I wrote this shortly after the 2004 US Presidential election took place.
So there's this thing called morality.
This dictionary here defines it as "the quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct." Right. Good.
But what are "right" and "good" anyway? Sure, the dictionary has definitions for those, too, but for the most part, they go in circles. People all over the world have different opinions on what actions are "right," what choices are "good." They argue over these opinions. They kill each other, even. But our differences in these opinions are part of what makes us all unique.
One of the things that offends me the most is when a person or group of people tries to force its beliefs and opinions on others. We are not living in the days of the Crusades any more--this is the 21st century. People in civilized nations these days have all of the tools they need to form their own opinions. Why should these people be forced to conform to the personal beliefs of others? Who has the right to tell somebody what they’re supposed to believe, or what their opinion of “right” and “wrong” should be?
Now I’m not saying that this applies to all things-obviously, there are many things on which most people agree are “right” and “wrong.” No matter what religion you claim to have, what country you come from, what kind of philosophy you subscribe to... you probably wouldn’t consider spontaneously walking outside and shooting your neighbor “right.” You probably wouldn’t consider stealing money from a beggar “okay.” And you probably wouldn’t just kidnap anybody you choose at a random time on a random day. So there are some common standards for “right” and “good.” The above circumstances are all cases where one person directly hurts another in some way, and I think most of us can agree that directly hurting someone--or a group of people--is generally “wrong” or “immoral.”
At the same time, however, folks around the country and around the world are divided on other issues. Yeah, you know the ones. Homosexuality. Gay marriage. Abortion. I have never seen anything split our so-called United States of America squarely down the middle like these.
Witness the 2004 Presidential election. Like it or not, George W. Bush was re-elected for a second term. Voting was fairly close in quite a number of states, and although Bush won the popular vote, it was only by a measly 3% margin. Clearly, this country was divided like a black-and-white cookie.
When asked about how they selected a candidate, quite a number of voters--over 20%, I hear--claimed that morality was the most important factor. And about 80% of those people said they’d voted for Bush.
Now I realize that several of those people probably felt that they couldn’t trust Democratic candidate John Kerry, for whatever reason. But it’s clear that the majority of those people voted for Bush because of his views on homosexuality, gay marriage and abortion. And it’s clear that those people voted the way they did because they felt his views on these controversial topics were “right” and “moral.”
On the whole, the population of the USA is about as split on these topics as they were in the election results. Many people ferociously defend their personal opinions on homosexuality, gay marriage and abortion, claiming that their view is “right” and that the opposing view is “wrong.” They scream and shout, picket and speak publicly, write letters and make phone calls, all in support of their strong opinions. In all of this, they fail to understand that their views are, in fact, opinions.
The “pro-choice” folks can scream and shout all they want at the “pro-life” crowd, but the “pro-lifers” have a right to believe that abortion is wrong. Those in support of gay marriage can whine and cry all they like, but those against it can believe whatever they choose. The people that believe that homosexuality is “wrong” are 100% entitled to their opinion, no matter how many people feel that opinion is incorrect.
But in reverse, the people on the other sides of these coins are entitled to their opinions too. It is every American’s right to believe in whatever they choose, to form their own opinions of “right” and “wrong,” to believe in whatever version of “morality” they have decided on. We don’t all share the same religion, do we? Americans are entitled to that choice, too. And so we are unique in our sets of beliefs and opinions.
Do people feel that it is “right,” that it is “good” or “moral” to tell other people what they should believe? Is it fair to step on other people’s opinions, to tell these people that they are unconditionally wrong? Apparently, some people believe in this. Granted--like all people--they have a right to their opinions and beliefs. But is it truly “moral” to force others to accept your personal beliefs?
George W. Bush supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Such an amendment would effectively ban gay marriage in this country. What reason could someone have for wanting to do this? What reason could they have for thinking that this idea is so extreme, so “wrong” or “immoral” that a Constitutional ban is required?
Who is directly affected by the act of gay marriage? Does this impact someone’s life? Are they ruined in some way, or physically hurt? How can this be compared to other laws prohibiting such things as murder, rape, purgery, or theft, bona fide crimes that directly affect their victims?
Some extreme right-wing conservative groups will argue that gay marriage threatens American families, and with it, society. They feel that a small minority of families with two male or two female parents will set a precedent that will spread to every family in America and break down the system of values. Of course, they have no evidence that this could actually happen; it is merely speculation.
So where do they get these ideas from? Where does the opinion that gay marriage is undeniably “wrong” and “immoral” come from? For the most part, the answer is religion. Catholicism says that homosexuality is fundamentally wrong and will land you in Hell. Most branches of Christianity agree with this philosophy. But that is THEIR religion, THEIR opinion. I am not a Catholic, and I am not a Christian. I do not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God. That is MY religion and MY opinion, and I was born with the right to choose my religion and my opinions. My government does not have the right to form and enforce laws based on religious beliefs, because my nation’s population has the right to believe whatever it chooses.
Because of this, there used to be something called “separation of Church and state.” I know it seems like an artifact from years past, but it’s still technically supposed to be part of our law. George W. Bush, however, is doing the best he can to blur the line between the two. Every time I hear the phrase “faith-based initiative,” I shudder. Bush seems to be doing everything possible to integrate as much religion into government as he can. And with a Republican majority in all of Congress, there isn’t a lot that can be done to stop him.
The fact that Bush such has a desire to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage reveals an undeniable fact: he and his supporters want to push their personal beliefs on the folks who disagree. This is not about protecting American citizens and their rights, which is why most laws are created; it’s about telling them what’s right and what’s wrong, according to someone’s personal opinion. Well, if you ask me, this action is quite wrong and just flat-out immoral. I have a hard time believing that such an amendment would hold up in court, since it very obviously would be based on personal religious beliefs.
What truly scares me is that there are so many deluded, closed-minded, Bible-quoting zombies in this country that unconditionally believe an amendment banning gay marriage is important, even necessary. You know the kind. They don’t see any beliefs but their own. They regularly question scientific facts proven with real, tangible evidence. They insist that they are right and everyone else is wrong, no matter what, because God tells them so. And they don’t see their personal beliefs as what they truly are. They see them as the absolute truth, and want to convince as many as possible to believe in their “truth.” And they say some very, very scary things.
For example, Laura Bush warned voters weeks before the election that stem cell research provided false hope for many disease sufferers, and that the proponents of so-called “unethical” stem cell research are wrong to give people these false hopes. There is clear evidence that stem cell research can lead to new discoveries about the human body and how it works…and possibly, how to treat diseases! And this research is much, much more effective when performed with stem cells from human embryos. Have we been able to cure everything yet? No. Is there a guarantee that this will happen? No. But should we stop trying? That’s like telling somebody to give up boxing because someday, they might lose one match. This is just another immoral example of how the Bush family brings their personal beliefs into government affairs. What is more important: personal religious beliefs, or unlocking secrets that could lead to cures for major diseases? Don’t think too hard.
The Bushes and their zombies complain that the country is too divided, and that their opponents can’t agree on anything. But this is due in large part to their blind integration of politics and personal beliefs. 80% of the people who selected the economy as the most important issue in this election voted for John Kerry. But the number-one issue, according to exit polls, was morality. Does that say something? To think that this election was decided by the votes of religious zombies when so many important domestic and foreign policy issues abound frightens me. But that could very well be what happened.
Those who feel they stand for morality should take a step back and evaluate what they believe “morality” to be, and whether they believe that pushing beliefs on others is an example of “morality.” Maybe these people aren’t as “good” or “right” as they claim to be. Maybe we’re in for a dark, dreary four years. God bless America!