Monday, April 24, 2006

Putting an End to Intolerance

In an editorial published in FOURTH ESTATE, a publication of the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, under the heading of “End the Intolerance,” one cannot help but notice the distorted logic of the post-modern mind.

I was struck, even though not surprised by the list of three topics that should not be tolerated, namely sexism, racism and homophobia. According to the moral code of this “Brave New World” these three items are sacrosanct. No one, not even within a civilization whose Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression, ought to say anything negative about sexism, racism, and homophobia!

The editorial went on mouthing high sounding declarations:

“Society desperately requires intolerance of sexism, racism and homophobia. Communities and individuals need to practice intolerance toward these societal ills, so the future inherits a world where equality is the standard and bigotry is an unacceptable occurrence.”

Now “Society” has become personalized, and it issues edicts that must be obeyed. The trilogy of the unforgivable sins is repeated as a mantra. When it comes to these “sins” both communities and individuals are called upon to “practice intolerance.” Wow! Are we living under a dictatorial regime? What if we do not buy the ideology of the radicals and anarchists? Would they resort to punishing us because we hold to a higher ethic? Are they borrowing the tactics of the morality police of Saudi Arabia, or the Islamic Republic of Iran?

The editor’s homily goes on to admonish us to heed the fundamentals of the “Brave New World.”

“Tolerance is not blindly accepting every person’s opinion as fact. Tolerance is a necessary component of democratic society because it means living harmoniously with one another. No one person’s path to happiness should infringe on anyone else’s path to happiness.”

OK, if “tolerance is not blindly accepting every person’s opinion as fact,” I have made my choice, and respond by saying I don’t accept your pontifications as fact. Your goal is to arrive at happiness, fine. However, I refuse to accept your definition of happiness. What you’ve described as the three sacrosanct commandments surely does not bring us to the bliss of your “Brave New World.”

What I thought was to be a brief homily turned out to be a lengthy sermon:

A primary benefit of democratic living is the pursuit of happiness. How can a person expect to seek happiness when radical right-wingers are telling him or her who to love, what to believe and what to do with his or her body, while not offering any rational explanations in the process?

What a denunciation of these “radical right-wingers!” These words remind me of the vocabulary used by the Communists in their propaganda to silence their opponents. “Radical Right-Wingers!” Just keep on repeating these charges until people begin to believe your falsifications!

The denunciations became concrete, with severe criticisms leveled against Wisconsin’s Assembly banning the gay marriage bill, and “South Dakota’s recent measures to deconstruct Roe v. Wade.”

The secular preacher waxed even more eloquent and began to fire these questions:

How can citizens of a democracy allow their elected representatives to dictate who they should or should not love? How can a state in the land of the free overturn legislation guaranteeing citizens reproductive freedom? Law within a democratic society should never be used to oppress freedom, but to expand it.

The height of arrogance was reached when the “preacher” asked:

What if Dr. King had decided not to speak at a little church in Montgomery, Ala.?

The preacher turned into a magician, by a slight of mouth! By declaring moral equivalence between Martin Luther King’s fight against the residue of slavery in American society, and the sins of “sexism and homophobia,” the editorial committed a grave error. In fact, it might have escaped the editor, that these words constituted an insult to the memory of the Rev. King, as well as to all African-Americans. Their right to freedom is based on the fact that all men and women are created equal by God. No mere humans may deprive them of their basic and inalienable rights.

Our editor’s understanding and definition of what constitutes unforgivable sins, has no relevance in a decent and harmonious society. In fact the prescriptions of the editorial would ultimately lead to moral chaos, and civilization’s return to barbarity.

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