Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Religious Liberty versus Orientation Liberty

Since postmodernism came on the scene as a major force in society, there has been a constant attack on societal norms. There is no truth, only truths. There is no privileged culture, only a multiplicity of cultures, beliefs and norms. There is no universal justice, only interests and the competition of interest groups.

The assault on American values has become a culture war that is fully understood by the barbarians, much like the war on terror is best understood by the terrorists. Most Americans fully appreciate neither war and the results could be devastating. The shocking news from Boston is a prime example.

Catholic Charities of Boston, one of the nation's oldest adoption agencies, was getting out of the adoption business. We have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve. . . . The issue is adoption to same-sex couples. Paula Wisnewski, adoption director for the Home for Little Wanderers, told the Boston Globe: It's a shame because it is certainly going to mean that fewer children from foster care are going to find permanent homes. Marylou Sudders, president of the Mass. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said simply, This is a tragedy for kids.

Maggie Gallagher in the Weekly Standard 05/15/2006 explained how this tragedy happened. Massachusetts law for a decade prohibited orientation discrimination and the Massachusetts Supreme Court order to permit gay marriage completed the square. To operate in Massachusetts, an adoption agency must be licensed by the state. And to get a license, an agency must pledge to obey state laws barring discrimination--including the decade-old ban on orientation discrimination. With the legalization of gay marriage in the state, discrimination against same-sex couples would be outlawed, too.

Thus a mere two years after the introduction of gay marriage in America, a number of latent concerns about the impact of this innovation on religious freedom ceased to be theoretical.

Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine law school clarified the issue: A successful analogy will be drawn in the public mind between irrational, and morally repugnant, racial discrimination and the rational, and at least morally debatable, differentiation of traditional and same-sex marriage. Maggie Gallagher amplifies this point: For if sexual orientation is like race, then people who oppose gay marriage will be treated under law like bigots who opposed interracial marriage. And the law will intervene in powerful ways, as shown by the closing of the Catholic Charities adoption arm.

Major forces are at work trying to change America, using activist courts as powerful levers. And the majority of Americans, some 60-80% who have voted against same-sex-marriage every time they got a chance, seem helpless to do anything about it. Clearly there is a fear of being labeled a bigot. But the moral paralysis seems to be even more firmly rooted.

In a remarkable new book called White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, Shelby Steele, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, explains why America seems to lack moral authority. He calls it white guilt because people stigmatized with moral crimes-- racism in America, racism and imperialism in Europe-- lack moral authority and so act guiltily whether they feel guilt or not. And this stigmatization is power because it affects the terms of legitimacy for Western nations and for their actions in the world.

Steele goes on to show that the stigmatization associated with white guilt explains why America since WWII has fought its wars with a policy of minimalism and restraint that makes a space for the enemy. In Vietnam this Johnsonian policy led to our defeat and in Iraq it has led to another long and rather passionless war against a weak enemy. The war effort in Iraq is focused more on democracy building and social work than on war fighting; it’s what Steele calls war as the Great Society.

And the result of white guilt is global in its dimension. Anti-Americanism, whether in Europe, or on the American left, works by the mechanism of white guilt. It stigmatizes America with all the imperialistic and racist ugliness of the white Western past--- one need only be anti-American in order to be "good," in order to have an automatic moral legitimacy and power in relation to America.

Steele’s analysis is true, of course, and it also explains why the movements for gay rights and immigration rights have employed the rubric of the civil rights era. Americans will do almost anything to escape from the bonds of white guilt. It’s time we got over it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you would bring up the subject of postmodernism. Perhaps you don't realize how much of your philosophy utilizes some of the tenets of postmodernism. Take intelligent design, for instance. It is ironic that the proponents of this idea claim that evolution is merely "theory", and that other "theories" like ID should be entertained. The assumption that there are a "multiplicity of truths" is very postmodern, but the creationists would like to have it both ways.Even Pres Bush said that students should be taught "different points of view" on evolution. It's a little hypocritical when ID proponents cry foul, because in their universe, science is relative. As for Shelby Steele's book, I would say that no one would ever accuse you of "white guilt"

8:26 AM  
Blogger gary daily said...

I'll mainly leave aside discussions of postmodernism, a murky label for an even murkier batch of ideas, ideologies and strained vocabularies. "Postmodernism" is as plastic as Tupperware--acolytes praise it as a method holding the key to the understanding of all that is in and of this world, denouncers see only leaks, flaws and conspiracies.

But as to Anon. in the first posted comment: saying that PoMo holds that "There is no truth, only truths." is only to say what has become democracy's standard way of doing business since that great 19th century liberal (read conservative), John Stuart Mill. Postmodernism shouldn't get credit or blame for insights from _On Liberty_, no matter how its converts tease meanings out of its concepts with opaque language. And palosverdesblog shouldn't take umbrage with ideas stemming from one of conservatism’s founding fathers--show some respect for your elders and tradition–after all, you are a conservative.

Shelby Steele's "remarkable new book called _White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era_, sounds like another one of his contrarian pot boilers. Reputations are funny things, they are awarded to the leaders of just causes as well as to the deserters.

Now “white guilt” is one of those elastic realities where one size definitely does not fit all. “Whiteness” has as many shades as the First People of the northern Arctic have names describing snow. “Guilt” is also a many faceted wonder to behold. The rings of Dante’s inferno, nicely calibrated circles of punishment is a nice starting place for thinking about the meanings of this term. So when Steele drags out “white guilt” as an explanation for everything wrong about how America has fought a gaggle of wars since the Greatest Generation tromped through Europe and flew the skies, sailed the seas, and bled on the sands of the Asian Pacific, he is most assuredly stretching the rubber in his one-idea thesis tighter than an out of tune harp string.

I haven’t read Steele’s book, but I have read his “White Guilt and the Western Past Why is America so delicate with the enemy?” piece in the Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2006. His grasp of history is a lowly pawn to the power of his queenly “White Guilt” concept. It appears from his telling of the tale that the stalemate in Korea (unmentioned in his piece) was due to Ike’s White Guilt, the Viet-Nam disaster was extended to the point of tragedy by the “White Guilt” twins, Nixon and Kissinger, and, of course, the Bushies, father and son, did not and did pursue Saddam Hussein because of, you guessed it, “White Guilt.”

I’m going to stop piling on this guy’s thin and misleading arguments now. But if he gets wind of what I’m saying about his analysis, out will come the response, “See, White Guilt.”

3:05 PM  
Blogger Free Agency Rules said...

Nice post!

What bugs me is the idea that there are "group" rights that overide "individual" rights.

If your a member of a "group", then individuals cannot "insult" you in anyway.

Discrimination is part of our rights as individuals. A teacher gives me an "A" and someone else a "B." She discriminates. Same if she gave me the "B" and someone else the "A."

We have freedom of association. We can choose to gather as "Birds of a feather." Or should I say we used to be able to. Now we must allow even people we don't agree with into our midst, lest we be described as being "bigots" full of discrimination.

Next, there will be a group of people who like to sleep with animals in the sickest form you can think of, and we will be labeled if we speak against it, because we are "discriminating."

People with a closed mind who's worldview is assumed to be right in their mind will oppose what I just said as being hogwash, but then, having an open mind is part of allowing individualism to trump group rights and we all know which groups want to destroy individualism.


6:11 PM  
Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


I, as a hetrosexual male, cannot marry another male. Neither can a homosexual male marry another male. So where is the loss of individual rights.

From above, how can anyone argue that any male regardless of his sexual desires is discriminated against?

If you cannot think logically, I guess you can come up with anything.

"Those who stand for nothing, will fall for anything!"


6:19 PM  
Blogger Phil Thibedeaux said...

"Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine law school clarified the issue: A successful analogy will be drawn in the public mind between irrational, and morally repugnant, racial discrimination and the rational, and at least morally debatable, differentiation of traditional and same-sex marriage." ....why does Kmiec feel the need to hate on the racists? Plenty of proponents of racial discrimination can justify their views on moral grounds. Why do marriage equality opponents immediately discount racists as bigots?

5:14 AM  

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