Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Two Faces of Tolerance"

Ed Feser:

What is proclaimed and practiced as tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.
Herbert Marcuse
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
H. L. Mencken

Given current events in Indiana, I suppose it is time once again to recall a post first run on the old Right Reason blog in March of 2007, and reprinted on this blog in December of 2009.  Here are the relevant passages, followed by some commentary:

To the charge that liberals are (or, given their principles, should be) in favor of X [where X = legalizing abortion, liberalizing obscenity laws, banning smoking on private property, legalizing “same-sex marriage,” outlawing the public advocacy of traditional sexual morality, etc. etc.], the standard liberal response goes through about five stages (with, it seems, roughly 5-10 years passing between each stage, though sometimes the transition is much quicker than that).  Here they are:

Stage 1: “Oh please. Only a far-right-wing nutjob would make such a paranoid and ridiculous accusation - I suppose next you’ll accuse us of wanting to poison your precious bodily fluids!”

Stage 2: “Well, I wouldn’t go as far as X. All the same, it’s good to be open-minded about these things. I mean, people used to think ending slavery was a crazy idea too…”

Stage 3: “Hey, the Europeans have had X for years and the sky hasn’t fallen. But no, I admit that this backward country probably isn’t ready for X yet.”

Stage 4: “Of course I’m in favor of X - it’s in the Constitution! Only a far-right-wing nutjob could possibly oppose it.”

Stage 5: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law…”

Fortunately, though, we can rely on conservatives to hold the line, and indeed to turn back liberal advances. Right?

Well, no, of course not. (You can stop rolling your eyes, I was being facetious.) For conservatives - or maybe I should say “conservatives” (since there’s very little that they ever actually manage to conserve, unless money is somehow involved) - seem to go through five stages of their own. Here they are:

Stage 1: “Mark my words: if the extreme left had its way, they’d foist X upon us! These nutjobs must be opposed at all costs.”

Stage 2: “Omigosh, now even thoughtful, mainstream liberals favor X! Fortunately, it’s political suicide.”

Stage 3: “X now exists in 45 out of 50 states. Fellow conservatives, we need to learn how to adjust to this grim new reality.”

Stage 4: “X isn’t so bad, really, when you think about it. And you know, sometimes change is good. Consider slavery…”

Stage 5: “Hey, I was always in favor of X! You must have me confused with a [paleocon, theocon, Bible thumper, etc.]. But everyone knows that mainstream conservatism has nothing to do with those nutjobs…”

End quote.  Now, where X = curtailing the free exercise of religion, at the time I first wrote those words I estimated that liberals were at about stage 2.  At this point it seems that many of them are at about stage 4, and a disturbing number of hotheads among them seem willing to push for stage 5 vigilantism.  Conservatives, meanwhile, seem mostly to be at about stage 3 of their own progression, and I suspect that not a few are at least flirting with Stage 4.

And so here is where we find ourselves in the land of the free and the home of the brave in April of 2015:

Prominent conservative politicians and churchmen have all essentially caved in on the substance of the dispute over “same-sex marriage.”  None of them will publicly express the slightest moral disapproval of homosexual behavior, and few even bother anymore with social scientific arguments supporting the benefits of children being raised by both a mother and a father.  Indeed, all of them are eager to express their deep respect for their fellow citizens who happen to be homosexual, vigorously to condemn “homophobia” and discrimination, etc.  Some of them are even happy to affirm “same-sex marriage.”  All they ask is that religious believers who on moral grounds disapprove of “same-sex marriage” not be forced to cooperate formally or materially with it.  The circumstances where this might occur are, of course, very rare.  No one is proposing that business owners might refuse to serve a customer simply because he or she happens to be homosexual.  What is in view are merely cases where a business owner who objects to “same-sex marriage” would be forced to participate in it, say by providing a wedding cake or wedding invitations.  Nor would his refusal to participate inconvenience anyone, since there are plenty of business owners who have no qualms about “same-sex marriage.”

In short, what conservatives are proposing is not only extremely modest, but is being defended in the name of their opponents’ own principles, the most liberal of principles, viz. the Jeffersonian principle that it is tyrannical to force someone to act against his conscience, and the Rawlsian principle that a pluralistic society should strive as far as possible to respect and keep a just peace between citizens committed to radically different moral, philosophical and religious views. 

And for taking this paradigmatically liberal position, they are widely and shrilly denounced by liberals as… “bigots,” “haters,” “intolerant,” comparable to the Ku Klux Klan and the upholders of Jim Crow.

Meanwhile, some liberal business owners fire employees who take this conservative position, while others refuse to do business in a state that adopts it.  Other liberals routinely refuse even to discuss the merits of the conservative position but merely hurl insults and try to shout down and intimidate anyone who dares to disagree with them.  And when a particular business owner affirms that customers who happen to be homosexual are welcome in her restaurant, but also says that she would not agree to cater a hypothetical “same-sex wedding,” she finds herself suddenly subjected to a nationwide Two Minutes Hate, with an online mob actively seeking to destroy her livelihood and reputation -- some of them even proposing to burn down the restaurant or kill its owners.  Even some mainstream liberals, while not condoning such violence, suggest that the restaurant owner had invited this abuse.

And liberals have winked at or even embraced the ethos and tactics of the lynch mob in the name of… tolerance, freedom, and pluralism, of love and compassion and opposition to bigotry.

How have we descended into such Orwellian insanity? 

It’s all about sexual equality

Read the rest.

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