In many ways, I love this post. I love it because it is passionate and serious, and from the heart, and because I am certain that it reflects what many Americans, especially those of a certain age, feel with frustration and a little fear and anger. I also agree with much of what it concerns, the lack of respect for accumulated wisdom in many aspects of the culture, and the rush to discard old standards not because they have failed us, but just because they are old. The comment comes from a regular commentator, Eeyoure (not his real name, you’ll be relieved to learn, and yes, we both know how to spell the A.A. Milne character he honors) who is educated, decent, smart and articulate.
But regarding his lament’s applicability to the controversy at issue, gay marriage, he is absolutely, utterly, tragically wrong. The conventional wisdom is that we should just try to ignore Americans who feel similarly to Eeyoure, because demographics are relentlessly removing them from the scene. As the politically active public becomes younger, the support for equal rights for gays, trangendered and bi-sexual citizens will grow into an overwhelming majority. I think that’s a lazy and obnoxious way to win an argument, even when you are right. Smart but misguided people, like Eeyoure in this matter, should be able to evolve, learn, and realize when what they once thought was right, isn’t. Realizing that one aspect of entrenched belief was, upon knowledge and reflection, wrong does not mean the whole foundation of civilized society has to crumble—this is the classic, irrational, self-defeating fallacy of conservatism. Change in the presence of enlightenment and experience is the essence of ethics, which constantly evolves. We should be able to explain what is wrong with this post so that even the poster agrees.
Here is Eeyoure’s Comment of the Day, on the post (and comment thread t0) Ethics Hero: David Blankenhorn, Former Same-Sex Marriage Opponent:
“Blankenhorn’s “conversion” is just more evidence that we are living in an era in which emotion rules; therefore rules must be made with the aim of satisfying emotions.
“In the U.S., our faith is now predominantly in our feelings, and almost to the exclusion of faith in anything else, for better or worse. The fundamentals of this religion of feeling might be represented and reflected thoroughly enough in the following individualized ostensible plea for kindness, mercy and justice:
PLEASE!! Everybody, just love me. Everybody, just let me love and be loved. Let me love the object that I feel love for, in all the ways that I feel are loving toward that object. And please, everybody, I beg of you, please, love yourselves. Love yourselves as much as I love myself, if you can. Help me with your love to love myself increasingly, and thereby love yourselves increasingly. And, love as closely as you can, more and more as well as you can, the object of my love at least as much as you love yourselves.
“All that’s missing from our American pseudo-theocracy is a Ministry of Love. But, that is coming together too, though cobbled now from the ruins of the old, rejected faiths.(I puzzle and humor myself with the rest of my own comment. I can read it, and say in all honesty, simultaneously, “I am being serious,” and “I am being tongue-in-cheek.” I’m going to blame that on a Star Trek Effect this time – some inspiration from Mr. Spock – from a scene in the newest movie where he says something about expressing multiple attitudes at the same time…must see the movie again, and laugh again.)
“Today’s is an era of feeling over reason – but, the “reasoning” goes, our reasoning of today is so in-tune with our feelings, it is thus none other than superior reasoning by superior people with superior ideas. Previously existent people were inferior – shackled by inferior ideas, out of touch with their feelings. Equality was viewed through dirty lenses that failed to see many inequalities. The old, inferior lenses of the inferior people were dirtied by millennia of repressed and suppressed feelings – and in many cases, further dirtied by millennia of unsuppressed and unrepressed feelings.
“Inferior people, their inferior feelings, their inferior old lenses, and the resultant inferior outcomes (especially, the injustices that many of today’s superior people continue to suffer) survive today. This is a cause of great frustration of today’s superior people.
“But, the feelings of the superior people of today are cleansingly corrective. Superior people inevitably produce and distribute superior lenses and create superior results.
“Check yourself here, to verify whether or not you are one of today’s superior people; if you agree with what follows, you are superior: What you feel, you have a right to feel. You even have the right to feel that what you feel is right, no matter what anyone else feels about what you feel. Moreover: If you are truly in touch with your feelings, then you also feel – but also, know – that you deserve the right to do as you feel is right. And, you feel (and know) that no one else has the right to keep you from doing as you feel is right, no matter what or how anyone else feels. This is the “If it feels good, do it” approach to life – with the all-important “It’s my right to do it” justification.
“As history clearly shows, however, many people, who felt good about what they did, have had their doings, and their rights, and even their feelings disrespected, hindered and punished by repressed, repressive, inferior people using inferior, dirty lenses. Relationships among the inferior people of old were inferior, not just because the people of old were inferior, but also because they used inferior lenses. Relationships existed, but feelings were easily overlooked, which led to much inequality between persons in relationships. The much inequality – the many inequalities – naturally led to all manner of injustice and oppression.
“In contrast, the superior people of today have relationships that are superior to the relationships that the inferior people of old had. Today’s relationships are superior, not only because many people of today are superior, but also because today’s superior people use new, superior lenses which help guarantee that today’s relationships are not so marred by inequality. The inferior people of old, with their old, inferior lenses, obviously failed to feel sufficiently about what too many fellow people long felt was right, and equal. But today’s superior people, using the new, superior lenses, are feeling what is right and equal, unlike the inferior people who were ever incapable of feeling. New rights and new equalities are thus inevitable; we stand at the threshold of rights and equalities, the likes of which the world has never seen (or felt, or done).
“The new lenses – which of course will require new laws and new enforcement to compel everyone to wear them (or at least, to act as if they are being worn) – will make it impossible to overlook a bunch of previously overlooked inequalities. So, call present times a Cognitive Dissonance Cleansing. Or maybe, a Renaissance of Equality. Or maybe, a Revolution of Rights. Doesn’t it all feel so exciting? Ready to claim and act out your rights? Don’t fail to feel! Don’t miss your equality! DO IT! It’s your right.
“So much of what was heretofore deemed and accepted as unequal, will be equal – must be equal – will be made equal. Failure to change, failure to accept the changes, just won’t feel right (if you are one of the superior people, that is) – must not feel right – will be made to feel wrong. Therefore naturally, inevitably, the new lenses also eventually will be found inadequate for seeing new inequalities – many of which will inevitably result from the enforcement of the new equalities. Thus, the “If it feels good, do it” approach, superior though it is, will remain continually embattled and besieged in perpetuity by forces of “Only if it feels good to us, may you do it.”
“Thus shall the stage be set for yet another, future era, inhabited by people even more superior to today’s superior people – to feel even more, correct even more, and enable and liberate and secure even more feelings and rights and equalities and doings than people ever imagined or felt or had or did in any previous time.”