Abraham Lincoln was a man who typified, the character of many of the Americans of his time. As I wrote in a recently published article:
Judging by things that he said – even in the speeches he gave in opposition to slavery – it’s not hard to show that Abraham Lincoln was a racist, with prejudices like those of many slaveholders, who regarded him as their enemy. Yet his actions either produced, or in consequence contributed to, results (the North’s victory in the Civil War, the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution) that made the moral idea of God-endowed human equality an effective legal and political resource in the battle against racist segregation and discrimination in the 20th century.
I have no doubt that far fewer Americans today harbor viscerally racist prejudices than was the case in Lincoln’s time. Certainly, far fewer openly express them. But what if they were challenged to argue the case against racism – as Lincoln had to argue the case against slavery – in an environment prejudiced against the view that it was simply evil and unjust? Frankly, I doubt that they could do so with anything like the clarity and conviction evident, for example, in Lincoln’s arguments against Stephen Douglas. They would no doubt condemn racism with passionate conviction. But when it came to convincing people prejudiced in its favor that racism is unreasonable and unjust, what would they have to say?
I don’t think their comparative deficiency in respect of cogent reasoning would simply be the result of personal ignorance, or a disinclination to think things through. But people today are prone to denounce racist prejudice reflexively, even as many Americans in Lincoln’s day were reflexively inclined to harbor racist feelings. Today, condemning racism is considered to be a requirement of good citizenship. But proponents of slavery were just as adamant in their belief that respect for freedom, which they held to be the core of American citizenship, meant giving license to racial prejudice. It meant accommodating the view that forcing people to treat blacks as equals, when (according to their experience) they quite obviously were not, degraded the standard of the society and the dignity of the American race (which to many of them meant whites only.)
Most Americans today would profess to believe that this view is simply reprehensible. Yet it is predicated on the same understanding of freedom some of the vocal opponents of racism nonetheless deploy in their defense of legalized abortion. They contend that “without abortion rights women cannot be free.” Thus they hold that the individual’s freedom to murder nascent human offspring is an indispensable prerogative of American citizenship, which must be protected with the coercive force of law.
What these proponents of abortion say about individual freedom is, in its formal logic, identical to what the proponents of race-based slavery said about the freedom of their communities and states. Of course, the advocates of slavery might take offense at this comparison. They might argue that their institution of slavery did not aim to murder the enslaved. It aimed instead to constrain them to labor, in a system that benefited the whole community, including the enslaved themselves. They might content that the slaveholders did not advocate exterminating people who had as much claim to humanity as they themselves. Rather, they sought to provide for the welfare of those who were not naturally their equals, much as they did for their livestock and pets, in a fashion commensurate with the evident inequality that made them less capable of doing so on their own.
Today adamant opponents of racism will argue that it’s better to kill unwanted babies than to bring them into a world that does not care for them. Slaveholders argued that it was better to subject blacks to slavery than to leave them on their own in a world in which they could not properly care for themselves. The pro-abortionists today will be quick to say that the slaveholders’ contention is, by and large, untrue. But they are blind to the fact that, by and large, human experience suggests that their present contention (that the world will not care for babies if they are not aborted) is equally questionable.
Because black slaves were useful to slaveholders, they were not driven away, or hounded to near extinction, as were Native Americans. Today, because nascent human beings are an obstacle to their parents’ ambition, they are simply being exterminated. Meanwhile the very people who refuse to see that extermination for what it is, demand redress for what was done to Native Americans.
How is it that, despite his racist predilections, Lincoln could see and argue cogently against the unjust institution his prejudices abetted; but today people who profess to espouse equal justice for all perpetrate self-evident murder against their own offspring, refusing to admit that what they espouse embraces, in principle, the extinction of all generations to come?
The answer is simple. Lincoln sincerely believed in the premises of American life by which his prejudices were chastised, refuted and condemned. For all their talk of justice, the proponents of the freedom to murder our posterity have abandoned those premises. Lincoln frankly acknowledged what was, in his day, the material inequality between blacks and whites. But with equal frankness he espoused the moral equality, revealed and endowed by the Creator, God, in the image of humanity that prejudice depreciated, but could not ultimately deny.
So, people who despised blacks, but revere God, still saw in His image the reason to acknowledge, demand and even die for the justice due to all humanity, for God’s sake. But today people who profess to exalt humanity, but despise God, see in their own ambition to outdo Him reason to destroy the nascent image of themselves. Yet it inevitably reminds them that they pursue that ambition in vain. For that nascent self-image calls out to God within them. It makes the demand of love that chastises their disregard for His presence in the offspring they thus abuse. This is why they make shift to prevent abortion-minded women from see ultrasound images of the child they carry.
So, the war for justice continues, as we Americans strive to determine whether we have abandoned our God-revering creed. Once fought on battlegrounds bathed in our life’s blood, it continues now in our hearts. Are those hearts disposed to convey that substance of life to new generations? Or have we succumbed to the ultimate form of genocidal racism? It aims to suppress the human race, for the sake of some conception of our own, (though not of ourselves) imagined without God in mind. For though we may conceive of being without God, if God is Being itself, what becomes of us without Him?
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