I've been thinking a bit about how odd it is to find that my nuanced thoughts on Abortion rights are, by and large, embedded into French law and close to the European mainstream. As disappoited I was that Sarkozy won the election, I'm still generally of the opinion that French law and the mainstream French public have deeply similar value foundations to me (or, to the extent that a liberal elite pushes their society in a particular way, I might align with them). Thinking about the matter but having grown up in (depressingly simplistic on public philosophy/politics) America, I'm a bit surprised that such a nuanced stance can meet public approval, but then perhaps French politics is more like democracy managed by a philosophical elite. Given that they have schools where people learn to be effective public servants, and that most of their politicians come from that (as opposed to being lawyers, doctors, or businessmen), maybe that would make that kind of thing possible. I'd be interested to learn about the curriculum in those schools and how they manage to avoid it becoming a partisian mess -- a brief list of who's been through the system makes it clear that this is no small matter. Anyone who knows of any books on the topic, please provide pointers. Regrettably, my limited ability to read French means that I'm restricted to English or possibly German/Spanish sources, not great for a very French topic. (mostly unrelated, I was disappointed when I made it to France the most recent time and found that Minitel wasn't still around - I was hoping to be able to play on the (predating-the-public--internet) system for a bit).
Dipping back to abortion, it's interesting to see the Pope swinging his weight around and speaking of excommunication - while one of my best friends describes Giuliani as a "crypto-fascist", I never got the chance to ask him what that means and evaluate the argument. On the matter of gay rights and abortion, Giuliani stands apart from all the other Republican candidates in his support for their legality. I don't like his positions on foreign policy much, but his domestic policy seems to be the best we're likely to see from the Republican party and so I hope he wins the primaries. Back to the pope, he's made statements on a recent tour (in alignment with previous statements he's made) that supporting abortion rights is immoral and effectively severs people advocating them from the church (in a concept known as self-excommunication). This has been said both in light of Giuliani and in his recent trip to Brasil (also Mexico). This has led to interesting shifts in positions, both causing an increased conversion rate to other churches that have different positions on the matter and causing those who stay to move closer to church doctrine. I am impressed and pleased by both of these things - while I don't approve of religion per se, I strongly approve of people deciding that philosophy (which may be part of a religion) means something and being willing to make sacrifices for it. I admire that the Pope is taking steps to keep the community he (nominally) leads is not just storage for traditions and feel-good stuff devoid of content, and I admire that when other people disagree with it, they take the matter seriously enough to consider breaking with the group to find something they do agree with.