A simple decision and its horrifying consequences

A simple decision and its horrifying consequences


Slavery is one of the older instances of it. Deprive the slave of personhood, deny it outright, and it is easy to abuse him or her of the dignity everyone has just by being a human. There may be many reasons for the abuse. One could be economic, since the labor needed to raise cotton profitably could only be gotten forcibly. Unless the pay was enough, no one would do the stoop labor of picking cotton in the hot sun. Besides, the Bible allows slavery, but it calls for humane treatment of slaves, such as freeing them after seven years of servitude. Southerners who appealed to Scripture to justify the age-old practice of slavery forgot that part. Involuntary servitude was the most important by far of the states rights which gave us the Civil War, at a cost of 620,000 American lives. At Gettysburg in three days, almost as many soldiers died as did in all the years of Vietnam.

Then too, they had help from society’s most honorable institution, government. Laws officially were passed upholding the enslaving of kidnapped Africans, with our very Constitution requiring all 13 of the new states to return runaways. Some today think that only south of the Mason-Dixon line, the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, was trafficking of Africans allowed. They are surprised to learn that Philadelphia’s New Market was originally a slave auction.

Those laws made it illegal to educate slaves, so one should not be surprised that emancipation did not miraculously turn freed Africans into tax-paying, job-holding citizens alongside whites. Force such a person into brutal deprivation and expect the results we got.

The Holocaust was a more recent version of stripping Jews and others of their status as persons. It too resulted from the action of a duly constituted government, Nazi Germany’s, whose many laws compelled citizens to maltreat Jews for no other reason than that they were Jews. Inferior by law from conception, innocent of any crime other than being a Jew. High sounding reasons for this abuse were Hitler’s quest for pure Aryan stock and his need for a scapegoat for what the world’s Great Depression was doing to Germany.

As with slavery, many things then proceeded with a consistent logic. If the Reich was going to exterminate millions of its own with industrial mechanization, then it was reasonable to justify medical experiments on these non-persons. Why waste the opportunity to enhance life and health of Aryans when there were all these laboratory specimens available for testing? Once again, it all hinged on whether people decided to deprive a class of people considered non-persons, non-people, unlike the ones oppressing them. The majority outnumbered the minority and could work its will on them. With enough propaganda from the highest, most august places reinforcing the official rationale, ordinary churchgoing people would grant that the government knew best and was acting for the good of all. So with the clearest of consciences they turned in their guilty neighbors, like Anne Frank.

These two instances of depersonalizing seem lost in ancient history. They could not happen again. We are too humane and decent to think we could invade foreign countries and wage undeclared war on civilians in free-fire zones. Vietnam had close to 2 million of them. We learned well from that ancient history.

How about today, when fetal tissue is gathered from the annual 1.2 million abortions in our civilized city on a hill, our new Jerusalem? Just decide that a pre-born baby is not a person until birth and it joins kidnapped Africans, German Jews and collateral-damage Vietnamese. All it takes is a simple decision. Yesterday they were persons with all the government protections like life, health and dignity, but today we decide they no longer qualify. So if we are going to consign them to the hospital ovens where they dispose of post-surgical tissue, why waste them? Have a national organization sell body parts, one that’s subsidized over half a billion dollars annually by government, which organization’s name suggests it likes parenthood. Once again there is a certain sensible economy in all of it. After all, it’s not as though we were doing this to persons, to people whom no one would deprive of personhood. It’s just for governmentally certified nobodies.

Now how about those bothersome poor who get all the earned-income tax credits that jack up our taxes?