We're going to lose this one.
Let's be honest about it: Bill Frist's little pirouette on slicing and dicing children was merely a precursor of things to come.
I was, frankly, amazed that he sided with the President way back when all of this started in 2001. He never struck me as much of a social conservative, and frankly, I never trusted him to hew to that position. But do not doubt what this signifies in the larger scheme of things: My long-held suspicion that we would have government-sponsored involuntary human experimentation is about to become a certainty.
Do not, ever, misunderstand me on this: I rank this little expedition into the old jungles of human depravity as one of the worst, stupidest atrocities this country has ever countenanced. When we seriously contemplate making people to use them as experimental tissue; when we justify the dismemberment of already-made people with "they were going to die anyway"; when we offer human lives on the altar of Better Medicine for the Rest of Us, well, let it simply be said that Harry Blackmun is smiling from his little outpost in the Ninth Circle right now.
But we will lose this fight, at least in the short run. To say otherwise is to deny political reality, and to deny ourselves the tools needed to win the war in the long run. Here's why we lose:
People are basically scum. Actually, that's more or less a constant of the human condition. Anyone who banks on heroism out of their fellow men is either richer than the wildest dreams of avarice and hates money, or is an utter fool. Most folks will save their own skins given a chance, and will definitely sacrifice an unrelated other's life (or even a related other's life) for their own convenience and comfort. This is part of why our Founders were so nervous about the direct rule of the people: Men are hardly angels, and even the Prince of High Places took a third of the Host of Heaven into revolt at one time. When we are dealing, as here, with humans who don't even look human, well, let us simply say that the collective human track record of dealing with folks like that is not encouraging. (Believers in human "progress" insert squeals of protest here.)
Like Ronald Reagan, I'm a big optimist about the American spirit. Like most American conservatives, though, I'm one heck of a pessimist about the selfishness of humans in general. And when comfort and continued life are on the line, we're humans first, Americans second. That leads to:
The "Greatest Generation," the Baby Boomers, and at least Generation X will not be denied a chance to put off death and discomfort for just... a... little... longer. I'm not going to fall for the Iliad fallacy here, but I will say that those three generations have shown an inordinate fear of death and growing old (events heretofore considered somewhat ordinary for mortals). They (we, as I think I'm considered an X-er) diet and exercise and watch Suze Orman and follow the latest fad diets and dietary supplement fads and spend ridiculous amounts of money on preventative (and psuedopreventative) medicine and worry and gab about death and spend simply incredible amounts of money on art and literature about staying young forever. A fear of death is probably an intrinsic part of the human condition, but we've taken it to new, technologically aided heights.
And although embryonic stem cell research is still all about the potential benefits, the instant it was sold as a potential cure for everything from arthritis to Alzheimers to Parkinson's to everything short of death, the jig was up: Something that could cure every ailment of the human condition some day simply would be in the toolkit, and exciting alternatives to slaughtering kids can be damned, because we haven't been adequately promised that they can cure us of being human.
And, historically, we -- those three generations -- have had no problem with butchering children in utero; why would we, who together are easily the largest voting bloc in the country, deny ourselves manna (or, for geeks, mana) just because we have to kill them in petri dishes?
We won't. We'll demand it on a government-funded silver platter. Which is why:
Embryonic stem cell research is a winning issue. Maybe not in the Republican primaries; we'll see. But in society at large, that mega-voting bloc dwarfs any opposition, no matter how principled and correct, and it crosses party and non-party lines. How does this compare to abortion? Not as big yet. The Democrats' odd, suicidal desire to be seen, 1970s-like, as utterly weak in the defense of the United States? Not in the same league. The collapse of fiscal conservatism? Well, I disagree with a lot of the editors here: People will tell pollsters again and again that they demand fiscal accountability, but when it comes time to pull the lever, the boys who bring home the pork are the ones who don't have to go home.
But if all other things are equal, this will win out. Credit where it's due: Attacks on American soil have been notable for their absence the last four years. (God grant that it stay so.) Defense will fade as an issue if that trend continues. I suspect we'll be fighting the abortion wars at the state level relatively soon. And you know what I think about pork.
Because, at base:
Our Priesthood has declared that embryonic stem cell research is vital. When The Scientific Community tells us that we need something to put off death, we embrace it wholeheartedly. Scientists are no different from other human beings: They want to do Big Things, they want their work to Make a Difference, and they are, as are we all, selfish, flawed creatures. I'm not quite sure when or why we decided to elevate them to the level of a secular priesthood, but we did so, and they are now solemnly assuring us that they need to be able to take people apart for spare parts. Like a good group of Faithful, we will bow to our betters and give them what they demand, for they will reward us with the divine gift of an extra month in the actuarial tables for our fidelity and obedience.
It is precisely that simple. The folks to whom we've delegated far too much of our moral decision-making -- and thank God we held those reins fifty years ago -- are telling us that what the conscience should know is depraved is licit, and more than that, is necessary. They want to play with their toys without moral supervision. They're offering us one heck of a potential payoff. You'd better believe we're going to snap it up.
So it's coming. Federally funded embryonic stem cell research, with the resulting therapeutic cloning and massive increase in the number of children butchered for that bitch-goddess, Reason.
It is incumbent upon us to fight that. It is also incumbent upon us to prepare for inevitable defeat, but to learn the lesson of Roe and fight accordingly: Men will do depraved things to popular acclaim with what to a non-conservative must be depressing frequency. Unless we're prepared to take up arms -- and I'm not -- then we must resign ourselves to massive slaughter at the indirect hands of the government. But, the abortion wars showed us that how we fight determines the course of the war.
The pro-life movement was so outraged by Roe and the mandated sanction of the murder of children that it spent the 1970s floundering, unable to make any headway in public opinion. We were perceived as frothing religious lunatics.
But we learned. We learned the importance of a consistent, reasonable message. We learned the importance of working within the political system. We learned the importance of grass-roots organization, and message crafting, and listening to our fellow Americans for the best way to present our arguments to them. And though it's taken thirty-plus years -- and, yes, forty million dead -- we're within inches of sending Harry Blackmun's abomination to the grave with him.
We must do the same thing here. We must advertise the science of human life. We must remind people that the difference between an embryo on the cutting line and one on the way to becoming a baby is merely coincidental location. Men may be depraved, but they have better angels to whom we can appeal over time. We must make Republican and, yes, Democrat politicians pay for supporting this policy, by denying them our time, talent, treasure, and votes. And we must make clear to them why we're so doing.
Millions will die. Mark me.
But it is said of the Roman Legions during the Republic that they lost many battles, but never a war. As many wags have noted, this is because the Legions refused to let a war end until they had won.
We must be as the Legions.
Vita populi Suprema Lex.