On Accepting Blame

150 years ago today, on July 3rd, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg was lost for the Army of Northern Virginia.

The nine infantry brigades that advanced in Pickett’s Charge were repulsed and suffered 50% casualties. The day before, the Union line had held at Devil’s Den and Little Round Top. The enemy Army of the Potomac was secure in a clever fish-hook formation that allowed for easy reinforcement of weaker sections.

Pickett’s Charge was a bloody mess. It could have been avoided. It left a psychological blow from which Southern morale never quite recovered.

“It’s all my fault”: that’s what General Lee said as routed Confederates were falling back. The greatest American was willing to admit his mistakes and accept the blame. The affections of his countrymen have often shielded Lee from responsibility. Blame is often laid at the feet of J.E.B. Stuart, the cavalry general who was absent at the early stage of the battle, depriving the army of its ‘eyes and ears’. But Stuart was absent on the orders of Lee, cutting telegraph lines, capturing supplies, and giving the Yankees  hell elsewhere. My own hero, Robert E. Lee, knew who was at fault and never hid the fact.

Which brings me to yesterday’s abortion vote in the Dáil.

The bill that passed overwhelmingly in the Chamber will allow for termination of a pregnancy when doctors agree that a woman is at risk of suicide as a result of that pregnancy.

This suicide clause will inevitably cause in Ireland a repeat of the bloody history of the United Kingdom, where 98% of abortions are carried out as a result of mental trauma. This system is a great ruse between the doctor and patient, and everybody involved knows it. It has led to abortion becoming another form of contraception, a concept that the majority of people have always found distasteful. This year, Lord Steel admitted this was not at all envisaged when he introduced the 1967 bill.

Ireland had the chance to demonstrate a different path, one which would hold the life of the mother and the unborn child in equal regard, and one which would reach the best possible compromise in situations of conflict between the two. What we have now is the wholesale abandonment and derision of Christian principles in favor of secularist barbarism, mediocrity, and conformity; a new milieu in which there is no room for a small nation that refuses to sell its soul.

There are nowhere near enough TDs to stand firm and shout ‘stop!’. Similarly, after Gettysburg, it would have taken nothing short of a miracle to save Dixie.

And how did we get here? In 2002 the 25th Amendment would have amended the Irish Constitution in order to clarify the law on abortion. It would have specifically removed the threat of suicide as a grounds for abortion in the state; a bone of contention since the infamous X-Case of 1992. Pro-life parties made a terrible mistake in advancing the ‘No’ vote even as the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin was saying that informed Catholics were free in conscience to vote as they wished. The amendment was rejected by the electorate, 50.42% to 49.58%.

Nobody thought this would be the end of the matter of abortion. The pro-life movement had a chance to close the suicide loophole. Now the specter of abortion on mental health grounds hovers over us yet again. This foolish decision in 2002 seemed to put tactics ahead of strategy, and the immediate fight before the war.  The Confederates too could have avoided contact with the Union at Gettysburg. What started as a skirmish Lee urgently escalated with reinforcements because he felt he had a shot at destroying the Union Army there and then. There were alternatives. Lee could have interposed between the Federal left flank and Washington to take them on better ground and prevent the enemy from retreating to D.C. He could have retreated to the passes of South Mountain in eastern Pennsylvania and forced Meade to attack him there.

Perhaps moral or abstract principles have no place in a world of strategy, and this has been the pro-life movement’s mistake. Perhaps sentiment and certainty in 2002 trumped good reasoning. What I feel for sure is that what occurred in the Dáil yesterday is partly our fault.
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About Cranky Notions
Reactionary. That fella from the Norris scandal.

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