We have $162,320 to go in our Fall Campaign. Every penny is used to strengthen the Church. See details!
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

gold fish & red herrings

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Aug 06, 2007

Busted Halo's Bill McGarvey interviews Melinda Henneberger, who, as is her wont, pin-balls all over the theological map as her feelings flip her. I found the following question put by McGarvey particularly discouraging.

Despite their rhetoric, I often wonder whether some Republican strategists' greatest fear is that Roe v. Wade gets overturned? It would take away an enormous red herring that they get to throw out to distract people every election.

In the 1940s, the Nazis decreed that a disfavored class of human beings were not fully "persons" and turned eleven million of them into ash -- with the passive consent of the enlightened. In the 1970s, our Supreme Court decreed that a disfavored class of human beings were not fully "persons," and in the meantime we have turned more than 40 million of them into surgical waste -- with the passive consent of the enlightened. Those committed to overturning Roe v. Wade see themselves as combatting the same order of abomination that the Nazis had launched, and they see the stakes as just as momentous. McGarvey is certainly right about the GOP's cynical courtship of pro-lifers -- no argument there -- what's mind-boggling is that, six decades after the Holocaust, he can dismiss Roe v. Wade as a red herring.

We're told that a goldfish has a memory so brief that at the conclusion of each circuit of its bowl it forgets everything it knew at the beginning. I think of liberals as moral goldfish, blissfully free of moral memory, who swim about in a ceaselessly changing bath of sentimentalisms. They are often full of moral indignation, but this indignation doesn't derive from moral principles -- from the kind of reasoning that can tell you that this embryo is an intact human being even though it doesn't look like one -- rather their resentments are triggered by emotionally freighted images they take in from the stream of ephemeral pop culture: music, films, videos, and especially television. Historical precedent and philosophical consistency are simply not important. Hence the very same persons who blame the bystanders of 1940 for not taking more risks to derail the Holocaust often oppose (and abusively oppose) those who blockade abortion clinics, even though the latter are responding to the moral reasoning that makes it urgent to rescue the innocent from unjust death. Or again, how often have sentimentalists shown us the famous picture of that Vietnamese girl running naked and screaming from her napalm burns? Yet when pro-lifers attempt to display photos of aborted fetuses, they're blacked-out or shouted down. Different moral principle? No, wrong sentimentalism, wrong yuck-factor.

Both McGarvey and Henneberger stress the importance of "listening" -- in particular, listening to the other side. In order to conduct a profitable dialogue, suggests McGarvey. "you really need to be able to say, 'I want to hear what you have to say, rather than listen to myself tell you what I think.'" When it comes to brokering the political compromises on which the concrete situation will be stabilized -- after the main point at dispute is conceded -- this is entirely reasonable. But where the conflict still involves non-negotiable moral absolutes, what is there to listen for? Not even the squishiest of liberals has criticized Germany's Jews for not listening attentively enough to Aryan supremicists, or blamed abolitionists for failing to be open to the needs and feelings of slave-owners. Doubtless there were Virginians in 1860 and Bavarians in 1940 who shrugged off the supreme moral conflict of the day as a "red herring" and pleaded for dialogue. Do we want to make common cause with them?

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Fall Campaign
Progress toward our year-end goal ($162,320 to go):
$200,000.00 $37,679.72
81% 19%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Aug. 06, 2007 11:35 PM ET USA

    "I think of liberals as moral goldfish, blissfully free of moral memory, who swim about in a ceaselessly changing bath of sentimentalisms" OMG, I have never encountered a better or more enlightening description! Thank you Diogenes!

  • Posted by: - Aug. 06, 2007 7:35 PM ET USA

    I don't think it's possible to make "common cause" with any of these people. As you stated earlier, they are more interested in their "correct" and "the only" point of view than they are in hearing anything anyone in opposition has to say. Their answer to logic and proof is to shout it down and brand it as "racist", "sexist", or "fanatical". They remind me of the adage, "Don't confuse me with facts, my mind is made up."

  • Posted by: - Aug. 06, 2007 6:57 PM ET USA

    "from the kind of reasoning that can tell you that this embryo is an intact human being even though it doesn't look like one" Isn't this exactly what and intact human being looks like at this time of it's embryonic life?

Fall Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

A secret plot to control the Synod? No; it's not secret at all. 7 hours ago
What about Catholic affirmation for those in false marriages? 9 hours ago
Free eBook: Pope Francis' Catechesis on the Family October 7
The headlines say Gov. Brown is Catholic. He says he's not sure what that means. October 7
Archbishop predicts Synod won't change Church teaching. Why am I not reassured? October 7

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
In Cuba, Pope emphasizes service to the vulnerable, praises thaw in US-Cuban relations CWN - September 21
Pope challenges America in speech to US Congress CWN - September 24
As Synod opens, Pope calls on Church to defend ‘unity and indissolubility’ of marriage bond CWN - October 5