Friday, July 1, 2016

Should pro-lifers be patriots?

In reaction to Monday's Supreme Court ruling that states cannot apply ambulatory surgical standards to abortion businesses or require abortionists to hold admitting privileges, a pro-life friend wrote:
Ugh. It often feels like no matter how much progress we make the douchebag government will always find a way to undo it all and make it pointless. EFF EVERYTHING ENTIRELY. You won't see me celebrating this country next month.
I liked the post because it captures well the anger we all felt at five old people in robes eviscerating common-sense regulations that saved the lives of both women and children. But this raises an interesting question: should pro-lifers celebrate the United States of America? Should we be patriotic?

If you take the position that wearing red, white, and blue and enjoying fireworks on July 4 constitutes an endorsement of the totality of American policy, then at no time in our nation's history has it ever been morally acceptable to celebrate Independence Day. From violence against First Nations, to slavery, to child labor, to racist and sexist voting restrictions, to discrimination against LGBT people... let's just say we've never achieved an A-plus on our human rights report card.

So perhaps celebrating the Fourth of July isn't an endorsement of each particular policy. Perhaps we are more broadly celebrating the American system of democracy, which gives us the potential to make human rights progress that isn't possible in dictatorships. (My friend would likely retort that we in fact have a dictatorship of nine eight.)

Or maybe it's base nativism: "The United States is my country, and my country must be great, therefore the United States is great."


Or maybe it's as good an excuse as any to throw a party or visit friends and family.

Or maybe—and this seems most likely to me—the fourth of July means different things to different people.

Refusing to mark the Fourth of July on pro-life grounds probably violates the Equal Rights Institute's wise commandment "Don't Be Weird," especially if you've never refrained from the celebration before. (Abortion has been going on for a while now, in case you haven't noticed.) But as a general matter, pro-lifers would be wise to remember that our nation is far from perfect. Blind patriotism and human rights do not mix well together.

As for me, I conveniently get to opt out of this murky ethical dilemma by being on an airplane on the night of July 4th. Maybe I'll catch some fireworks from above.

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