Monday, May 27, 2024

The Divide Of America.

February 11, 2017 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( This week, I wrote two articles bearing on critical constitutional provisions and concepts presently involved in personnel and policy decisions now being contested in Congress and the federal judiciary. One had to do with the battle over President Trump’s travel ban executive orders. The other with GOP leadership’s decision in the U.S. Senate to keep Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren from completing her speech against confirming Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general. Both matters reflect the ostensibly bitter partisan conflict presently playing itself out in every aspect of our political and governmental affairs.

Unfortunately, the display of partisan passion encourages a warlike mentality. Both sides look for ways to score advantageous hits against the opposition. Due regard for the language and vital purpose of the Constitution suffers collateral damage with every strike. Tragically, so does our sense of our common good, which ought to be more than usually clear, given the obvious blows we have already suffered from the obscene species of criminal warfare the Islamic jihadist terrorists are waging against us.

I think I can safely assume that most of my readers agree that the threat is obscene and criminal. However, one aspect of the national tragedy we may presently be acting out is that, among our people as a whole, the moral understanding that explains and justifies the use of these adjectives can no longer be taken for granted. Calling terroristic war obscene assumes that the intentional, cruelly calculated slaughter of unarmed people, going about their lives with no imminent intent to do harm to us or others, should never be tolerated on the world’s stage. We think of it with revulsion because it shocks the sensibilities of every heart from which evil practices have not securely erased the information God provides to guide humanity.

As Americans (i.e., citizens of the United States of America), we have a particular interest in this information. Evoked by our nation’s founder as “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” it anchors the logic by which we claim to be a sovereign people, deriving our authority to govern ourselves from our shared and mutual commitment to do right, as God endows it. But though our common identity as a nation depends upon it, the import of that logic is not confined to us. It applies to all people (i.e., human persons) of good will.

As they resolve to do what is right, people have the right to act upon that resolution. They are, as the Apostle Paul intimates (Romans 2:14), lawgivers unto themselves. This is what authorizes the people of the United States to ordain and establish the supreme law that determines our form of government. It ought to go without saying that the lawfulness of its provisions is a function of the conscientious intent to respect “the laws of nature and of Nature’s God,” insofar as we are capable of understanding and acting upon them.

However, because our capacities are limited, our good will can and does extend beyond their reach. People of good will may be able to establish government that reflects it. But not all people share their good will, and even those who do fall sometimes short of its aspirations. Given this reality, the good people of the United States can end up openly or covertly warring against those who do not share our good intentions. We must be ready to handle both forms of warfare. But as we do so, the “laws of nature and of Nature’s God” must be kept in view. How else are we to articulate our shared sense of justice and injustice, right and wrong, good and evil?

Because our Constitution was framed by and for people of good will, we are to be guided and constrained by the logic of God-endowed right on which it depends. Though sometimes we must extend our reach into the shadows to strike against the evil that lurks there, we cannot let its darkness define us. Though sometimes dire emergencies may require that we honor, in the breach, the semblance of humanity we have in common with those who do not reciprocate our good will, we cannot allow such breaches to define us, either.

One or the other of these prudential constraints is now required to deal with the controversies that bedevil our political life and governance. The advocates of so-called “abortion rights” would have us discard the very idea of transcendent right, from which our common national identity, sovereignty and liberty arise. On the other hand are those who would take the excuse of war and terrorism to vouchsafe our lives with policies that vitiate our liberty. They ignore the fact that the common sense of freedom rightly used constitutes the human right of liberty. It is an indispensable constituent of our existence as a people. Let it go and, though our buildings stand and our bodies remain intact, our national existence perishes. We cannot put America first if, in this vital sense, we let America die.

I do not believe that most Americans fall into either of these camps, though many think they do.  President Trump says clearly that the goal of the travel ban he proposes is not to keep out people who share our good will, but only those who maliciously intend to violate it. In this, I hear the common heart of America. Angelina Jolie says she protests, not against policies that secure American lives from terrorist attack, but only against indiscriminately disparaging people of this or that nation, regardless of their good will. In this, too, I hear the common heart of America. So, somewhere in the overacted cacophony of partisan passion, the sense of our nation’s common heart still murmurs; the common theme of our God-endowed humanity’s thirst for right and justice still resounds.

Where is the statesmanship willing to revisit and take seriously the wisdom of our nation’s founding, beginning with the Declaration that proclaimed our independence as a people? Where are those who will rely, as Americans did then, on humanity’s humble dependency on the Creator who made us? His good will still challenges us to endure, so as to extend to all the hope we are supposed to represent: as people of good will and as Americans, for whom that good will is the heart of what it means to be one nation.

Columnist; Alan Keyes

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