Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Commentary: We Can't Not Know

Commentary by Dan Kennedy, CEO, Human Life of Washington State

June 14, 2010 (HumanLife.net) - Individuals and nations are capable of both great good, and extreme evil. It is the same with institutions and professions.

It is instructive that history is replete with evidence that respected cultural institutions (e.g., academia, the courts, media, science) can become infected with the most radical moral corruption. They have in the past "validated" evil - slavery, genocide, and other atrocities - as "good." Cultural institutions exert a powerful influence on each other and, once corrupted, they hasten the body politic to accept the evil as good. Desire for conformity causes too many people to willingly suppress that still small voice that protests against evil masquerading as a positive good.

We do not guarantee our innocence by condemning past atrocities

Every generation lives on the edge of history, and only a fool would believe that his generation is immune to past evils. And so it remains. "Never again" is, by itself, never good enough. The very parade of condemnation and the elaborate distancing of ourselves from the injustice of the past we think guarantees our innocence. But evil changes its disguise; the injustice appears in a different form. Again, the body politic becomes infected with blindness toward its own killing fields.

And so it is in our time. Certain cultural institutions, trafficking in their authority, validate radical moral evil as a "good." In true elitist style, they war against humanity by sanctioning abortion as the solution to unplanned pregnancy, eugenics as a means of filtering out a myriad of maladies (i.e., by filtering out those who suffer from them), and euthanasia as a compassionate treatment for end of life suffering. These are our contemporary killing fields. These are the fashionable, endorsed evils of our day.

Written on the heart

Truth does set us free. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton: Universal moral principles that transcend governments and human history are the only thing that frees us from becoming a slave to the favored evil of our era. These moral principles are not a mystery. Certain moral truths are written on the human heart. As the clever title of one of Professor J. Budziszewski's books makes clear, there are certain things we "can't not know,"* no matter how many people like to pretend otherwise.

History provides inspiring testimony of those unyielding souls, free of the myopic blindness of their age, who spoke and lived these principles. And the world is better for it. In our time, we too must take up this struggle. Without this continuous struggle, the eventual denial of any right, of any person or group, for any reason will be imposed by the strong against the weak. We must not let the the desire for conformity suppress the voice of conscience in our day. We must witness to the truth in our words and our actions, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

For most of us, this does not require grand gestures, or intense debate, but simple statements of conviction, to our families, our colleagues, and our neighbors. Our responsibility as citizens should lead us to inform our elected officials of our position on issues, and our votes for candidates must reflect our convictions. In our volunteer work, and charities we donate to, in a thousand small ways we can nurture a culture of life. This is the important work we are called to do.

We have all heard the adage, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. It is not easy. To those who prefer the darkness, the light is an accusation. If we dare light a candle and disperse the shadows, we will be branded an enemy of freedom, an enemy of the "good." That is a small sacrifice to make in defending the right to life of the ill-favored, weak and vulnerable members of the human family.

What will history record about our generation? What future generations write about our era depends on us. In the words of Winston Churchill, "let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty." We can be assured we will prevail. The light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

*J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Not Know, Spence Publishing Company