Fighting the Merchants of Death

The link between corporatocracy and theocracy has grown ever stronger in the past 50 years. In the fight against reproductive choice, corporations found the issue that would make a large segment of the population vote against their own interests in favor of corporate interests. Now that they have won a major battle against reproductive choice, they will focus on other issues to continue to stir the religious fervor that will keep a large segment of the population under their control.

Isn’t it ironic that the companies responsible for the most deaths in both our human and ecological communities are bankrolling so called “pro-life” politicians in exchange for being able to continue their practices that bring harm and death to both people and the planet. It is a lot easier to focus on being anti abortion than it is to be held accountable for the sixth great extinction of life on earth.

Take a look at the industries that provide the most money for “pro-life” politicians and the anti-abortion movement – fossil fuel companies, gun manufacturers, the military industrial complex, chemical companies, and industrial agriculture – it is a veritable hall of fame of the merchants of death hiding behind a pro-life facade.

Clarence Thomas, the spouse of a person who played a central role in attempting to overturn the free and fair election of the President of the United States, is now effectively co-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States with Samuel Alito. Today’s Supreme Court is the Alito/Thomas Court, and that should terrify everyone who wants to keep the wall of separation between church and state and who believes in the right to privacy, the right to reproductive choice and contraception, the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons, the health and safety of all persons, fair and just political processes, and the well-being of our ecological community.

It is important to note that the philosophical arguments against contraception and abortion primarily come from Catholic teachings and are deeply flawed arguments based on Thomas Aquinas’ interpretation of the Aristotelian teleological approach to ethics. Most Americans do not know what these arguments are that have been ensconced into American law by a judiciary deeply influenced by a Catholic teleological understanding of natural law. It is important to not only understand this, but to also systematically show the flaws of this argument and the extremely problematic implications to society if this flawed philosophy were fully implemented.

One of the flaws of Aquinas’ teleological approach to ethics and natural law is that it tends to commit the naturalistic fallacy of arguing that what ‘is’ is necessarily what ought to be. This fallacious reasoning has been used over and over again throughout our history to maintain the cultural status quo and the suppression of social change.

There is also a tendency in Thomistic Aristotelianism of making the mistake of equating potentiality with actuality, of equating potential value with actual value. Thus the potentiality of the sperm to at some point become an actual person gets too closely equated with the value and being of an actual person. – See “Every Sperm is Sacred” in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life for a comedic criticism of this tendency. Equating the value and ontological status of the sperm, or a zygote, or an embryo in early formation, or a fetus in early development with the value and ontological status of an actual person is somewhat akin to equating the value and ontological status of an acorn with that of an oak tree. When we see a squirrel eat an acorn, we rightly don’t see it as the destruction an actual oak tree, nor should we see the emission of semen for purposes other than reproduction to be morally problematic in and of itself, nor should we see an abortion in early stages of a pregnancy to be morally equivalent to killing an actual person.

Catholic tradition has also almost exclusively viewed the primary purpose of sexual relations to be for reproduction. There are secondary purposes for sexual intercourse according to Catholic teaching, but reproduction is the primary goal or telos. One can clearly see the negative implications for persons in sexual relationships that are not focused on reproduction if the Supreme Court were to pursue the agenda of also ensconcing that aspect of Catholic teaching into secular law. Marriage equality and access to contraception would be in serious danger as well as the expression of all sexual relations that do not allow for the possibility of reproduction.

Our secular laws on abortion, contraception, and sexual relations should not be based on logically flawed and inherently patriarchal Catholic teachings on these subjects – teachings that have also found fertile ground in the patriarchal and sexist expressions of fundamentalist evangelical Protestant forms of Christianity.

Banning access to abortions puts every woman who becomes pregnant at a greater risk of death. Women who want to become pregnant and have children will also be in greater danger of death because of the Supreme Court’s ruling. If you are starting a family, the risk of the mother dying during pregnancy just increased significantly in states where access to abortion has now been banned by state law.

It is important to ask ourselves “What can be done to fight against this injustice?”, but we should also find ways to fight the overarching agenda of the merchants of death who are behind it!

We have to get real! We cannot be overly idealistic in the fight for social justice and ecological justice. We have to be wise and strategic. We cannot let the perfect become the enemy of the good or the better. I would respectfully suggest that until we are successful in implementing ranked choice voting that voting for candidates in a general election who have no chance of winning is part of the reason we are where we are today. We also cannot fall into the trap of false equivalencies and simply withdrawing from the political processes under the excuse that we don’t like any of the candidates on the ballot. There might not always be a great or even good candidate running, but most of the time there is a candidate who has a chance to win who is better than the others.

We cannot lose sight of the big picture and the big agenda that the merchants of death are perpetuating, but today let us also not ignore the persons who are immediately affected by this week’s unjust decision to remove reproductive choices from millions of women in the United States. We are all called to be allies and helpers for women who need access to the healthcare that they choose to access. This will require taking risks and breaking unjust laws, both overtly and covertly, for the well-being of women and all persons in our communities. May we all have the courage to do so.

Finally the events of this past week remind us that we must have the same passion, fervor, and commitment for a free, just, and pluralistic society as those who have been working methodically for decades to implement an unjust theocratic vision of society. If we do not match the commitment of the theocrats and their polluting and profiteering corporate sponsors, I guarantee you that what we witnessed this past week is only the beginning as Justice Thomas indicated in his concurring opinion – marriage equality, access to contraception, and the privacy of sexual expression could very well all be next.

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