Monday Morning Insight: The American Crisis

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

On this date in 1776, the first article of a series known as “The American Crisis” was printed in the Pennsylvania Journal. Written by Thomas Paine and signed “Common Sense” — after his own pamphlet which had been published in January and was fundamental to the case for the colonies’ Independence — the series was meant to encourage the American public to remain steadfast in the Revolutionary War.

Paine wrote the first article in a particularly dark moment of the war, when General George Washington had been forced to retreat across the Delaware River. Washington had the article read to his troops to bolster their morale. And how could it not, with an opening like this?

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

The American Crisis

The first page of “The American Crisis,” number one (1776). (Image on Wikimedia Commons.)

 

Two hundred forty years later, our republic — for which Paine and so many others risked so much — is in the latest of a series of recurring but relatively minor crises over how best to govern our affairs. In some respects this may be because “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly,” and a great many of us have obtained a great deal with far less labor, risk and cost than our forbears.

I don’t think this latest internal strife is the existential crisis that some have made it out to be; in spite of all our faults and foibles, I remain optimistic about our prospects. But this passage from further on in “The American Crisis” seems particularly apt:

‘Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country…. Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. In fact, they have the same effect on secret traitors, which an imaginary apparition would have upon a private murderer. They sift out the hidden thoughts of man, and hold them up in public to the world.

In the days of our Revolution, panics spread through word of mouth and the printing press: how different from these days of mass media and rapid messaging! And in this modern age, many people — whether secret traitors or not — are all too quick to reveal their hidden thoughts even without a panic, especially when those thoughts are hateful or destructive or degrading. The concept of shame has fallen out of favor, after all.

It is hard to deny that recent events have been “touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy” in our ongoing discourse, and have brought things to light about many of us … about our prejudices and preferences, our desires and depravities … “which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered.” These are just the latest in long lines of events, monumental and minuscule, that have prompted outpourings of angst, turmoil, and passion. Yet I still remain optimistic about our future, that we stand a reasonable chance of getting through these strange days with our nation intact.

And in the end, as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy points out, some of the best advice may simply be, “Don’t Panic!” Because this panic, too, will come to an end.

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Monday Morning Insight: My Country, Right or Wrong

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Since the week starts with Election Day Eve, I thought this 1872 quote from U.S. Senator Carl Schurz (2 March 1829 – 14 May 1906) would be appropriate:

My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.

When we vote, we either vote to keep the country right or to set the country right. It depends on our point of view, whether we think the country is or isn’t moving in the right direction.

But the work goes on after we vote, too.

(Image: “2016,” by Gordon Johnson, on Pixabay under Creative Commons.)

 

Every day we have the chance to keep our little corner of the country right, or to set it right if it begins to go wrong. It’s harder work than voting (when we vote, we delegate the work to others), but it’s more direct.

And if more of us did the work, it would be far more effective.

The trouble is, recently so many people have put so much effort into tearing down each other, a lot of work needs to be done no matter who wins the election. I hope we’re up to it.

But, have a great week, no matter what happens tomorrow!

___
P.S. Don’t forget, if you’re not already sure who you want to vote for, you’re welcome to write in yours truly for any office, anywhere.

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Third-Party Voting, and Baseball

Or, more precisely, third-party voting and the World Series.

I get it: a lot of us are sick of politics, and in particular of one or the other or both of the major party candidates. As a result, many of us who would normally vote along with one of the major parties are thinking and talking about voting for a third-party candidate.

I’m not sure I can do that.

The way I see it, a usually reliably major-party voter opting for a third-party candidate is equivalent to pulling for the White Sox or the Reds in this year’s World Series.

(In case you missed last night’s Game 1, or you’re not much of a sports fan, only the Cubs and the Indians are actually playing in the Series.)

In other words, I feel that if I voted third-party, it would be like cheering for a team — any team — that’s not even on the field. It certainly wouldn’t be cheering on the winner, helping them to victory, and it wouldn’t even effectively be cheering against whichever of the two teams I’d rather see lose.

Image: “The great national game — last match of the season to be decided Nov. 11th 1884.” Macbrair & Sons Lithograph, from the Library of Congress online collection, showing “a sandlot baseball game of presidential hopefuls with James G. Blaine pitching to Chester A. Arthur, with Samuel J. Tilden behind the plate and Roscoe Conkling as umpire, at first base is Benjamin F. Butler with a handgun in his belt, at second base is John A. Logan holding Ulysses S. Grant close to the bag, at shortstop is John Kelly, and at third base is Sereno E. Payne, in left field is John Sherman and in centerfield is Samuel J. Randall. They are playing on a field labeled “Potomac Flats” with the Potomac River in the background.” (Click here for a larger image.)

 

Maybe your third-party vote is more clear-cut. Maybe you believe in the values represented by the Libertarian Party or the Green Party or whatever, and consider yourself affiliated with them. Maybe you’re an Independent, and have no history with either the Democrats or the Republicans (and certainly no loyalty to either). If so, more power to you on your third-party selection.

But maybe, like me, you usually vote for a particular party. (If it matters that you know, I usually vote primarily Republican, though I don’t recall ever voting a straight ticket.) And since I usually ally with one of the major parties, I see voting third-party as a de-facto vote against my usual party.

If I vote third-party, it will not send any kind of message to the Republican leadership. It might clear my conscience or assuage my guilt by giving me the ability to say “I didn’t vote for X” when they try to implement some ill-considered policy. (Talk about self-interest in politics. I could achieve the same result by simply not voting.)

Heinlein had it right when he pointed out that if we have nothing or no one we want to vote for we can surely find something to vote against. Voting third-party may feel good, as if I’m voting against both of the major parties, but it seems like a damn ineffective way of doing so because it cannot prevent the side I find most disagreeable from winning.

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The Power of a Single Thought

I had a dream last night, but I can’t remember anything about it because in that tenuous state between sleeping and waking I had another thought — specifically, an idea related to a short story I plan to write — and that thought drove every vestige of the dream from my mind.

And, in the process, it impressed upon me the power of a single thought: that it only takes one single thought to crowd out all other thoughts. One single thought, if we concentrate strong enough on it or if we find it sufficiently compelling, will color our perceptions and bind us in mental chains.

I admit that this observation is not really new or particularly profound — others have pointed out our tendency to hold on to and defend various ideas in the face of contrary evidence — but it hit me this morning in a powerful way.

Consider this: complete each of the following sentences with the first thing that comes into your mind.

  • Hillary Clinton is a __.
  • Donald Trump is a __.
  • Gary Johnson is a __.
  • Jill Stein is a __.

Locked and Loaded

What strong chains we forge to bind our thinking! (Image: “Locked and Loaded,” by Thomas Hawk, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

Was your first thought about each of them positive, negative, or neutral? It likely depended on where you fall along the political spectrum and, in the case of the Libertarian and Green party candidates, whether you know much about them at all.

Now, consider each of the following statements that may be considered observable facts:

  • Hillary Clinton is a lawyer.
  • Donald Trump is a businessman.
  • Gary Johnson is a businessman.
  • Jill Stein is a doctor.

How do you react to those simple statements about the career paths of the candidates, based on your first thought about each of them? Do you find that the first thing that came to mind earlier influenced your reaction to the next thing that was presented?

It seems to me that those first thoughts become our filters, the lenses (rose-colored or otherwise) through which we see the world. The first thought, especially if it conveys a value judgment, becomes, if you will, a self-fulfilling mental prophecy.

This applies to more than just politics, of course, but the political example occurred to me this morning because it’s particularly timely. In some respects this tendency is wired into the way we think and learn: according to Theory of Knowledge, we form concepts and then test those concepts against reality, but sometimes our concepts affect how we perceive reality. As a result, I’m not sure any of us can (or if it would even be desirable to) remain completely objective, with neutral impressions of everything. We are not Vulcans, after all.

But maybe, if we recognize this mechanism in our own thinking, we can be a bit more accepting, a bit more forgiving, not by rejecting our first thought or convincing ourselves that our first thoughts are wrong, but simply by recognizing that our first thought may be incomplete.

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Some ‘Anti-Candidate’ Post-Debate Thoughts

First, a confession: I didn’t watch all of Monday night’s debate. I missed about the last half hour, I think.

Second, an evaluation: Mrs. Clinton looked poised and was better prepared than Mr. Trump, though that seems a fairly low bar to clear. Mr. Trump’s failure to take what would have been some fairly easy shots at Mrs. Clinton seemed almost deliberately contradictory to his usual “attack dog” style. (Yes, people have pointed out Mr. Trump’s interrupting Mrs. Clinton and the unfortunate moderator, but Mr. Trump seemed mild-mannered and deferential compared to his performances in the primary debates. Whether that was intentional, I cannot say, though I have seen speculation that it was calculated to make him seem less intimidating to voters.)

Now, some more specific observations:

  • Both candidates talked a bit about the National Debt. Mr. Trump made the point about how large it is now, without driving home the point that it is much larger now than it was eight years ago. Mrs. Clinton made the point that Mr. Trump’s proposed tax cuts would add to the debt, without explaining whether her proposed tax increases would actually reduce it. But the moderator missed an opportunity to ask them one simple question: Are you going to balance the Federal budget every year? Because if not, then you’re not going to reduce the National Debt.
  • Mrs. Clinton scored some points with the “Trumped Up Trickle-Down” phrase, and she praised her husband with respect to the booming economy we enjoyed during his Presidency. Then, however, she made the curious statement that trickle-down economics led to or was responsible for the recent recession. I found that curious because trickle-down economics was not a hallmark of George W. Bush’s 2001-09 term; it was a hallmark of Ronald Reagan’s 1981-89 term. If trickle-down economics lasted until the 2008 recession, then, that would imply that the economic policies of the intermediate terms didn’t count for much.
  • Mrs. Clinton also scored points by pressing Mr. Trump about his company’s failure to pay suppliers for services rendered. I would like to know the story behind that, and the terms of the agreements that were violated — or that were negotiated so strongly in favor of the Trump conglomerate.
  • Just once I would like to see a debate in which one of the candidates actually takes a moment to explain what is and is not the President’s job. With respect to economics, for instance, to explain a bit how the budget process works (I’m not sure Mr. Trump knows very much about that). With respect to military matters, instead of sniping at each other about who has a plan to defeat ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/whatever the Islamofascist quasi-Caliphate is calling itself today, it would be refreshing to have a candidate say, “No, I don’t have a plan because that’s not the Commander-in-Chief’s job. That’s why we have a Secretary of Defense; that’s why we have Combatant Commanders; that’s why we have the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I will give them direction, they will recommend courses of action, and I will make the decision. Next question.”
  • The two of them had a lot to say about policing, but policing is a local issue rather than a Federal one. It would have been nice to have them discuss whether they think the Executive Branch has a role in local matters, and if so what that particular role might be, rather than hearing about whether “stop and frisk” was or was not effective when it was in place in New York City.
  • The crime and gun control portion was one of Mr. Trump’s missed opportunities. A simple question that he could have asked: How many criminals and gang members have ever gone through a background check in order to purchase a firearm legally?
  • The question about cybersecurity was another missed opportunity. Mr. Trump certainly did not display any sort of killer instinct, or he would’ve pointed out the irony of someone trying to come across as knowledgeable about security who could not recognize that paragraph markings in a message denoted classified content; alternately, he could’ve asked about how increased cybersecurity might have protected mishandled emails that, it turns out, included very highly classified information.
  • Also on my list of things I wish Presidential candidates would talk about in order to show that they understand or at least appreciate National Security and military-related issues: the DIME: the instruments of National power.

Prepping the debate

(Image: “Prepping the debate,” by Leigh Blackall, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

In the end, I was disappointed that the smaller-party candidates had not crossed the threshold of making it onto the debate stage. That might have been more entertaining, and almost certainly more enlightening.

It is easier, of course, to talk about playing the game than it is to play the game: to analyze the debate afterward than to participate in it in real time. It may be that if I had the chance to debate I would not have fared any better. Then again … I think if I had a team of people to help prepare me and quiz me, I would be able to hold my own.

Put me in, Coach. I’d love to take a swing at it.

___
P.S. I’m the Anti-Candidate, and I approved this blog post.

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Monday Morning Insight: the Educated Electorate

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

It may do little to improve your Monday to remind you that tonight is the first Presidential debate of the 2016 election. Here’s something to think about as the debate looms, from a letter written this week in 1820 by Thomas Jefferson:

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.

undecided

A photographer spotted this bus in Australia. I feel as if I’m riding it to the end of the line. (Image: “undecided,” by Vanessa Pike-Russell, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

In other words, YOU and I are the “safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society” in which we live. Our government is not, because everyone can point to one or another excess of the government in which it abused its power and curtailed citizens’ liberties. As individuals, we have much less power and inclination to interfere in the lives of our fellow citizens; our government, on the other hand, seems to have little better to do than to interfere in all our lives.

For us to exercise our control over the government and the powers we grant to it — “with wholesome discretion,” as Jefferson wrote — we need to educate ourselves. And if we fail to do so, and allow the government to abuse its power further and so erode ours, then we have ourselves to blame.

Enjoy the debate!

___
P.S. If anyone is interested, I’ll try to compile a post or two about how I would answer tonight’s debate questions.

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There, but for the Grace of God …

I found myself thinking, as the second major party convention came to a close, about the twists and turns our lives take, about how remarkable it is that anyone rises to fame or prominence, and about how the major party candidates got started on their journeys.

Athletes, for instance, may be gifted physically but they put in long hours of training and practice and preparation before competing, and the competition at higher and higher levels is so fierce that only a tiny fraction of all who ever played the game — whatever game it might be — will make it to the professional ranks. Artistic pursuits are much the same — whatever natural gifts we may have still need to be nurtured and developed, and only a very few professional (as in, making a living from the pursuit) writers, painters, actors, or musicians will ever emerge from the vast numbers of people who have dabbled from time to time in the creative arts.

In each case, the transition from amateur to professional to world-renowned is based on the performance, the output of all the work, as evaluated by the audience.

Can the same be said for politics?

Some politicians have natural gifts of charisma, charm, and attractiveness, and many of them “train” long and hard by networking, developing positions on issues, communicating with partisans (and opponents), and raising money. But political performance seems to be measured by intentions rather than results, promises rather than productivity, and politics is a game in which the influence of others plays a much bigger role than in other areas of life.

The influence of others may be natural to the political game. The intent for the candidate is not to appeal to everyone but to just enough people to get elected — for the party, not to attract everyone but to attract enough to get enough of its candidates elected to enact its preferred policies — so patrons and pathfinders and big-time players who can lend their own influence to a potential candidate become very important to success. Not so in other fields, where a player touted by a superstar must still perform on the court or an artist mentored by a master must still paint something worthy of recognition: in politics, notoriety and the right connections seem to be far more important than doing the actual work of governing or legislating. (Were actual voting records and accomplishments important, ineffective incumbents would be voted out far more often and certainly not be advanced to higher offices.)

Presidential Election Results 2016

Seems reasonable. (Image: “Presidential Election Results 2016,” by KAZ Vorpal, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder if we would ever have heard of Hillary Rodham — if she would ever have been on a trajectory to being a candidate for the presidency — had she not married Bill Clinton, or had he been satisfied with remaining the governor of Arkansas rather than running for President himself. In the same way I can’t help but wonder if we would ever have heard of Donald Trump if his father had not been a real estate developer and provided him with seed capital and connections to start dealing in New York real estate and to branch out into other enterprises. Would they both be spectators had their paths not been paved by others?

Which brings up a more interesting question: which of us, with the right connections or having gained some degree of notoriety or power, might have found ourselves on such a stage? Why them, and not you, for instance?

Perhaps “there, but for the grace of God,” go we.

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Monday Morning Insight: The Government We Deserve

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Something to think about with the Republicans’ national convention over and the Democrats’ national convention just getting started, a quote from the Sardinian — though considered French — political philosopher Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821):

Every nation has the government it deserves.

I heard a version of this quote back in the late 1980s, in a graduate management course at Edwards AFB taught by Rob Gray: “Management gets the union it deserves.” It makes sense in that context, since benevolent and enlightened corporate leadership may succeed in forming lasting partnerships with workers and any unions that represent them, while exploitative management is more likely to anger workers and encourage confrontations with their unions.

Only much later did I find the Maistre quote, the political quote, which I also think makes sense.

Maistre lived in a period of great political upheaval, and following the French Revolution he became a counter-revolutionary and supported a return to monarchy. He believed in the divine right of kings to rule, and perhaps in this quote he had in mind that nations with beneficent rulers deserve them while nations with despots likewise deserve their rulers. He was a devout Catholic, and may have considered it part of God’s favor or disfavor of a given nation.

I think his quote to apply to democratic nations as well, and accounts for natural consequences as much or more than any divine discipline.

Consider our current political climate in the U.S. We are fractious, self-absorbed, and fearful, and we have given ourselves a government that frequently acts to benefit select few, but which few depends on whim, caprice and political calculation; a government that we seem content to let grow without limit so long as we get what we want from it, though in the process it will eventually consume all we produce; a government that appears to view its own citizenry with suspicion and disdain, and thereby seems less and less disposed to acquiesce to the will of the people but continually asks the people to acquiesce to its will.

My wallpaper in tribute to its author

I like this as a metaphor for the 2016 campaign: D. Trump and H. Clinton contending for the Presidency. (Image: “My wallpaper in tribute to its author” by JP Freethinker, from Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

Would you say we have the government we deserve? I’m afraid I would, and I wish we governed ourselves such that we deserved better.

Moreover, I’m afraid that no matter how the campaigns run or what the election results are in November, we will still have the government we deserve — and many of us won’t like it.

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If I Had Been Mrs. Trump’s Speechwriter

A thought experiment, of sorts.

I’ve been avoiding overt political topics lately, but Melania Trump’s apparent plagiarism in her speech at the Republican National Convention created quite a buzz in the speechwriting community (and everywhere else, it seems). My thoughts, as a speechwriter…

I understand Mrs. Trump gave the staffer who helped with the speech some passages she liked from Mrs. Obama’s previous speech. If the provenance of those lines was clear and I had been Mrs. Trump’s speechwriter, I would have recommended (if she really wanted to use them) that she preface them with something along the lines of, “like another woman whose husband was privileged to earn his party’s nomination,” etc. The way I see it, if she didn’t want to change the lines so the same message came through in a new way, then it wouldn’t have hurt to acknowledge the source (even if obliquely). But I hope I would have recommended, instead of using the same words, that she think of an example or two from her own life to illustrate the same points, because the strongest part of Mrs. Trump’s speech was when she focused on her own personal story. And this type of speech works best when it is deeply personal, heartfelt.

Mrs. Trump’s delivery was pretty good, especially considering that English is not her native language. But if I had been Mrs. Trump’s speechwriter, I would have encouraged her to deliver the speech in two parts. First, a short version — maybe three to five minutes — delivered in Slovene, because that would be more comfortable for her and her delivery would (I think) have been more fluid and consistent. Second, a little bit expanded version — perhaps ten minutes — covering the same material and delivering essentially the same message, in English.

(I have seen this work before, for a helicopter pilot from Cameroon who was in my flight at Squadron Officer School. When we gave presentations, he spoke first in his native French and second in English; even though most of us did not understand his French we could clearly see how much more confident he was presenting in his native tongue.)

I think if Mrs. Trump had prefaced her remarks with a brief explanation, the audience would have appreciated the interlude in her own language because her delivery would have been more natural and she would have been even more poised and confident.

144070_2_1DA8023

Melania Trump addressing the Republican National Convention. (Image: “144070_2_1DA8023,” by Disney | ABC Television Group, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

If I had been Mrs. Trump’s speechwriter, my aim — as it has been with everyone for whom I’ve written speeches — would have been to help her sound like her most authentic self, not to make her sound like anyone else. That would extend beyond trying to help her avoid copying anyone else, to helping her find wording that complemented the natural cadence of her voice and stories that resonated with her and could connect her to her audience.

To me, she seemed at her best when talking about coming to the U.S. from Slovenia; that was a good springboard for her message. I think if she had spent a little more time talking about her story, and tied elements of her story to the problems we face and the upcoming campaign, her message would have been stronger — and she would not have had to endure the repercussions of lifting those lines from Mrs. Obama’s speech.

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Ladies, Stand Your Ground

Warning: Controversy Ahead.

I wrote this a couple of months ago, after considering the notion for many more, but there never seemed to be a good time to post it. I thought about posting it when I heard that someone was planning a rally in support of legalizing rape; I’m still not sure if that was a real thing, but it seemed a monumentally stupid idea — what next, rallies to legalize robbery and burglary and other crimes? Then a GOP Presidential hopeful mentioned abortion in the context of self-defense against incest or rape, and was criticized for it, and now another made thoughtless, asinine comments about punishing women who have abortions.

Maybe there is no good time to post something like this.

This post is about self-defense, and abortion. I advise you to leave now if you don’t want to be offended, because something I say here will almost certainly offend you — no matter where you stand on these issues.

Use of Deadly Force Authorized

(Image: “Use of Deadly Force Authorized,” by Brian Reynolds, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

First, an observation: I believe the decision to abort a baby must be one of the most difficult decisions a human being may ever make. I do not intend to second-guess anyone who has made that decision, nor do I intend to criticize or vilify them.

Second, another observation: I recognize that some people believe that I should not express my opinion on abortion (or perhaps even that I should not form an opinion) because I am a man and not a woman. Obviously, I disagree.

Now, to the root of the matter: It seems to me that, regardless of one’s personal views on either issue, logical consistency requires that our view of abortion should align with our view of self-defense, especially where the latter is covered by various “stand your ground” laws. To that end,

  • It appears logically inconsistent to support using deadly force in self-defense — often related to “stand your ground” laws — and at the same time oppose abortion.
  • It appears logically inconsistent also to support abortion and at the same time oppose using deadly force in self-defense.
  • Logical consistency would seem to require either supporting both, or opposing both, abortion and using deadly force in self-defense.

I do not think it is necessary to like self-defense killing or abortion, or to be in favor of or advocate either one, in order to recognize that they rest on the same premise: that we have the right to defend our lives and property using force, up to and including deadly force.

If a homeowner has the right to use deadly force to protect their life and property, or the lives of others in the home, then a woman has the right to use deadly force to protect her life and person — say, in the case of defending herself against rape. By extension, a pregnant woman has the right to use deadly force against an attacker if her baby is threatened. But in a similar fashion a pregnant woman also has the right to use deadly force against her unborn baby — to remove it from life-support, if you will — if she believes that the baby poses a threat to her life and/or person.

Coming at the issue from the other direction, if a pregnant woman has the right to use deadly force — or, in the case of a seeking an abortion, to contract for the use of deadly force — to protect her life, her lifestyle, or her property, then homeowners or citizens have the right to use deadly force to protect their lives or property or the lives or property of those they love. However, if a pregnant woman has no such right, then neither does anyone else have the right to defend themselves against threats of violence or loss.

Self-defense, after all, is based on the individual’s perception of the threat. The threat may be direct or indirect, and perceptions may be clouded by a variety of factors, but the decision to act or not rests with the person who is threatened at the time the threat presents itself. We may, from a different perspective or at a different time, disagree with the homeowner or the pregnant woman on the degree of the threat; or we may disagree with the decision they made when faced with the threat; but the decision was theirs at that time, not ours at some other time. And to support one and refuse to support the other appears to me to be logically inconsistent.

We can make a similar case about abortion and the death penalty. That is, we can make the case that if the death penalty is a just punishment for certain crimes, enacted after weighing the evidence and coming to a verdict, then abortion may be considered as a death penalty in itself, with the potential mother as judge and jury, possibly as both prosecution and defense, and in some tragic cases even as executioner. For me, that is a much more difficult concept (and following it too closely may lead to considering abortion as a form of justifiable homicide), but I still can consider it somewhat equivalent.

I say “somewhat equivalent” deliberately: I do not mean to say that killing in self-defense is exactly equivalent to abortion, only that they are similar. (Others have tackled that subject in far more depth than I can here, as noted at the end.) One case is more often a quick-reaction response compared to the other. One is more often a direct confrontation than the other. One clearly involves acting against an agent capable of independent thought and action. On that score, advocates of abortion often argue that the unborn child, by virtue of being fully dependent on the mother, should not be considered fully human; rather than argue that matter here, except to note that such a dehumanizing mentality is something pro-abortion advocates have in common with armies facing enemies, it seems clear that an unborn child at the very least has the potential to grow into an independent agent (as the pregnant woman was considered above a potential mother). On that basis, we can say that both self-defense killing and abortion involve terminating with prejudice the future potential of a human person.

Again I must emphasize that it is not necessary to prefer or to approve of either of these mechanisms. It is possible to wish for every unborn child to be wanted and to be cared for, in utero and beyond, just as it is possible to wish that there might be no thugs, no rapists, no burglars, no threats against people’s lives, persons, or property. Wishing for these things, however, does not make them come to pass, and so we are faced with difficult decisions that have far-reaching consequences.

Therefore, as someone who supports the right of an individual to protect their person and property with any means at their disposal, up to and including deadly force — whether homeowners defending themselves against burglars or women defending themselves against rapists — I must support the right of any woman to protect herself against an unborn life she is supporting if she feels threatened by it, up to and including the use of deadly force. Ladies, stand your ground.

I do not have to like it. I may wish for any number of alternatives. But it seems to me that I cannot support one and not the other without being logically inconsistent.

I could be wrong.

___
Some Notes:
1. The first GOP contender alluded to above was Chris Christie. See Chris Christie Faces Criticism for Saying Aborting a Baby After Rape is “Self-Defense” for Women. The second was Donald Trump, in his more recent MSNBC interview that, as much as it presented his egregious thinking on the subject, lent credence to the idea that he thinks very little of Republicans and is merely playing at being one.
2. The idea of abortion as self-defense was discussed in 1971 by Judith Jarvis Thomson in her article “A Defense of Abortion” in
Philosophy & Public Affairs. She wrote, “I should perhaps stop to say explicitly that I am not claiming that people have a right to do anything whatever to save their lives. I think, rather, that there are drastic limits to the right of self-defense…. But the case under consideration here is very different. In our case there are only two people involved, one whose life is threatened, and one who threatens it. Both are innocent: the one who is threatened is not threatened because of any fault, the one who threatens does not threaten because of any fault. For this reason we may feel that we bystanders cannot interfere. But the person threatened can. In sum, a woman surely can defend her life against the threat to it posed by the unborn child, even if doing so involves its death.” The entire article is online here and elsewhere.
3. This short BBC article also covers the topic of abortion as self-defense.
4. A Harvard Law blogger asked in a 2012 entry, Is the Self Defense Exception Consistent with the Belief that a Fetus is a Person? Their conclusion was that “the belief that a fetus is a person with the full complement of rights leads to uncomfortable positions in relation the self-defense exception.” Indeed.
5. The tendency of armies to dehumanize the enemy, in order to make it easier to kill them, was covered quite well by Robert O’Connell in
Of Arms and Men.

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