The Corner

New York Falling; Mississippi Rising

Virtue in one generation does not necessarily lead to virtue in the next, and while history is powerful, it does not dictate our destiny.

Look no further than the tale of two states: New York and Mississippi. I just finished reading 12 Years a Slave (I’ll watch the movie next), the profoundly moving story of New York citizen Solomon Northup’s kidnapping and life as a slave before his miraculous rescue — a rescue where New York law played a key role. Simply put, but for New York’s embrace of liberty for all, Solomon Northup likely would have lived the rest of his life in bondage.

Fast-forward 150 years to the state’s tragic embrace of abortion-on-demand. The New York assembly just voted for abortion expansion, New York’s governor declared that its pro-life citizens “have no place” in the state, and now 41 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion in New York City, including a shocking 59.8 percent of black pregnancies.

In New York, liberty for all has turned into life for some.

Let’s contrast with Mississippi, my family’s home state. Two generations removed from a long and unjust history of slavery and Jim Crow, the vast majority of the state has embraced liberty for all, and Mississippi (along with most of the Old South) now has one of the highest percentages of black elected officials in the nation.

At the same time that Mississippi has embraced liberty, it has also embraced life. Only one abortion clinic is left, and it stays open only through the force of a federal judiciary that has embraced the dehumanization of the unborn as thoroughly as it dehumanized slaves well over a century ago.

And yet — and I remember this keenly from my own time living in both Upstate New York and Manhattan — all too many citizens of New York look at Mississippi as a backwater, a brutal and ignorant place far removed from the intellectual and cultural refinement of the world’s financial capital. Just as abolitionists were mocked as intellectually unserious by the pre-war planter class (a memorable aspect of 12 Years a Slave), so are pro-lifers mocked and derided by New York’s elite.

May the elite of New York humble themselves and learn from the experience of those they now despise. Liberty for all means little without life for all.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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