I grew up in Shelbyville, KY. At the time, it was a small community of about 5000. In grade school I remember a lot of fear over child abductions. This seemed to have hit national news about children in small towns and rural communities being targeted so there was a general caution that bordered a bit on hysteria. My mom was leery of any white van that rolled through the neighborhood to the point that she would call me in the house if she saw one driving down our road. I recall a local bank exhausting efforts to focus intently on child safety. They sponsored fingerprinting campaigns in the school and printed our report card holders with an additional message to drive home the point of child safety. I remember the slogan on the card sleeve saying, “In life, just as in baseball, the important thing is to get home safe”. It was an effective single-issue focus. So effective that without anything but I guess I would assume that bank had well over half of the community’s business. Everyone knew what they stood for and seemed to respond by trusting them with their banking.
Single issues can do that. A solid focus on one thing, and only one thing, can easily garner a ground swell of those who support your single issue. Child safety is a good one. This is a great common denominator that almost everyone can agree is important. Put that child in their mother’s womb and you’ll get even more fervor, both supporting and opposing fervor, mind you, but fervor, nonetheless.. However, when you take that single issue to the voting booth, as often “values” voters do, you just might be doing yourself and those you supposedly care about a greater injustice in the long run.
Suppose, and this is not at all the case, but just suppose that the bank I mentioned was skimming cash out the back door to pad the executives’ off-shore accounts. And lets extend that imagination even more to suggest that not only were they embezzling money, they were funding human trafficking and sex tourism in resort locations around the globe. Suddenly their quaint message of child safety seems a little ironic, at best. Again, just drawing a comparison, please don’t think I’m suggesting anything nefarious from my hometown bank.
I heard a news report on Morning Edition on NPR this morning with interviews of Roy Moore supporters in Alabama. I don’t care if it’s this special election, or any general election since 1973, there are always single issue voters who say abortion is the only litmus test. This is, quite frankly, both dangerous and irresponsible. By the way, I’m all for a single issue. But what has happened here is that we’ve selected one species of tree to protect instead of protecting the whole forest.
The Catholic Church is a stalwart in the efforts to rid the world of abortion. And it’s likely the effective campaigning from many a fervent Catholic that has brought the abortion issue to be bright-lighted so radiantly as the single issue it is. However, abortion is but one of many issues that all fall under the one big single issue of Human Dignity. Let’s go back to the forest. If we effectively promoted that the entire forest needed to be preserved, not just White Pine saplings, then we might actually be on our way to making real environmental progress and protecting the saplings. If we adopt this attitude maybe now we’re not going to saw down the mature oaks to make way for the little White Pines. Maybe.
This is essentially what we do when we hinge our voting decision on the single issue of abortion. The official Catholic position on this is that one is free to choose even a pro-choice candidate if the reason for the vote being cast isn’t because of a hope of expanded abortion access. This is good news seeing as how well over half of self-identifying Catholics are registered Democrats according to a number of polling sources. If you appreciate the fact that a candidate is in support of expanded social safety nets, for instance, even if their position on abortion is hawkishly supportive, then vote for them with a clear conscience. You don’t need to hold your nose and push the button as many think they need to do. And, if your moral integrity is challenged by all the options you have on a ballot then sit the election out. There is no moral authority to cast a vote. Voting is a right and a privilege. It is not compulsory.
So let’s work on shifting the single-issue focus to the forest and not the tree. If we were to examine the impact of Human Dignity in every election or choices may be broadened. If we look at policies that could improve the opportunities for mothers to have the support they need to be parents instead of looking only at the unborn then maybe we can make honest choices that aren’t so seemingly coerced. As I listen in every election I hear the same lament, “he’s not my first choice, but he’s at least pro-life”. Shouldn’t that reflection tell you something? If it’s true then examine why this individual isn’t you’re first choice and then really vote, or choose not to vote, with a completely clear conscience.
Human Dignity is a single issue just as the forest is a singular location. But, the forest is home to a number of trees, vegetation and animal life that makes it a much better choice for focus. Do we kill the wolves to protect the rabbits? Not when the forest is our focus. Sometimes it’s the subtle ways of looking at things that make all the difference.
Be single-issue focused. Just make sure it’s the right single issue.