Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Civil War really was about slavery (who knew?)

In my youth I learned that the Civil War was about slavery. That Abe Lincoln and the North fought to free the slaves from the South. It was a nice tale.

Then in my sophisticated youth (as sophisticated as a teenage boy can be anyway) I learned that the Civil War was about states' rights. That the North and South disputed the amount of sovereignty that the federal government had. Slavery was there, but on the peripheral.

I wonder how much of my sophisticated view is true though? As Catholics, we are called to see that this world is as much a struggle about good and evil as it is about practical things. Slavery was always an issue. It nearly cost us the country, and because of it this country faced the bloodiest war in American history.

As a political conservative I happen to believe in state sovereignty. The South did as well. But in its quest to hold on to a horrendous evil, the South used state sovereignty as a legal shield. They tried every means to hold on to this evil, and in the end lost everything. Their homes, their local authority, even the slavery that they fought to protect, their "pecurliar institution and cherished way of life."

I can't help but think of how the health care reform debate would have gone had not the main proponents had not insisted on the horrible evil that is abortion. The proponents of health care reform insisted on including abortion funding despite 76% of the country not wanting it. In what appears to be the end, the proponents have lost their super-majority, the debate, and even the abortion funding.

It is true that there were other factors contributing to the defeat of the health care bill, but I can't help but wonder if, just like in the Civil War with slavery, that abortion was ultimately the downfall of the bill. The Church's Social Justice teaching holds that any compromise on the right to life under the guise of "social justice" becomes a lie, and ultimately fails to further the cause of social justice. It appears to me that we have a very clear case that trying to advance "universal health care" by sacrificing the unborn has only served to undermine that goal.

This is not to say that this country doesn't need health care reform. But as the South did by using a real principle (states' rights) as a means to preserve a great evil, so too have the abortion advocates used the real need for health care financing reform as a means to advance a great evil. And in doing so accomplished neither.

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