The debate over what kind of tolerance is required and justified in a democracy inspired reader Chris Marschner to submit a thoughful and thought-provoking comment, as he has before, that takes the discussion in a diferent direction. I’ll let you read it and have your own reactions; Chris needs no further preface.
Here is his Comment of the Day on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/24/17:
Let me begin with the question, what lies as the foundation of tolerance? Is it understanding, empathy, or a just a willingness to comprehend an alternative perspective? Perhaps it is all three. By definition, tolerance is a willingness to live and let live, so to speak. But, the notion of willingness to live and let live does not preclude the actions of those who seek to change minds through cogent rational argument.
I have listened at great length to those who oppose and support the destruction or removal of Confederate iconography in today’s world. If we start with the assumption that what is right and good will triumph over that which is bad and evil in time without the need to resolve the dispute violently we might move toward a more tolerant and enlightened social structure.
My thesis is neither a defense of nor a condemnation of societal issues that continue to pit one against another. I will merely juxtapose the historical issue which divided the nation into camps that found the practice repugnant and those that found no problem with it an a modern day issue that one group find morally repugnant while others do not and attempt to draw parallels to historical events that sanctified, or at least legitimized social behavior.
Again, I am trying not to cast any judgement on any behavior but to develop my thoughts I needed to find a modern day issue that a majority segment of our population finds morally repugnant and another minority segment sees as perfectly acceptable. I then asked myself the question to what lengths might the minority segment go should the majority segment impose its will by executive or judicial fiat? How much will the minority tolerate before it finds the political majorities imposed will too much to tolerate. What issue might create substantial animus toward the ruling segment that it too may seek to enjoin itself from laws of the land. What parallels in history do we see that might engender such animus and how might future generations view the loser if the debate escalated into a full on confrontation?
Today, I would guess nearly 100% of our people see involuntary servitude a human rights violation. I am aware there are some that still cling to beliefs of racial or ideological supremacy. Here in Maryland, a border state, some in the nineteenth century had differing opinions on that issue. In those days, such as now, economics and politics played a critical role in one’s perspective. Even Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation only freed the slaves in states that seceded. Maryland’s slaves were held hostage by the Union to ensure that Maryland did not secede, which would have been strategically disadvantageous for the Union forces. Why is Lincoln’s strategic decision to emancipate only those slaves in confederate states and not in Union states acceptable? If slavery was believed to be an anathema by Lincoln then the Emancipation Proclamation should have applied to all those currently in bondage. Or, did politics and military tactics play a role in his ethical decision-making? Do we rationalize this as the ends justify the means?
Then as now, when the federal government imposes its will to expropriate value from one sector of the population to give value to another, the group that perceives harm fights to preserve that to which it feels entitled.
It seems logical that any supremacist, irrespective of the biological or ideological rationale, perceives others as an inferior or sub-human species. Science can now show that genetically we are virtually the same as a species with the exception of differences due to the expression of certain genes. Why is it that some see other humans being substantially differently enough and thus not worthy of the same inalienable rights as another?
This brings me to my point. Since time began one group enslaved another for various reasons. In the United States, we endure the legacy of the past injustice of involuntary servitude of Africans who were brought here in chains and legally considered personal property that could be treated as its owner wished. I doubt seriously that any American – even these “supremacists” – would today argue to return to the days in which any group could be treated as personal property and maintained in bondage; separatism maybe, but not involuntary servitude.
Nonetheless, we have a large segment of the population, as well as modern day court decisions, which promote the idea that certain human beings are not deserving of the same inalienable rights. If we compare much derided Scott v Sanford in which Supreme Court Justice Roger B Taney decided that Mr. Scott had no standing to sue in Federal Court, as well as extending his ruling to state that the Federal government had no Constitutional power to deny states the right to permit involuntary servitude, to Roe v. Wade we might see little difference in the two. In Scott, we see the court ruling in favor of state sovereignty and denying a person citizenship status because he was deemed legally inferior in the state of his domicile. In Roe, the court determined that the rights of a developing human being are subordinate to its master. It effectively treated the unborn human being as an inferior class of the species such that personal sovereignty over one’s body permitted that person responsible for its care and maintenance to exercise a property right over that unborn human being to the extent that the unborn human being can be discarded at will.
I find it hard to believe that anyone, especially those who decry the “science deniers” can argue against the fact that upon conception all the genetic material necessary for a human being has been combined in a manner necessary for that human being to begin to grow and develop. Why did the court establish what could be perceived as an arbitrary line in the human being’s development? What makes leaving the uterus of its host any more of a determining factor when the life of a human begins than when it begins cellular division, or the age of reason, or graduates from college? Why is the age of consent different in different states? Why are fathers not given the same right to choose if we have equal treatment under the law? Why do we have a “violence against women act” and not a “violence against children act”? Are little boys to be precluded from protections from violence Because these determinations are made by other human beings who decide what groups have superior rights over others which, is in fact a form of supremacy belief based on societal beliefs, political calculations and assumptions of social roles, and inherently superior capabilities of the genders. It matters little if they are actually correct of incorrect assumptions – they are what they are at that time. When a woman seeks to terminate the life of a developing human being, the fact that the government never provides a guardian ad litem for the unborn to argue on its behalf is prima facie evidence that much of society today views the developing unborn human being an inferior species – no better than your pet which too is treated as property in law. Thus, the born are treated as a superior class of people.
Today’s science can tell us what genes will be expressed which determine whether or not the child if left to develop will be “normal” or be afflicted with some characteristic that will impose a burden on the parent such as Down’s syndrome or some other undesirable trait. It was recently reported that Iceland has wiped out Down’s syndrome simply by aborting pregnancies – i.e. children – that test positively for that trait. China, long used abortion to control the female population and still maintains strict rules for family size. At what point, does abortion advocacy lead to the point of genetic cleansing? Should we begin to claim advocates of at will pregnancy termination are actually attempting to create a superior race that embodies only the genetic characteristics deemed desirable by society? I hope not. Wasn’t that the rationale behind opponents of interracial marriage? Didn’t they think any offspring would jeopardize the strength of its gene pool? Wasn’t this the basis for Dr. Mengele’s experiments in Nazi Germany? . Maybe it just boils down to simply a belief that as a born humans have more rights than an unborn humans and that the unborn human is imposing a cost on that one does not wish to bear.
All arguments are couched in terms of endearment. We don’t kill babies we terminate pregnancies. No one will ever argue that women have a right to kill their unborn babies. They simply have a right to choose. How Orwellian. Either way the effect is the same the baby dies because the master of its destiny believes the human being not yet born is an inferior human being and not entitled to the same rights as the born. Like today’s advocates for abortion, confederate soldiers were fed the line that the issue isn’t about slavery it was all about state’s rights and state sovereignty. Conversely, the counterarguments paint the opposition with ad hominem attacks and attempt to stifle the speech of anyone espousing a different point of view in order to preserve the purity of their ideals. That itself is a form of supremacy belief.
Before we start condemning all those who stand for anything we owe an obligation to allow them to speak their peace, make their arguments, and then and only then rebut them if we can do so logically, rationally, and peacefully.
I close with the following thoughts, would some states seek to secede from the union if the majority of its voters and politicians demanded it if the high court decided that women no longer have the right to choose. If they lost the fight would they be considered treasonous? How many statues to progressives might be felled 150 years should they fall from grace in those future times and will those that seek to preserve the past to which their foremothers fought maintain be treated as social pariahs?