First, let me say that my point here is not primarily about executions.
G. K. Chesterton said “Democracy was meant to be a more direct way of ruling, not a more indirect way; and if we do not feel that we are all jailers, so much the worse for us, and for the prisoners.” The point is that when the People of a “democracy by the people” no longer view themselves as directly involved with the full realities of the policies they support – we suffer.
He went on to say, “Both men and women ought to face more fully the things they do or cause to be done; face them or leave off doing them. On that disastrous day when public executions were abolished, private executions were renewed and ratified, perhaps forever.”
In other words, when executions were public, we all administered executions together. We could say that we literally faced its reality. But now they’re private, so we no longer feel directly involved and do not take as much responsibility for them. Execution is just a word for most of us. Maybe it’s also a political issue, but it’s hardly a reality.
I imagine a time and circumstance when executions were a matter of justice and truly done to protect a community from a dangerous person. And the leader that sentenced the person wore a crown while also swinging the executioner’s sword. And at the moment of execution the People stood by with swords raised as if they themselves were doing the deed – because they were.
Now it very well may be that this imagination has always been imaginary. I don’t know. But in the very least it represents an ideal of some sort.
And at some point down the line, the man in the crown was traded for a man in a mask. And the man in the crowd replaced his lifted sword with a shameful silence.
And today, executions take place behind closed doors by faceless people. And they happen to people that nobody really knows. Execution is just a word for most all of us – not a reality. But yet it is we who remain the executioners.
We can say “I’m not really executing somebody – they are.” But this is our lie. We are a democracy. We, the people, decide the laws together. We execute the laws together. Simply because I choose to turn off the lights and look away does not mean I am not partially responsible.
And that is the point Chesterton is making. We must fully face the things we do or cause to be done. Because when we fully face them we can no longer live in our own pleasant fiction. We are forced to bloody our hands right along side our hired officials. Otherwise, it is all too easy for us to see ourselves as separate from our public, democratic government. It is We who give the government it’s power. We are the government.
Does anyone for one second believe that if executions were held publicly with each of our hands holding the noose that we would still have executions in America today? I doubt it.
And that brings me to my main point. This concept applies to everything, not just executions.
Would we still have abortions in America today if people really knew the reality of an abortion? If you personally had to stick something into an unborn baby’s skull and suck out its insides, could you do it? If you had to tear a baby to pieces with tools, pull the pieces out, and then try and piece the dead baby back together to make sure you got everything out…could you do it? That is the reality of abortion. And it happens more than 4000 times everyday in America.
Could you do it?
Now imagine if every abortion was performed publicly. And we ripped the baby limb for limb in front of everybody in the public square. Would we then stand by and call it a choice?
Or, instead, would we scream for it to stop? Would we rush the platform? Would we put everything else on hold to figure out a way that we don’t have to do this? Would we find a solution to unwanted pregnancies that doesn’t involve murdering one of the people involved? I believe that we would.
But somehow, we are OK if it happens behind closed doors by faceless doctors. And it happens to people that nobody yet knows and haven’t had the chance to be loved yet. Abortion is just a word for most all of us – not a reality. In our own pleasant fiction we can call it a “choice.” But the reality is that as long as We allow our country to abort babies…We are the abortionists.
I was standing outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic yesterday as part of the 40 days for life campaign. And this woman walked up who had seen us standing out there and with great curiosity asked, “Are y’all looking at something?” Her question so perfectly highlights this point. And her need to ask it so perfectly reflects the state of our society.
Yes, we are looking at something. We are looking at what We as a country are doing – what We are allowing to happen. It might happen privately behind closed doors. And it might happen in obscure looking buildings with small signs that don’t want to draw attention to themselves. And it might happen so routinely and under such a disguise that well-meaning people wonder why anyone would take their time to stand and look at it.
But that’s exactly why we are looking at it. If enough of us are willing to stand and look at abortion for what it is, then others will start asking and looking too. And since we can’t move the abortion clinic into the public square, then we must square the public around the abortion clinic. And only then will we all begin to fully face this reality of which We, the people, are guilty. And once We truly face that reality, We will end abortion.