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Hadley Arkes, my oldest academic friend, turns 80 this year. We met when he was 40 and I was a 30-year-old at DuPont headquarters in Delaware. Part of my job was to bring in scholars to meet with up-and-coming DuPont executives. The goal: Let the future corporate leaders see how the other half thinks, and learn which could match wits with the academic elite.
Hadley was an Amherst College political philosophy professor—he taught there for half a century—with the makings of a Borscht Belt comedian, probably because he grew up a single child in a Chicago Jewish family with two parents and four grandparents who praised his performances. (Visualize a 2-year-old wandering into the kitchen, saying “Good morning,” and receiving a standing ovation.)
Hadley discombobulated the DuPont execs with his combination of rapid-fire references to Aristotle, Rabbi Akiva, Abraham Lincoln, and absurdities from American popular culture—and that was just the A’s. (Visualize a meld of Socrates and Groucho Marx.)
Ten years later, Hadley at age 50 was the top Jewish pro-lifer, and I was briefly chairing quarterly D.C. meetings that brought together squabbling Christian pro-life leaders. Hadley the outsider made a proposal that the insiders grew to support: In 2002 it became the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which gave some legal protection to a baby who had somehow dodged a fusillade of abortion bullets and emerged breathing and crying. In Hadley’s sometimes-macabre humor, a right to abortion did not guarantee assassins the right to a dead baby.
In Hadley’s sometimes-macabre humor, a right to abortion did not guarantee assassins the right to a dead baby.
For years Hadley said he thought the gospel story was wonderful and beautiful, but he just could not believe it. At age 70 in 2010, though, Hadley converted to Catholicism. When we had dinner recently, he related his four current legislative goals, starting with the establishment of penalties for those who dropped born-alive babies into a discard bucket. Hadley thought Donald Trump should pragmatically push this: “He could drive the Democrats into the sea, even before the oceans start rising.”
Next, Hadley says, should come a Defense of Monogamous Marriage Act (DOMMA): Governments should not have to call “marriage” any union of more than two persons. If you think that’s unneeded, think again: Polygamy is roaring down the track. Nothing in the arguments the Supreme Court accepted in overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will stop it. Nothing in our official friendliness toward Islam will help us ban Muslim multi-marriage. The 19th-century Latter-day Saints dropped polygamy to gain statehood: Maybe they were just prematurely woke.
Third would be a bill to allow discrimination on the basis of some sexual orientations. The Supremes legislated same-sex marriage, and we’re stuck with it (although I wouldn’t be surprised to see its popularity among gays decline once the thrill is gone and we start seeing huge numbers of same-sex divorces). But could a company discriminate against pederasts? You might say it could because pederasty is illegal—but could it discriminate against practitioners of bestiality, which is still legal in four states?
Finally, Hadley would like laws to protect parents from losing custody of minors if they refuse to approve use of “sex change” drugs and surgery. That’s happened occasionally and will happen more often if transexuality continues to be hot in our culture.
I’d recommend another law along these lines: “The Protection of Women’s Sports Act of 2020,” which would keep DNA-men from yanking medals and scholarships out of female hands. Confronted by thoroughly modern gender definitions of “male” and “female,” can we just go by chromosomes and call one kind of human “XY” and the other kind “XX”? That’s how God made us.
Let’s look at one objection straight on: What about the very rare humans in the middle? The website of the Intersex Society of North America says “not XX and not XY” occurs once in 1,666 births. Individuals stuck in the middle are also made in God’s image, but we shouldn’t let the tail wag the mastiff. Can we find a fair solution for the one, rather than messing with the 1,665?
Anyway, it’s a pleasure to see Hadley at age 80 still producing clever proposals. He needs help from several gutsy members of Congress. WORLD has some readership in those parts: Let me know if you’re willing to run with the ball.