“To be or not to be…” Hamlet pondered. Live or die? A fundamental course decision had to be made.
A Canadian politician once helped change course for Canada when he pondered the question, “Who is worthy of love?”
An American president went the other way in his efforts and spoke vehemently about who was worthy of hate. The decision to go with hate is weakening and tearing apart a country that was once known for fairness, for being inclusive, for being wise enough to embrace diversity, even as it melted all those diverse folks down in the great melting pot of American assimilation. Good times, those!
One of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite Canadian politicians happened when Pierre Trudeau was being put on the spot by an eager reporter about Canada’s tolerance of homosexual activity. Trudeau said, “The government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” I’m sure that he did not intend to make the bedroom a place where government had no legitimate jurisdiction. He was only making the point that the government did not intend to legally intervene to try to prevent homosexuals from loving each other.
At the time, I felt that I had no real stake in the matter. Whether Canada had decided to hold on dearly to the notion of controlling whom one might love would not have impinged upon my personal, heterosexual freedom. But the whole idea of making or keeping someone else’s love interest illegal was anathema to me. It’s only love! Love is a good thing, isn’t it?
But is there such a thing as “going too far,” even in matters of love?
I once had an ancestor, I am told, who was arrested for (and this is exactly how the charge read) “…buggery with a beautiful brown mare.” It seems that even the District Attorney could recognize the undeniable ‘beauty’ of the mare, so I’m not quite sure what to make of that. I hope that I did not inherit my ancestor’s character traits, though I admit that I have seen mares with provocatively long eyelashes. Still, (humour aside) if a person were to declare their passionate love for pooch or pony, should the rest of us just say, “To each his own,” and not intervene to say, “No, that’s not okay!”
There is such a thing as going too far. For one thing, it must be consensual. Just because it might happen in the sacred bedroom, where government has no business, doesn’t let abhorrent practice off the legal hook. As far as I know, engaging in sex with animals, minors, drugged or unconscious persons is still illegal and its illegality is based on the being’s lack of ability to offer legal consent.
I’m sorry, but people should have no special refuge for egregious offenses based upon the act happening in the bedroom or for that matter within the special protections of religion either.
Crime is crime. When Lorena Bobbitt, in a fit of anger at her husband John, decided to separate him from his penis, the crime was not protected by its intimate setting in the marital home. Similarly, abduction and involuntary bondage is also criminal, despite the setting often being in the bedroom.
But what about religion and its sometimes peculiar requirements?
There are religions that do not permit blood transfusions even when a life might be saved by that action. Courts have so far over-ruled religious practice of that nature by arguing that preservation of life supercedes religious belief. Polygamy, I’ve been told, is illegal in most of the U.S. and Canada, but courts have been reluctant to prosecute that particular issue mainly on the assumption (I think) that such arrangements have been voluntarily consummated and do not pose any special threat to the general well-being of society.
But it seems that some religions have seriously harmful, injurious practices and other religions seem to be springing up to take advantage of the misguided, right-wing laws that are effectively saying that, “The government has no place in the religions of the nation.” To that notion I say, “Oh yes it does! It most certainly does!”
There are religions today that will not seek medical attention for serious and sometimes contagious illness, for example. There are religions and belief systems that eschew vaccination as some kind of toxic or mind-altering conspiracy – much to everyone’s health detriment. Then too, there are religions that engage in ritual mutilations of their female children. Does a civilized society just sit back and say, “Well, it is part of their religion after all!”
Nuh-uh! Not me! There are limits and within religion or not, we’re still dealing with children who do not have “legal consent” available to them. They cannot use informed, adult judgment to say, “Yes, go ahead and mutilate my genitals. It’s okay with me.” Bedroom or not, religion or not, there do need to be limits on acts, rituals, behaviours with potential to cause harm to individuals or to society as a whole. Yes, there is such a thing as the “common good,” and we are not the weaker society for insisting upon reasonable standards of behaviour. The more the wisdom of the ‘common good’ falls into question, the more fragmented and fractious we become, the weaker we become.
I have similar contempt for the notion that a corporation can escape legal responsibilities to its employees by citing the recently permitted ‘corporate religious conscience’. If a corporation can deny birth control to its employees through its medical benefits based on ‘religious conscience,’ surely it could also practice other discriminatory practices. “Sorry, we don’t condone homosexuality. Please apply to work elsewhere.” Or, “Sorry, we only hire people from approved religions,” etc.
Libertarians and other alt-right people might think that such a scenario would be perfect. “Freedom” to do what you think is right. “Freedom” to practice your own religious beliefs. “Freedom” to fracture society into hundreds of shards of the broken mirror, each with its own reflections upon itself. (Hint: Don’t get trapped in the wrong shard!) Also, don’t be too surprised when your enemies come along to kick the shards further apart from each other, it’s an easy thing to do when you’re broken along righteous, freedom-to-hate lines.
There is a place for government in people’s lives, sometimes controlling their abhorrent personal behaviours, whether such behaviours are inspired by love, sex or religion. ISIL and the Ruskies, both of whom would love to see the Western Democracies fail through fracturing and civil war, seem to be gaining the upper hand mainly because we’re helping them! We’re helping them with our hate. We’re helping them with our distrust. We’re helping them by dividing ourselves into factions unable to agree on what is fundamental decency.
Donald Trump is of course helping these enemies of democracy. I believe he is doing so unwittingly, but maybe he does have a clear fix on becoming America’s first dictator. If he’s just plain clueless, I’d say that that’s the problem with electing a “Reality TV show host” to run a country. He’s in way over his head, and he doesn’t even know it. He doesn’t know what damage his poorly-considered, hate-filled tweets inspire. He doesn’t know how weak he is making America by fracturing it. He doesn’t know – well, I think we can just leave it there. He doesn’t know.
I wish I had a ready answer to this problem. I don’t. But somehow I know that to unify a nation you must accept that people are there to do their best. If you make friends with these “different” people and show them the best of American friendship, they are more likely to want to be a part of it. And they are more likely to help reveal the enemies, even from within their own ranks. The Italians did it. The Irish did it. African Americans are doing it. Other groups will do it too – if you let them. Don’t change your course toward hate, America! Make this experiment in terror, with Trump at the helm, just a temporary tack until the ship of state may once more be set back on an even keel.