Thursday, January 22, 2015
Remembering a man and a conundrum. . .
He was an old fashioned liberal. He was a Roman Catholic, albeit one who refused to listen to the conscience of his faith especially with respect to abortion. He was a big government guy, a New Deal Democrat at a time when Blue Dog Democrats were in ascending in his party (think Clinton). I am sure he had a soft spot for President Obama and his policies of governmental expansion. Cuomo believed in a big safety net to cover all the possible needs of people and he engineered one of the highest tax systems to pay for it all. Nothing new here, New York has been home to many big spenders from both parties.
I heard the clips from his speeches run on TV when his death was announced. He was a master at the bully pulpit (unless you really listened to all he had to say). Therein lies what I remember most about him -- the conundrum of a man who claimed to be pious and faithful to his church and yet find it impossible to listen to the voice of his faith when it came to governing (except, of course, when he could use faith to bolster his vision of big government and a big net to cushion the fall of those in need.
We moved to Long Island in 1978 and upstate (halfway between Westchester and Albany) in 1980. We moved to Tennessee at the very end of 1992. So for most of the time I lived there, Cuomo was in the news or made the news. Yet he will always be remembered as perhaps not the first but arguably the most visible among the early Roman Catholics who refused to abide by the conscience of faith when it came to abortion. He did not stand alone; many who followed his lead, including Nancy Pelosi, and they did not have to be Roman Catholic to ignore their church's teachings on abortion. And that is how I will always remember him. His forceful arguments that it is not feasible to be faithful -- at least not in politics and governing.
I wish that I could say that his thesis has been proven false but it hasn't. Every Republican and Democratic candidate for local, state, or national office is being counseled to overlook their faith (if they have one) and adopt as their own platform a generic regret that abortion is necessary while insisting they will protect the right to kill infants in the womb. In other words, if you are running for office, you are being told by nearly everyone that this is one battle you do not want to fight. Yet this is exactly the battle that must be fought.
This issue has divided America like few others since 1973. The national debate was cut short by a Supreme Court that used creative law to say what it wanted to say. What was once simply about a surgical procedure has expanded into the use of drugs that act as abortifacients -- chemically aborting after conception. What was once about a somewhat rare procedure has become a commonplace idea that there is no life worth acknowledging until birth and even then maybe not depending upon the child and the woman and her wishes. What was once about a woman and her reproductive rights has become about the value of life and what lives are not worth living, worth keeping, and merit ending for the sake of the burden they cause to their families and to society in general.
Mario Cuomo was a powerful speaker but I only wish his voice had echoed the conscience of faith and spoken for the life of the unborn, the disabled, the elderly, and everyone else whom our society is not so sure has a life worth protecting. He was passionate about civil rights but failed to see that the protection of the unborn is the most basic civil right of all -- especially for those whose journey from slavery to freedom has been so rocky and taken so long. If more people had awakened to the genie that legalized abortion let out of the bottle, things might have been different.