Little consistency in latest social media frenzy

Published 9:33 pm Thursday, February 7, 2019

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines…” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well, the self-reliant Mr. Emerson didn’t live long enough to see the contents of today’s social media posts, but if he had, he wouldn’t have been troubled by the hobgoblins of consistency to be found there, for they are few and far between.

The latest feeding frenzy among the great unwashed apparently began with a new law dealing with abortions in New York state that once again kicked in a provision of Mosby’s Rules of Everything — all life is sacred, until it isn’t.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Long before Al Gore or Donald Trump or Foghorn Leghorn — whomever it was — invented the internet, if you wanted to start a fight in this country, all you had to do was offer an opinion on either abortion or the death penalty, and I intend to do neither, herein.

Instead, I’d like to touch on what I find the logical fallacy represented by the apparently large group of folks who, with great passion, feel one way about one of those things and the opposite way about the other.

It strikes me as perfectly reasonable for people to be “pro-life” or “pro-choice.” although I care little for either term, and I can certainly understand how people can be either in favor of or against the death penalty, but putting a bit more stock in consistency than did good ole Ralph, I have a hard time reconciling the philosophical footings of folks who are, at the same time, so ardently pro-life and pro-death penalty.

Because again, it is the dishonesty of the wording. Either “all life is sacred” or it isn’t.

Religion is often confusingly interjected. Let’s take the death penalty:

The notion of executing — killing — a human being for the crime of having taken another’s life, has its roots in the “eye for an eye” retribution of the Code of Hammurabi (the Babylonian code of law dating back to 1750 B.C. Mesopotamia), rather than the Christian Bible.

Indeed, the Old Testament addressing of that subject, presumably from a higher source than a Babylonian king, was both simple and direct: “Thou shalt not kill.”

There was, as I recall, no punishment caveat related to shooting a clerk in the process or robbing a liquor store or beating an old lady to death with a fireplace poker associated with the Christian commandment.

However, if one is going to adopt what I see as the reasonably defensible position  that society reserves the right and authority to impose the ultimate sanction upon one of its citizens — that is, to take his or her life — then how can  one simultaneously, and with absolute passionate piety, rail against the concept of abortion in any form, at any stage of fetal development, using the “sanctity of human life” as the moral imperative of his or her position?

See, there’s the catch. Either life is sacred or it is not. When it comes to the oft-adopted “sanctity of human life” standard, I am afraid that the exception does, indeed, disprove the rule.

But that, of course is logic, the ethical application of which to strongly held public opinions, is often only incidental, at best.

We all live our lives in accordance with philosophies, whether we are ordinarily cognizant of doing so, or not. It would be completely consistent for one to say that while we shouldn’t run around killing folks, there are times in which that is regrettably necessary. Conversely, it would be equally consistent for one to say that all human life is sacred, and that one should never we willingly taken under any circumstances.

But it is when the two are mixed and some selective hybrid end-justifies-the-means philosophy evolves, that the art of reason becomes strained and people find themselves wandering down such paths of craziness as blowing up abortion clinics and killing those who work there, all in the name of saving human lives.

The people who have so often been singing songs and carrying signs and who are now filling my social media feed with posts decrying “murder” in zealous conviction, ostensibly to “protect the life of the unborn,” are the very same people to advocate and support the death penalty without the first hint of reservation.

It’s fine with them to execute teenagers; they see no problem in executing the retarded — fry them, gas them, inject them, they’re bound to deserve it.

So, I must ask: If these people are so anxious to save the lives of the “unborn,” why are they then in such a hurry to kill them, once they grow up?

But, I reckon that’s only one of the hobgoblins occupying my little mind, and in a more self-serving moment, ole Ralph did allow as how “to be great is to be misunderstood.”

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.