This was the world I lived in, and I had no frame of reference to interpret these things. Nothing surprised or shocked me. For this reason, I made no moral judgments about them. We never talked about it, either at home, at school, or at church. Not even once. Indeed, childhood is a confusing time. As an adult, however, I’ve begun to know my own mind.
For most of my life, the nature of political debate in our country was that liberals and conservatives confronted one another with the accusation “you’re wrong.” Fine. But for the past few years, it seems, no debate is complete without the charge “you’re evil.” A heretic. A blasphemer.
If you oppose abortion, you obviously hate women. If you want voters to show their ID at the polls, you’re a racist. If you call for welfare reform, you hate poor people. You think men should only marry women? You’re a homophobe. You make a lot of money? You’re an elitist. You think I should learn a skill and a work ethic before I get that big paycheck? Snob.
Recently, a headline in a Huffington Post blog charged that Senator Marco Rubio hates gay people. And gay families in general. And a certain gay commentator in particular. Confused, I posted a reply, asking when and where Rubio said such a thing. Turns out, he didn’t. But when Rubio publicly affirms his religious faith, and defends traditional marriage, his opponents quickly call it hate.
Do they know Rubio personally? No. Have they ever engaged him in a discussion on these matters? No. Yet they claim to know his deepest thoughts and motives, that he not just disapproves of the behavior, but hates the people. Strange. Apparently, in this heated debate, facts don’t matter. Spin is everything. And guess what? I got labeled as a bigot, just for asking the question.
During the campaign of 2008, someone asked Senator Harry Reid whether his colleague Barack Obama could be a viable candidate for the presidency. His answer? The candidate was a “light-skinned man with no Negro dialect.” In other words, Obama didn’t look or speak as if he was straight out da ’hood.
A couple of years later, this private conversation was revealed in a book by two journalists, implying that Reid is a racist. The evidence? He used the archaic lingo. Reid and his staff spent weeks in damage control mode, calling civil rights leaders and fellow Democrats to explain himself.
Strange. We fancy ourselves the enlightened democratic society, where everyone can have a say in our government. We show the world how it’s done. And yet, somehow, we’ve devolved into a politically correct culture where we punish people not just for what they do – or what they say – but for what WE THINK they think. With the slightest deviation from the accepted orthodoxy, we want to ruin their reputation for all time. The thing is, we’ve been here before.
For about 56 years, the House Committee on Unamerican Activities (under various forms and names) sought to expose and punish political dissent. They hunted Bolsheviks, Nazis (or just plain Germans), Facists, Communists – and yes, even Buddhists. These people were persecuted by the federal government, not for any actual criminal act, but because they allegedly held some unorthodox belief or associated with someone who did. The committee endured until 1975, when it was called the Committee on Internal Security.
Today, the hot-button issues are racism and sexuality. Political nonconformists are persecuted without the muscle of a government agency, not for anything they've actually done, but because they allegedly hold some unorthodox belief or associate with someone who does. We live in a land that guarantees the right of free speech to all, yet far too often someone wants to punish us for our (presumed) private thoughts. Something’s terribly wrong with this picture.
For those who heap scorn on Sen. Rubio for his moral convictions: Surely, like myself, you have a close friend or family member who has made bad moral choices in life. You don’t approve of their lifestyle, and you wish they would change. Does this mean that you hate them? Of course not.
My father drank heavily for about 30 years, and Mom smoked close to a pack a day, for about as long. They knew that I didn’t approve of their bad habits, because I told them so. But they also knew something else about me: I loved them, no matter what. My view of their behavior didn’t cause me to treat them any differently, speak to them any less kindly, or diminish my affection.
Please, spare me the self-righteous posturing. You know better. You're just like me.