, despite our desire to believe or to have other people believe that we have the inside track when it comes to deciding what constitutes morally appropriate behaviour.

    • Cashin Delaney
      March 04, 2014 - 08:54

      I concur. I am pleased that my spin doctoring has contributed to wise reflection. I mean, I read some of the stuff I put up here, it is often regrettable, or at least forgettable. There is nothing new in what we say, it has all been said. Herb says it best, without getting caught in the semantic bog of justice, morals, or divinity. I like to challenge perceptions. I like it when others challenge mine but at some point, you have to agree to disagree and look after those kids and parents as we know they need it, not on principle, but in real-time, space-time.

    • Colin Burke
      March 04, 2014 - 10:46

      I think I am inclined to agree with you here, Mr. Morrison: I feel that observations like the one to which I am replying are especially fine reflections of our human imperfection and lack of divinity and cannot constitute the inside track when it comes to deciding moral questions.

  • Cashin Delaney, Again
    March 03, 2014 - 02:03

    I have said what I have said; I have not said what I have not said. I have made no proclamation of moral irrelevancy or justice. I am merely exploring the topic as you requested by letter. It is apparent that Wangersky, and yourself, may be stuck in the mud of moral principle, and I tried to give you a push. “Life's quality is the choice.” (my words) The moral principle based on quality of life, rather than pro/con of it, per se. If you live in a society where it is socio-economically feasible to allow a pregnancy to continue supported, uterine murder seems absurd. Executing a murderer is also absurd in a similar society devoid of the worship of a ‘raging Adonay’ or control of a vindictive, authoritarian judicial system. It may seem necessary, in a judiciary that cannot keep famous ‘cult of the head’ style greyhound-bus murders in jail, but is not. I do believe prisoners convicted of murder should have the option of ending their own life. I imagine we have lost a few Beethovens and Einsteins to the “back-alley abortion” as well as a few hapless scapegoats to wrongful convictions. I submit that beyond necessity (i.e. utilitarian infanticide/execution “on the march”), humans killing humans in our era is mostly scapegoat ritual-sacrifice. Ed Byrne was an example of a modern ritual sacrifice career ‘killing’ and shaming of the few, in the PC corruption case to absolve the conduct of the many, or in the last example given in your letter, the “circumstance truly unfortunate” necessitates the foetal-snuff. Yet, killing is sometimes the means to preserve the integrity of the tribe (we have not even broached euthanasia) and prevent more suffering than it promotes. It is only the triumph of knowledge over ignorance that can reduce it. I regret that I must insist on subjective moral principle that puts me at odds (laughing at) with the pro/con debate in favour of a pro-life stance that involves killing nothing unless it is necessary. Justice-killing a man in a cage, or convenience-aborting a fetus unplanned are examples of ‘my’ concept of immorality. It may not be the judges, or the pregnant woman’s, and I defer to their assessment and action. To qualify, abortion and capital punishment decreases as society evolves. Moral laws of church & state, such as ‘don’t put a rubber on your willy’ or ‘stand your ground’, are all subjective and will change as society changes, no matter the decided immutability of youself, G.K. Chesterton or Wangersky. The goose, the gander, and even the sauce, evolve beyond our static comprehension as we wish the writing of others would adhere to our ideals of morality and coherence. "capital punishment can never be justice or that justice itself is not necessary" is your limited view, why should I dumb myself down? "why not say why?" well, Mr. Burke, 'why say why', when I can say what I mean, not what you expect to hear?

    • Colin Burke
      March 03, 2014 - 11:53

      Mr. Delaney, I seem to see, quite clearly, that people's deserving the effects of what they do justifies a law requiring that people who do what would make them parents accept their being parents and any inconvenient concomitants which might occur as a result. The same principle, I seem to see, quite clearly, also justifies both capital punishment and killing in a fair fight to prevent capital punishment if one honestly opposes that. If that principle, like geese, ganders and sauce and everything else, is destined to evolve, into what do you think it will likely change? Or does what you are saying really imply only that as people choose to act on one whim rather than another, as their quality of life may suggest to them, they will tend to reject or accept that principle whether or not it is true?

    • Colin Burke
      March 04, 2014 - 08:42

      After reflecting a bit belatedly, Mr. Delaney, on your reference to the quality of life, I do feel one may let the quality of life mostly guide one's actions and judgements, provided one has reliable criteria for assessing the quality of life, and I believe I have one such criterion to suggest: The quality of life increases -- "improves," if you prefer -- in direct proportion to the strength of one's gladness at deserving what one deserves by ding what one does; such gladness consists, properly, not only in feeling pleased but also in being able to approve with one's understanding the purposes one pursues and the means with which one pursues them. By the way, your comment some time ago on Cathy Bennett's letter about "population action plans" was truly excellent and spot on. I didn't say so there, since that would have required a separate comment, but since we're taking here...

  • Ed Power
    March 01, 2014 - 17:21

    I would suggest that if your body doesn't come pre-equipped with a uterus, you don't get to make any decisions concerning what happens inside or outside of it. Instead , we get to witness the spectacle of a US House Committee hearing on women's reproductive rights wherein the all-male Republican dominated House Committee received testimony from a panel of "expert" witnesses consisting of a Roman Catholic priest, a Lutheran minister, a rabbi and two (male) professors. A female Georgetown University law student specializing in insurance and contraceptive coverage who had been scheduled to testify was rejected at the last minute by the Republican Committee Chair as "unqualified" and forced to testify in another room - a situation that one would not expect outside Iran or Saudi Arabia. Women, many men seem to think, have been on a downhill slide ever since June Cleaver stopped vacuuming in high heels and a skirt.

    • Colin Burke
      March 03, 2014 - 11:27

      Ah, there you are, Mr. Power. I would suggest that anyone who wants no one else to make any decision concerning what happens inside her womb -- or her body -- ought to make absolutely certain she never allows anyone else to cause anything to happen inside it. And does what I had deemed the universal legal principle that "No one is judge in his own case" always become "Everyone is sole judge in her own case" or does it become so only when she brings her case against someone her own actions caused to affect her?

  • Colin Burke
    March 01, 2014 - 10:53

    Great example of wheel-spinning, Mr. Delaney. In that noble sport you have outshone both me and Mr. Wangersky, superbly, even if a little less coherently. But if you really feel that appeals to moral principles are irrelevant -- you might have made the point, for instance, either that capital punishment can never be justice or that justice itself is not necessary -- why not say why? Or would that in itself constitute a wheel-spinning appeal to (moral) principle?

  • Cashin Delaney
    March 01, 2014 - 09:18

    We 'can't afford' a second Baby, I can have my wife get an abortion if our ‘insulated congress’ is breached by seed. We can't afford this past 10 years of insane governance, I know it is my fault for not practicing safe-democracy, but I cannot abort Danny (or his worshippers) or Stephen, only vote them out, and another vile baby-tyrant in for us to nurture with our ignorance. {A smarter Germany would have just let Hitler put his head on a stamp as postmaster or something, nothing more} Maybe abortions should be voted on, your community/district will vote, and if the reasons, and your situation is really insurmountable, and our $1000 bonus is not enough, you may terminate. Also, people who get a buzz out of writing abortion on signs will get more social acceptance. Of course, the heath of the mother and a number of socio-psychological factors come into play, all to be voted on? Murder and Infanticide are a part of our history, and our present. It is only the triumph of knowledge over ignorance that can reduce it. All scapegoat-games, both Pagans Infants on the altars, and God-driven Men on Battlefields - all ritual sacrifice to fear, superstition & stupidity. Life's quality is the choice. How stupid you are frames the answer. Pro-/-anti-abortion dialectic is as inane as arguing a Pro-/anti-circular saw debate to solve mortgage insurance interest rate problems. Evolution developed death, when it developed sexual reproduction. We die so others shall live, and evolve, and persist - the taxing infant, THE TAXING TYRANT - snuffed out by a stupidity not enlightened enough to find a place for them within our persistent evolution. Were Robespierre, Lenin, and Cromwell not a type of abortion doctor, gone mad with reason and justice? Can we not feed the infant and pacify the tyrant so they can enjoy life? Can we not let the caretaker(s) of the uterus decide, or will we make a vote out of this as well? Is rent-abortion the cause of a young woman’s, and here unborn child’s bodies being discarded in a Moncton highway median? Are we not aborting thousands, as we speak, with our economy? Look at our, and the U.S. statistics on infant mortality. We fear our own loss of comfort, so pass the buck to infants and men fighting wars over oily religion against others children. I don’t have the answers to all your personal problems, but I can tell you it is not in the wheel-spinning of Colin Burke, or Russell Wangersky.