Monday, January 02, 2006

Live principled or die trying.

There was once a religion that believed that sex—all sex—was sinful. People who believe in total celibacy, obviously, do not reproduce. The only way the Shakers replaced their numbers was through conversion and adoption.

That these people all but vanished from the Earth does not constitute a great mystery.

You might say, though, that the Shakers had a choice. They could continue being Shakers as they had been (and vanish from the Earth), or they could be Shakers but without that silly celibacy schtick. Would those still be Shakers?

I'm thinking about this as it relates to recent events in America. There seems to be a notion that the only way we can survive in the face of terrorism is to abandon our principles: spy on Americans, torture people, etc. It's the same choice the Shakers faced. Stay true to your principles and die or live on sans principles.

The people of America are well within their power to decide that torture is something they'd like to see more of. I don't think, however, that the resulting country would still properly be called America. Would George Washington see that as America?

Of course, the framers didn't believe in a thing like the income tax either. That's why we needed an amendment to authorize Congress to tax income. So the America of George Washington has, in some sense, departed this world already. Maybe this "my America is the real America" idea is just another lament for "the good old days."

Still, I think these things are choices the country must make about who we are, and I'm continuously surprised at how the country makes them.
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