Roe v. Wade: The Banality of Evil in Mr. Justice Blackmun
In 1973 or thereabouts, the devil also paid a visit to another banal man, this time in Minnesota
When the case of Roe v. Wade, which started at the U.S. District Court in Texas, reached the "end of the line," Justice Blackmun wrote the majority (7-2) opinion. The decision he made was wrong, not wrong in any banal sense, but deadly and horrendously wrong. And from the terrible "end of the line," we have endured the terrible beginning of, and so-far have seen nothing but, unending lines of death. Endless women have lined up before abortionists to end the lives of their children in a Holocaust bequeathed to the Nation courtesy of Blackmun's banal moral vision.
In her famous words, evil reared its worst face in the morally banal human being, in the human who is, from outward appearances, commonplace. He runs his life by platitudes, by trite statements that mean really nothing. The banal man is not overtly evil, but he is wholly morally obtuse. He can be, nevertheless, the architect of great moral evil It was a phenomenon she called the "banality of evil." The worst part of it is that he never realizes it, and in his banality he may even defend his actions as good without even knowing what good is.
The devil went down to Georgia sings Charlie Daniels, but he was only wielding a fiddle, and a fiddle cannot do great wrong. Sometime in the late 1930s, I suppose, the devil visited a rather banal character named Adolf Eichmann in Berlin, and, eventually, with the power of the Nazi state behind him, this diminutive man became a chief instrument in the horrendous evil we call the Shoa, the Holocaust.
In 1973 or thereabouts, the devil also paid a visit to another banal man, this time in Minnesota. Unfortunately, the devil's choice of instrument was again not a fiddle, but an assortment of curettes and sundry other medical devices, and some strange ideas about viability and penumbras and emanations.
What the devil found in Minnesota was another "little Eichmann," a mild-mannered Methodist by the name of Harry Blackmun. Born in St. Paul, Harry Blackmun was a man who--even as an adult--would sing Methodist hymns at the piano with his mother. I suppose, like Eichmann, he was a Gottgläubiger, a "god believer" a banal believer of an equally banal god.
This banal god, the god of Eichmann and the god of Blackmun--I do not recognize their god as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--is one who, like Blackmun's Methodist pastor William Holmes stated in a sermon in support of Mr. Justice Blackmun in 1995, allows us to disregard "unwanted children," and apparently finds Roe v. Wade a "conscientious and civilized opinion." These are banal sentiments, pavestones to Hell.
I don't know who the banal god of Mr. Justice and Reverend Holmes might be--whether this god ought to be called Baal, Moloch, Tlaloc, Beelzebub, or modern Progress I cannot tell--but whatever or whoever it was I know it or he or she certainly was not the God of the Ten Commandments, who with His finger wrote on stone tablets the command in Hebrew: lo' tirsah, "Thou shalt not murder," and really meant it.
Blackmun was not an entirely untypical Midwesterner. In short, he was what in days of yore we would have called a WASP. A bright boy, however, he eventually went to Harvard College, was graduated in Mathematics summa cum laude, and then attended Harvard Law School. He practiced law in private practice, handling trusts, estates, taxation issues, and litigation. Eventually he became resident counsel to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He was a bourgeois lawyer, if perhaps a little on the clever end of things.
He never outgrew his conventional ways. A "conservative old fuddy-duddy," he once described himself. Probably similar to how Eichmann would have described himself, though I don't know the precise German equivalent, perhaps altmodisch or old-fashioned.
His tastes were simple. Blackmun liked baseball. He was a penny-pincher, not pretentious or ostentatious, hardly a spendthrift, and drove a blue VW Beetle even as a justice of the Supreme Court.
A self-deprecating, hard-working sort of guy once he was selected on the Supreme Court by President Nixon (as Nixon's third choice), Justice Blackmun described himself as "Ol' Number Three," and often joked that he had to work long hours because he was "dumber than the rest of the guys" he worked with.
Unfortunately, Justice Blackmun was not only visited by the devil, but at the time of that visit he also sat on the Supreme Court of the United States and was the one to whom had fallen the duty of writing the majority opinion of Roe v. Wade, a decision which with its companion case Doe v. Bolton served to find unconstitutional--on highly specious and questionable constitutional grounds--the laws of the various states that prohibited the killing of our youngest and ...
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