Friday, September 05, 2003

Ramesh Ponnuru has a good read on Bobby Jindal, a subject near and dear to many conservative minds, including my own.
I'm a nutty right-winger. I admit it.

Lileks isn't, and says quite well something I was getting at yesterday:

This reminds me of a gentle tut-tutting I got from some guy on a webpage I stumbled across post 9/11 - he was just so . . . bemused at how I’d lost my grasp on reality. I had been describing my reaction to the men who’d kill my daughter for the glory of Allah: give me the gun, show me the cave. The author of the piece suggested I would be perfect for the role of the WW2 black-out warden who scolds people for half-closed windowshades.

Why, it’s almost as if I thought we were at war, or something.

Obviously the guy had no kids. I’m not saying childless people can’t have a visceral reaction to terrorists, or that parenthood has imbued me with a special glowing Field of Righteousness - but until you have children you can’t quite realize what you’d do to defend them, because the emotion comes from a place you didn’t know too much about. The weeks after 9/11 we all thought that we were in for more of this - more planes, more bombs, and come the winter, Smallpox. I would jerk awake from nightmares where Gnat had the pox. You do everything you can to keep them safe - then this.
You really have no idea what you'd do until you fully understand you're a Daddy. Then, no amount of violence seems entirely unthinkable.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I haven't weighed in on much of anything lately -- an announcement in that regard will be forthcoming in future months -- but reading Clayton Cramer's bit on Paul Hill (here) got me thinking:

It's hard for me to feel any sympathy for Hill. If Paul Hill had destroyed abortion clinics, I could at least respect his fervent desire to stop what he considers to be murder. Property is always of lesser significance than lives. Killing an abortion doctor, except while that doctor is actually headed into the operating room to perform an abortion, doesn't qualify as justifiable homicide by any stretch of the imagination. It's not lawful to gun down a serial killer as he walks down the street, unless they resist arrest, or are engaged in an immediate act that threatens the life of another. Neither of these cases really fits what Paul Hill did.

Paul Hill clearly sees himself as the 21st century equivalent of John Brown, and I think that's a fair comparison--and that should tell you something of how I feel about John Brown--a man who was too willing to kill, and sometimes to kill innocents, in the single-minded pursuit of justice. All the time and money that Hill and friends have spent on this trial could have been spent in ways that wouldn't have taken a life or inflamed pro-choice sorts: civil disobedience, blocking abortion clinic entrances; leafletting and picketing. Even criminal actions such as property-only sabotage can be remedied with enough money. To quote Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven: "It's a hellava' thing when you kill a man. You take away everything he's got ..... And everything he's ever gonna have."

Any liberal who regards Paul Hill as a monster, but John Brown as a hero, is only upset that Hill objects to abortion. Anyone who lionizes John Brown clearly has no problem with Paul Hill's methods.
Cramer's right, more or less.

But I have two addenda to add:

Addendum One

I am torn over non-state-sponsored justice. The rational, lawyer part recognizes full well that letting vigilantes out to do justice runs all sorts of nasty risks, not least of which are breakdown in social order, and the enormous human, emotional, economic, and social costs attached to letting justice be done by angry mobs or individuals (who are unpredictable, given to waaay too much emotion, and are ultimately not accountable the way a government is). In my head, so to speak, I am fully cognizant of the need to monopolize government to the state, and the State alone. And I agree with that need. In my head.

But, if you believe, as I do, that deliberate abortion is simply institutionalized murder, then it is very hard to have sympathy for the men and women who raise their right hands, swear not to induce abortion, then go ahead and do it anyway for fun and profit -- even when they're killed in cold blood.

The problem is this. I am willing to kill to save my child. I'd slaughter every last one of you (and all one of you!) reading this to do so. If God blesses us with another child, I'd sever your silver cords faster than you can blink for that little one's life, without hesitation, whether he (or she or they) is (are) in utero or drawing air ex utero. Most fathers, I think, would admit to the same emotions if they're honest.

My child(ren) is/are not valuable because they are mine, however, but rather because they are children. I don't care if we're hardwired to throw ourselves in the way of harm to little ones, or if it's social conditioning. It is fact. Children are outside of rational calculus. They are, for a whole host of reasons, more important, more valuable than adults. This may or may not be logically provable -- I apologize for leaving it at that -- but it is true on any visceral level you choose to measure.

And so I must also point out that if you were advancing on a terrified child with a bloody knife and murder in your eyes, I would bludgeon you to death before I let you kill that child. I would feel no remorse for so doing. It matters not whether the kid and I share a significant level of DNA. It matters that you are looking to kill a child. Period. End of discussion. End of your life.

I doubt you'd find a jury outside of the PRM who'd convict me for that.

So, the question is this: If abortion is indeed child murder, why should I condemn Hill? For the doctor doing this thing is, of his own volition, murdering a child. And the doctor Hill killed murdered children for profit.

(Actually, I should condemn Hill for killing the bodyguard. Under no circumstances was that licit.)

There are all sorts of very good arguments about this. Good cannot come from an evil act, my Church instructs, and states that killing in cold blood is evil. Fair enough. But I wrestle with this: This begs the question of when that killing is not in cold blood. (More on that below.)

Too, there are collateral damage issues. The dead doctor's family was not morally complicit in his crimes, yet they hurt. The pro-life movement is damaged by a media that happily lumps murderers with good faith protesters (who abhor the murderers). Public sympathy for the ghouls who slaughter children aids the baby murder argument.

What I find disturbing about all of this is that -- under our law -- there is no way for these men to stand and say, Stop this evil thing to any effect. None. It cannot happen. Seven men with cold hearts committed us to this, and respect for the rule of law perversely mandates that we simply accept, on a limited basis, their murderous injunction. Those in favor of baby murder -- who never once cease to twist and avoid reality to justify their positions -- are safely in control of the situation. Those who want to change it are left with no legal options.

Put differently: There is a not small percentage of people in this country who believe that we willingly allow a Holocaust every four years. Yet they have no power to stop what they see as mass murder. Most will not act out violently; we cannot, however, be shocked when they choose to do so.

Addendum Two

Cramer implicitly refers to Augustine's great tracts on Just War. By way of illustration (to overcome Christian pacifism, in part), Augustine proposed (loosely) this hypothetical:

Suppose you have a young woman who is being stalked by a large man. He clearly intends to do her harm, but at the instant you reach the situation, he is in no position to harm her. It is clearly not morally licit to slit his throat on the off chance that he'll go through with it; you deny him the chance to repent and back away. It can't hurt, though, to yell, "Stop," or try to get between him and the woman.

Now suppose that he keeps coming. He still can't hurt her yet, but he's not dissuaded by your activities. It's probably not licit to wound or hurt him, because you're still denying him the chance to repent, and the young woman still faces no immediate harm.

The question, then, is when you can -- indeed, Augustine implies, must -- strike. For you see, at some point, he has ignored all of your blandishments, walked around you, and is going to rape or kill that young woman. If you stand by and let her die, you are complicit in her death. But what is that point? When he's drawn his sword? When he's within striking distance? When he raises the sword? When the sword is on the downswing? When?

This is a question I have wrestled with for fully seven years now, and I can't work it out: Abortion protests do not stop the murders. At what point -- knowing what that doctor is doing -- are you complicit in the murder, so long as you simply sit outside and chant? Or file briefs? Or whatever?

Let me be completely clear on this: I'm not advocating murder. Of anyone. But one question that no one who's willing to debate me honestly about this can or has answered to my satisfaction is this: Why is Augustine's hypothetical wrong in this instance? Why is killing the man who is about to kill babies illicit, but killing the man who is about to kill the young woman not? Don't hand me any hackneyed nonsense about a child in utero not really being a child; go read a biology textbook, then talk to me. And the "nonperson" argument is as risible as it was one hundred and forty years ago.

So? Any takers?