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November 03, 2004

how "morality" is crippling our democracy

I found myself at 1:00 am pondering the bizarre result that "morality" was one of the most important drivers for voters at the polls. Equally disturbing is that an overwhelming majority of those waving this particular flag voted for Bush. In this particular election cycle, "morality" became the pollster/network shorthand for divisive social issues; abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, equal pay... "Morality" in the United States has become intolerant, hateful and politically handy. (continued)

According to merriamwebster.com the definition of moral is: “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior; ethical.” Morality is “a doctrine or system of moral conduct.”

I think it is important to start with “right” and “wrong.” In the “morality” debate when someone is “wrong” they become sinful, shameful and well, not human, somehow. Because a person is in support of making a medical procedure legally available and safe or funding groundbreaking medical research, in the “morality” debate, they are murderers and therefore disenfranchised. Because a person is in favor of extending equal protection of law to individuals regardless of sex or sexual orientation, in the “morality” debate, they are perverted, mentally abnormal, and therefore disenfranchised.

Everyone likes to be right, correct, virtuous, if you will. However, you only get to be right if someone else is wrong. It is this most basic of human vanities that the Republican Party and the evangelical community has seized upon and made their most powerful weapon in political discourse. Some would accuse the GOP of “dumbing-down” complex issues. However, it is really a very sophisticated psychological trap that has caught voters in their most private moment of yearning to appear more honorable than they are in their everyday choices.

Introducing religion into what should be a discussion about the civil responsibilities of a government to its people in a country that has an explicit separation of church and state should be a non-starter. But in the “morality” debate this line is not only blurred but erased in the name of “right.” Yes, our founding fathers were church-going, God-fearing Christians who were tremendously grateful for the grace that blessed them with their opportunity to prosper in a new land. However, even they understood that religion and politics don’t mix. The history of religious persecution in France and England, as well as the divine right of kings was not what they wanted for our nation.

The political activism of the evangelical community has not only derailed the Republican Party from its historical track of “champion for personal privacy,” it has created a vitriolic atmosphere for any type of social issue where the rights of the individual are in direct competition with religious dogma. In this argument the individual will always be “wrong” and religious doctrine ensures that they are damned into the bargain. The longer this state of affairs is allowed to continue, the harder it will be for our government to ensure the rights of our social and racial minorities. A ruler who prays for strength or is strengthened by the prayers of others is one thing. A ruler who states his religious conviction as one of the primary reasons he rules as he does is a problem. This is too close to divine right for comfort.

We have started down the slippery slope to a theocracy parading as an oligarchy. The most intriguing part of this is by using “morality” as the switch of political indoctrination the evangelical/Republican alliance has convinced people to vote against their own economic and environmental self-interest. It is as if “virtue” has indeed become the only reward.

As a nation we are becoming as much an international leper for our persecution of individual rights as Islamic nations have been over the rights of minorities in their own societies. For now we still have economic and military might to keep the rest of the world polite while at our table. We will rue the day when, like all the empires that have gone before us, we are eclipsed by the next.

Posted by terry at November 3, 2004 08:03 PM | TrackBack
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