I saw the following quotation this morning on Facebook:
I wish my moderate Republican friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Romney because of his economic policies, and that they disagree with him on gay rights. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, “My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit an ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country, your healthcare, your right to inherit, the mental welfare and emotional well-being of your youth, and your very personhood.” It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating anti-gay legislation and cultural homophobia. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you “disagree” with your candidate on these issues.
– Pulitzer and Tony winning playwright Doug Wright
In the quest for finding a grain of truth amidst even the most confused of statements, I think Mr. Wright has something to offer my Catholic friends who lean Democrat. Granted, “fundamental rights” has been misunderstood and misrepresented by the playwright. For instance, health care and the “right to inherit” seem at the very least questionable as “basic human rights.” Alas, such is the problem with modern rights language to begin with. French jurist Michael Villey argued that the understanding of rights as a subjective entitlements was an innovation of the nominalist revolution and that it is Utopian, arbitrary, and ultimately sterile. We see the fruits of this language every time someone like Doug Wright invents a so-called “right” out of thin air. Then there is the misunderstanding of the nature of marriage, along with the misidentification of life choices with “personhood.”
Nevertheless, there is something important going on here. There are some issues that are so important, so non-negotiable that they cannot be excused or outweighed by other matters of prudential judgement. To suggest otherwise is intellectually dishonest. There are deal-breakers when it comes to our ability to support certain candidates, and the Pulitzer winner’s comparison with slavery and racism is not entirely inappropriate. In fact, I am glad to see this argument coming from the left. Catholics have been trying to make this case for years, and the Democrats have typically shied away from this line of thinking. Where Wright goes wrong is that this particular issue is not one of basic human rights. However, I think we can take his assertion and reapply it to two basic human rights that are on fact guaranteed by the Constitution:
I wish my Catholic Democrat friends would simply be honest. They all say they’re voting for Obama because of they believe his economic and policies are the best way to help the poor, and that they disagree with him on abortion and religious freedom. Fine. Then look me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, “A Tax structure and spending plan means more than fundamental civil rights, your right to practice your religion in the pursuit of truth, your right to not be forced to act against your conscience, your dignity as a citizen of this country, and the right of a child – a living, breathing human person – to live, which is a violation of his or her very personhood.” It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. You’re still perpetuating legislation that supports the killing of innocent human children and the dismantling of religious freedom upon which this country was built, and you are complicit in the culture of death. You don’t get to walk away clean, because you say you “disagree” with your candidate on these issues.