Sunday, October 08, 2006

"...a right to life that begins at conception and ends at birth."

Michael Kinsley writes about a contradiction in values. The absolute right to life of a fertilized human egg is the cornerstone of the argument opposing embryonic stem cell research. But that right to life falls secondary to it's becoming "collateral damage" in war. There is something wrong with this picture. Really wrong.

Bush, as we know, believes deeply and earnestly that human life begins at conception. Even tiny embryos composed of a half-dozen microscopic cells, he thinks, have the same right to life as you and I do. That is why he cannot bring himself to allow federal funding for research on new lines of embryonic stem cells or even for other projects in labs where stem cell research is going on. Even though these embryos are obtained from fertility clinics, where they would otherwise be destroyed anyway, and even though he appears to have no objection to the fertility clinics themselves, where these same embryos are manufactured and destroyed by the thousands -- nevertheless, the much smaller number of embryos needed and destroyed in the process of developing cures for diseases such as Parkinson's are, in effect, tiny little children whose use in this way constitutes killing a human being and therefore is intolerable.

But President Bush does not believe that the deaths of all little children as a result of U.S. policy are, in effect, murder. He thinks that some, while very unfortunate, are also inevitable and essential.

You know who I mean. Close to 50,000 Iraqi civilians have died so far as a direct result of our invasion and occupation of their country, in order to liberate them. The numbers are increasing as the country slides into chaos: more than 6,500 in July and August alone. These numbers are from reliable sources and are not seriously contested. They include many who were tortured and then killed, along with others blown up less personally by car bombs and suicide bombers. The number does not include the hundreds of thousands who have died prematurely as a result of a decade and a half of war and embargos imposed on the Iraqi economy. Nor does it include soldiers on both sides, most of whom are innocent, too. Last week the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan surpassed the number of people who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But it is hard -- indeed, I would say it is impossible -- to reconcile Bush's absolutism over allegedly human life when it is a clump of unknowing, unfeeling cells with his sophisticated, if not cavalier, attitude toward the loss of innocent human life when it is children and adults in Iraq.

He develops the point further, but that's the core. I don't have as much problem with the president's attitude as I do with the vast numbers whom he clearly represents. Like all political leaders in a representative system, George Bush is only a mirror for the attitudes and opinions of millions of citizens who voted to put him into office. It is those millions who frighten me more than he does. The discussion of embryonic stem cell research is so charged with extreme attitudes that I rarely hear it discussed. On those few occasions that it is mentioned, I have never personally heard anyone seriously disagree with the president's compartmentalized position.

Thanks to Young Anabaptist Radicals for the link!

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