What the muse of history will sing of our age has never been in doubt. Ours is the story of how a great nation temporarily lost its way: how, for a time, it succumbed to an ancient vice, an iniquity common enough in antiquity, but rare in the modern world until now – the brutal practice of infanticide.The spectacle of our sophistry will amaze later ages, just as the ludicrous racist laws of the antebellum American South and the repugnant ideology of Nazi Germany still baffle us today: “How were such lies ever allowed to flourish?” The same questions we ask of them, future ages will ask of us.
So, too, will our later judges wonder: “How could so many free individuals tolerate such an obvious abomination?”
A similar question was posed by the political theorist, Hannah Arendt, in the aftermath of her own country’s darkest decades. The answer she offered was that, by means of the immoral laws of the Third Reich, “evil lost the quality by which most people recognize it – the quality of temptation.” Thus, even though the inner voice of every conscience says: “Thou shalt not kill,” Arendt’s acquiescent fellow Germans found another, louder voice to heed, one that drowned out conscience’s clear sound: the voice of a political leader.
Conformity is not a democratic virtue. Points of view are plural, and the free speech through which ideas flow ensures that every individual conscience has the ability to echo in the public square, in other minds that may have become tangled and confused. Little wonder, then, that totalitarian powers, insisting on lock-step conformity, fear free speech with mortal terror: despite their power, despots recoil from even a word of truth because “truth stands,” as Gandhi observed, “even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.”
When Justin Trudeau imposed pro-abortion unanimity across his party earlier this year, the blunt and ugly groupthink of infanticide’s defenders was measured out for all future Liberal Members of Parliament – although sitting pro-life MPs, he grudgingly conceded, could stay. But now, even that slight sop to the freedom of conscience has been summarily revoked.
Although pro-life Liberal MPs have had their rights patronized and mocked, they still possess those rights, and must resist being impressed into their leader’s single will. But some are already beginning to give way. Lawrence MacAulay, for example, was a pro-life MP until quite recently. But, when the dictate came down from his young new superior, he chose to subordinate his conscience to his career; MacAulay will no longer advocate for the rights of the unborn because his leader told him not to.
Lawrence MacAulay is a coward. Instead of defending helpless, growing, unborn lives, he chose the quiet, easy, and evil way out of a potential conflict with an unfit leader. But, having chosen the wrong side of our century’s great moral question, he will not suffer for it: he will likely serve out his days in Parliament in peace among other politicians – the misguided whom he could have corrected and the weak whose ranks he joins. Such men show the mettle of our age.
MacAulay is a coward – but history needed him to be otherwise. It needed a witness in the present to show for posterity that all were not deceived, that the preposterous lies about the “right to choose” did not suffocate sanity completely, that the truth was not entirely extinguished in our time. History needed MacAulay because, as one of Plotinus’ commentators put it, “the future is present and the past extant.”
The light of history does not shimmer across a crowd: it falls on one man at one time doing the wrong thing on purpose. Because MacAulay failed to acknowledge the simple and beautiful truth that the child in the womb does not deserve death – that life, from the moment of conception, is always sacred – the darkness of the present grows. Had he opposed Trudeau’s hollow bullying, history would have remembered his courage; it will, instead, remember MacAulay as yet another, enabling coward.