My son is taking philosophy in high school this year. That's philosophy
, in a public
high school. Not having much control over this, I decided to augment his course of study with my own
philosophy course, from a Catholic/Thomistic perspective. I found a series of taped lectures from a Catholic publisher that fit the bill nicely, and each month we cover a different area -- logic, cosmology, psychology, ethics, and so forth.
I also provide supplemental material. One of them is The One-Minute Philosopher
by Montague Brown, published by Sophia Institute Press. He was excited by the discovery of this book, as it gave him exactly what he needed for holding his own during debates in class.
The book makes distinctions between words that are often used interchangably. One such pair is the words "freedom" and "license." People think "freedom" means being able to do whatever they want. But in reality, this would properly be known as "license." True freedom does not impede the freedom of others, but implies the freedom (as a form of the common good) for all; license does not take others into account, only oneself.
In the early days of the Holocaust, German soldiers would take Jews to the outskirts of town, make them dig their own graves, and shoot them en masse so they would fall into the holes. But the repeated killing of unarmed men, even the elderly and small children, had grave psychological effects on the soldiers themselves. They would experience severe trauma, psychotic behavior, even to the point of suicide. So the Nazis had to come up with a way of solving "the Jewish problem" without ill effects on those carrying out the deed. To that end, they developed the concept of mass-produced extermination, in the form of the death camps. They made the process so that, not only could no one person could take responsibility for what was happening, but they could sanitize the process, through the use of terminology to make it all seem so benign -- "resettlement," "family camps," "processing," "the showers," and so on.
The legacy lives on. We can't bear to hear of mass murder of an entire group of people. We seem powerless to stop it. So we call it "ethnic cleansing." It makes it seem less horrible than we know it really is. In our own country, people who favor legalized abortion cannot bring themselves to acknowledge what really happens during a partial-birth abortion. So even though "pro-choice" Catholic politicians, like the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, referred to partial-birth abortion as "infanticide," most in his position will simply call it "a woman's right to choose."
Choose what, you might ask? But most dare not
ask. And the major newspapers won't show the massive crowds that gathered for yesterday's annual March for Life
, probably the largest annual rally to occur in the Nation's capital. Instead they will show a picture of people from both sides carrying signs, being sure to show "Keep Abortion Legal" among the ones that say "Choose Life." They wouldn't be so even handed if it were the other way around. They never are.
When the Second World War ended, the Allied soldiers were aghast at what they discovered in the death camps. They forced people from the neighboring towns to tour what was left, to see the piles of dead bodies. The townsfolk denied knowing what went on in the camps, even though some of them worked there. Perhaps they found a way to turn their heads and look the other way. People will do that to avoid facing something so terrible, especially when others are watching, and might disapprove in a way that makes life... well, inconvenient.
Then one day it becomes too late. So the pro-life movement turns its attention to helping the women themselves, showing them that they deserve better than being backed into a corner, into doing something they know will haunt them for the rest of their lives. After all, discussions for or against abortion accomplish little. Most people have their minds made up, and showing someone a picture of a dead fetus is seen as being impolite or a form of extremism.
Such delicate sensibilities did not occur to the GIs entering the death camps. Maybe we've gotten more sophisticated since those days.
Or more clever at fooling ourselves. You tell me.