Rendered Fat Content


Willem Claesz. Heda: Still Life with Ham and a Roemer (1631-34)

" … the very stuff of despotism."

I will qualify what follows in advance, explaining that while I only rarely delve into what some might classify as political speech—as opposed to my usual more philosophical babble—I remain capable of engaging on the political level. Political talk rarely ages well, though today's story might straddle the political and philosophical, and might thereby consider itself more timeless than merely timely. Its topic seems timely, as this story has been aching for me to tell it. It's been my experience that while I'm avoiding telling a story that deeply desires to be told, whatever else I might produce tends to lack a certain substance. In that sense, it's like talking about what's not supposed to be talked about. Whatever else one attempts to talk about instead of what's not supposed to be talked about tends to miss the point, like an unmentionable elephant in the room sucking all the oxygen out of every alternative. I hope this story will prove to be pointed.

When Our Supreme Court codified the myth of fetal personhood into law, they managed to trivialize both the law and human life.
It's as if they decided to pass a law declaring a HamSandwich human and worthy of all the rights and benefits due any human being, any citizen. What human could avoid feeling demeaned by that declaration? Apparently, a vocal and unscrupulous minority have long held that fetuses are more than maybes, but fully-fledged humans worthy of not merely equal rights, but to rights superior to their mothers'. This notion can't help but demean motherhood, personhood, and, indeed, pregnancy, for declaring anything to be more than it could possibly be, produces a parody. How could anyone respect a parody pretending to be jurisprudence? We might just as prudently worship HamSandwiches.

This kind of action erodes the foundation of civil society, which rests upon the simple fact that we fancy ourselves to be a nation governed by laws rather than by whims. When whims masquerade as the law of this land, we're no better off than if we were ruled by that fabled man on a horse, or a man sitting on a discredited Confederate horse statue, a symbol of a lost cause, sincere irrelevance, and power. Holding obvious falsehoods to be self-evident truths undermines the whole purpose of laws and legislatures, courts and enforcements. Individuals become at risk of being prosecuted for committing truths. Prosecution becomes indistinguishable from persecution, and the state transforms from being governed by the people to inflicted upon them. Presumptive perjury becomes required to affect routine prosecutions, and we've crossed into unjustly elbowing out both liberty and actual justice. Courts become kangaroo affairs and prosecutions become frivolous, reputations shatter and lives are ruined. Real lives, not the ones presumed by the myth of fetal personhood. This amounts to an abuse of power.

Make no mistake, the myth of fetal personhood was always about power, the power to force compliance, the power to define as resistance an obvious fact, the power to force others against their wills. If one can declare a HamSandwich a human being and grant it all the rights and privileges actual humans enjoy, or even a few superior ones, then there's no limit to what such a government can declare. It might declare our secular society a Christian Nation and thereby persecute anyone not complying with any underlying notion. Such a government could declare that guns do not kill people and steadfastly refuse to eliminate the obvious cause of increasing violence, blaming it on elusive mental illnesses or just misfortunes, for which nothing preemptive can be done without infringing upon rights and freedoms, until freedom finally actually becomes just another word for nothing left to lose because we voluntarily agreed to forfeit it in favor of some myth.

The conceit embodied in codifying fetal personhood into law should offend every patriot. Laws should not be proud or vengeful, but humble servants of a society. Back when slavery was embodied in the laws of this land, the whole experiment was poisoned by its presence. That many states seceded from the subsequent more perfect union says something about the emerging consensus. That those states later sued for reinclusion, then set about undermining the new consensus says something about the power of association. There's no better foundation for any authoritarian than a government espousing the principles of free "men," for nobody willingly associates to become anybody's slave. But authoritarians always seek to enslave and do so by labeling the most outrageous infringements "Freedoms" and the most degrading inhibitions "Rights!" Protecting the personhood of fetuses undermines the very meaning of person and diminishes every actual citizen, and therefore seems the very stuff of despotism, much more than a simple HamSandwich.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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