Compromise and Being Compromised


I wind up doing a lot of reading as a by-product of my profession. I came across a quote the other day that was very thought-provoking. I thought I'd share it with you and see what y'all thought.

"The distinction between the prudent choice of making a compromise and the blameworthy eventuality of being compromised is a very fine one. It is complicated by the fact that it so often is the case that one party (most often the radicals) may be right as a matter of moral principle while the other party (most often the conservatives) is right as a matter of practical politics ó and, until quite recently in our history, there was a world of difference between the attitudes of those who actually hold power and bear responsibility for its use and those who have a public platform but no power. In Lincolnís time, and especially in the period immediately after his assassination, abolitionist clergy in the North were far more radical than even the most radical Republicans in Congress, demanding mass executions in the South. Lincoln, for his part, bitterly noted that if he had listened to the radicals in the early days of the Civil War or in the lead-up to it, then the war almost certainly would have been lost with the defection of the border states. The result would have been the preservation not of the Union but of slavery ó and not merely its preservation but almost certainly its expansion. As a moral question, we might be with John Brown, even while we concede that as a political question Abraham Lincoln had the better case.

"To understand that [is] to put yourself into the intolerable position of looking into the face of a man suffering the worst kind of injustice and tyranny and then explaining: 'Itís horrible, of course, but it just isnít practical at the moment to relieve your inhuman suffering. Maybe in four years, after the next election.' Like the debate over slavery, the debate over abortion is predicated on the question of who counts as human. Like the slavers of old, the abortionists of our time insist there is no human question here at all, only a question of property and self-determination in disposing of it. Like the abolitionists of old, the anti-abortion movement has violent partisans who insist that we whose lives are not at stake cannot in good conscience wait patiently as the process of political reform plays out at a majestic, glacial pace, that there is no tolerable compromise with so great an evil as this. Some of them have carried out assassinations, bombings, and other acts of terrorism.

"John Brown or Abraham Lincoln? I keep portraits of both in the rooms where I work.

"John Brown was hanged for treason by a government born of treason. The United States is a nation founded in revolution ó thatís what treason is called when you win ó with a long history of resistance, sometimes violent, to duly constituted authority. The danger in the permanently revolutionary American ethic, as I wrote some years ago in the matter of Cliven Bundy, is that every Timothy McVeigh thinks he is Paul Revere. It is not very difficult to trace a reasonably straight American line from John Brown to the Unabomber. If we did not have a national soft spot for radicals with guns, we wouldnít be naming high schools after Malcolm X."

What is your take on this, dear reader? And how does this apply to our post-6 January United States of America?