As votes from Florida are recounted, most of America is waiting breathlessly for news of its next president. But when we finally know, we'll still be in for at least four years of something I don't much like. This election, more than any in memory, has forced us into an ethical dilemma with unavoidable and undesirable consequences. No matter how we voted, no matter who ends up in the White House, a fundamental principle of the Gospel has been violated because some form of violence will receive official sanction.

Republicans will support unrestrained possession of handguns and semiautomatic weapons, while the Democrats will work to prevent any restrictions on abortion, even so-called partial-birth abortion. Winners will include the NRA or NARAL. Losers, I'm afraid, will be the same as they have always been: schoolchildren and their devastated families, or newborn victims of infanticide.

More kids shot down on playgrounds and in their own homes? Or more babies murdered in the delivery room? It's some choice.

Most of us have read the arguments used to defend both weapon possession and unrestricted abortion. The Second Amendment to the Constitution, the inadequacy of police protection in a dangerous society, the joys of hunting, "guns don't kill people, people kill people," and so on. Then again: "a woman's right to choose" (death for her baby?), "whose body is it, anyway?" etc.

The way I list these arguments, of course, makes me as guilty as their proponents of using language to vent feelings and opinions. But I just can't buy either set of attitudes: those that treat murderous assault weapons as sporting equipment or those that treat human life as rubbish.

The irony is that my little diatribe can have no practical effect. All I can do is repeat this inconvenient assertion: major planks of each party's platform--even if they are hushed up or considered unofficial--are not only politically unwise and morally perverse, but also reflect a grave sickness in the heart of American society.

Do we really want to live in a country where law and order is preserved by vigilantism? And do we really believe that vigilantes, or average homeowners for that matter, can defend their lives and property more effectively if they are armed to the teeth?

Wouldn't it make more sense to beef up our police forces, providing better training, setting tougher standards, offering higher pay, and thereby replacing less desirable officers with guardians of the peace who are qualified, efficient, and judicious? I know: This doesn't address the real issue, which is the macho kick so many people get out of handling a .357 Magnum or pulling the trigger on an Uzi. But it might help discredit the notion that you and I can do it "better than the cops."

Likewise, do we really want to live in a society where the legal rights of the mother take precedence in any and all cases over the very life of her unborn child? And especially when the option to destroy that child's life involves the gruesome procedure called "partial-birth abortion"? To make the point, let's review the procedure one more time (ad nauseam--but sometimes that's the only way to get a point across).

As the live baby is being delivered, the back of the child's neck is exposed. The physician forces scissors into the skull to make an opening, and a vacuum pump sucks out the brain. The skull collapses or is crushed, and the remainder of the corpse is extracted.

The whole procedure provides nothing more than a way to avoid a charge of infanticide in the brutal killing of an unwanted child. Even pro-abortion medical professionals admit that partial-birth abortion is never required for therapeutic purposes. The infant feels excruciating pain.

Not that other methods are better. Proponents like to call this "intact dilation and evacuation" rather than "partial birth abortion," but of course there's a non-intact version. The usual method of late-term abortion is simply to tear the child limb from limb inside the mother's womb.

More kids shot down on playgrounds, in the streets, and in their own homes? Or more babies murdered in the delivery room? It's some choice.

But now that choice has been made, and we the people have to live with it. Some of us, in any case, will die with it. And that's a shame.

"Suffer the little children to come unto me," Jesus said. Suffer indeed.

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