“…but still, as I went away, I thought to myself: ‘I am wiser than that fellow, anyhow. Because neither of us, I dare say, knows anything of great value; but he thinks he knows a thing when he doesn’t; whereas I neither know it in fact, nor do I think that I do. At any rate, it appears that I am wiser than he in just this one small respect: if I do not know something, I do not think that I do.'”
–Socrates (The Apology)
Today I’d like to talk about something that I will label as Personal Ethical Objectivism. (I write that last sentence as though I write in this thing more than once a year) This term is very loose and I suppose doesn’t really mean what it at first appears to mean, but bear with me here.
Personal Ethical Objectivism: The irrational belief that your own ethical views reflect the ideal moral framework for everyone.
With this term I am referring to the political and idealogical philosophies and agendas that are most important to me today: the social ones. Personal Ethical Objectivism is a philosophy held by conservatives most of the time it seems, although I’m sure if I thought harder about it I could think of something that liberals tout that evidences this moronic idea. I wanted to rally against the liberal anti-capital-punishment position in this writing, but it doesn’t seem that it would fit in with the rest of the things I’m going to say (or even with the term that I’m using), so unfortunately I will have to save that for another day.
When I think of this term, the two main issues that come to mind are abortion rights and gay rights. Conservatives (and, more specifically, the Christian right) seem to think that their opinion and ethical backgrounds are important, or even relevant, to the lives of everyday Americans. The argument that abortion is murder is a feasible one, but still one of opinion. No one can definitively say when life begins, because people have different religious and philosophical backgrounds that would contradict each other if one ever came to the forefront legally. (Ha ha, that was kind of a joke) The argument against gay marriage is a fairly solid one as well, considering that while marriage is not an exclusively Judeo-Christian institution, it is usually viewed as such in our society.
Before tackling abortion, I think it is important for me to lay out, morally, why I don’t think that abortion is immoral, even if it is classified as murder. In our society, we value human life above the life of other animals because of our sentience and our ability to experience emotions and the like beyond the extent of other animals. I, personally, view the murder of a human being as evil more than anything else because of the profound impact that it will have on other human beings that the murdered person affected and touched in their life. In this way, abortion cannot be considered a capital offense because no one but the fetus (and maybe the mother and her loved ones, but not really because they’re only experiencing potential) is harmed by the termination. Tack onto that the fact that there are some psycho right-wingers who actually want to ban abortion period, leaving women whose lives are in danger from the pregnancy or rape victims to carry to term.
Get this: abortion saves lives. A fetus is not a life in the same respect as the woman who is carrying it. If a woman is going to die or suffer serious emotional trauma from having to carry a fetus to term, she should have the option to terminate the pregnancy. Hell, even if the woman is going to suffer financial distress and have to take welfare she wouldn’t normally have to take she should terminate the pregnancy, or at the very least give the child up. It’s hilarious that these same far-right conservatives who want to ban abortion are probably the same people who sneer at the WIC program or think it’s okay that you can’t buy diapers with food stamps.
All of this is also on the cusp of the population crisis we have right now. I am aware that the population is expected to level off at about 11 billion in the relatively near future, but stick with me here. At our current population, we are using 38% of the resources available to us on the planet. Top off that figure with an observation about how few people in the world are living at a middle-class standard of living (by their own country’s standards as well, not ours), and doesn’t it seem ridiculous that we’re supporting people having more children. China’s already instituted mandatory abortions to families (albeit poor ones, rich parents can buy their way into a larger family) who have more than two children. (Some would argue that this isn’t fair, but it really is, because the richer a family is, the more easily they can afford to keep more children above a lower-class standard of living) I don’t think we should take it quite to that level, considering that our population density isn’t even approaching that of China, but we definitely shouldn’t be prohibiting people from terminating pregnancies that are only going to steal resources from the rest of the world. Leave it to the ideologists who denied the dangers of pollution and global warning until just a short while ago to also value a single human life over the greater good.
Anyway, someone on the Democratic side of things who didn’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade would be doing just what the constitution says: allowing people their individual rights, and not limiting them based on a personal moral belief. Terminating a pregnancy doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s moral beliefs, because the fetus isn’t alive. The father should have a say, but not one that is as powerful as the woman’s. Murder is illegal because it is one human being making a life-ending decision for another, and that’s not what abortion is because a fetus isn’t a human life.
Gay rights get from the conservatives an even more annoying political agenda, which is why I saved them for second. It’s terrifying, but Mike Huckabee (a candidate who actually won primaries in some states), has said, and holds I think, that homosexuality is an “aberrant … lifestyle.” He also asserted back in 1992 I believe that AIDS was a disease affecting only homosexuals and that people afflicted with the disease should be quarantined from the general population. The idea that someone like this could be respected by anyone is retarded. Less right-wing conservatives take a safer view on homosexuality than Mike Huckabee, but still, so few of them support any kind of equal rights for gay people. I’m not necessarily asserting that marriage should be granted to homosexuals, because there are parts of Leviticus that make claims that could be perceived in an anti-homosexual light, but I can’t think of a single reason why gays can’t be granted the same kind of rights in a civil union as a straight couple.
Of course, the Christian right will cite family values and the debilitating effect that being raised by two men or two women will have on a child. However, there is no scientific evidence for this view, other than the conservatives’ notice that, hey! they were raised by parents of two different genders and they turned out all right. I’d like to take a look in a few years (because I don’t think it’s been long enough yet) at some children who were raised by a gay couple so I could take note of the fact that there was no discernible developmental difference between them and normal kids. Leave it to the Republican party to decide that they can project their personal and spiritual values onto the rest of Americans even though there are Americans who are Muslim, who are Jewish, who are Pagan and even who are atheists.
What’s so disgusting about this is that unlike abortion, no one could perceive that homosexuality hurts anyone (other than the people engaging in it, if it is perceived as sin) unless they went way out on a limb and said that it hurts other people who have to observe it or the children that could potentially be raised in a gay household. But these assertions, based only on personal belief and what will hopefully be referred to at some point in the future as superstition, are at the same level of stupidity as a belief in intelligent design.
The problem by-and-large is that while the conservatives might have some ideas about what’s best for Americans as a whole, they take this idea too far and decide that they also know what’s best for Americans as individuals. Turns out that nobody is qualified to make personal decisions for other people, and that ethical objectivism isn’t real on an individual basis. While some rules might work best for a society as a whole, there is no moral foundation that is exactly right for everybody, so we have to leave openings for people to make decisions for themselves. Gay rights are individual rights to a tee, and you wouldn’t have to make too powerful an argument to convince any rational person the same about abortion.