There is a scene in “Blood Meridian,” the famous novel by Cormac McCarthy, in which Judge Holden and his band of American Indian bounty hunters seemingly break away from sanity to enter into an even more violent and debased existence of death and destruction on the American frontier.

“They rode out on the north road as would parties bound for El Paso,” McCarthy writes, “but before they were even quite out of sight of the city they had turned their tragic mounts to the west and they rode infatuate and half fond toward the red demise of that day, toward the evening lands and the distant pandemonium of the sun.”

According to literary critic Harold Bloom, this marks a pivotal moment in the book, one where the characters cross a psychological boundary into the realm of unreason.

“Glanton, the Judge, the Kid, and their fellows,” Bloom writes in the introduction to the Modern Library version of the book, “are not described as “tragic”—their long-suffering horses are— and they are “infatuate” and half-mad (“fond”) because they have broken away from any semblance of order.”

This scene, as well as Bloom’s remarks on it, was on my mind as I read about Bill Maher’s recent comments on abortion.

Speaking on his show “Real Time” about the right’s view of abortion, Maher remarked:

They think it’s murder. And it kind of is. I’m just ok with that. I am. There’s eight billion people in the world. I’m sorry, we won’t miss you.

According to Maher, this is the “pro-choice position.”

My mind immediately went back to how, only a couple decades ago, the pro-choice view, as summed up by former President Bill Clinton, was “safe, legal, and rare.” Obviously, things have changed.

More specifically, this shift seems to suggest a movement within a paradigm of morality, something I believe exists in our culture, but which is almost never spoken of. This is mainly because we don’t like speaking of morality in our culture, at least not the kind implied when talking about the value of human life vis-à-vis abortion. But this doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. After all, moderns actually like talking about morality, when it’s an issue of their concern, such as immigration or the environment.

So, having established, not only morality, but also a paradigm in which moral acts exist, what does the recent movement between the earlier Clinton position and the more recent position of Bill Maher mean?

It seems undeniable that, regarding human life, we’re moving from a point of greater sensitivity, to one characterized by relative coarseness and rigidity. Expressed in a more literary way, like Judge Holden’s band of scalp-hunters in “Blood Meridian,” at least a component of our citizenry has crossed into a more brazen realm, one where murder is accepted just because, as Maher said, a person is “ok” with it.

This is a troubling phenomenon when viewed from the standpoint of the moral paradigm mentioned above. For, although the slippery slope argument is regarded as a fallacy by logicians on the grounds that, just because there was a movement in a certain direction in the past, this doesn’t prove that it must continue in the future. At the very least the change of position does prove that moral movement has occurred.

When this is accepted, we are left with the question: What if there is a continued slide in this direction? For, although the slippery-slope fallacy can remind us that the past isn’t a perfect predictor of the future, it as yet can’t guarantee that such a thing is certain not to happen.

This, in and of itself, is troubling, mainly because, despite the slippery slope fallacy, we base our plans for the future on the reliability of the past all the time. Whenever we look at a weather report, we are conceding that past predictions made, while not perfect, have been more reliable than not, just as when we set our alarms at night, we go to sleep knowing that, all things equal, the alarm is much more likely to wake us up the next morning than not.

These kinds of inductive arguments can be used regarding the moral paradigm mentioned above. If a look into the past shows that we have moved from a position characterized by a softer, more sensitive view of the value of human life, then, from the standpoint of induction, there is at least some probability that, unless the factors that went into these changes are themselves somehow changed, we will continue to grow more rigid, more selfish, and less respectful of humanity, a troubling phenomenon, as already mentioned.

At the very least, it was this way for the characters in “Blood Meridian.” They went from brazen bounty hunters to outright sadistic animals, a journey recorded in the narrative. They began movement in a certain wrong direction on a moral paradigm, a direction toward which they continued with tragic consequences. It’s a lesson to which we’d do well to adhere in our own time.

Along with his father, Allen Keller runs a lumber business in Stevenson, Alabama. He has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Florida State University and an MBA from University of Virginia. He can be reached for comment at

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News.

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