The Gospel Truth

Fighting for our Rats | January 1, 2010

In the epic movie, Gettysburg, based on the late Michael Shaara’s highly acclaimed novel The Killer Angels, a young Union officer asked a group of prisoners why they were fighting the bloody war.  The most vocal of the trio said that “we’re figthin’ for our rats!”  He probably perceived the Northern invasion of their sovereign territory as a violation of the South’s limited definition of human rights.

I would wager that Johnny Reb’s lack of education caused him to miss the irony of his words. No mention was made of the injustice of slavery or the fact that he was standing in Pennsylvania when he said his powerful words.

America’s founding fathers probably would have agreed with the Confederate soldier about his “rats.”  Many would have approved of the South’s reasons for succession.

Jefferson, Madison et al were very clear as to what the rights of the individual meant.  After a great deal of debate they settled on three basic human rights that each person born into this country would enjoy under the new American form of republican democracy.

These rights were the right to life, followed by the right to liberty and finally the right to own property.  Without these rights no human being can be totally a free agent.

Thomas Jefferson later broadened the property right because ownership was not yet widespread.  He thought the pursuit of happiness covered all his bases and implied that a free people would pursue happiness by the acquisition of property in time.

The passing of time has also made the idea of individual “rats,” as Johnny Reb phrased it, an elusive concept that has been further clouded by the last three generations of legal and political obfuscation.

“Rats” for most Americans today conger a meaning of an entitlement without any concomitant responsibility.

The pursuit of happiness now means more like a guarantee of happiness…by the Federal government. It was FDR who gave us the notion of the “guarantor state” that dominates our politics today.

The semantics have further distorted the meaning of “rats.” Most people think they have a “rat” to drive or a “rat” to vote.  These are not rights but privileges that they had to qualify for.  They did not come with their birth certificate as natural rights do.

Take the “right to choose,” which has enveloped a nation in a culture war that makes no promise of ever ending.

In America no right is absolute but the “right to choose.”  A person can forfeit his life by taking or trying to take the life of another.  Millions are incarcerated in American jails and prisons for violation the laws of the land and the country’s tax laws give government an inordinate claim on a man’s property.

In politics, the right to choose is a code word for the privilege of a woman to kill her unwanted unborn child. No human can have an inborn right to kill another human being.  If the rights come from outside, they are not “rats.”   They are privileges.

But according to many American politicians, especially our current president, the right to choose to kill her unborn children must be available to every woman and paid for by those who are opposed to it.

In truth abortion is a privilege given to women by men for the benefit of men.

All rights swim in the pool of morality.  The morality of choice is determined by what is chosen, not by the act of choosing.  A man may freely choose to kill another.  That is an evil choice,

In reality choice is also not an absolute.  Everyone has the right to choose.  But not every choice is a moral one.  Laws and moral reasoning often temper or nullify many of our free choices.

This all brings me to health care.  My Catholic Church has been saying that health care is a “rat” that has to be protected and even paid for by the government. One may argue that access to health care is a derivative of the right to life.  No hospital can legally turn away any patient.  It’s the law!

Therefore why should the taxpayer be legally or morally obliged to pay to see that everyone is medically insured in this country?

Associated with every human right is the corresponding obligation to work and provide for one’s own health care.

Food, lodging, clothing and even education are also derivatives of the right to life.  This does not mean that the dwindling base of American taxpayers has to pay for the food, clothing etc. of those who for whatever reason cannot or do not want to pay for their needs.  Americans are not their “brothers keep” in that sense.

Of course there are many, who are mentally ill or indigent, who have fallen through the cracks of society.  They need to be helped but not because it is their “rat” to the nation’s largesse but out of Christian charity and human kindness.  This is NOT something that Americans owe to the least of their brethren.

Churches used to preach charity as their main means of helping the poor and saving souls.  Now most religions have tethered themselves to the federal government’s limitless pipeline to the pockets of the American taxpayer.

It is as if the Church’s responsibility to the poor has been delegated to the federal government, which exploits the poor and homeless to garner votes and power.

The government’s only function in life is perpetual rule at the expense of our “rats.”  Since this money has been confiscated from the taxpayers, it has not been freely given and allots them no spiritual benefit.

If high octane ObamaCare becomes the law of the land in 2010, the unborn will not be the only endangered group fighting for their “rats.”



1 Comment »

  1. Loved the blog, Bill- and many previous ones as well.

    The best description I have read concerning some of our Constitutional rights is the Bob Woodward/ Scott Armstrong book, “The Brethren- Inside the Supreme Court”, an historical account of the Court from 1968-1975. An important part of the book includes claimed constitutional rights (“right to privacy”, “right of abortion”) that are not addressed explicitly in any part of the Constitution, but are only implied by the Constitution’s protection of liberty under the “substantive due process” doctrine. In my opinion, this is a very difficult concept to apply. Unfortunately, or perhaps as a result, Harry Blackmun wrote a muddled decision in his 1973 Roe v. Wade majority opinion; so muddled that the topic continues- after 35 years- to be an ongoing source of controversy in our society.

    Comment by Tom Huseby — January 2, 2010 @ 2:35 am

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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at







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