Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Did Somebody Say Democracy?

There's a story on the AP wire today about the fight to get a North Dakota anti-cohabitation law off the books. Basically, the law says that it is illegal for a man and a woman to live together unless they are married (presumably this means that two homosexuals can shack up with impunity). This in itself is not that big a deal. It's just one of those "wacky laws" that everyone ignores but no one wants to waste government man hours to change.

What makes it interesting is the following quote, by Senator Tim Mathern:

"I think the majority of people think they ought to be married if they're living together."

Maybe that's true, and maybe it's not. It depends on who the majority of the people are. The majority of the couple's neighbors? The majority of the state? The country? The world? I'm guessing the majority of people don't even know about this (until they read this blog of course). The point, however, is that when I was in school, we were always taught that the beauty of American democracy is that majority rules, but minority rights are protected. Meaning, essentially, if the majority of people think a man and a woman living together ought to be married, then they can get married to someone they want to live with, and leave the minority who don't agree alone.

This concept seems to have been totally lost in the current political climate, which seems to suggest that if the majority of the people think that something is morally wrong, then it is wrong for everyone. That pretty much goes against everything America stands for. What grates on me about social conservatives is that whereas I'd like to believe that for most people, if they are asked whether they want someone they don't know to be happy, and it doesn't affect the interviewee one way or the other, the person asked would say yes, or at least not care. In the case of social conservatives, they actually want people they don't know to be unhappy when it doesn't affect them, and feel like good Christians when they espouse this attitude.

I have news for these people. If you want someone to suffer, especially when their happiness comes at no cost to you, you are not a good Christian. In fact, I would go so far as to say you are not a very good person.

If you want people you don't know to be prohibited from getting married, or to be forced to get married, whether it's because they're gay, or black, or they live together, or they're communists, or whatever, you are not a good person. You are in fact, a bigot.

If you would rather see a clump of microscopic cells that cannot think, feel or sense anything go in the garbage rather than be used for scientific research to save millions of pepole who can think, feel, and sense everything, you are not a good person.

If you think people of a certain race or religion should incur additional police scrutiny for no other reason than that race or religion, you are espousing an attitude that is positively unamerican, according to the first amendment.

Some might argue that this "live and let live" attitude is a slippery slope. They say, for example, cannot we extrapolate from this that people who think slavery is wrong shouldn't own slaves, and leave the slave holders alone? If it's okay to abort an eight month old fetus, why not a two day old baby?

I personally do not think it's okay to abort an eight month old fetus. I think a mother has a right to expel her fetus at any time, but if the fetus is viable, every effort should be made to save it. However the issue is not about personal feelings. It's about respecting both the majority and the minority opinion, and I think it gets down to what is in dispute. Nearly everyone can agree at this time that slavery is wrong, and at the very least it is not in dispute that slaves are human beings whose rights are infringed upon. Even if the first part is in dispute, the second is not, and the rights of human beings to be protected should rule. In the case of abortion, everyone can agree that the mother is a human being whose rights should be protected, whereas the rights of the fetus in this case is what is in dispute. Again, the rights of human beings must be protected.

By the way, the couple who are the subject of this piece are in their 80s and in ill health. Even the hardest hearted among us can't possibly want these people to be unhappy, can they?

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