Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Josey Wales and the Culture of Death

I'm having a good time reading stuff over at DADvocate and responding in kind. I love finding thoughtful conservatives that can carry on conversations about the differences in what people believe.

One of the latest posts is "Why Democrats are Democrats," and I thought I'd start a string over here concerning what I beleive and why. Feel free to chime in.

Since the single biggest issue at the forefront of today's politics seems to be cultural, I'll throw caution to the wind and start right there. Every time I'm at my parent's house I get to hear how liberals like me are destroying the country. Instead of working 9-5 and trying to make ends meet, what I really do every day is go off to the super-secret Liberal Takeover Headquarters and help plan our next big attack on middle America while sharpening my knife. According to my Moms, I just hate America. According to my Pops, I support terrorism and killing babies.

Everyone who knows me can stop laughing now.

One thing I have come to realize from talking with my folks about stuff like this is that I am an enemy of the "Culture of Life." I guess that makes me a purveyor of the "Culture of Death," and in a way, that does fit. I'll explain how in a moment.

But first, I want to share with you one of the greatest silver screen conversations that takes place in one of my favorite movies: The Outlaw Josey Wales. Towards the end of the movie, our hero and unrepentant Confederate Josey Wales (played by Clint Eastwood), the Gray Rider, rides on horseback to the camp of Ten Bears (Will Samson), a Comanche Chief that plans to attack Josey Wales' party at their ranch. The Gray Rider rolls up and is confronted by a large band of well armed Comanches, ready to do battle. Josey offers Ten Bears a fair fight, one that will lead to the death of both Josey and Ten Bears, but there is another way: a fair deal where they can both live in peace, share the land, share the hunting. Ten Bears responds:

"These things you say we will have, we already have."

Josey Wales: "That's true. I ain't promising you nothing extra. I'm just giving you life and you're giving me life. And I'm saying that men can live together without butchering one another."

Ten Bears: It's sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life... or death.

It shall be life."


But the kicker (for me) of the whole dialouge is this: There is iron in your words of death for all...to see, and so there is iron in your words of life.

Respect for a culture of life cannot exist without a respect for death. There is no 'iron' in the choice of life or a less comfortable life. Because I believe so strongly in the choice of life, the power of death must be given its due. I am a Catholic, and I beleive the Church is a moral compass and lighthouse for society, but we do not live in a perfect world, and things happen that present us with decisions that may move us away from that compass, but not away from honor.

So I present to you my Culture of Death.

1. The only thing we have complete and utter control over is our own life. In a perfect world, we would all die peacefully in our sleep, surrounded by family and friends. But we don't live in a perfect world. Sometimes disease or injury will take away our dignity and honor, forcing us to live at the leave of others. Sometimes events will force us to choose between saving our own lives, or giving up our lives to save the lives of others. Sometimes, things we do can bring to us shame so great, that we can no longer live our lives in the face of others. Sometimes, we are only living our lives because we are consumed with fear of death. I belive that sometimes, to celebrate our life is to give ourselves freely to death.

2. There are people in this world who chose to commit crimes of such a vile nature, that our only recourse is to take their life, and put them to death. This is no small step, for it is we, as a society, who deem when it is acceptable to take away from someone else their life, the only thing they have complete and utter control over. It is never acceptable but sometimes necessary, and we must steel ourselves to that fact. This is not done as a deterrent, or it should not be used as such. But it is necessary when the one being put to death has committed acts against the life or lives of others that is beyond redemption, and we, as a society, deem they no longer deserve to have life. In a perfect world, the only acceptable number of executions is 0; but we do not live in a perfect world.

3. Murder is a crime against life. Thou shalt not kill. In a perfect world, there would be no need for killing. But we do not live in a perfect world. Some people choose not to live life with respect, and will come against the life or lives of others who do. Sometimes, in order to defend our own life and the lives of others, we must take the life of an assailant. Sometimes this decision must be made quickly. I do not believe it is murder or unjustified killing to put to death someone who comes in the night or on the street to take another's life.

4. War. In a perfect world, there would be no war. We would all work towards the betterment of all peoples in diplomatic and constructive ways. But we do not live in a perfect world. Sometimes, nations must take up arms and proceed with sowing death among the peoples of nations who do not respect life. War is killing writ large, and requires the highest moral justification. War requires a nation to stand up in unity and decide that the life of an enemy is forfeit. War requires a nation to stand up and take responsibility for the crime of bringing death to what innocent life might be caught between nations, and to acknowledge that those lives too, are forfeit. War requires ultimatums and declarations and conditions of surrender, so that all may know when war starts and when war comes to an end. War requires an entire society to be engaged at the business of war, and bringing war to an end as rapidly as possible. War requires an understanding that, when society is wholly engaged in the business of war, society as a whole is someone's enemy, and therefore under threat of attack. If society is not ready to accept these responsibilities, society is not ready to engage in War.

5. The ending of pregnancy through artificial means. Many will call this abortion. This is the most sensitive and personal issue on this page. (The national debate is not handled with compassion and understanding and intelligent discourse and constructive thought, but with shouting and threats and bloodshed.) The only acceptable number of pregnancy terminations is zero. But that is also a 'perfect world' number, just like the only acceptable number of killings and executions and wars is zero. That number excludes any situation where choice is not a moral decision, but a medical one. Therein lies the difference between #5 and numbers 1-4. This decision between life and death is one based purely on one woman and the medicine of her own body. It takes for granted the most important fact of the whole issue: no woman wants to have to make this choice. When a woman is pregnant, that pregnancy can end her life at any time from conception to birth, without warning, and despite medical science. That is fact. That changes the entire issue, and here's how: Any woman who carries a pregnancy full term is making a choice: to risk her own life to create new life. That choice should be celebrated. But to choose differently should not be demonized, no matter what the intention. That decision must be left up to the woman and those she chooses to involve in that decision, for it is the life of that woman that is at risk, and no man not facing death can make that decision for her.

For there is iron in her decision, and governments are always chiefed by the double tongues.

Let me know what you think.

1 comment:

Meredith said...

I agree with your opinion. I'm sure that there's still something to discuss, but I'm at a temporary loss as to what. Sorry.