Truly Respecting Life
Recently, there was a debate at Saint Vincent College about the fact that President George W. Bush will be speaking at the Commencement of the class of 2007. I must admit that I do not understand the great emotional strife over this issue. I don’t agree with the president on a variety of issues but nonetheless think it is an honor to have the President of the United States of America speak at my Alma Mater. However, I digress from what I wished to talk about.
One of the presenters, a young man for whom I have respect, made a comment about how respect for life must be central to our choices as Catholics. He continued by saying that the President does not have respect for life in other countries, particularly because of the war in Iraq. Now let me preface my thoughts with the fact that I agree that respect for life extends beyond the normal polemical boundaries of abortion and euthanasia. Additionally, let me say that I think that it may be impossible to change the course of relations between Shia and Sunni Muslims by the imposition of Western force. However, misinformation and misdirection do not constitute a direct disrespect for life as an intrinsic part of the war in Iraq. Additionally, this argument seems to presuppose that the death counts in Iraq are directly the fault of America instead of the religious zealots who are perpetrating such acts in the name of their sect of Islam. While the US may have destabilized the region, it is neither strapping bombs to people’s backs nor killing a vast majority of the Iraqis who have died in the recent violence.
Now this being said, there is a profound middle ground which should be struck between “feel good” respect for life and the imposition of democracy by force. Much world poverty is absolutely saddening but also continues in part because of a lack of the structures which have made the West so powerful and wealth-generating. A true respect for life is not merely a matter of fiscal humanitarian aid to the countries which are most needy in the world. Instead, it is a combination of fiscal aid with the more important tasks of working to ensure just social constructs that allow for the vox popoli to be heard and not squashed. It requires market freedom (not absolute but very, very free) by means of which human determination can shine forth to generate the wealth necessary to sustain the poorest nations among us. To this extent, a radically different agenda is needed, one which is not from the standard liberal or conservative play book, although it has elements from each. In the post-industrial world, our respect for life extends beyond our internal issues over the atrocities of abortion and euthanasia; it requires that we pass on that which is best in our culture to those in most need. Only thus to we respect the sanctity of each life in the wide world.