Politics & Policy

A Time for Awakening

Wiesel in Washington, D.C., in March 2015. (Gary Gameron/Reuters)
Resisting the culture of death in all its forms

‘In front of us flames. In the air that smelled of burning flesh . . . We had arrived — at Birkenau, reception center for Auschwitz.”

Rereading Night, Elie Wiesel’s acclaimed account of his Holocaust experience, should make for a startling reawakening.

Wiesel describes the horrific scene: “And as the train stopped, we saw this time that flames were gushing out of a tall chimney into the black sky.”

“Men to the left! Women to the right!” Wiesel recalls. “Eight words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. . . . Yet that was the moment when I parted from my mother.”

He tells of seeing his father weep, something he had never thought possible.

You get the idea. I recommend a read or a reread.

Just days after Wiesel’s passing, USA Today ran a headline: “Women are rising in the West.” The article recounted the impending triumph of Hillary Clinton’s coronation as presidential nominee of the Democratic party.

But at what price, a woman president?

The milestone is one that has been a long time in coming, supposedly long desired by all as symbolizing the achievement of equality. But can we ever have equality if we allow the most innocent among us to be subject to the radical ideology that would allow them to be seen not as blessed ones in need of protection but rather as obstacles to someone else’s pursuit of choice and freedom? There is no question of choice and freedom for children who are never given the opportunity to live and thrive, and there is no undoing the fact that the world is deprived of the gift of their lives.

The line from Night that screams out for our attention is: “Babies! Yes, I saw it — saw it with my own eyes — those children in the flames.”

These days it’s a bit more obscure. We tend to use euphemisms. But not always. Hillary Clinton, that possible first woman president of the United States, has talked about the unborn child as such, but in the  context of a stated desire for a procedure trumping his life.

There’s a poison in the cultural air we breathe, and pretending otherwise is what gets us into political scenarios with no good choices. Many will cite Clinton’s unfettered loyalty to Planned Parenthood, her devotion to the organization’s agenda. But Donald Trump, too, has extolled Planned Parenthood and said how much good it does. He has betrayed his own unfamiliarity with the love that makes the pro-life movement the force for good that it is, a kind of love that with bold and tender courage could bring about the transformation we need. People talk with a desperate hope about their support for Donald Trump. He will blow things up, they say. They are attracted to his impatience and anger with a dysfunctional political system. But is it destruction we need, or renewal? Is it death we need, or life? At this juncture, shouldn’t our priority be honesty about the darkness within? This would be a good time to take a moment to consider the memory of what looking away from death has meant in our recent history.

‘We’re lovers of all humans in all stages of life in its unique and extraordinary nature.’ 

—Carly Fiorina 

Carly Fiorina, one of the early candidates for the Republican nomination for president, recently spoke at the Napa Institute about the current political scene. She pointed to the hope that is young people — Millennials — who are more pro-life than their elders, but who might not be willing to identify themselves with the pro-life movement or cause. They won’t do so, she says, because “they get all this pushback.” In these times — over four decades into the Roe v. Wade regime of legal abortion by judicial fiat, which the Supreme Court has doubled down on in recent weeks — Fiorina emphasized the importance of honesty and bravery and clarity. People need to be fearless in proclaiming that unborn human life is life and that protecting it should have the highest priority — and they need to do so with love and hope, focused on offering a helping hand and healing in civil society and even in public policy. “We’re lovers of all humans in all stages of life in its unique and extraordinary nature,” Fiorina said.

At such a time, hitting reset on the miserable politics of abortion could bear fruit beyond ending abortion itself. It could give new life to a whole host of other issues. Being welcoming rather than mandating sexual-revolutionary values could free us from the miserable politics and brutal experiences many women today know.

I was in the presence of Elie Wiesel just two months ago in New York City. He reminded us of the evil that drove anti-Semitism and led to the extermination of Jews and others by the Nazi regime. In our time, we are told by so many with power that assisted suicide and abortion are necessary — and not even necessary evils, it seems. Gone are the days when Hillary Clinton’s husband talked about abortion as something that ought to be “safe, legal, and rare.”

You might not agree with everything you read here. You might feel quite fatigued by it. But consider this: Women deserve better than shouts of “war on women” in reply to pleas on behalf of the most vulnerable among us. Those who explain why “women’s health care” is not synonymous with unrestricted abortion should be given a respectful hearing. And in a culture where every day we see new headlines about terrorism and urban death, we need a new embrace of life. A first woman president who would seek this would be a great gift.

There is a fire burning in our culture that is fogging our vision and strangling our voice for the innocent, for the little ones. We must fight back against this force and refuse to accept death over life.

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