By James Neal
Enid News & Eagle
In my column last week, I wrote briefly of the capricious and cruel practice of federal executions — a practice President Trump has accelerated on his way out the door.
Since I penned that column, two men — Brandon Bernard and Alfred Bourgeois — have been strapped to a table by our federal government, and injected with a cocktail of drugs pathologists tell us likely caused them to slowly drown in their own bodily fluids.
The response to that column was predictable. I received a litany of cries: “But what about abortion!?”
To those who levied this utterly predictable response, thank you for reaching out. Feel free to peruse my columns on the topic, of May, 17, 2019, and Oct. 16, 2020. To sum up my position in those columns: If you really desire to reduce abortions in this country, the absolute worst thing you can do is ban them while also cutting health care access — rather, if we are sincere in our affection for the sanctity of life, we must commit ourselves to creating a more compassionate society that cares for mothers and their children — a society that truly cares for life at all ages.
But, so often, the sanctity of life argument in this country falls apart, this side of the womb. Those who cry loudest against abortion — a position on which I agree in principle, but disagree in approach — often have no problem with those who have made it past the birth canal being discarded and left to die, as if they were so much garbage.
Where is this great concern for the sanctity of life when children are intentionally torn from their mothers and kept in cages at our border?
Where is the great pro-life voice when children are starving in a country that produces more food than it can eat? Or when arguably the wealthiest nation on earth is the only industrialized nation with an increasing maternal mortality rate? Or when Americans die from untreated medical issues, in the only developed nation without universal access to health care? Or when our government cuts funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment, and leaves the homeless to slowly die on the street?
The pro-life voice falls silent, or assumes critical opposition, when it comes time to fund programs we know address the root causes of abortions — access to health care, food, housing, day care, education and job training, and women’s health programs for young women and their families.
The whataboutist response to objections to capital punishment, and the poverty and lack of health care that slowly kill so many in our land of excess, is hypocritical and untenable. If we truly care about the sanctity of life, we need to address the root causes of the degradation and taking of human life, from conception to death — but that is an approach that does not appeal to the extremes of either party.
Both political camps tend to take a pick-and-choose approach to the sanctity of life, but the extreme right takes this hypocrisy to seemingly endless lows. And none have been any lower than the anti-masker movement and the ludicrous opposition to the COVID vaccine.
Often, those who scream the loudest about the sanctity of life also are those screaming the loudest about having to wear a bit of cloth, or taking a simple shot, to protect the lives of their neighbors.
Their objections are laced with absurdities. One commenter went so far as to compare vaccinations to Jews being marked for extermination in the Holocaust. A very masculine commenter objected that a mask would somehow make him a cuckold. My dear sir, if your masculinity is so fragile that a bit of cloth and two elastic straps will shatter it, I fear your ship may already have sailed.
This cabal of conspiracy theorists is affirmed and stoked by supposedly “pro-life” politicians, pastors and pundits, who deny science and twist perverted notions of liberty for their own personal gain, at the cost of lives and livelihoods during this pandemic. They do this every day, proclaiming the sanctity of life while actively contributing to deaths in our community, without ever pausing to wonder at the enormity of their own hypocrisy.
I know nothing I write will alter the mindsets of those who gleefully endanger the lives of those around them. But please, until you are willing to wear a bit of cloth on your face and take a shot in the arm to save the life of your neighbor, do not speak to me of God and the sanctity of life.