Some say it was a slip of the truth as well as a slip of the tongue.
Speaking last April on “Meet the Press,” Hillary Clinton referred to an unborn child as a “person.” Arguing such a person “doesn’t have constitutional rights,” it was a terminological slip that drew the ire of almost everyone. Even those who agree with her on abortion criticized her.
It was that word “person.” It gums up their moral argument, you see. “Fetus” is the approved term. It works better, more efficient. Clinton had gone off script, spoken out of line, and she was quickly corrected.
“Person.” The word is taboo. It mustn’t be used of the unborn. That is the rule.
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And it’s not a mistake she has made again. Her language in the last two presidential debates makes clear she’s learned her lesson, that her rhetoric has been rehabilitated.
Clinton’s position on abortion has certainly evolved over the years. In my opinion (which should not surprise you) her view has become utterly post-human, utterly eugenic, utterly un-Christian and even utterly un-Methodist. She’s become ideological, hardened and unthinking. From her one should expect nothing henceforward but the script, no longer even the semblance of arguments.
But that’s not what disappoints me or surprises me. Rather, what depresses me about this election is the humiliating and inglorious political failure of the pro-life movement, the result of spectacular political stupidity.
Yes, now is a critical time. Yes, the future of the Supreme Court is important. Yes, Clinton has shown no willingness even to listen, no willingness to retreat from her post-human embrace of the culture of death, no willingness to compromise or even move one inch toward the center. All of it bleakly true, she’s offered no olive branch, no conciliation, nothing other than the demand to completely surrender to the brave new morality of her brave new world.
Because, of course, she’s not had to. There is absolutely no political incentive for her to moderate her position or even her rhetoric, not in the slightest.
And why? Because the other major candidate is a cartoon character, a clown, a dangerous Mussolini in the making. And because he’s made promises — this delusional promise — that seduce like dreams the revered goals of the pro-life movement, he’s taken so many of us in, ruining whatever political relevance we may have had. There are reasons Clinton’s so unbending, and not a few are supplied by us — we who pray daily for an end to abortion, frankly suckered by an immoral fool.
In politics on both the right and the left there’s always been talk of “useful idiots,” unwitting pawns in the political game. Is this what we pro-lifers have become? So blinded by prized desired ends we’ve forgotten the necessary morality of our means. We have, I am truly pained to say, been taken in, tricked and used. And we will lose this election and so much more, too. We will wear for years the wounds of our political sin.
Now this does not mean the battle for life is over or even lost. Because it isn’t. Rather, it means that we in the pro-life movement need to begin to think about how we will proceed under a morally post-human Clinton presidency, about how we will regain the proper apologetic of our clearly moral clause. We need to regroup, forgive each other and find another way, and quickly. Because lives literally depend upon it, and we’ve wasted so much time and energy already.
Our cause is moral. It is, I believe, the truth. It’s life and beauty. And we owe it a better effort. And I believe that ultimately we will win, although not this year, being such willful political fools. But in the end we will win.
Because we’re the people who can still say “person,” because we see what plainly there is to see.
Joshua J. Whitfield is the parochial vicar and director of faith formation and education at St. Rita Catholic Church in Dallas.
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