I was watching a movie set amidst the Jewish holocaust of WWII when it struck me that racism is not so foreign and conspicuous an enemy as we may think. For racism of that scale to take place, gradual increments are required with a lot of powerful people feeding the beast till their society is idealogically transformed. As the beast advances it gains speed and its steps becomes strides. We look back at that atrocity with righteous indignation disgusted at how mankind can be such cannibals. Our comfortable distance is reduced however when we realize that the same motivations behind histories bloodiest pages are the same motivations at work today. Why would people target an ethnicity for systematic persecution? Pride? Yes. Hate? Yes. But, I think a more challenging element is that of fear, fear that their freedoms were threatened.
Germany, still reeling from their setback in WWI was humiliated, impoverished, and decimated. Their freedoms and powers, dissipated. And rather than attack the wrongheaded ideals that swirl in the world economy or attack the demons within, the easier plan of attack is to scapegoat by casting one’s problems in the image of a safe and ready target. In the first holocaust it was 6 million Jews. In this holocaust it is about 58 million unborn children. The unborn child is “not human” one may say, or “it will be born into poverty or into abuse,” or “it will be diseased or infirm.” But what we really mean is that that baby stands between a woman and her fullest sense of freedom, or worse, that baby stands between us and our freest sexual explorations. And because that baby represents a threat to freedom, the worst atrocities can be justified in our minds.
I think what we have to realize is that freedom is not ultimate, nor is it even defined the way we’d like. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever you want without consequence. Freedom is the self’s ability to choose. And consequences follow after our choices have ended. We can choose what determines our consequences, but we do not have the right nor should we have the privilege to choose our consequences. If I drive 120 mph I should not be allowed to choose if I’m going to get a speeding ticket. If Jack rapes a woman he should not have the choice of whether he gets arrested and punished. If a girl is pregnant she should not have the right to murder that child. We have choices but our right to choose should not extend indefinitely or else we have let our liberty cook too long, it’s gone from freedom to anarchy. If a person blames Mexicans because he feels his freedom of gainful employment is threatened, he is racist. We consider this wrong. But is it any more wrong than when an unborn child threatens a mother’s independence and she discriminates against that baby in the worst way, by abortion? If we defend choice indiscriminately as if human freedom were ultimate then we risk continuing and compounding atrocities.
Human freedom is not ultimate, goodness is. We people desperately need to have humility, where we are willing to withhold our own want of ultimate freedom so that the good and right things may win out. Healthy families are testimonies to the wisdom of suspended freedom. Such disciplines as loving your wife when you don’t feel like it, or giving to your kids when they haven’t earned it or paying the mortgage even though no one says “Thank you,” these are all examples of putting the good of others over one’s personal freedom. Yet, strong families are made that way. We need only extrapolate inward to see how strong people are made that way and extrapolate outward to see how strong communities and nations are made the same way. Do not look back without also looking within. The same monsters that showed their fangs back then are just as rabid today, even though we think we’ve made them our pets.
* John D. Ferrer, Orig. Self-Published, Dallas, TX: Fall 2010, updated 4-1-2015.