Since the election of Donald Trump, race and things associated with race have been at the forefront of the news. My goal here is not to make a case for Donald Trump or to make a definitive argument about issues pertaining to race, but I hope to use the current conversation as a way to ease into my thoughts on the parallel between abortion and slavery.
Full disclosure, I am the type of person to wear a MAGA hat when the occasion calls for it, and I hope to get my hands on a coffee mug that says “Leftist Tears” on it very soon. Just so we are all on the same page.
Race is the topic of the day for the political left. Here in Canada we hear about “Islamaphobia” as being a sort of racism, even though Islam isn’t a race… And, our neighbours to the south are still having a shouting match about slavery, with a little immigration hysteria thrown in for good measure. Before The Donald was elected, I had more or less given up on the news or political commentary. This is partly due to disillusionment with the media and the left-wing lunacy dominating North America, but it is also due to the fact that I was busy becoming a new dad. I had no time for politics and culture anymore, because the culture and the body politic had no time for a guy like me. Fast forward to the inauguration of Donald Trump and I was now binge-watching videos of solid conservatives throwing down the gauntlet on college campuses much to the dismay of misinformed, and inflated students.
For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to fully investigate issues of race and the history of the various types of slavery throughout the world, without feeling guilty. I am 30 years old; this means I was raised on multiculturalism. I knew very well that having an unorthodox opinion about the history of slavery and race was relation was just a “dog-whistle” for bigotry. Clearly Christopher Columbus was a mass-murderer, even though this is categorically untrue, within 5 minutes of searching you will find that he is more like a Canonized Saint than anything else. Furthermore, I knew that slavery was a very distinctly “white” thing, I mean except for the millions of people enslaved in the Caliphates of the past. As an aside, I hate the way we label things as “white” or “black” with regards to large groups of people. The notion that a group of people share ideals based solely on skin colour is one of the most absurd and racist ideas going today. You can imagine how nervous I was when I saw that intelligent conservatives dared to defend, even contextually, any member of the old American Confederacy. I was especially shocked when I saw Thomas Sowell, who is perhaps my favourite conservative intellectual and also a black man, speak in nuanced terms about slavery.
Now, you may also be getting a little nervous, but don’t worry, this isn’t an apologia for racists or skin-heads. Racism is hatred of God, therefore I hate it. We are made in God’s image, this includes our races, and therefore, if we hate other races, we hate God.
What I am trying to illustrate is that I began to realize that there were people in the past, who were for all intents and purposes “normal” and “decent”, but who happened to be a part of a world that endorsed slavery. Most people didn’t have a direct relationship to slavery, but simply lived in societies where it was the norm, and therefore they tolerated it. These cultures didn’t benefit from capitalism for the most part, and therefore most were not wealthy enough to worry about much else than working tirelessly for their families, either in the home or outside the home. I would imagine that at the same time most people were told things that justified slavery. Things like “those people aren’t fully human”, or “it would be to expensive to support the slaves”, or “there is no point in freeing them because they wouldn’t have a better quality of life anyway.”
Somewhere along the line I came across an article by Matt Walsh and I had a sort of “mind-blowing” moment. In this article, Walsh articulated something I immediately knew to be true, namely that abortion was the moral equivalent of slavery. He laid out perfectly the various arguments that people would use to justify abortion, and they fit all too swimmingly into a pro-slavery argument. Some of the most poignant arguments for both slavery and abortion include the following:
Argument from ownership: “This slave/baby is my property/body. You can’t tell me what to do with it.”
Argument from pseudoscience: “Slaves/fetuses aren’t really people. They aren’t like us. Look at them — they’re physically different, therefore we are human and they are not.”
Argument from faux-compassion: “Slavery/abortion is in the best interest of Africans/babies. The world can be a cruel place. It’s best to protect them from it by keeping them enslaved/killing them.”
Before I continue, I should mention that in the same way I don’t condemn all members of history who tacitly or indifferently tolerated slavery for the reasons I have already mentioned, I also don’t condemn all those who have held a pro-choice view or participated in some manner in the procurement of abortion. Before I embraced Catholicism and Conservatism, I was like your average person who just accepted the pro-choice position. I never really gave the argument much thought, but I was sort of apathetic to the idea. Many of us have held pro-choice views, and many of us would have tolerated slavery in some form or another, we are more sinners than we are saints.
Since my conversion, both religious and political, I have become increasingly uneasy when faced with a pro-choice interlocutor, whether this be in person or in a media format. A while ago I was having a conversation with someone who, by nature of his or her job, shouldn’t hold the pro-abortion position. This person is in a position in which they are to help form young people in their understanding of the Faith. It was just myself and this person in a room together having a conversation when I heard the words “I’m Catholic, but I’m pro-choice”. To be honest, I was so taken back, not because of encountering a pro-death Catholic, of which there are many, but because they were able to rationalize their position so easily. There was something about that moment that was weirdly evil. It was like spiritual schizophrenia, having both God and the Devil on equal footing in this person’s thoughts. Usually I am not shy when a chance arises to duke it out with a heretic, but I found myself blurting out some incoherent reason as to why I had to leave and I skipped out of the room. Come to think of it, perhaps this is what Scripture means when it refers to the Devil as a Roaring Lion; there was certainly a predatory nature in the air. Maybe I am being too hard on this person by suggesting there was something demonic present, or maybe I am just calling a spade a spade.
Throughout the intervening time since this encounter I have found myself less able to handle someone expressing his or her abortion-supportive views. Our culture constantly tells us that we need more “dialogue” and that conversation with people who disagree is a valuable thing. I agree with this to a point. If we share certain foundational beliefs we can have meaningful conversations. If two people agree that Patriotism is a good thing, then they can work through their differences in order to make their country better. If people of different cultures share the Catholic Faith, then they can learn to understand each other easier as they ultimately have the same goals. But, can we truly find common ground if one person thinks that people aren’t people? Could you look someone in the eye who supported slavery and continue the conversation as normal? When you speak to someone who supports abortion, it is no different then speaking to someone who supports slavery, even if they don’t know it. I am not pretending to have the solution to this, and I fully understand that in some way we must reach out to pro-choice people, if not for their sake, then at least for the child. I also realize that people can compartmentalize things in very curious ways; it is possible for someone to be pro-choice and otherwise be a relatively good person. However, maybe there is a reason why slavery basically ended in the West by way of war rather than conversation.