What will people look back on as obvious, universal truths in one hundred years that are currently divisive debate fodder? Two things come to mind: first, that abortion is barbaric; second, that ObamaCare, aka The Affordable Care Act, was necessary, despite the ugly, "un-American" way that it was enacted.
As a compassionate Republican (or conservative Democrat, even though I've only ever voted for Republicans; these party definitions are truly no longer useful for most thinking, reasonable Americans), there is a conflict between what I believe and what my political options are. The pro-life Catholic that I am has no choice but to support Republicans, while the pro-humanitarian looking out for my fellow people and earth might gravitate to programs championed by Democrats. The desire for small government, coupled with strong protection of the American way of life requires my weight to be thrown behind the Republicans, while the environmental, anti-big oil and anti-fracking citizen of the world can only, realistically, root for the Democrats. Where will things stand in the year 2115 though?
Reading my 8th grade son's paper on the "barrier-crossing" topic of the 13th Amendment, I was struck by the simplicity of its one main, glorious sentence, a sentence which changed the course of an enslaved race, a whole nation, and the entire world:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
That is all there is to Section 1 of the 13th Amendment. There is a Section 2, which simply states, "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." That's it. Those two sentences comprise the entirety of the addition the Constitution of the United States to end the institution of slavery here.
Does that seem at all controversial, barrier-breaking, or otherwise worthy of the United States tearing itself apart over for four years? Not in the least. But I was once again moved by my son's words, where he stated all points of view admirably. The enslaved were now free, with all that freedom entails. Freedom to live, to move, to work, to get an education, to have and to raise a family as they so choose. Another perspective was that of the liberators, the people with the power to fight on behalf of the powerless to right a grave wrong. The third point of view was one that I have never really considered: the people who came into a world, into a way of life, with laws and rules and customs, who proceeded to do the best they could with their lives under those rules, and who then found themselves facing an alien threat to "steal" or otherwise forcibly remove that which they had worked for. These were people who did not consider slaves as fully human. Just as you and I are free to purchase a pet or work animal and sell off the offspring with the expectation that no one is allowed to come and open up the barn or the gate and set all of our belongings free, slave owners operated and existed without regard for human freedom as it pertained to their "property." They, if not rightfully, then certainly expectedly, fought anyone who tried to steal from them that which they had lawfully and at great economic cost to themselves acquired.
Which brings us to the present day "controversies" of legal abortion and affordable health care being made available to all Americans. When I told my son that his paper had made me think, and that I could see parallels in the modern debate about ObamaCare, with we Republicans claiming that "they can't make us hard-working, successful people pay for other, poor people's stuff!" I followed it up with this: when I look at it through another lens, that of one who thinks, "all people in America, the greatest nation in the history of the world, really should have affordable health care, even if it costs the haves more than the havenots, and to think otherwise kind of seems a little stingy, what do you think?" He did not even take a second to think about it before replying, "well, YEAH. It DOES sound stingy. It is, isn't it?" It is indeed.
I won't go into abortion here (you can see some of my other writings in this blog on that topic; it's no secret where I stand and how I feel). I can only say, with great hope and near certainty, that one day people will look back on what we do to unborn babies with disgust, shame, and horror, wondering to themselves, "how did half of America in the year 2015 STILL think that was ok? Are you KIDDING me?!?" How did half of America in the year 1861 STILL think slavery was ok? Are you KIDDING me?!?