How I envy the young, not for their lithe bodies and tight skin but for their clarity. For the young the world is black and white where everything is good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral with very little in between. Decisions come swiftly and with certainty but with the onset of maturity tinges of gray begin to creep in. Decisions begin to take longer and when made they lack that air of absoluteness that once was present. Gradually – oh so gradually – gray spreads and the black and white view of the world fades until nothing seems to be absolutely right or wrong, totally moral or completely immoral, and decisions come slowly, if at all, and when they do come, they are filled with uncertainty and ambiguity.
Increasingly I observe via the television this clarity of vision that I seem to have lost. Yet I see people rendering decisions that I think would have confounded Solomon and certainly have confounded me. Perhaps the most visible today is the situation with Teri Schaivo. There are people who are vehemently supporting both sides, apparently comfortable in making decisions for others without actually having any facts on which to base their decision. Personally I don’t know what to think and can only thank God that I do not have to make the decision whether she should live or die. Who is right? The husband maintains he is carrying out her wishes while the parents plead for the right to care for her. The husband refuses to divorce her while living outside of his marriage vows – why? The parents are determined to keep her alive but perhaps only as a living vegetable regardless of what her wishes might have been. How do I know who is right? The courts have stayed within the framework of the law and have refused to get involved in the moral aspect of the case. Perhaps that is wise but then perhaps it is the coward’s way. Of course I have an opinion – like everyone else – but it is an OPINION and not based on anything other than my own individual moral compass.
Then we have the situation with that Man-boy Michael Jackson. Everyone seems to have made up their mind regarding whether or not he is a child molester. How can anyone be absolutely sure of his guilt or innocence? Clearly he is someone in desperate need of psychiatric help because he appears to my untrained eye, to be a case of arrested development. I think he reacts like a ten year old boy, who likes to hang out with his friends and do the things that ten year old boys do, and that includes all of the titillating aspects of sex and sexual exploration. This is certainly does not condone any behavior that would fall into the category of molestation because he is in fact a 40 year old man. But I’m not trained and I wasn’t there and the accusers all seem to have an agenda. So how can anyone be so certain that he is guilty or innocent? There is no doubt that he acted inappropriately for an adult but then being a physical adult doesn’t make him a mental adult. So his actions have to be examined in terms of his mental development, which is far from normal -- and any decision regarding him and his conduct falls into the realm of gray and uncertainty – at least for me.
But there are many more issues where people seem to have a clarity that I lack and among these is abortion. This is a matter that moves people to violence – sort of – kill a commie for Christ – while purporting to protect the unborn from violence. The nub of this argument really lies with some philosophical issues that have plagued mankind for years. To some the moment the sperm enters the egg life begins so any deliberate violence to the egg is tantamount to murder, except for those who believe life begins with the first breath. To the atheist, the soul doesn’t exist so when life begins is open to interpretation—presumably with the first breath otherwise abortion would be murder. For others, life begins with the entry of the soul into the body but the problem seems to be – when does this happen? Some think it happens at the time of conception so abortion is murder – pure and simple, but others think the soul enters the body with the first breath so abortion is purely a clinical matter. Others take the view that the decision to abort is purely the woman’s decision and is independent of these philosophical issues, which sidesteps the issue of what constitutes murder. Personally, I don’t know and I am puzzled by how so many people are convinced they know the answer, when these are questions that have been debated for centuries. From my perspective these people are entitled to their opinion but that is all it is – their opinion. To foist their opinion onto the rest of us is wrong. This does not mean I am pro-abortion or pro-life, it simply means I don’t know. I do think the decision to abort is a very personal one and not one that any woman makes lightly. So to me this is another one of those areas where everything is gray and unlike so many others, I don’t this issue with any clarity.
Then we have the issue of war – not just the current Iraqi affair, but war in general. I see people of various ages – some old enough to know better – marching around with anti-war slogans. Many of these people are simply anti-Bush agitators, but some are sincere in their feelings that war is wrong. This issue was addressed by Aristophanes in his play Lysistrada hundreds of years before Christ. I think everyone would be willing to concede that war is a bad thing but at no time in history of man has there been a period of total peace. Peace – such as it has been – has been maintained by the force of arms and those countries that were weak or undefended were exploited at best and destroyed at worst. There is no doubt that war is bad but is it immoral? Is it morally wrong to use force to defend those who cannot defend themselves from those who would destroy them? In effect these anti-war activists are saying that war is morally wrong and that it is better to allow the weak to be destroyed by the strong because this is the Darwinian way and to intervene in this natural process is immoral. To make it more relevant essentially Hussein had every right to murder and pillage his people because to intervene as President Bush did, is morally wrong because it interfered with the natural process. This same argument could be mounted to defend Hitler, because to go to war to stop murder is wrong.
This argument then escalates to weapons – because weapons kill people and the atomic bomb is the most potent weapon for mass killing and therefore, it should be outlawed. Of course, I don’t think in the history of mankind has their ever been an example of a weapon murdering someone unless the weapon was employed by a human hand. Weapons are bad, guns are bad, but so are people. In fact, every society has outlawed bad behavior and has punished those who violate the rules – these are called criminals. Criminals act immorally but to disarm the populace is to place them at risk to those individuals who are willing to use force to take what they want. So who is the most immoral – the person who disarms the people so they can’t defend themselves or the person who is willing to take advantage of those unable to defend themselves?
So as I stated at the outset – how I envy the young their clarity and certainty because as you age, things get very gray and certainty about anything comes in very small doses.