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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, May 19, 2014

MIRROR TAKE

All other ground is sinking sand...
-Edward Mote, "My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less"

A judge is set to give a ruling in Oregon today on homosexual "marriage."  Voters overwhelmingly voted to define marriage in the Oregon constitution as being between one man and one woman, and the case went to the courts to overthrow this popular vote.  The judge deciding is a homosexual leftist, so you can guess how its going to turn out.  Some would say this is a conflict of interest, given the judge's status and desire to marry their "partner," but the judge disagrees and in the end it won't matter.
The controversy over this issue (I won't call it a debate, because to the extent there actually is any attempt at engaging people on the topic it tends to degrade into a shouting match, without any intellectual give and take) is odd to behold.  Consider this little bit from a recent news show.
William Rhoden suggested that perhaps the media and the NFL should show a little respect to people who disagree with a homosexual man's lifestyle, and the news personality on the show answered this way:
Tolerance, no, is not – it should not be a two-way street. It’s a one-way street.

You cannot say to someone that who you are is wrong, an abomination, is horrible, get a room, and all of those other things that people said about Michael Sam, and not be forced — not forced, but not be made to understand that what you’re saying and what you’re doing is wrong.
Now, this is on MSNBC and the person making this statement is one of their talking heads, so no surprise, right?  Except the sole virtue of MSNBC (besides giving conservative commentators red meat to post on) is that they tend to be the unabashed voice of the hard left; they say what the hard left is thinking, but tends to keep to themselves.  "Forced to understand" probably was a slip; what he'd like to see happen but knows shouldn't say.
Now, before you get all red meaty on me, consider a moment.  Why would he say something like this?  Why would he say that you cannot tolerate some people, that they must instead always tolerate you, turning tolerance into not a virtue but a law?
Well first off, this person is a fool and has no real comprehension of the term "tolerance" to begin with, other than it just being a bludgeon.  But besides that, he's doing what everyone does when faced with a basic moral quandary.  There are lines beyond which everyone won't normally go, the place they consider too far and too awful.  I'm not talking about behavior here, but beliefs, ideals, and thoughts.
You see, tolerance of any kind always has its limits: you cannot tolerate some acts or beliefs because they are considered evil.  Typically people will tolerate someone thinking all women are prey for their sexual appetites, but not someone thinking they should be dragged off and raped.  Most will tolerate someone thinking all of life is about money and acquisition, but not someone thinking theft and fraud are perfectly fine behavior.
Its a difference between "well that's a bad way to look at things" and "you need to change your mind on that topic."  Where this line is drawn is different for each person..  For some, the lines are pretty blurry; people who claim Libertarianism tend to be pretty flexible.  For others, those lines are very clearly drawn: if you disagree with abortion, you're a monster, if you agree with giving amnesty to illegal immigrants, you are horrible, etc.
Further, how you response to those lines being crossed varies as well.  Most people will stop at "That's awful and I think you should change" but often keep it to themselves and that's as far as it gets: a wish that someone would not be that way.
Increasingly, more people seem to be taking it a bit further.  If you disagree with me on x topic, you must be removed from office, lose you job, be boycotted, have your reputation destroyed.  Merely donating almost ten years ago to a cause that you disagree with is enough to have you run out on a rail.  I've had leftists literally admit that they care nothing about tolerance any more.  My way or the highway, they aren't even keeping up the pretense any longer.
But in the end, the basic principle is always the same: I will only put up with so much.  And for this MSNBC personality, the line is drawn at rejecting homosexual behavior.  Reject that and you cannot be tolerated any longer.
Here's the thing that people need to consider, though.  If you consider it horrible and unloving, an unthinkable violation of civil rights to oppose public homosexual behavior, you do so based on a set of morals which you adhere to and believe others ought to as well.
And the people who consider homosexual behavior sinful and ghastly do so as well: they are basing their reaction to a set of morals which they adhere to and believe others ought to as well.
Both sides on this issue have chosen or been led to hold a set of principles which they believe should shape life, thought, and activity.  Both sides are making their decision upon a set of moral principles.
Which is right?  Which is wrong?  How do we make that call?
In other words, why should we listen to one side and not the other?  What basis, what system do we use to decide which is correct?
And how can one side say that the other is absolutely wrong and horrible, how can you decide one so completely that you attack and try to destroy the other?  You believe you are right and they are wrong.  They believe the same thing.  Why should one side dominate the debate, culture, and legal system instead of the other?  How do you decide who wins in a fight like that?
For the modern person on the left, the system is simply "shut up!" far too often.  There's not even an attempt to defend what they are saying or persuade.  There's no argument, no set of statements intended to sway the listener, simply a series of attacks and insults meant to shut them up.
Because they believe their opponents are so wicked and awful that they must be silenced, that they are so bad that nobody should even listen to what they have to say.  That they're like some kind of plague that should be wiped out, not given any contact with, lest something awful happen.
And further, I doubt any of them have the first tool to even attempt to think through the whys and wherefores.  This is just how it is, and anyone who disagrees is a monster.  Everyone thinks this way, its crazy/evil to be different.  Everyone I know thinks like this, its obvious, who could possibly disagree but a horrible person?
And that happens on both sides: people so blindly insulated from the world, so separated from dissenting viewpoints that they are shocked and confused, lashing out when confronted with something they are unfamiliar with.  Yet there seems to be a section of society on the left today which has been exposed to different viewpoints but still holds to this kind of position.
See, the idea typically goes like this: we should be nice to people.  Making people upset or unhappy is bad.  If what they want to do doesn't directly, financially, and tangibly hurt me in some specific easily identifiable way, then they should be allowed to do whatever they wish.  Anyone who disagrees with this is unloving and awful, because there can be no possible good reason to question this set of principles.
Now, I'd argue that in almost every case, this is based not on some high set of altruistic principles but upon a basic fallen human one:
I want to be able to do anything I want without someone making me feel bad or telling me "no," but I'll shape it in terms of other people so it seems generous and good.
But either way, its the same concept: I hold a great position of kindness and love and if you vary from that, you're clearly horrible.
Yet this idea isn't based on anything except the latest trends in society.  For example, not that long ago, the idea of homosexual "marriage" was held to be oppressive and "heteronormative;" a laughable if not cruel concept that sought to dominate and control homosexuals based on a template straight people created for themselves.  That was the primary response to the idea in academia and the think tanks of the left.
Now suddenly its a violation of human rights to oppose the idea.  In just a few short years, it went from being evil to support homosexual "marriage" to being evil to oppose it.  Why?  Because the prevailing winds of society shifted.
Not that long ago, people understood that sucking burning materials into your lungs is a bad idea, and being stoned was damaging to your productivity and ability to function in society.  Now its a bad idea to oppose legalization of pot.
Not that long ago, Guantanamo Bay, eavesdropping on terrorist phone calls, "rendition" of terrorist suspects to other places for interrogation, and drone strikes were considered the very worst kind of evil imaginable demonstrative of a dangerously tyrannical warmongering, bloodthirsty government that must be overthrown at all costs.  Now its at worst a minor concern, something you wish would change but you're more busy boycotting a chicken franchise.
The changes here were not based on any overarching absolute system of principles and beliefs, but upon the latest cultural trends and politically useful positions.  What was once useful to a group has changed and now the opposite is useful.
And that's the main concern I have with this debate.  You have two sides here, each holding their moral position strongly, and between them the difference finally in the end breaks down to this:
  • Side A: I hold this position because the latest trends and leftist commissars say so, and will change, even reverse my position tomorrow if they change.  You must adhere to my position because I have the power to make it so.
  • Side B: I hold my position based on absolute, objective, outside laws of moral behavior, an enduring ethical system which has been true and reliable for thousands of years.  You must adhere to my position because God has the power to make it so.
And between those two, which seems to be the most stable, reliable, and least self interested?  Which seems to be the more constructive and effective way to build a society around?  Which seems like a better foundation, between these two choices, for a culture to be built upon?
And even if you reject these characterizations I must ask again: why pick one over the other, what is your basis for preferring Side A or Side B of this argument?  Because mine is based on thousands of years of human history and the stability, solidity, and reliability of a position, not how it makes me feel or makes me appear to peers.
In the end, we'll all have to decide.  Its just telling to me that increasingly Side A is taking the position that you must decide their way or pay a price.  And that seems... contrary to their stated ideals of love, tolerance, and kindness.

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