The events of 1967 made it a very unusual year of strange constellations of disparate events. Some of the things that happened more than 40 years ago still reverberate through our national culture. The summer of ‘67, (referred to in the annals of the Sexual Revolution as the “Summer of Love”) signaled that all America would have to reckon with a growing tide of social change. More than 100,000 teens and young adults converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco to inhale the psychedelic “hippie” culture. Back East, riots in Newark and Detroit that summer meant dozens killed, thousands arrested, and millions of dollars in property damage, even though after the traumatic results of the Watts Riots of 1965 government officials were quick to call in the National Guard. The multiple traumas of 1967 merely foreshadowed the national tumult and tragedy that lay ahead in 1968: the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and the riots that followed.
In 1967, Colorado legalized abortion in cases of rape, incest, or in pregnancies that would lead to permanent physical disability of the woman. Then California enacted its Therapeutic Abortion Act, which allowed a physicians’ committee to approve abortions where the pregnancy would gravely impair the physical or mental health of the woman. These state actions set precedents which were quickly imitated by a number of other states; thus began the march toward the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision and the ensuing blood bath that continues to this day.
On the foreign scene in 1967, as now, conditions in the Middle East were a powder keg which erupted in the Six-Day War during which Israel took full control of Jerusalem and captured the Golan Heights from Syria, significantly altering her political boundaries in ways that continue to impact relations there today. American intelligence was caught off guard and uninformed in 1967 when the North Vietnamese staged their forces and prepared to launch their disastrous surprise Tet Offensive which, though it was a massive military defeat, changed the American public’s assessment of the possibility of victory and caused President Lyndon Johnson to withdraw as a candidate for re-election.
In 1967, John McCain began over five years in captivity after being shot down and captured while flying a bombing mission over North Vietnam. That year, Barack Obama’s mother and new stepfather moved to Indonesia where he entered elementary school.
These events — large and small — underscore the fact that, when looking forward, the future is seldom clear, nor can it be easily imagined or predicted. In the midst of the swirl of events in 1967, few could understand what they portended. Having the luxury of ignoring the trivial and connecting the dots between events that time has shown to be significant, historians explain the past; they sometimes describe the unfolding of past events in a manner that makes them appear as predictable as the tides or the orbits of the planets. But like the rest of us, historians lack the ability to look forward to see or understand with any certitude, the direction of change. Ordinary mortals, bombarded by events like today’s collapse of housing prices and the spike in the cost of gasoline, are uncertain and concerned about where things are headed. Sorting out and interpreting life in periods of hectic change is, at best, an unsettling proposition. During an election season, many Americans confront campaign rhetoric with the same caution and uncertainty as when groping their way through a fog.
As McCain was headed to a North Vietnamese prison and Obama to the first grade, Desmond Morris, a zoologist, wrote a best-selling book about human behavior titled The Naked Ape. In the book, he looks at human behavior in much the same manner he would while documenting and analyzing any other animal behavior. He offers many fascinating parallels between the conduct of animals and humans. These parallels have the effect of reinforcing the image conjured by the title that human beings are merely somewhat more highly evolved than apes but essentially no different from them, that our most prominent and distinguishing characteristic is simply our lack of fur or feathers.
If an up-and-coming young male lion develops the strength to drive off or kill an older dominant male who has been the leader of a pride of lions, this young male lion will systematically destroy all the young cubs of the old lion. This has the effect of causing a lioness that has lost her young cub to go into estrus and be willing to mate with the new dominant male.
We consider this brutal behavior as simply the way of nature. In the animal kingdom, no moral boundaries are recognized, and hence, there is no higher ruling principle than brute strength. But if a strong human male behaves in a like manner, we view him as a murderer. Why? Because of the value ascribed to the sanctity of human life. This is not a recent development of human thought, but is as old as time — “from the beginning.” Scripture records the first murder occurring within the first family when the first son destroys the second son in a fit of jealous rage. In an even closer parallel, around 1000 B.C., the second king of Israel, David, takes the wife of another man and has the husband killed. Despite David’s status as a hero for delivering Israel from her enemies and greatly enlarging the kingdom, the court historian with unblinking honesty dutifully records David’s “sin” along with all of the blood that was subsequently spilled in his household — as was foretold by the prophet Nathan — as a consequence of this dual breach of the Mosaic law.
This example clearly illustrates that we are distinguished from other animals by more than simply our lack of fur or feathers. The vast majority of human beings recognize the existence of moral boundaries. Only those persons as “brilliant” as Princeton’s professor of bioethics, Peter Singer, have “evolved” to the point where they think that it should be permissible for adults to murder any of their young that they don’t deem to be desirable (of course, this evolution in thought is actually a return to the standards of the ancient pagan Romans).
Without any need for reflection, the vast majority of human beings consider the protection of their offspring to be one of their highest imperatives; in this regard, they are akin to the members of most other species. Given the widespread evidence across species of the fierce protectiveness of adults toward their young, most especially by the mothers, this behavior would appear to be a biological imperative hard-wired into nature. Cognitively, we view adults who do not protect their young or, in some cases, who themselves injure or even kill their own young, as behaving in an aberrant fashion, as going against nature. Such behavior is so repugnant, so reprehensible, that we act collectively through the powers of the state to punish those who violate this moral imperative. Even among those who profess not to believe in moral absolutes, few besides Professor Singer rise to defend such behavior.
We do not know whether he is as extreme as Professor Singer, but despite his credentials as an admirable family man, Barack Obama in 2002, at that time still an Illinois legislator, voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act, which would have protected babies that survived late-term abortions on the grounds that it would encroach on Roe v. Wade. On the other hand, John McCain — who often infuriates conservatives with his maverick policy positions on issues like campaign finance and immigration reform — nonetheless, has a record of voting fairly consistently for pro-family values legislation; if only he had a record of having lived a life consistent with traditional family values.
With the advances in ultrasound technology, which shows so clearly the development of the baby in the womb, the general public is increasingly uncomfortable with late-term abortions (particularly the barbaric procedure called partial-birth abortion, which a majority opposes). Nonetheless, many of these same individuals are prepared to turn a blind eye to the intentional destruction of an early fetus in the womb. Somehow, this selfish, life-destroying act has become socially acceptable under the label of a “woman’s right to choose.”
Today, we are inundated by brilliant polemicists promoting a culture of death and ever greater domination of our lives by the state, made all the more insidious by the subtlety of a stealth campaign. Liberals do not intend for the average voter to see the full, long-term consequences of the changes that are part of the agenda they are peddling. That’s assuming they have a clear understanding of those consequences themselves — a huge assumption.
A great unanswered question looms before us today. This election will test whether alternative means besides the mainstream media can be mobilized so that the public can see what is at stake and make their choice in an informed, educated fashion. Obviously, the candidates want to market themselves so as to appeal to as many voters as possible. More often than not, they operate on the principle that the more general you can keep your message the broader your appeal. But, of course, the Devil is in the details.
The media elites have become little more than cheerleaders and have no interest in forcing a debate in which the issues before us relating to life, family, and the reach of government power become clearly and sharply defined. It remains to be seen whether the voting public can be educated to see the full ramifications of the social changes being proposed in such glowing terms - changes that most certainly will be initiated and controlled by big government. This election will provide a referendum on these proposed changes, whether they are understood or not. It is impossible to say at this point how large a segment of the general public will be seduced by slick Utopian theorizing which promises and promises and then promises some more. We can only hope that there are a majority of Americans who still thirst for the freedom to build their own future. We can only hope that most are tired of seeing all evidence of religious devotion and moral standards ripped from the public square.
Is there a voice today to rouse the public to turn from the culture of death? Will leaders emerge to decry the ever growing encroachment on religious freedom through the agency of judicial tyranny? And is there a way to make these voices heard above the cacophony of campaign rhetoric?
Mark well: The 2008 election will set the course of the nation for decades to come. I greatly fear that the voting public does not understand the zero-sum choice they face: one way holds the promise of greater security and easy benefits from the State, but it carries a price tag of expanded governmental power at the expense of every individual’s liberty. My fervent hope is that voters will choose the harder path of personal liberty and a renewed demand for a government of limited reach so that the culture of life may prevail.