The Bush Junior years — 2000 to 2008 — were interesting times, politically, here in the U.S. When Dubya’s positive polling percentage hit 29%, some of my conservative friends came out of the closet, so to speak. “Tim,” they told me, “I’m really more of a libertarian than a conservative or a Republican.”
“Don’t lump me in with those Neocons.”
Of course the realization that they no longer identified with the national G.O.P. (Grand Old Party) had more to do with the disenchantment with the Neocons than anything else. Specifically, it had become apparent that the Iraq War had been a tragic mistake — what kind of mistake exactly depends on whom you ask. Was it ill-conceived from the beginning and based on fabricated intelligence, or was it simply poorly executed? Either way, lots of weary Republicans all over the country were distancing themselves from a very unpopular president.
So now when I read news stories about the ballot initiative against gay marriage in North Carolina last week, or yesterday’s disgusting vote in the Virginia House of Delegates, I wonder what all those self-styled libertarians think. I know many libertarian-leaning people are appalled by government intrusion into citizens’ personal lives, and I wouldn’t doubt most Republicans I have known (the ones with university degrees and most of their teeth) aren’t homophobic. Will they distance themselves from this madness, too?
One of the Virginia delegates is reported to have said that the nominated judge, state prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland, a 20-year Navy veteran and former fighter pilot, was unfit to serve because he is “an aggressive activist for the pro-homosexual agenda.” That “agenda” apparently includes the belief in human rights, including marriage equality. Thorne-Begland and his partner are in a committed relationship, and they’re raising twins together. For some conservatives, the struggle to be ordinary — the dream to be allowed to live like everybody else with the protection of the law, and to be left alone — is part of a devious agenda and tantamount to asking for “special rights.”
“Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman — just the way my imaginary, invisible friend commanded it.”
One party in the U.S. has callously, repeatedly, and consistently used gay hatred to swing elections their way. We lived in Ohio in 2004, so I remember quite well how an anti-gay marriage ballot initiative drove enough conservatives to the polls that it swung the election. They came out to the polls to deprive their gay neighbors of their rights, and while they were there they voted for the Republican ticket — just as Karl Rove expected they would.
But the tide is turning in this country. Younger people just don’t care if their friends are gay. They know something my generation still hasn’t figured out — it just isn’t that big a deal. Here in our new home state, Iowa, gay marriage has been allowed for a little over three years now. Guess what. You’d never know it.
So my tolerant and open-mined libertarian friends, perhaps many readers of this blog, too, would probably agree with the kids. Johnny has two Moms? Big deal. Adam and Steve moved in next door? So what. Live and let live.
“I’d like to help my gay friends, but I’m too busy trying to destroy the social safety net.”
But my question, then, is this: Is this a core libertarian principle or not? Let me rephrase that. Are human rights — basic equality, human dignity, equal justice, equal treatment — core moral values or not? I ask, since I know a lot of libertarians are going to “hold their noses” in November and vote straight “R” again, because they hate Obama, and because they think Romney is more likely to cut taxes, shrink government (seriously?), and finish dismantling the welfare state.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not endorsing Obama. I could very easily vote Green again. I’m simply asking my libertarian fellow citizens a very serious and basic question: Is the prospect of universal healthcare so odious that you’d rather vote in a party that has promised to return to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, that would start enforcing DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) again, and that openly works against civil rights for gay Americans? Are you saying that human rights take a back seat to lower taxes on the rich? Is it so important that we privatize Medicare and Social Security that you’re willing to sell your homosexual friends up the river?
When they asked Jesus what the greatest commandments were, he is supposed to have said:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31, KJV)
If you’re like me and no longer believe in a magical, easily angered, bronze-age storm god, then you’ve tossed aside the first commandment. However, as a basis for morality and ethics you could hardly do better than Jesus’ second commandment. If your personal morality puts property and economic principles ahead of loving your neighbor, what does that say about your political ideology? What does it say about you?
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