Thursday, September 18, 2008
Why I won't support Obama or McCain
I don't have high expectations for political candidates. Google's corporate motto sums up my standard: "Don't be evil."
I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican, neither liberal nor conservative. I'm just as orthodox a Catholic as I know how to be, and I can't seem to square that with the platforms of either major party. Perhaps such a "plague o' both your houses" position is naive or irresponsible, but it isn't born out of mere contrarianism. Everyone wants to belong, and it would be nice to have some political camp to call home.
So I'd like to be able to get behind Barack Obama or John McCain and feel hip and stylish or old and crotchety, respectively. They both seem like nice enough guys who generally want to do good. But I can't get past the fact that they both support causes that are intrinsically evil, like abortion and/or embryonic stem cell research.
It has always been obvious to me -- completely independent of any religious conviction -- that human life begins at the moment of conception, i.e., when a sperm fertilizes an egg. (If it doesn't begin then, when does it?) It has also always been obvious to me that it is always wrong to deliberately take the life of an innocent human being. (If that's not wrong, what is?)
Those two propositions, taken together, lead me to the conclusion that abortion and embryonic stem cell research are never morally acceptable, regardless of the circumstances.
Obama supports both abortion and ESCR; McCain supports the latter. Which leaves me hoping that the two senators either haven't given their positions on these issues much thought, or that they're both incredibly stupid. Because otherwise I can't escape the conclusion that both our candidates for the presidency are moral monsters. Let me explain.
If you accept the premise that murder is wrong, the only morally legitimate way I can see to support abortion or ESCR is to claim to know that human life does not begin at conception. But neither Obama nor McCain claims to know that, or even to believe it.
When Obama was asked at the Compassion Forum on April 18 whether he personally believed that life begins at conception, he said, "I don't presume to know the answer to that question." Now, either Obama was simply being insincere and was trying to appear humble while painting pro-lifers as presumptuous, or else he knowingly supports the destruction of what may or may not, for all he knows, be living human beings. I refer him to Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft, who asks: If you're out in the woods hunting, and you hear a rustling in the bushes, and you're not sure whether it's a deer or your fellow hunter, what do you do? Don't shoot! If you honestly don't know whether a zygote or an embryo or a fetus is a living human being, Senator Obama, don't destroy it. That's at least criminal negligence, if not manslaughter.
McCain's moral inconsistency is perhaps even worse. At the Saddleback Forum on August 16, Rick Warren asked him at what point a baby is entitled to human rights. McCain immediately replied, to much applause, "At the moment of conception." So in supporting ESCR, McCain is endorsing the destruction of what he believes (correctly) to be living human beings with human rights. That's the definition of murder.
I understand that abortion and embryonic stem cell research are deeply personal, emotionally charged issues. But in any moral system worthy of the name, there are some things you just can't do, even in the worst circumstances, or with the best intentions. That our presidential candidates don't seem to understand this, and that they both employ such duplicitous and disingenuous rhetoric to obscure the reality of their positions, makes me fear for the future.