Polemics...

So perhaps words just get in the way. Maybe we should just do. But then how do we negotiate the doing? Should the rich be able to jet-set off to Monaco while the promise of a meal can be used to lure children to employment as drug dealers? Why not, if there are no words in the paper, or on television, or on the radio, to let them know that just three miles away there are people in need?

But that brings us back to the quandary of meaning. Few ethical dilemmas are pointed: most lurk in the shadows where institutions and history mask culpability and responsibility in the fuzzy language used to defer action on problems that appear intractable. If there is an anti-philosophy, it is politics (as opposed to statesmanship), and in its wake meaning is obscured and constituencies are divided.

In my adolescence, I remember reading stories in the local paper of young ladies, shamed by an unwanted pregnancy, who aborted their children in unsanitary conditions, and died subsequently of blood loss or toxic shock. Faced with the reality of a Congress unable to lead the nation through a debate on procreative rights, the Supreme Court addressed this social trauma in Roe v. Wade. Twenty years later, the positions had been recast as "Pro-Life" for those against legalized abortion, and "Pro-Abortion" for those who believed that families should be planned. The human reality had been lost. They face off in the courts, legislatures and the streets, and sometimes murder one another.

Naturally, moral problems are principally spiritual problems, and solutions will be found in our discussion of spirituality. However, words are the principle medium that we use to focus our understanding of our world. They color our expectations and focus our emotions. It behooves us to learn how to manage them well.