Archive for conscience

Attraction, Feelings, and Love

3 April 2012
Copyright © 2012 by P. A. Ritzer

I called in to the Laura Ingraham show on 22 March to comment on the issue of living together before marriage. Basically, I said: Women need to get a clue; if a man loves you, he’ll wait. As I used to ask my students: when you live together, how do you break up? You still have the rent and the electrical bill. You are more likely to remain in an unhealthy relationship. It comes down to the fact that love is not a feeling but an act of the will. It is a giving of the self that involves commitment. Feelings rise and fall, that is why you need commitment.

All we need to do, especially during Holy Week, is to take a look at a crucifix: the greatest act of love ever, and it did not feel very good.

In Seven Ox Seven, Part One: Escondido Bound, Tom has to grapple with the question of love in light of romantic feelings that rise up in response to meeting a beautiful woman.  Here is how he works it out in pages 82-86.

Copyright © 2007 by P. A. Ritzer

Julie flooded back—from where she had been occupying a good deal of the area behind it—to the forefront of Tom’s mind. In truth, she had occupied the greater part of his mind for most of the time since he had first seen her, and had at least wafted around somewhere in the back or bottom of his mind when she had not been occupying the greater part. It was not as if he actively thought of her. He did not need to think of her. It was less voluntary than that. He would have had to think to keep her out. There was a naturalness to the way she flooded his mind. Thinking of her was a natural reaction to the stimulus of her, and that thought had a naturally sensual character to it. The natural scent of her hair and skin, subtly enhanced by perfume, again delighted his sense of smell, in memory, intoxicating his mind through that most evocative of the senses. Her slender, lithe figure and the way that she moved played upon him in a way that no dance or drama could or, for that matter, could any imaginable movement of even the most graceful of the creatures of land, sky, or sea. Again he saw her eyes and, starting with those portals open wide to him, again ventured upon that journey into her beauty. Again her rich silken hair rested against the side of his face, as it had when they had danced; again the softness of her cheek glided beneath the light brush of his hand; again her delicate hands lightly enclosed his own.

He chuckled at how she had immediately attracted him and at how she still had a sensual hold on his mind. She was not the first to so affect him, and he doubted that she would be the last. He knew, from experience, that her absence would allow time to continually diminish the superficial though pervasive place she presently held in his mind, and he knew that, in this case, absence was the most prudent policy.

To get involved with a girl like Julie would be to give himself over to insecurity, because, since they did not appear to share common values, she could just as easily be interested in any other man who suited her (and probably would be), and he in any other woman. Julie was pretty enough to demand as much commitment as the willing man could afford, however illicit. Her knowledge of her power over men as an object of desire, and the pleasure such power obviously gave her, would only add to the insecurity of the relationship, as it would keep her ever watchful for that future man, better than the rest, who, too, would fall prey to her beauty and her charms. Judging from what he had seen of her values, Tom knew that he would not be this ultimate man, and he wondered whether any man ever would be, before her beauty would gradually succumb to the cosmetic applications so evident, at the Lady Gay, upon the faces of older members of her occupation. Regardless, such insecurity in a relationship could well lead to possessiveness or, paradoxically, to its contrary, disregard. Possessiveness could eventually lead to anger and resentment, disregard to indifference.

Tom considered further the development of a relationship founded on such shallow footings. How many times had he seen a man fall “head over heels” for a woman, only to see him, after that relationship had ended (and the fellow had been all but broken in half), fall equally in love with another woman nothing like the last. Such a thing could not then be love, Tom maintained, but some baser attraction. Love, instead, elevates desire between a man and a woman to its proper place, in a way that sets the human apart from the horse or the cow. Love elevates that desire into a consciousness of the need for moral and practical compatibility, which does not allow one to fool oneself into believing that selfish obsession with another can be love. This special love between a man and a woman must then require something of reason, which sets the human apart from the beast, to elevate this desire. The human creature must let reason rule desire and let love rule reason for them to be properly directed. Such is required by the dignity appropriate to the rational creature.

Therefore, Tom would never have considered that it was love that kept Julie in his mind. He had seen some men—and not just the young fellows fresh away from home and under the influence of drink—make that mistake often enough. But Tom knew that any fellow who would believe that he was in love in such a case, or even in a case more involved though equally shallow, was missing something. Otherwise, how could a man feel similar romantic feelings for different women, very unlike each other and of very different minds from the man himself?

No, such could not be love but merely infatuation. Tom knew love, and he would not have elevated infatuation to that height. It was because he knew love that he was also wary of over-romanticizing love between a man and woman. Love was plainer than glamorized infatuation, and yet, more profoundly beautiful in its plainness. It had its share of hardship, hard work, and pain. Love had a nakedness about it, compared to which the nakedness of infatuation was but a woefully shallow imitation. The nakedness of love could not be satisfied by the merely sensual. The nakedness of love demanded far more because it was far more: because it was the complete exposure, the complete sharing, the complete gift of the self, not just of the body. (And, in truth, given that the body is an essential component of human nature, one could never truly share the body without, at least to some degree, sharing the self, licitly, to one’s benefit, or illicitly, to one’s detriment.) The nakedness of love demanded commitment, with all that that word denoted and connoted, and a commitment not just to the other, but to the Other, Who is the Source of all love, Who is Love itself.

This awareness, on Tom’s part, always brought him around to his belief that there must be far more than just the sensual attraction between a man and a woman before it is appropriate to move further into the sensual realm of the relationship. There must be something profound that puts the sensual in its proper place and elevates it. There must be a singular affinity between the minds and souls of the man and woman, an affinity that draws them toward the commitment of love. There it was again, commitment, an act of the will, an act of the will that is the gift of the self. That is love: an act of the will that is the gift of the self! The commitment of love, in this singular case, must be Matrimony, the only commitment that, as a sacrament, provides the grace for a man and woman to share the nakedness of the Garden of Eden while yet in a fallen world. The grace of the sacrament assures that, rather than become a selfish taking, the sensual intimacy can be a selfless giving: to spouse, to God, to the children thus begotten. Hence, the Sacrament of Matrimony is the only commitment worthy of the ultimate sensual intimacy, an intimacy through which a man and woman become one body and, as such, enjoy the profound privilege and responsibility of participating in and sharing in God’s creation of another human being. It is in this commitment of the Sacrament of Matrimony that a man and woman are most capable, by design, of accepting their responsibility to raise to adulthood the human beings created through their union.

Given all that, Tom believed that it should follow, then, that a man should test his attraction to a woman for that affinity that draws a man and a woman into the Sacrament of Matrimony. He should do so because the attraction could lead to union, and union to procreation. The procreative result of this union is another human being, another material and spiritual creature with the capacity of union with the Infinite. Thus, the union of man and woman must command a most profound respect and commitment, because the procreation and upbringing of the product of that union, a child with a supernatural destiny, must carry a most profound responsibility.

He knew that no such affinity could exist between Julie and him. And yet she remained in his mind. He saw again the lose strands of her hair around her pretty ear and against her graceful neck. He saw again those long lashes and looked into those dark eyes. And again he knew that he could have been lost in those eyes, and that, past a certain point, he could have dissolved into her and enjoyed great pleasure in doing so, but for some little guide in him, a guide that could reach out and offer him the opportunity to return to shore from those waters into which he had begun to wade. Ah, but for this guide, conscience, what the contemporary Briton John Henry Newman would call “the aboriginal vicar of Christ.” Yes, but for this guide, what further evil might be introduced into this world under the guise of pleasure.

In this way, Tom’s mind examined the reality of the day against revealed truths and personal conclusions. That examination was part of a river of analytical thought that flowed through his mind seemingly involuntarily and almost incessantly. This flow of analytical thought was something Tom took for granted: he knew no other way.

“Hmph,” Tom sighed out loud, in a kind of muffled chuckle. “All this from dancin’ with a dancehall girl,” he thought.

But he knew it was more than that. All human relationships have a beginning, and how and why they begin determine to greater and lesser degrees how and where they proceed. Julie may not have technically been a cyprian, like some of the dancehall girls, but she saw no problem with accepting pay to show her affections. And Tom knew that once a person decided that her affections were for sale, the object of those affections would be the highest bidder, whether the bid was in money or some other variety of tender.

Nevertheless, though he had thus disposed of this potential relationship, it was the nature of Tom’s mind that, no matter what other thoughts ran through it, thoughts of Julie drifted around behind them and, often enough, advanced to the front, until he fell off to sleep.



Conscience, Law, and the Buffalo Hunt (Part Two)

1 March 2012

From Seven Ox Seven, Part One: Escondido Bound, the second of three excerpts from pages 219-228.

Copyright © 2007 by P. A. Ritzer

And to whom or what were the lawful and the lawless passing on their responsibility and freedom when they passed them on to the state? Well, at least in the United States of America, a republic, they were passing on their freedom and attendant responsibility to a seemingly innocuous form of government, a representative government, a government of elected peers. But those peers, too, were human. They, too, only ruled as well as they were willing to form their consciences to the rule of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” and to act in accordance with those consciences. Besides, once a matter like the slaughter of the buffalo was referred to the state, the state, in regard for all its citizens, was required to rule at a higher degree of generality than that of the individual conscience with its single subject, so that the general law of the state would be less adaptable than the more immediate and specific law of the individual conscience. Ergo, the individual lost freedom. For at that point, even if circumstances presented a situation in which the individual could act in a certain way in good conscience according to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” he might no longer be able to do so according to the laws of the state, because he had relinquished his responsibility and freedom to the state and was the more subjected to it.

Tom considered a simple hypothetical case in this matter of the buffalo. In that case, those hunting the buffalo, lawful and lawless alike, would continue the slaughter despite the obvious signs of it being wrong, if in nothing else than the prodigious waste of meat. Elected representatives of the people, outraged at the waste and the precipitous reductions in the numbers of the animal, would eventually pass a law to forbid the killing of the buffalo. Given that scenario, the following case unfolds. A man out on the prairie comes upon a lame buffalo bull that has been left behind by its herd and is obviously going to die. The man has a family who, though they have some food and are not starving, could make good use of the meat from the bull. Now, however, according to the new law, the man with the family must not kill the bull, and so the lame buffalo moves on to die in some remote place where the meat will go to waste. Before the law, the man could have legally killed and butchered the bull and fed his family with the meat, and he could have done so in good conscience. Now, after the law, his only legal option is to not kill the bull. His conscience must now weigh the law against the hunger of his family and the waste of the meat. If the man decides in good conscience, after weighing the matter, that it is better to kill the bull to feed his hungry family rather than to let the meat rot, he has decided, in good conscience, to break the law. This is no small matter, because in a free society laws should exist to protect the unalienable rights of the citizens; therefore, the conscientious person, in good conscience, should normally obey the law.

In such a case, then, the law, the conscience, or both have been compromised. This conflict between conscience and law comes about as a result of the refusal of earlier hunters to form or obey their consciences. It is a result of those earlier hunters’ failure to rule themselves, a result of their having handed over responsibility to the state, which, by its nature, must rule in a more general way than the conscience. That the man in the hypothetical case is not a hunter illustrates another point: when citizens turn over responsibility to the state, not only do they turn over, with it, their own freedom, but also that of every other citizen, even the most conscientious.

Tom reflected on how his hypothetical case also illustrated the communal nature of man, the latent sacramentalism awaiting men’s acceptance of and cooperation with grace. “No man is an island,” wrote John Donne. “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” If one is diminished, all are diminished. So John Donne let the world know in poetry, some two and a half centuries before, what the Church had been teaching for some sixteen centuries before that, having been taught it by Christ. Neither man nor a man lives in a vacuum. The act of a single man changes the world, the universe, regardless of how private or public the act. A good act has the capacity to yield good consequences far beyond the immediate effect; so does an evil act have a similar capacity to yield evil consequences. Therefore, for man (the creature in whom matter and spirit are combined in one nature, created with free will, in the very image of God), all his actions entail responsibility. Responsibility is a natural concomitant to human actions. To shirk responsibility is but an illusion, as the shirker is responsible for that shirking. And because human actions entail responsibility, each human action deserves its due consideration. When humans fail to accept the responsibility for their actions; when they refuse to give those actions due consideration; when, after such consideration, they refuse to act on the conclusions of an informed conscience, then events like the slaughter of the buffalo result.

Thus, Tom considered three broad categories of men: the conscientious, those who formed their consciences and acted according to them; the lawful, those who waited for the state to pass laws to legislate their behavior and thereby relinquished their freedom and its attendant responsibility to the state; and the lawless, those who had no respect for the law and would defy the law as they saw fit, until they were prevented by the state from doing so, thereby passing on all of their freedom and its attendant responsibility to the state. Consideration of these led Tom’s mind onto consideration of another category of man, call them the semi-lawful.

(continued in Part Three)

Obamacare, the Church, and the Stupak Amendment

15 February 2012

Copyright © 2012 by P. A. Ritzer

In light of the Obama Administration’s recent attack on the Church, religious liberty, and freedom of conscience, I think back to the unseemly process by which Obamacare passed the Congress and how the Stupak Amendment conciliated Church leadership. On Sunday, November 8, 2009, we received an “Urgent Action” insert in our church bulletin directing us to contact our representatives and let them know that we wanted them to support the Stupak Amendment to the Obamacare Bill, an amendment that would prohibit funds “authorized or appropriated by” Obamacare to be used for abortion except in cases of life of the mother, rape, and incest. Rarely have I felt such a rush of shock and righteous indignation in a church. I knew the Stupak Amendment for what it was, a ruse to give cover to so-called pro-life Democrats to secure the passage of Obamacare. Thus I was infuriated that some Church leaders were taking the bait and getting reeled in to set up the Church for the assault that President Obama, his administration, and the Democratic Party would naturally–given their commitment to big government and the culture of death–unleash upon her through the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Obamacare. (Of course, Bart Stupak, and his cohorts, eventually knuckled under to pressure and dropped support for his own amendment after being given the cover of a meaningless executive order from the President.) I immediately wrote the following to a Church leader. I have here omitted the leader’s name and responses and other identifying portions out of respect and have omitted greetings and closings and have otherwise lightly edited these communications.

Copyright © 2009 by P. A. Ritzer

With all due respect, I feel conscience bound to let you know how deeply upset I was by the “Urgent Action Parish Bulletin Insert” we received at Mass this morning. I will be blunt in unburdening my mind, heart, conscience: These Democratic bills cannot be fixed; they must be stopped! There is no fix for them.

The Democratic Party has proven over nearly thirty years that it is committed to the culture of death! They “Borked” judicial nominees who would have been strict constructionists unlikely to find a “right” to abortion in the Constitution, and placed on the Supreme Court and any federal court (and Obama is trying to create more federal courts to stack) judges whose one requirement was to be pro-abortion. They used taxpayer money to promote and coerce abortion and contraception around the world, imposing them, with the help of the United Nations, on the poorest of peoples, except when Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush could stop them by executive order, which they circumvented nonetheless. Most opposed an attempt by Republicans to ban partial-birth abortion, a ban which Bill Clinton vetoed. They promote the destruction of the Sacrament of Matrimony. And more and more, they support euthanasia and assisted suicide. And now comes Mr. Obama, whose tedious obfuscation cannot hide his radical commitment to abortion in the great tradition of such notable Democrats, and Catholics, as Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius–it is scandalous! Why on earth would we ever want to hand over more control of healthcare to government, when we see what these people will do with the power we have already handed over to them in contradiction of the distrust of government enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

On the other hand, the party that has had a pro-life platform for the last thirty years, the Republican Party, does offer real healthcare reform that would make it more affordable and available without handing over more control of it to government. We hear about Stupak: what about the party that has maintained a pro-life platform, at great cost to itself, for decades? Why aren’t we working with them to oppose this monstrosity. So what if the Democrats have the votes. We should oppose them regardless!

What more does the Democratic party need to do to prove to us all that it is the Party of Death? Why on earth would we as rational people think we can work with a party so radically committed to the exploitation of women and girls and the slaughter of unborn children, and, more and more, the destruction of the Sacrament of Matrimony, and euthanasia. Those of us who have never been Democrats do not understand this accommodation of the Party of Death. We find it hard to see the great virtue in the party that was pro-choice on slavery: the party of the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow, and the internment of Japanese-Americans. We do not see the virtue in the party that launched the attacks on personal property and the reduction of free human beings to impoverished dependency called the New Deal and the Great Society. We see, instead, how such attacks and reductions could create a dependent class robbed of initiative and responsibility ever dependent on the Democratic Party which would thereafter depend on their votes. And now they want to take over healthcare–God forbid! Have we not seen enough in the bankrupt programs of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and all the problems they have wrought.

We all are free (though less and less so under Democratic governance, especially if Obama gets his way about ending charitable deductions) to give to the charities of our choice. The churches, other private institutions, and localities, in the spirit of the doctrine of subsidiarity, used to provide medical and other services with the freedom to do so according to their moral codes. But the more we support the big-government Party of Death, and its programs, the less freedom we have to support the charities of our choice according to our values, and we give up that freedom to a party that embraces and promotes the culture of death, which is absolutely consistent with its big-government tradition.

Years ago, I met the priest who was the godfather of Avery Dulles when he entered the Church. He gave me an article he had written about his own conversion to Catholicism. In it he recounted how he would visit different churches in Germany during the Third Reich. As I remember it, he said that the Anglican churches did not say much so as not to rock the boat. The Lutheran churches spoke out about their right to religious freedom. But the Catholic churches preached that Hitler, Himmler, Goering, and Goebbels were wrong because Jesus Christ was right.

Obama, Biden, Pelosi, and Reid are wrong because Jesus Christ is right. We must oppose them because we must embrace Him.

The following is my response to the recipient’s response.

I remain blunt, as anything less seems to me a waste of time. I do not understand how the bills [Obamacare] can be fixed by amendments when the ideology behind the giant power grab, which is the basis for Democratic healthcare reform, is the same that has promoted, guaranteed, and funded the most aggressive and far-reaching attack on the culture of life in this country.

Yes, I am partisan. I make no apology for it. (Nevertheless, where the Republican party is wrong, I will oppose it.) One party, the Republican, is flawed, as are all human institutions; the other, the Democratic, has long been committed to evil, to the culture of death. I believe that the Democratic Party’s ongoing drive to expand government and control more and more aspects of our lives are part and parcel of their evil commitment to every aspect of the culture of death. Are there some Democratic leaders who are pro-life? Well sure, but less and less so when their party requires a vote. I make no judgment on their souls (I pray for them daily) but do judge their party, its actions, and the real consequences, intended and otherwise, of their actions. I would be irresponsible and a bad citizen to do less.

Today we Americans will countenance the cutting and tearing apart of another 4000-some children in the sanctity of their mothers’ wombs, and we will leave their mothers and fathers with the baggage. And the great Democratic Party will have had as much, if not more, to do with making sure this takes place than any other institution in the country. And we are still talking about it! The Republican Party has taken the principled stand on slavery, human rights, and abortion when it was difficult to do so. In each case, it was opposed by the Democratic party. When the Democratic Party believes that a pro-life position will get it power, it will convert. Until then, it must be defeated.

As for what the Republicans have and have not done. They did pass some healthcare reforms, like health savings accounts. Should they have done more, like tort reform and enabling competition between insurance companies across state lines, probably. (But among their priorities were two wars, and the Democrats–not to mention the press–were opposing every healthcare reform they attempted.) But many of us believe that the current “crisis” in healthcare has been manufactured by the Democratic Party to set up this enormous power grab, and that much, if not most, of the problems in healthcare have been created by other government meddling in the form of the likes of Medicare and Medicaid. As I was growing up, my family was anything but wealthy, but my mother was able to give birth to seven children in the hospital, and my parents were able to pay the bill. This was pretty much the norm among the families I grew up around in Wisconsin. Today, after forty years of government healthcare solutions like Medicaid and Medicare, a family could go bankrupt doing the same.

The following is my response to the recipient’s response.

I fear the blindness of partisanship that has a majority of Catholics helping to put the Party of Death in power.

I wrote the above over two years ago anticipating the recent attacks on the Church, and worse to come, if we did not stop this anti-Constitutional takeover of healthcare by Obama and the Democrats. We have got to deal with reality here. This is tyranny as only the Democratic Party can serve it up. And the Democratic Party is the Party of Death. This is not about well-groomed, well-dressed, well-fed, fat-cat Democratic politicians throwing around the antiseptic word “abortion.” This is about the truth of what that word represents: a horrific reality of human savagery and carnage; of exploitation of girls and women, mothers; of emasculation of boys and men, fathers. The Democrats have tried too long to keep this issue at bay by playing it as if it ought not be on the table, just as they did with slavery in the founding years of the Democratic Party with the Richmond-Albany axis. Just keep it off the table and let it fester and let people suffer and pretend there is nothing worth considering about it. They managed to some extent to do it with slavery until the Republican Party rose up in reaction to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and defeated slavery and fought for full recognition of the rights of African Americans–the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, and the Civil Rights Acts, etc.–despite the Democratic tyranny of the Ku Klux Klan, and lynchings, and Black Codes, and Jim Crow, etc. The unborn and their mothers and fathers need the Republican Party to be their champion as it was for slaves and freedmen. And we all need the Republican Party to reverse this anti-Constitutional, dictatorial power grab by President Obama and the Democrats. And we need to regain a love for life and freedom that welcomes the baby and stands up against government oppression.  

Conscience, Law, and the Buffalo Hunt (Part One)

1 February 2012

From Seven Ox Seven, Part One: Escondido Bound, the first of three excerpts from pages 219-228.

Copyright © 2007 by P. A. Ritzer

Tom, for his part, still reflected as he rode along through the region in the dust of the trailing herd. One thing of which he was sure was that the slaughter was wrong. The hunting of the buffalo was not wrong. The skinning of the buffalo was not wrong. The sale and use of those skins for clothing, industry, or any other legitimate use was not wrong. Even the reduction of the vast buffalo herds to make way for other uses of the land was not necessarily wrong. What was wrong was the greed behind it all and what that greed had wrought.

What that greed had wrought was the waste of untold tons of meat (and even the waste of many of the hides for which the animals had been killed, due to hasty skinning, curing, or both). It had wrought a slaughter that, if it continued apace (and there was every reason to believe that it would), was sure to wipe out the species without due consideration of all the ramifications of that extermination. It had wrought further enmity between whites and the Plains Indians and the further reduction of those peoples to a pathetic dependency.

It had wrought all of those things and more, Tom could see. And yet, as disturbing as all that was, there was another work of that greed that encompassed all the rest, and that was the work of perverting freedom into license. Tom believed that such a large-scale perversion of freedom was detrimental to, and indicative of, the relative health of a nation, especially of one that had been founded with the security of the inalienable right of liberty as one of its central tenets and had recently fought a bloody civil war to preserve itself and abolish the singularly most glaring and festering contradiction to that tenet. Where freedom degenerates into license, he mused, man has already relinquished the mastery of himself to his passions, and it only remains to be seen who or what will succeed his passions as his master. In such circumstances, a free society is very much in danger.

There is no true freedom without responsibility. In light of that truth, Tom thought of some of the buffalo hunters he had met along the trail and before. Despite the common characterization of the buffalo hunter, some of these hunters were respectable people, some of them whole families, and many of them regretted the wasteful slaughter of the buffalo, actually lamented the part they were playing in it. Yet, they licentiously continued in it, killing as many as they could as quickly as they could, before there were no more to kill, because they were desperate to get as much as they could out of the slaughter, desperate to secure their part of the fortune that the buffalo hides represented. Had a law been passed to stop the slaughter and preserve the breed (and there were several attempts at such legislation throughout the 1870s), they would have gladly obeyed it and been glad for it, and yet, as long as there was no law, they would continue to play their part in the slaughter up to the very extinction of the animal.

Due to greed, and the pride behind it, these hunters were willing to reject their God-given stewardship of the earth. They were willing to relinquish their own judgment of what was right and wrong, as well as their freedom to act upon it, because they wanted to get all that they could get, and they did not want to fall behind anyone else who might be profiting from the same motivation and the same refusal to govern himself according to right and wrong. Tom thought about how that tendency was not so uncommon, how that tendency was, indeed, universal. Still, there were individuals, call them the conscientious, who, through prayer, reflection, or both, came to know such tendencies in themselves and to see the evil in those tendencies and, with the help of grace, to overcome or check those tendencies, to greater or lesser degrees. In doing so, the conscientious were forming their consciences, and in doing so according to objective truths, these individuals were subjecting themselves to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” cited in the Declaration of Independence, a subjection without which a free society must degenerate into anarchy or tyranny or the ugliest amalgamations of both.

A free society depends upon the will of the individuals in that society to take personal responsibility for their freedom, to govern themselves according to objective truths of right and wrong, Tom reasoned. When the individuals of a free society refuse or even just neglect to take responsibility for their freedom, when they refuse or neglect to form their consciences and to be ruled by those consciences attuned to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” then those individuals choose license over freedom, and they give in to a progression toward disorder or toward being ruled by something other than the self guided by conscience.

Tom saw just such a progression in this matter of the buffalo. He considered those hunters, not the lawless element of that occupation, but those respectable ones, call them the lawful, as they were willing to submit to the laws of the state. He considered those lawful, who would willingly and gladly stop the slaughter, and even feel relieved to do so, if only the state would enact a law requiring it. He considered how those lawful were passing on the responsibility for their actions to the state, and with it, they were passing on their freedom, their right of liberty, their right of self-government. He thought of all that it had cost in human sacrifice to establish and preserve a nation that had been founded to protect freedom and other human rights. Then he thought of how such shirking of responsibility and freedom and relinquishing of rights were unworthy of that sacrifice, and of how it would be better to have one’s freedom and rights usurped rather than to have them so carelessly discarded.

Interestingly enough, even the lawless element of the buffalo hunters (those apparently most opposed to being ruled by others), though they might refuse or neglect to discern the wrongness of the slaughter that the lawful had discerned, and, in fact, because they refused or neglected to do so, they too were passing on their freedom to the state, because they would not even accept responsibility for their freedom to discern. These lawless too were giving the state greater power with which to rule over them, even if they intended to defy that power. Both kinds of men, those who had some respect for the law and those who did not, were willing to let their freedom be overwhelmed by the dictates of the state.

(continued in Part Two)