January 20, 2014
A day of remembrance, in a week of remembrance.
I’m writing on the holiday set-aside to remind America about the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose contribution to history was his leadership in the war against the idea of racism. Though he was only 39 when assassinated, he had accelerated the Civil Rights Movement to a momentum that would reshape society in the course of a generation. He lived for a cause.
This is also the week that will mark 41 years since the U.S. Supreme Court rendered the landmark decision Roe v. Wade, opening the door to the legalization of abortion in America. Their action did not settle the conflict; instead, it has been a continuing frontline in the cultural and moral values clash that has polarized the country for the last four decades. Since Roe v Wade, over 50 million abortions have been legally performed in the United States.
King and Roe v Wade will draw headlines this week (King on front pages, above the fold; Roe will appear on page 23, as a two-inch fill-in, if at all). ‘Newspapers’ focus principally on yesterday’s crime or disaster rather than on history’s turning points. Today’s papers will paint portraits of Dr. King – from a variety of perspectives – but will also make Dennis McGuire a public figure.
Joy Stewart was 22 years old, married to husband Kenny, and 30 weeks pregnant when she was raped and murdered by Dennis McGuire. She died from stab wounds; first to her collarbone, then to her throat. The last slice – to her throat – took her life; she was conscious until then. McGuire was under arrest for another crime when he made statements that led police to realize his guilt in Stewart’s murder. Last week, the State of Ohio carried out his death sentence – after exhausting appeals, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – through lethal injection.
A murderer’s execution won’t normally make national news, but in McGuire’s case, the drug cocktail used by Ohio caused his demise to raise issues of ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ His family is reported to be readying a civil lawsuit against the government, seeking punitive damages for his apparently uncomfortable expiration. The lethal injection by the state is now a bigger issue than the lethal incision by the murderer. McGuire’s family seeks a financial windfall; Stewart’s family lost her and her unborn child, with no remuneration imagined.
We live in a world of continuing paradox, don’t we? McGuire’s case is drawing international attention, with a surprising choir/cacophony of indignation against the death – any death – of the murderer. Dr. King’s life will be celebrated along with the agonizing reminder that his future potential was forever left in mystery by the assassin’s bullet, in 1968. What might he have accomplished after-40, if left to pursue his mission?
No such question is asked on behalf of the unborn in America. In 41 years, 50 million Americans have been terminated using means far more brutal than those used by the State of Ohio on the convicted murderer. Innocent children – greater in number than the populations of Canada, South Korea, Australia or Argentina – whose pain in the womb, through multiple means of abortion, is likely greater than the pain felt by McGuire in his final minutes.
Some discount the subject as fait accompli – ‘a now-inalterable reality that cannot be challenged’ – and a dead political issue. The same attitude defined a culture numb to the disparity of justice between the privileged whites and the disadvantaged blacks when Dr. King refused to accept current circumstances as future reality. ‘I have a dream’ was more than a scripted speech line: it was his epitaph.
Arguments about abortion must build on a biblical foundation, or they will falter and fall. God gives life; He relates to people from the womb, according to Scripture. Start with the Creator, and you’ll protect His creation; dismiss the Creator, and the devaluation of life will follow…