The Right Version of "They are going to have sex anyway"
June 28, 2006 § 32 Comments
One of the things that has become increasingly clear since September 11, 2001 is that the American Right and the American Left think a great deal alike. That may seem like an odd statement, because the acrimony and polarization between Left and Right has become increasingly shrill in that time. But despite the genuine polarization, September 11 has brought America together in some unexpected ways.
Left liberals like to tell those on the Right how unrealistic they are about morals. Kids are going to have sex anyway. It is just what happens. It is the natural course of events. It is wildly unrealistic to have a standard which will never be universally adopted in practice. So give them condoms. Make sure, because they are going to have sex anyway, that they have safe, educated sex. Make sure that abortion is legal and available to ensure that lives aren’t destroyed, because abortions are going to happen anyway. The Right’s take on morality may be nice in the abstract, but it doesn’t match up with reality. So deal with it: deal with reality instead of getting lost in silly ivory-tower morality that doesn’t apply to the Real World. The moralizing of the Right is not legitimate to Leftist eyes: it reflects a meddling pharisaical sanctimony faced with a real-world problem it does not wish to acknowledge. The lack of compromise on the Right is just smugness masking moral paralysis.
Right liberals – or at least some right-liberals (I am reluctant to use the word “conservative”, since a conservative today is, as far as I can tell, exactly the sort of person we would have called a “liberal” not too long ago) – will respond that this so-called “realism” is an abomination. When it comes to bedrock morality no facts or circumstances can change an evil act into a good act. It isn’t “realism” to define deviancy down, it is surrender to wickedness. It is in the fallen nature of our world that some men will not live up to the moral law some of the time: indeed all men will fail to do so some of the time. This does not mean that murder, or various forms of “murder lite,” putatively humane versions of murder, ought to be enshrined in our laws. A nation which has enshrined evil in its laws as though evil were good is on perilous ground. Whether such a nation is approaching imminent self-destruction because of its reversal of good and evil is of secondary concern: of primary concern is whether men of good will, noble inheritors of the treasures of Western Christendom, standing tall against the backdrop of the most technologically advanced human civilization of all time — whether those sorts of men can tolerate living their lives in such a morally compromised state. The confrontation is over whether good men can act as though evil were inevitable in service to a misguided pragmatism.
And this is all to the good. But this posture toward the moral law has become remarkably selective on the Right. September 11 has brought Left and Right together in an embrace of doing evil in the pursuit of the good; doing evil in the name of pragmatic realism. Left and Right have become the same sort of creature: different in the particulars of their compromises with evil, but not different in the fact of compromise with evil.
But we can’t compromise with evil. All we can do is become evil. Or not. The choice is ours.
It used to be that the job of the political Right was to stand astride History shouting “Stop!” with the admonition directed toward others. It is high time for that admonition to be directed inward.
“The day may come when the courage of men will fail; when we will forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. It is not this day.” – Aragorn, Lord of the Rings _The Return of the King_.
Our courage must not fail, in this hour of darkness. The courage we need is the courage to do the right thing: the courage not to give into the temptation to defeat the enemy by becoming the enemy. The courage we need is the courage not to do evil in the pursuit of the good.
Doing evil in the pursuit of the good may be understandably human in very hard cases. It may be something with which we can feel some empathy. The man who feels no empathy toward the single expectant mother at age fourteen, alone and facing the world, with everyone telling her not to ruin her life; the man who has no empathy for her is no man at all.
Courage can feel empathy. But it doesn’t compromise with evil. Not ever.
(Note: cross-posted at Enchiridion Militis)