Throughout the entirety of my existence I’ve heard Republicans speaking about “the sanctity of life”. It’s a defining trait of the party, along with promoting personal liberty over government power and curtailing unnecessary spending.
It’s heard whenever the abortion debate arises, reflexively stated by everyone who wants to remain an “R” in good standing. We hear it sometimes when the topic of euthanasia is broached.
Outside of those two instances? Crickets.
That’s not completely true, though. There is one other topic which produces a “sanctity of life” argument, and that’s the death penalty. To be fair, however, I don’t believe I’ve heard it mentioned on that topic from anyone save a Catholic. There are people of other faiths and people who are faithless alike who are also against the death penalty, but their issues with it tend to stem from concerns about the state mistakenly killing an innocent person or whether the state should be granted the authority to kill its citizenry. Their argument doesn’t typically stem from a sanctity of life position.
Let’s be clear: I’m not saying that I’m against the death penalty, nor am I saying that the other arguments against it are bad. I’m saying that if we’re going to start presenting ourselves as a society that values life, the inherent value of life must be a component in anything as drastic as the death penalty. In fact, it should be a factor in all potentially life-or-death decisions, like speeding in school zones or filming dangerous stunts for YouTube. It doesn’t have to be the deciding point but it always needs to be considered.
Should we not do so, we send mixed messages to society. “The Occasional Sanctity of Life” doesn’t work. Setting aside for the moment how much a party which turns a blind eye toward federal funding of abortion on demand truly believes what it’s saying, it must at least be consistent in its statements.
People aren’t instinctively guided toward their societal duties. Those are learned behaviors, developed through observing others and paying attention to the messages they send. Those lessons are taught at home, in the classroom, in the workplace, in church and among peers.
It’s not simply that people aren’t attending church as often as they used to, nor is it that many have drifted away from God. Both of those are true, but there are people who are irreligious who maintain strict moral codes. An overarching respect for the mechanism of life must be incorporated into those codes, both religious and non-.
It is the lack of respect for life that is encouraging people to commit random violence upon others. If that basic respect is missing, people don’t start with any inherent value and any atrocity may be reasonably performed.
This is nothing new. It’s happened as far back as history records; dehumanize and objectify the enemy, so that they may be devastated in war. What is new is the willingness to dehumanize and objectify other members of the citizenry.
We need to correct this, and the way forward is to teach others – and sometimes ourselves – to truly value life. Not only innocent life, the baby or the invalid who needs protection, but rather the lives of everyday people, the ones with whom we interact every day.
And that is where both major parties have failed, intentionally. They are so desperate to cover their own inconsistencies and corruptions that they have encouraged their rank and file to hate the opposition. Not the policies, but the people supporting them.
The Democrats, once the party of “love thy neighbor” and the Republicans, once the party of “sanctity of life” have both become “hate them, and want them dead.”
If there is a way forward, it must be by embracing the value of human life over objectification and derision.